The Hidden Village of Aspergers

April 21, 2016

An open letter to Roberto Martinez

Dear Roberto Martinez,

I’m not going to lie. Until recently, I fucking hated you.

I attributed Everton’s every failure to you. I read Everton forums and tweets and blogs to stoke my hatred. I built you up into a monster and saw you as a thing rather than a person. The very sight of your face or the sound of your voice filled me with rage. I hated you more than I’ve hated any human being, besides the man I call Itachi. And I wanted you dead.

I fantasised about killing you. I planned how and when I was going to do it. I’m not proud of this, but I had intrusive thoughts, like a voice in my head constantly telling me to kill you. Someone or something was telling me, “Kill this man, and you will be rewarded.” I figured that Everton fans would hail me as a hero or a god. Luckily, the opposite occurred. When I told other Everton fans what I felt, they called me crazy and a psychopath and said I needed locking up. I was banned from two Reddit pages and even the most negative of Everton fans told me I’d gone too far.

I have to thank you, because you made me realise I needed help. I saw a picture of you carrying Luella, your daughter, as you walked round the pitch at Goodison Park last season, and for an instant, I didn’t see a thing, a target, a hate figure. I saw a loving husband and father. I saw a human being who loves Jabugo ham and idolises his dad and dances badly to Jason Derulo and watches TV on his L-shaped sofa with his wife. More importantly, I saw a human being whose death would make many people sad, and the thought of your little girl growing up without a dad – just like I did – made me realise what I felt was sick and wrong. Even if the chances of me acting on my thoughts were virtually nil, I wanted to stop having these thoughts. One Friday, I had enough. I broke down crying and got an emergency appointment with a kind doctor who referred me to the local mental health services. I saw them a few hours ago today, as it happens.

I built you up into a monster and stripped away your humanity in order to make you easier to hate. I no longer saw you as a person, but the epitome of everything that had made me miserable this year. It was not you I hated. It was what you represented. Panic attacks, bleeding arms, and my mum hooked up to drips in a hospital bed, the week before I saw Everton lose to Swansea.

When I saw you after Liverpool’s 4-0 thrashing of Everton, any remaining hatred I had for you disappeared. You looked tired and sad, and older than your 42 years, with your rapidly disappearing hair, the lines around your mouth and the shadows under your big dark bloodshot eyes. You looked like a man who knew his time was running out and his job was on the line, that he had become a joke and a hate figure, and had nowhere to hide. You admitted the match was a disaster. I don’t know what goes on in the dressing room at Goodison, but I wouldn’t want to be you right now. I wished I could put my arms around you and say, “It’ll be OK.” Instead of rage and hatred, I only felt pity and sadness. Sadness that it could have been so different. You came to Everton full of life and promise, and we adored you. Now it’s 2016, and things are looking bleak for you. What goes through your mind when you see banners with ‘Martinez Out’ on them, or you hear the Liverpool fans laughing at you and chanting your name ironically? We’ll never know.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think you’ve got what it takes to manage Everton, but I wish you well in whatever you do. You seem like a genuinely nice person, and an interesting one at that, and your heart is in the right place, and I want you to be happy. I don’t wish harm on you anymore. I don’t see you as a monster, but as a flawed, ordinary human being just like me. Because that’s what football managers are – Klopp, Mourinho, Wenger, Rodgers, Derry, whoever. Just flawed, ordinary human beings with wives and kids and lives outside football.

Having obsessive thoughts is fucking shit, Roberto, especially when they turn me into a person I don’t want to be. Let’s hope that you’re the last person I feel like this about.

Yours,

Lotte

October 22, 2014

An open letter to alcohol

Filed under: mental illness,relationships with others — kankurette @ 9:11 pm
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(NB: when my mum was in rehab recently, one thing she had to do was write a letter to alcohol. Both my stepdad and I agreed to write letters of our own. This is mine)

Dear alcohol,

I’m not going to lie. We’ve had some good times together, like all those parties at E’s house, or going backstage with Space. We’ve had some bad times, like Chris Butt’s party in Year 11, or the HARM party in my first year of uni where I passed out. I remember when I was a kid and you were part of a mysterious world to which I wanted the key. I wanted to get to know you better, in the hope that it would make other people like me.

Right now, though, I fucking hate you.

You’re an arsehole, alcohol. You’re a bad influence. You’re cruel. You’re deceitful and evil. You’re a false friend, a snake in the grass. You’re hateful and you make people ill and jealous. You kill. You turn the honest into liars and manipulators. You’re noxious and obnoxious. You’re petty, the queen of pain, rotten to the core. You’re Super High School Level Despair. You take and take and take and you’re so ungrateful to the people who depend on you. Vodka, whiskey, wine, you have different names, but it’s always the same old lies. You exterminate, you turn skin yellow and red, make eyes bloodshot and remove their sparkle and zest for life. In Manchester, you’re everywhere. You’re watching over homeless people and students and teens and football fans and middle-aged women in crap jobs. You’re the life and soul of the party and you’re going to make everyone join in, whether they like it or not, and you whisper in people’s ears that you’re their only friend and the only one they can trust.

You know why I hate you right now? Because of what you did to my mother.

You turned one of the bravest, kindest, most talented and creative and generally amazing people I’ve ever known into a mess. You sapped her creativity and you made her lie and hide bottles and spend most of her time in bed. My mother was never deceitful until you showed up. You’ve caused friction in our family, you’ve made me and my brother and my stepdad go out of our minds with worry because we’re all in over our heads. When she was lonely in Chester, you pretended to be her only friend. First wine, then whiskey. She doesn’t even like that stuff. Even after she’d gone into rehab for the first time, you wouldn’t leave. Like the cat in the song, you came back and you just wouldn’t stay away, and no-one had any idea what was going on. You’re good at hiding yourself, or you like to think you are, anyway. I’ve been worried sick about what you’re doing to her because I’ve already lost one parent and I can’t bear the thought of losing another. You preyed on someone who was unhappy and vulnerable and who needed real friends and real support, not a monster in a bottle. If my dad was alive, he’d be furious with you for what you’ve done to her. You are no substitute for him or Richard or me or Jack or anyone else.

That September weekend I spent in Cambridge will stay with me forever. I hated going to the Co-Op to buy more whiskey and being stared at by customers. I hated begging Mum to eat (two days later, she collapsed and had to be taken to hospital). I hated being angry and crying into my stepbrother’s teddy and ordering Mum to ‘get in the fucking shower’. I hated myself for not hiding the bottles or pouring you down the sink, even though I knew that was the last thing I should be doing. I was nine years old again, and helpless. And all the while, you were in the background, thinking, “You’ll never get rid of me.”

I’ve never liked being drunk, and after seeing Mum in possibly the worst state she’s been in since Dad died, I feel even more out of sorts around drunk people. I hate the expectation on me to get pissed, even though I’m on Venlafaxine and my tolerance is rubbish anyway. “What’s the matter?” you say. “Come on, you miserable git. Join in. Have fun. Live a little.”

But this isn’t about me. It’s about my mum and what you did to her. There’s a Tori Amos line that sums up how I feel about Mum right now: “Give me life, give me pain, give me myself again.” I’ve got my mum back now, hopefully for good, and if you want her back, you’ll have to go through us. She’s not going down without a fight this time. I have to thank you, actually, alcohol, for bringing us closer together and for making Mum realise who her friends are. Clue: none of them are you.

Alcohol, you bastard, I’m through.

No love,

Lotte.

August 3, 2014

Fortune Teller

Tears well in their eyes
The strip turned blue, surprise surprise
Your bank balance took a dent
And now you’re Rupert Grint
Nappies cost a bob or two
You wish you were Doctor Who

Controversial post time.

I’ve known since about the age of sixteen or so that I am not going to be a mother. I do not want children. I have never wanted children. I never will want children.

I should probably preface this post by saying that I don’t mean to suggest people with Asperger’s Syndrome should not have kids. There are plenty of parents or hopeful parents out there on the autistic spectrum, and I’m sure loads of them have blogs of their own. This is about me, personally.

The song ‘Fortune Teller’ is about an accidental pregnancy. I had a pregnancy scare in my first year of university, due to my boyfriend and I stupidly having unprotected sex. Luckily, the strip did not turn blue, but it was a tense moment because my period was late. Had I become pregnant, I would have had an abortion. The very thought of getting pregnant and having a foetus inside me frightened me. I was not ready for a child and knew I could never carry a baby to term. I’ve learned my lesson since, I might add, and always used some form of contraception. Even now, I get the chills thinking about it. It’s got nothing to do with losing my figure or stretchmarks or any such body-shaming crap. I have no figure to lose. It was just the thought of having a baby that I didn’t want, and could probably never even love. (As an aside, I hate the idea that you’ve never known real love unless you’ve had a child. I am quite capable of love. I love my brother and mum and would take a bullet for both of them, I love my stepfamily and my other relatives and I’ve loved certain men and women so much it hurts. It is not a feeling alien to me. But that’s another story.)

I don’t hate kids per se, but I’m not good at dealing with them. Older ones and teens, maybe, but little kids and toddlers and babies? No. I find it hard to talk to them or play with them or even relate to them. Screaming babies put me into sensory overload. I get impatient very quickly. When colleagues bring their young children into the office, I do not coo over them (now pets, on the other hand…) When friends of mine announce that a kid is on the way, I congratulate them, obviously I’m happy for them (and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for certain people I know), but I have no feelings of broodiness myself. I’ve tried to imagine myself as a mum and failed. My womb will bear no fruit. Luckily, my mum is fine about this and has long accepted that she will not be getting any grandkids out of me, and got somewhat pissed off when her colleagues at her old job asked her if Lotte was ever going to give her any grandchildren. (Of course, the fact that my brother might want children did not occur to them – and Jack is far, far better with kids than I am, he is kinder and more patient than me, and I think he’d make a great father.)

I do wonder if people would be more accepting of my choice not to have children, or my awkwardness around children, if I was male. When I was younger, I used to be involved in childfree communities on Livejournal back in the day, as I wanted to meet other women who felt the same way as me, and the communities were predominantly female, and so many of the women in the groups had had relatives being perturbed that they didn’t want kids, or even, in some cases, treating them as they were somehow not real women. Women are supposed to be maternal and love kids and be happy to sacrifice everything for them. What so you mean, you don’t want children? You selfish bitch, you’ll change your mind one day, you were a child once, you’re just bitter because no man will want to fuck you, no-one will take care of you when you’re older, the most powerful thing a woman can do is bear children, you’re a failure as a woman, and so on. Oddly enough, I never heard the same accusations being levelled at childfree men. Somehow, a man not wanting kids was fine. I abandoned the childfree label for several reasons which are not relevant, but at the time, those groups were therapeutic for me and it was also a relief to discover that several friends of mine, some cis women, some genderqueer,  didn’t want kids either.

At university, the man I obsessed over got into an argument with me about children. He said that getting sterilised was an irreversible process (no shit, sherlock), and that his mum wanted daughters, but look how that worked out (he has two brothers). My last boyfriend also wanted kids, and in retrospect, I wonder if our relationship would have crumbled over this if I hadn’t dumped him. I don’t think I could even be a stepmother; I wouldn’t want to inflict myself on other people’s kids. My ex-stepsister lived with us for a period in 2003 and she brought her young daughter with her, and any maternal feelings I may have had died there and then. Constantly being asked what I was doing and not being able to take a shit in peace drove me up the wall. Put bluntly, I would be a fucking rubbish mother, I am too unpredictable and temperamental and used to having my own routine and space and not having to compromise, and no child should ever have to suffer having me as a parent. I hate living with people, and living on my own was a very big leap for me because I’d spent so long living with first my family and then various housemates, and it made me realise how much I needed my own space and my own life. Anyone can be a parent in the biological sense, but not every parent is good at the job.

If Jack ever has kids, I’m happy to be an auntie to them. However, that’s as far as it goes. I do not want children and I do not think I could be a good mother. I’m not putting myself down. I’m simply stating a fact. It does not make me less of a woman or less of a human being.

May 23, 2014

Quiet Beach

On some quiet beach, we sang songs for the sea
On some quiet beach, lost with the waves we breathe

TW: attempted suicide

It’s taken me ages to gear up to writing this, because it’s not going to be easy to write. I was motivated to write this post today for two reasons. One, a guy I follow on Twitter posted about suicide and selfishness, and it got me thinking. Two, Midland Railway, a band I used to play in, have got back together and are playing in the Retro Bar tonight, and the last time I played with them, I ended up trying to kill myself.

I have three suicide attempts under my belt. None of them have been serious enough to warrant extended hospital stays, though I did have counselling. The first time, I tried to hang myself, but something made me grab hold of the noose. I managed to pull myself back from the brink. I can’t remember what started it.

The second time, I was in my second year of university. It was a tough time. I was bogged down with coursework, my housemates and I were not getting on, I was juggling my degree with student council and other commitments, I was in love with a man who didn’t love me back, and to top it off, my gran had died. Everything came to a head when I found a note on the fridge – my housemates often communicated by leaving notes – about putting single items in the washing machine. It was clearly aimed at me as I’d washed a towel. I slashed my arm. Later, I was in the union and two of my housemates blanked me, and I was pretty wound up. I went to Hulme Hall for practice with another band I was in, but no-one showed up. I sat around crying for a bit, then went the chemist, got some Nurofen and was in the process of wolfing it down when a housemate found me. She made me throw up the pills and called an ambulance. I spent a few hours in hospital, but luckily I was OK and I was discharged. As I walked home, all I could think of was the final line of the poem Mum read at Gran’s funeral: ‘I am not there, I did not die.’

When I got home, the door was locked. I rang the doorbell. One of my housemates answered, gave me a dirty look and walked upstairs without a word. The housemate who found me must have told her that she was partly to blame for my overdose. We later got into an argument and I thought that had cleared the air but things were never the same after – they didn’t buy me anything for my birthday, even though we’d all celebrated theirs, and they’d walk out of a room when I went in. I dropped out of uni and decided to repeat the year. On the advice of a counsellor, I moved out of the house and spent the rest of the year in Richmond Park, before going back to my parents’ house in Chester. Before I left the house, I left a note explaining what I’d done. My housemates never spoke to me again.

Two years later, I was playing at Joshua Brooks with Midland Railway and got into a heated argument with the drummer over some sticks I thought I’d lost, culminating in me threatening to smash him over the head with my guitar, and frantically rummaging around on the floor looking for the sticks, screaming my head off. As soon as I got home, I ate all the pills in the house I could find, and posted a goodbye message on my Livejournal. Sarah, the other female band member and a good friend of mine, came over and kept me company until the ambulance arrived, and my then boyfriend also came and sat with me in the hospital. I was kept in overnight on a drip to get the crap out of my body. Later, the male members of the band kicked me out behind my back (Sarah was kept out of the loop). I only found out because my then boyfriend told me. I don’t want to go over old ground too much, but suffice to say, whenever I hear about Midland Railway now and see them on my feed, I feel sick and shaky. I’m back in the hospital again.

When I told my mum about my first overdose, her legs went. My maternal grandad was mentally ill and had attempted suicide several times. I remember one time when I got a frantic call from the counsellor’s office telling me to ring Mum. I’d made some comment about slashing my wrists the previous night, and she was frightened and had called the counsellor’s office. I rang her to tell her I was OK and she started crying, and I hated myself so much for what I was doing to her. The thing is, as I’ve said before, however much you may love your family and friends, when you’re suicidal, they do not figure. There is no room in your head. All you can think about is disappearing. You cannot go on anymore; you just want to wipe yourself out and cease to exist, and never mind who will have to pick your body off the floor or out of the bath, clean up the blood, make the phone calls. Your entire world is that little box of pills in your hand and you think of your gran and your dad and how you want to be with them. No more pain. No more sadness.

What does this have to do with Aspergers? I think it comes back to emotional difficulties – emotional and sensory overload, not knowing how to cope, and it all comes to a head and when you tend to see things in black and white, you think of extreme options. So many times I’ve had a bad day at work and thought, “I can end this. There’s one way out.” I think of pills, of ropes, of bleach. I had such a moment lately – luckily, Mum and Jack were able to calm me down over the phone.

I’ll be honest. The main reason why I’m not dead is because I love Mum and Jack and I can’t bear to think of what me dying would do to them. Obviously, there are other people in my life who I care about – my stepfamily, my other relatives, my friends – but I know how much my suicide attempts hurt them. Jack even argued with Mum that I wasn’t safe to go back to uni. One good thing that did come out of it, though, was Jack sending me a text telling me that he loved me and he just wanted me to be OK. Nothing brings my family together like a crisis. I’ll elaborate more on this in Guestlist To Hell, the final post of the series.

May 1, 2014

Crying On The Webcam

One more minute watching you, and I feel the same
One more minute hearing you, and I feel your pain, pain, pain
She’s crying on the webcam, I want to kiss her now
She’s crying on the webcam, she’s feeling full of doubt
She’s crying on the webcam, I’d like to help her out

TW: self-injury, eating disorders

It’s Blogging Against Disablism Day, and I’ve decided to swap the Space posts around a bit and do a post about self-harming. Partly because of the stigma surrounding cutters, and partly because I was hauled into the partner’s office at work after he’d had a conversation with my boss about the fact I’d cut myself recently, and I came out feeling drained and miserable and feeling that I’d been treated like a criminal. I’m not kidding – another solicitor was in there taking notes, which I didn’t twig until I was asked to spell ‘Venlafaxine’, and I was asked the sort of questions the police ask our clients at the police station. It was not a pleasant experience and it made me realise how some people just do not get it.

As I’m tired and my left arm hurts (due to grating chocolate for a meal I made last night), it’s going to be one of those posts with bullet points.

The basics:

– I started cutting myself when I was 14, in 1999. It was after an argument I’d had with my mum.

– I generally cut my arms, but have also cut my legs, stomach, breasts and face.

– I have used knives, razor blades, broken glass, broken porcelain, compasses and scissors. I have never burned fags out on myself, but I have poured boiling water over my arm a couple of times, or bashed myself with a heavy folder, a hammer or a poker.

– I have scars on my arms, but most are only visible in summer.

– I would say that I am an addict.

I do not self-harm because:

– I am a Manics fan and I want to copy Richey Edwards. I was heavily into the Manics at the time I started self-harming, and certain songs of theirs did resonate, but it wasn’t a copycat thing. By that logic, I’d also be an alcoholic since I like the Pogues.

– I want attention. When I wrote an article for the Manchester University student paper about self-harming, I said – and I stand by this – that there are far more dignified and painless ways of getting attention. Such as dancing naked on a table in Jilly’s Rockworld (RIP). I’ve been accused of doing it for attention because I’ve gone around wearing t-shirts or sleeveless tops or dresses after cutting. It genuinely does not register with me that people will react, and if the alternative is being boiling hot and/or uncomfortable, I’m willing to risk showing my arms off. I am not like Maeve, the girl in the song and the accompany video, who filmed herself holding up various cards with little snippets of info about her life (she’s also a recovering bulimic, incidentally).

– I am trying to manipulate people. I have threatened to cut – I’m not proud of this – but never once have I done it with the specific aim of hurting someone else. I know how much it hurts my family when I self-harm, but I’ve never, to the best of my recollection, held it over them.

– I want to be cool and/or am following a trend. I do have a few mates who self-harm, but I did it way before I met any of them, and when have I ever followed trends? I am the least trendy person I know.

– I have a pain fetish. There is nothing sexual about it.

I do self-harm because:

– I struggle to deal with strong emotions (see Mister Psycho). It is a release. A temporary one, sure, but it’s still a release.

– I have very little self-confidence and I fucking hate myself. I despise myself. I’m not fishing for compliments; I genuinely do feel, especially on a bad day, that I am a loathsome human being, and even when my friends and family tell me that I’m not a loathsome human being, that nasty little voice still doesn’t shut up, and it tells me I deserve to be punished. You ate too much? Stick your fingers down your throat. You were mean to someone, you’re fat, you didn’t do the task you were supposed to, your father would be disappointed, you weren’t there for your mother when she had a drink problem, you had an argument with your mother, you didn’t give that homeless person change…you know what to do.

– I turn my anger inwards. I had to laugh when I nearly self-harmed at work and a colleague was apparently concerned I was going to shank her. I’m more likely to hurt myself than anyone else.

– It leaves visible marks on my skin, like a brand or a scarlet letter or a sign worn round my neck (hence why I don’t take up boxercise or martial arts as a release). It is the mark of punishment.

Things people have said to me about self-harming: 

– “It tears me apart when you cut yourself” – my brother.

– “How could you do that to your lovely face?” – my mum.

– “When you cut your arms, people are going to react, that’s the reality of the situation” – a guy I was obsessed with at uni.

– “Thank you so much for writing that article” – a friend who will remain nameless, and who I met at a gig after she got chatting to me about the article, amongst others.

– “When did you do it? How long ago did you last cut yourself? How many weeks? How many months? Are you getting help? Are you seeing anyone? Are you going to stop?” and so on – my colleagues, during the interview.

– “What happened to your arm?” – a supermarket cashier.

– “Your arms are going to look like a fucking zebra” – a woman I knew at uni.

Other points I would like to make:

– Telling me to stop cutting and assuming I’ll instantly stop DOES NOT WORK. Addiction doesn’t work that way. My mum accepted long ago that I can’t promise her that I’ll stop for good – I’ve tried, I’ve promised, but I always broke the promise. If she can’t talk me into stopping, no-one else can, especially people I don’t particularly know or like.

– Telling me to rid my house of plasters, antiseptic and so on is a terrible idea. The idea behind it is that without stuff to put on my wounds, I’ll be less inclined to cut. This is bullshit. I’ve self-harmed even when I’ve had no plasters or antiseptic available, just bog roll or kitchen towels, and it’s far better for me to have a medical kit of sorts handy.

– Anything can trigger me into cutting. Things that have set me off have included arguing with my family, stress at work, Everton losing 4-0 to Liverpool (I was frightened I’d have to deal with loads of abuse from Liverpool fans I know on my Facebook and Twitter feeds), falling out with people, finding a note stuck to the fridge that was clearly aimed at me (which I will discuss in Quiet Beach, because that was the start of a very bad day), certain articles on the internet, homeless guys asking me for money…the list is endless.

– I can understand if my scars catch your eye, but please don’t have a go at me for doing it or give me the third degree. I have my reasons for doing it and like I said, I am the only person who gets physically hurt.

– Do not assume cutters are all hormonal teenage girls. Men self-harm. Non-binary people self-harm. Adults self-harm. There are people old enough to be my parents who self-harm.

– If we want to talk about it, we’ll talk, but don’t force the issue.

April 12, 2014

Paranoid 6teen

If you’re getting nervous
Cos all your defences are down
And you’re running through a storm
But there’s no one on the other side
You’ve got to avoid being paranoid sixteen

(Note: I’ve been putting this post off for a while as it’s not going to be easy to write, but my brother turned 28 on Thursday. This post is for him.)

Dear Jack,

You probably have guessed this, but I’m going to come out and say it: I was always jealous of you.

You were everything I wanted to be. You were, frankly, normal. You had friends; you were popular; you were cool; you liked the right music, the right things; and most important, you didn’t have Aspergers and you didn’t get bullied. You weren’t an emotional mess like me (or Mum, for that matter – you’re the only one out of the three of us who hasn’t struggled with some kind of addiction). When Mum yelled at you, you didn’t shout back at her like I did. You were more OK with Mum remarrying than I was (which is pretty ironic, considering how badly things ended up between you and Ex-Stepdad). You did everything before I did. I felt like was the younger sibling; I was so inexperienced and boring compared to you. I didn’t have sex until I was 17, didn’t start drinking till I was in Year 11, didn’t do anything stronger than weed till I was a student, didn’t have a serious relationship until I was in my twenties. You were growing up faster than me, and I resented you for it.

I’m not going to lie and say we’ve always had a brilliant relationship. At times, I hated you and I’m sure you hated me. You were pretty violent to me when we were little, and I returned the favour when I was older. You did a lot of things that made me angry. I hated the way you and your friends would wind me up and laugh at me, especially when I was with R. I hated how you called me a ‘whore’ after you found out about the Krazyhouse incident, how you told me to shut up whenever I sang or played the flute, and how you were clearly ashamed and embarrassed to have me for a sister. When I won the Comic Relief talent contest, kids in your year told you that your sister was a bitch, and one little shitbag joked about us being in an incestuous relationship. However, I also remember that I won a load of sweets, and as you were off sick that day, I shared them with you. Likewise, a year or so earlier, when I was off sick, you gave me a copy of Tin Planet that Danny Melia had taped. (Ah, that album. We fought over it like it was our child, even after you decided you hated Space and that I knew nothing about music.)

But then, I’m going to hold my hands up and say that I wasn’t a very nice older sister. When you and Emily started going out, I couldn’t handle it, I was eaten up with jealousy, and I said and did some pretty nasty things. I scratched you, screamed abuse at you, threatened to knife you. I’m not proud of that. I would never have done it – I’m more likely to hurt myself than another person. Sometimes I’d be spoiling for a fight. I made you cry a few times. I could be bitchy and condescending, and I did side with Ex-Stepdad against you at times, although in retrospect, I wonder if he was trying to play us off against each other.

You’re the reason why I cut Ex-Stepdad out of my life. He used you as a way to get at Mum. When he was angry with me, I’d get it in the neck, but when he was angry with you, he took it out on Mum instead. Maybe he was jealous of you. I hope not, because that would be fucked up. He badmouthed you to the McPartlands one time and I was really angry. Basically, I can talk shit about you because I’m your sister, and you can say what you want about me, but Ex-Stepdad doing it was different. He was an outsider. He called you an arsehole behind your back. Mum told me he didn’t trust you, and he was prepared to leave you to spend the night sleeping in a station in Crewe. Yes, you were a pain in the fucking arse at times, missing the last train home and asking Mum to collect you, but still. I lost my temper at Ex-Stepdad that night, I tell you now, because I was worried something would happen to you. That was why I found it weird that he sent you a card, and I don’t blame you for ripping it up. (I put some sweeties in your birthday package because of that!) You were only little when Dad died, and you needed a father figure, and he failed.

The turning point for me came when I found out he’d asked Mum how I was doing, but not you. He made it clear that he didn’t give a fuck about you. That settled it. We are a package deal. Just as Alice and Tom are a package deal – I mean, fucking hell, can you imagine Mum blatantly favouring Alice over Tom like that? No, you couldn’t. When it came between you and Ex-Stepdad, you won out and I was so disgusted by the way he treated you and Mum that I cut him out of my life. I regret nothing.

It took me by surprise when I found out how upset you were about the overdose, and that you’d argued with Mum, saying she shouldn’t let me go back to uni. I honestly did not realise you cared so much. Then you sent me a text telling me you loved me, and one night you were pissed and told me how much it hurt you when I cut myself. When we were helping you move out of Liverpool halls, you saw the scars on my arms and freaked. I think we became closer partly due to that. You began to open up more; you even started hugging me. We never hugged as kids. The only body contact we had was hitting and kicking and scratching each other.

I have many happy memories of you, before you think that I’m just slagging you off. The Famous Five fanfic we wrote together, the word games we’d play in the car or walking the dog, the Sundays with Dad in Hove Park, dancing to East 17 with Danny and Mike in Southampton, going swimming with Mum. More recently, there’s Primavera 2013. When we were at Leeds 2002, we avoided each other, and 11 years later, we were watching Wu-Tang Clan together with your mates. How times change. You also helped me during the time when Mum was in rehab – you and Richard helped me get over my guilt and sadness and helplessness. She also told me you looked after her when she had a panic attack. I was so proud of you. I only wish I’d been able to go to your graduation ceremony (bloody swine flu). Again, I was so proud of you. Ex-Stepdad never had any faith in you, but I did. I knew you’d be OK in the end.

I do care about you. When I came home from work and saw you crying on the sofa, and Mum told me Emily had dumped you, I wanted to beat the shit out of her, because I couldn’t bear to see you so upset. Seeing you cry at Gran’s funeral in 2005 hurt, as did finding out that you weren’t as confident as I thought you were, that you had insecurities of your own. I’d known you all your life, and yet I knew so little about you. I’m glad that we’re making up for the teenage years now. A lot of damage was done, but we’re getting there. You’re not ashamed of me anymore and I’m not jealous of you anymore. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon.

I love you, and I always will. You and Mum are everything to me.

Lotte x

March 16, 2014

Numb The Doubt

I’m not here to impress
I just want you to confess
I’m not here to confide
I just want to watch you die

I should probably slap a disclaimer on this post. Here goes: I’m not endorsing drug use. I’m not saying, “Wow, drugs are awesome and everyone on the spectrum should do them.” I’m just talking about my own experiences here. If you’re anti-drugs, you might not want to read this.

I used to be very, very anti-drugs as a kid. When I found out that my best friend from primary school had done Ecstasy, I yelled at her down the phone and told her she was stupid and that she could die. I’d seen a film on Leah Betts when I was in Year 7 and cried my eyes out, swearing I’d never touch Ecstasy. I look back and cringe now. Luckily, my friend forgave me. However, it all changed when I got older and became more curious as to what I was missing out on. Most of what I knew about drugs came from music magazines.  It was the same mentality that drove me to try to hook up with men in clubs. Friends of mine were starting to do drugs, and I felt left out. I do not like feeling left out. I felt, perhaps rather stupidly, that doing drugs would make me more ‘normal’. I was still getting over the idea I’d internalised from high school that I was an uncool, goody-two-shoes freak. I had something to prove.

It wasn’t until I got to university that I did anything stronger than weed. I refuse to touch acid, heroin or crack, but I have taken speed, MDMA, mushrooms and cocaine, sniffed amyl nitrate, and smoked weed. Most of the people I hung out with in Sixth Form smoked it at parties, and I had my first spliff when I was about 16 or so. It’s never really had that much of an effect on me, except on a few occasions, such as when I smoked some very strong grass in Germany and had a fit of the giggles all night. During my first two years at uni, I occasionally did mushrooms (they were legal back then, and you could buy them in Doctor Hermans). I’m not going to lie: the first time I did them, it was great. I saw people turning into trees, and I remember giggling a lot. Another time, I took them at a Nightwish gig and thought I was on a pirate ship. Sometimes I wonder if they contributed to the depression, but then it runs in my mother’s family, so knowing my luck, it was likely I was going to end up that way anyway. Coke, I didn’t particularly like; it hurt my nose. I did enjoy MDMA, though I only did it a few times. I didn’t want to get addicted because I didn’t want the novelty to wear off. I’m not going to go into detail as to the effect it had on me, except to say that my boyfriend at the time was pleasantly surprised. However, that was a long time ago, and it was something I got out of my system. Again: it wasn’t a regular habit, it was just something I occasionally did at parties and nights out. It’s also not something I could afford to do now, for the sake of my mental health.

Nowadays, the only drug I take regularly is Venlafaxine. I barely go out, due to a combination of tiredness, working in the evenings and not having many people to go out with, and I think the last time I did anything besides weed was at least six years ago. I doubt I’d ever do any drugs again, save for having the odd spliff. It would be too risky for me and I’d worry about the effect of my mental health. Whether you decide to do them or not, it’s your choice. I know at least one person on the autistic spectrum who does drugs; I also know some who prefer not to. Everyone’s experience with Aspergers is different; some people will be more negatively affected by drugs than others. If you are going to do them, I’d give you three pointers:

1. Go on Erowid and read up on whatever you plan to take. It’s a fantastic site for educating yourself about the effects of various drugs. When I was going to take mushrooms for the first time, I read up on the best circumstances in which to take them, possible effects etc. I made sure I was in a good mood, so that they wouldn’t enhance any negative emotions, made sure not to take them. Bluelight and Drugs Forum are also worth looking into, especially if you’re planning on taking a ‘legal high’ or a relatively unknown drug.

2. Get them off people you know and trust. Emphasis on trust. Whenever I’ve done anything stronger than weed, it has been given to me by a trusted friend. I have been offered drugs in the streets by random dealers a couple of times, but refused to buy them because I didn’t know what I was getting. For all I knew, they could have been pushing aspirin or tablets cut with something dodgy.

3. Make sure you’re with people you know and/or somewhere familiar. As I said on the festivals post, I’d personally advise against doing them at music festivals, especially if they’re as massive as Glastonbury, if you’re on your own and/or you’re nervous in crowds. If you’re nervous in unfamiliar surroundings, it could negatively impact you, and if things go wrong, it helps to have someone there to look after you. When I did shrooms for the first time, I was with Paul and Jilly, a couple of friends of mine, at a metal night in Chester, and other times I’ve been with friends or people from the Rock Soc at Manchester University. I was lucky and nothing went horribly wrong, but it was good to have a safety net.

March 3, 2014

Mister Psycho

All these people are laughing at him
And although he tries, it’s getting to him
And if he sees just one more grin
He won’t be held responsible
The city’s closing in on him
And everywhere’s getting smaller and smaller…

I might be many things, but one thing I am not is emotionless. I love. I hate. I can be happy or angry. I get excited, although I don’t jump up and down and squeal – I’m more like a human pressure cooker. I am torn apart by sadness. I feel immense loyalty or devotion towards people and want to do everything I can for them.

One thing a lot of us on the spectrum can’t do is read emotions via facial expressions. In Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, which I cannot recommend enough to people on the autistic spectrum and/or their friends and families, the hero, Christopher, talks about how he can recognise basic emotions and the facial expressions that go with them. However, while a simple smiley face is easy for him to interpret, more complex expressions are not.

Sometimes emotions get too strong and I can’t find the words to express myself, or I can’t hold myself back. Recently, I’ve had a lot on at work and I seem to spend an awful lot of time sitting at my desk crying until my head and eyes hurt, while my colleagues generally ignore me. I’m not good at managing stress levels. When things get too much, the floodgates open.

There is a scene in the anime Hellsing where Seras Victoria, a young fledgling vampire, is swarmed by Hellsing soldiers who have been turned into ghouls. Trapped, pressured and terrified that they are going to do something unpleasant to her, Seras snaps. Her eyes turn red, and blood and limbs fly everywhere as she rips her way through the ghouls. Her rampage ends when her boss, Sir Integra Hellsing, hugs her and begs her to stop. OK, so I’m not a vampire and none of my meltdowns have resulted in carnage, but it’s the same principle. Pile too much on me, push me too far, and I snap. Sometimes I just have a cry. Sometimes I hurt myself. I might reach for a knife, a shard of glass or a razor blade and slice up my arms, or occasionally, my face. Sometimes I bang my head against a wall, punch a wall, or – like today – bash myself over the head or arms with a heavy blunt object. To paraphrase Richey James of the Manic Street Preachers – another band I love – I can’t shout or scream, so I hurt myself to get the pain out. Having said that, sometimes I scream until my throat hurts, or until some kind person – my mum, a friend, or in one instance last year, the lead singer of Space – hugs me and brings me out of it.

Very rarely do I attack other people, though when I was a teenager, there were instances. I slapped a guy’s face in a club after he told me, in front of a load of people I thought were my friends, that no-one liked me. I hit and scratched my brother plenty of times. One time I lost my temper in Germany when a guy I fancied snogged another girl, and threw a pretty little shot glass to the ground, smashing it to tiny pieces. When a load of kids ganged up on me during a school newspaper session, I grabbed a pair of scissors and stabbed a guy in the chest, though I didn’t seriously wound him, and went for another girl. I’m amazed I didn’t get into more trouble, but the teachers probably realised I’d been provoked. I got a bit of a reputation for being a psycho. The guy I stabbed threatened to sue me! The funny thing is, I am not a violent person and I hate fighting. I hate being out of control – when I have meltdowns or crying fits, it feels like an out of body experience, almost. I feel ashamed almost immediately after, to think I could behave in such an unseemly manner. I still cringe of how I threatened to stab my brother after one particularly nasty fight, and I made him cry, and when I apologised and tried to hug him, he pushed me away.

Women and girls are taught to be quiet. We’re taught to keep our heads down and not make a fuss, not shout or scream. Keep calm and carry on. It’s unseemly to show pain or anger. Be nice. Be sweet. Be gentle. Do not, do NOT act up in public. Just smile and take it. Sticks and stones, blah blah fucking blah. Funny how words have caused me so much pain, whether it’s them being used to hurt me or my inability to use them when I need to. I don’t suffer from selective mutism like some of my fellow Aspergics, but I can’t always articulate myself and express my needs and wants orally. This is one reason why I write.

Another emotion I have a problem with, incidentally, is love, but I’ll be talking more about that later. I will say, in closing, though, that anyone who thinks people with Aspergers are emotionless is talking out of their arse. We can and do feel. We just don’t always know how to deal with those feelings, and at times, trying to keep a lid on those feelings is like trying to erect a very fragile dam.

February 23, 2014

An announcement

If you’ve been following this blog, you might have noticed that I am a big fan of the Liverpool indie/rock / uncategorisable band Space. I’ve written about hanging out backstage with them at a gig in Manchester in March last year, how frontman Tommy Scott looked after me when I had a serious panic attack at another gig in Birmingham, and how they got me through high school. As it happens, they’re releasing their fifth album, Attack Of The Mutant 50ft Kebab (yes, really), next month. It looks to be the best thing they’ve done since Tin Planet in 1998. To commemorate this, and as a challenge, I’m doing a series of miniblogs about Asperger’s Syndrome – some personal, some advice. Each will be around 600 to 800 words. Moreover, each post is going to be named after a Space song and have a different theme. Here’s the list:

1. If It’s Real: yes, it is a disability
2. Neighbourhood: moving house
3. Mr Psycho: emotional difficulties
4. Female Of The Species: not fitting in with other girls
5. No One Understands: the diagnosis
6. Dark Clouds: memories of Barcelona
7. Blow Your Cover: first sexual relationship
8. Influenza: getting ME
9. Life Of A Miser: managing money and other household things
10. Avenging Angels: relationship with my father
11. The Man: coping at work
12. Disco Dolly: festival tips
13. Fran In Japan: role models outside the family
14. I Am Unlike A Lifeform You’ve Ever Met: on books and the imaginary world
15. Bastard Me Bastard You: unwanted attention from men
16. Numb The Doubt: on drugs
17. Everybody In The Madhouse: primary school
18. Diary Of A Wimp: obsessive behaviour
19. Gravity: Dad’s death
20. Juno 54: relationship with music
21. Hell Of A Girl: bisexuality
22. Suburban Rock ‘n’ Roll: the Chester years
23. The English Language Let Me Down: speech and language
24. Paranoid 6teen: relationship with my brother
25. Crying On The Webcam: self-injury and stigma
26. Quiet Beach: the overdoses
27. Fortune Teller: on being childfree
28. Armageddon: on parties
29. Attack Of The Mutant 50ft Kebab: love-hate relationship with food
30. Falling In Love Again: relationship with the Perrys (my current stepdad and his teenage kids, Alice and Tom)
31. Guestlist To Hell: the people who keep me alive

I have my friend Chloe to thank for this – I found out about NaBloPoMo through her, and I wanted to see if I could do a challenge of some kind and stick to it for a month. This year is going to be about challenges; I’m going to Barcelona again, without any family members in the background this time, I’m doing the 5:2 diet, I’m going to go and see Everton play at some point (football matches are hard to deal with), and I’m going to be doing the Race for Life in my father’s memory, along with two friends, Topher and Sarah, and their dogs, Starbuck and Semtex (and we will be walking it, as I have ME and Semtex is a bulldog, a breed not known for their athletic skills!) I also, finances depending, may go to Berlin in the autumn / winter. The horrible Schonefeld experience did not put me off, and there’s so much of the city yet to be seen.

I apologise in advance to any family members I might upset with this. Also, out of consideration to readers, I will be posting trigger warnings / content notes on posts that contain potentially triggering content (e.g. sexual assault and eating disorders).

January 29, 2014

Anatomy of a panic attack (in the style of Katniss Everdeen)

Filed under: mental illness — kankurette @ 10:10 pm
Tags: , , ,

(Note – I’m a fan of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series and was recently reading Mockingjay, which gave me the idea for the style of this post. Also, I’m going to warn for mention of self-harm and eating disorders.)

This is what happened last night, and I’m still recovering.

I’m at work. 8pm: Everton are playing Liverpool at Anfield. I check the score on the BBC website: 0-0. Half an hour later, we are 3-0 down.

Something snaps.

I am crying and cannot stop. I am the only person in the office. On Facebook, my mates ask if I am OK. I tell them that I am alone, reassure them that I am not going to do anything stupid, even though right now I want to go to sleep and never wake up. Thoughts flash through my mind. I am surfing the web, looking at TV Tropes, and the pictures of cute anime girls set something off and I am thinking of my dad and high school and everything is getting too much and I just want to hide under my desk. The office is warm and I am too scared to go home. Scared of what I might do. I am trapped in the office. Should I just go to sleep here? But I am out of coffee and shampoo and I need to go home. I remember how I broke down screaming and crying at the Space gig in Birmingham, and how Tommy Scott hugged me and calmed me down and made sure I was OK. I wish he was here, or someone. Dad. Mum. Richard. Anyone. I don’t want to be alone. Not like this.

It takes me fifteen minutes before I am able to leave work. I am not kidding when I say I have to force myself to walk to the door. Turn off the lights, set the code, lock the door. Then out into the open. The air feels cool on my face. Every step is heavy. I briefly consider flinging myself into the canal.

Panic. My chest suddenly goes tight and I can’t breathe. I have some kind of air hunger – something is sitting on me. Crushing my chest. I take shallow breaths. Still crying. Cross the road, walk past the building site, up Whitworth Street, onto Oxford Road. Pull my hood up on the bus so no one can see me. See the crazy woman crying. I flick through songs on my iPod, but am unable to concentrate. My eyes are red, my hair is sticking to my face. At Sainsbury’s, I buy batteries, shampoo, other things including cookies which are going cheap. I need comfort food.

I get home, and check the score. 4-0. I am almost numb with misery. I pick up a kitchen knife. Better get this over with. Slash my arm four times, one for each goal, the last wound being deeper than the rest. Blood streams down my arm as I hunt for plasters and bog roll to stop the bleeding.

I cannot go on Twitter. They will be laughing. Laughing at me. The stupid bitch who supports the wrong team. Telling me to cry more. Kill myself. Look, the blues are quiet tonight. I must be quiet or I will say something stupid. Something regrettable. I cannot let them see me like this. I know my friend Gina will be worried, so I make sure to tell her on Facebook that I am OK. At least, I am alive. Whether I am OK is debatable.

Blood is dripping onto the floor. I throw away the bits of paper from the plasters, the antiseptic packet. I grab a j-cloth and wipe the blood off the desk, off the floor. The wound is still bleeding and I have to change the dressing. I get antiseptic. Wipe off the blood which is streaming down my arm. It stings, but I must endure. Then I peel the plasters off the largest wound. They are red and wet, soaked in blood, and the sight of it makes me cry even harder. The wound smiles up at me. I rip off pieces of bog roll and hold them against the wound. I want my mum, but she is in Cambridge.

I mindlessly shove chocolate cookies into my mouth and vomit them up. Eventually, a kind of numbness sets in. I feel nothing. I am hollow and empty. Emotion has drained out of me with the blood. I start to feel exhausted and weak. I just want to go to bed and forget today happened.

The next day, I wake up with a headache that doesn’t go away with codeine. I eat the rest of the cookies and vomit them up, and try to sleep but the man who does my garden is here. I ring my mum. I eat lunch. I call in sick to work, pick up my meds and go back to bed.

I am still in a bit of a daze. Still unable to believe that I did something so stupid over something so petty. But then it’s the littlest things that set you off. Sometimes things build and build. And then you snap. Even now, looking at football things makes me feel sick and shaky. I don’t want to add it to the list of things that set me off.

Now I am waiting for the Nytol to kick in. Not enough to kill, but enough to help me sleep.

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