The Hidden Village of Aspergers

April 4, 2016

It’s me again, in-sig-ni-fi-cant me again; also, Autism Speaks can fuck right off

I’ve not updated this blog in over a year. Basically, a lot of stuff has happened.

– I changed jobs in January last year and now work in a hospital. It’s better than the last place, thank G-d. I’ve also started doing freelance translation work on the side.

– I sang The Ballad Of Tom Jones onstage with Space at the Liverpool International Music Festival in summer. It was one of my proudest achievements and I can’t thank them enough for letting me do it, it was an honour. I got to do it again in Runcorn, where I was dressed up as Anne Shirley (I pretended Tommy was Gilbert Blythe).

– My brother was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in summer, and has been in and out of hospital having chemotherapy. Thankfully, he is fine now and will be coming to Primavera this year.

– My mum was admitted to hospital in January this year after drinking too much and passing out due to dehydration and lack of food. She’s OK now, but it was…not pleasant.

– I have been having some very disturbing intrusive thoughts about Roberto Martinez, Everton’s manager, which I will detail another time. I’m getting help for it.

On another note, it’s April, it’s Autism Awareness Month, and this means the dreaded blue jigsaw piece and the ‘turn it blue’ meme are going to rear their ugly heads. I’m talking, of course, about the notorious Autism Speaks, the group with THAT ad about autism. Well, they don’t bloody speak for me, or any of the autistic people I know. Autistic Hoya and The Caffeinated Autistic both explain much better than I could why Autism Speaks are bad, bad people, and not an organisation you should be supporting. Be warned: some of the content is very distressing.

January 20, 2015

Falling In Love Again

 It’s neither blunt nor bland
It’s Edward Scissorhands
It’s naughty and sublime
Like the Bride of Frankenstein

Anyone who expects all blended families to be like the Brady Bunch is in for a world of disappointment. Sometimes they’re more like the warring clans of the Naruto universe, or characters from Shameless. I’ve been in two. The first time around, I was miserable and felt like I didn’t belong among the horde of new relatives. The second time around, it worked. Both families clicked.

I won’t go into details about my stepbrother and stepsister, in order to protect their privacy, except to say that both are in their teens. He’s a breakdancer and choreographer in the making, she’s into acting and singing. They are two wonderful kids. They’ve been very kind and supportive towards my mum and her alcoholism, and neither of them were freaked out when I had a meltdown in Germany in 2012. I feel more comfortable around then than I do around my last set of stepsiblings, who I didn’t get and who never got me.

When my mum announced in 1995 that she and her then boyfriend were going to get married, I cried. I was angry with her and accused her of replacing Dad. It was only two years after he’d died and I didn’t feel ready at all for a new father figure in my life. I’ve never coped well with change, and having to take on a new family, three new stepsiblings and various extended family, was a lot to deal with. But I learned to like her boyfriend, and to swallow my sadness and try and look on the positive side of things – at least Mum was happy. None of us knew at the time how things were going to turn out. I read Anne Fine’s Goggle-Eyes a lot around that time, as I identified with Kitty, the heroine. She too was the daughter of a right-on feminist mother with a background in CND, and she too was having to get used to a new man in her mother’s life, who was older and more conservative. (The only difference was that Kitty’s parents were divorced, while my mum was a widow.) She learned to get on with him eventually, and I hoped it would be the same for me, and it was, at first. With my brother, it was a different story. He and my ex-stepdad hated each other, and I am not using that word lightly.

To cut a long story short, my mum and my ex-stepdad split up in 2008. It had been coming for a while. My brother wasn’t bothered, but I was, because it was another big change, and because I was more ambivalent about my ex-stepfather; after all, he’d taken me to a Sheffield Wednesday match (I’d wanted to go to one for ages), he’d been kind to me at my maternal gran’s funeral and when he found out I was cutting myself, and when I came out as bisexual, he was totally fine with it. But little things started to dawn on me; he’d never come to visit me while I was at university, for instance, and he’d seemed fairly unconcerned about me when Mum had told him I’d be upset about the divorce. He cast me and my brother off like so much trash, and that hurt. I eventually cut all ties with him in 2009, and haven’t looked back.

Mum started dating again after they split up, mainly guys off the internet, though nothing came of it. Then I found out she’d been in touch with Richard, an old boyfriend of hers from university who she stayed friends with after the split. We’d visited him a few times when my brother and I were kids, and I always remembered him as the Tintin Man because of all the Tintin stuff he had – books, figures, and so on. He’d split up with his wife and he and Mum had been phoning and emailing each other. Eventually, one thing led to another and they got back together. I wasn’t upset this time, just relieved that Mum was happy and that it was someone we knew this time.

Richard became more a part of my life as the years went by, and now it’s 2015 and he and Mum are living together (have been since 2013), and my stepbrother’s at Bournemouth and my stepsister’s in Sixth Form, and they’re talking about getting married, and we had our third Christmas together last month (although the stepsiblings were at their mum’s, so I missed them this time). This time round, I’m prepared. For a start, I’m older and I already know what it’s like to be in a blended family, but also, I’ve had years to get to know my new stepfamily, and this change isn’t scaring me. Plus, we’re not living together, so we’re not in each other’s faces. OK, I did have a bit of a wibble when Mum moved down south, mainly because I would miss her old house and because I couldn’t just hop on a train whenever I was in a crisis (Manchester to Cambridge is three and a half hours’ journey, at least). Unlike my previous stepfamily, I feel like I belong. I don’t feel I have to pretend to be something I’m not. They knew what they were taking on, and Christmas isn’t the awkwardly formal and overcrowded occasion it was with my last stepfamily.

I’m not angry with Mum for marrying my ex-stepdad. She was getting over my dad’s death and she was lonely and unhappy and none of us knew what an utter douchebag he was going to turn out to be. What’s past is past. For all those other people with Aspergers in blended families, though, I hope you get stepfamilies who love and understand you and don’t treat you like some kind of embarrassment. Change is hard, new people coming into your life and staying there is hard, but it’s a bonus if they’re new people you can get along with.

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.

September 26, 2014

Attack of the Mutant 50 Foot Kebab

When your starving pitbull starts to eat your leg
You have to watch your children beg and beg

TW: eating disorders

In December this year, I’m going to see the Manic Street Preachers playing their third album, The Holy Bible, in its entirety. It’s one of my favourite albums of all time. However, there is one bit I’m dreading, and that’s when they play ‘4st 7lb’, a song about anorexia which contains lyrics such as ‘I want to walk in the snow and not leave a footprint’ and ‘Mother tries to choke me with roast beef, but sits savouring her sole Ryvita’. If you look up the song on Youtube, you’ll find dozens of ‘thinspo’ videos set to the song. What Richey Edwards, an anorexic himself, would have thought, I do not know; the song, if anything, is anti-anorexia. The lyrics are filled with horror and despair under the ‘isn’t anorexia great?’ exterior. The girl in the song hates food. She doesn’t see it as comforting, warm, nourishing, delicious, even healthy; it is her enemy. At the beginning of the song, there is a sample of Caraline Neville-Lister, a severely anorexic woman who eventually died of the disease, saying, “I eat too much to die, and not enough to stay alive. I’m sitting in the middle, waiting.” When I was younger, I envied the ‘discipline’ of anorexics; now I look back and cringe. I am trying to have a healthier relationship with food, but it’s not an easy process. I write this after having eaten a large amount of Ritz crackers and thrown them up.

Food. My relationship with it is complex. I eat it, I cook it, I talk about it, I swap cookery tips with friends and reblog pictures of cakes on Tumblr, I have a cupboard full of cookery books given to me by family members and copies of Sainsbury’s Magazine, I regularly visit my local greengrocer (Withington Fruit & Veg) and used to buy vegetables at my local monthly market. When it’s my birthday, or friends’ birthdays, I go out for meals with friends, to Pizza Express or a curry house; we share sides between us or try each other’s dishes. Back when I went to synagogue, a group of us – mainly converts – would go out for a meal afterwards. The food is even more delicious at the end of Yom Kippur, when you’ve been sat in a long and draining service and had nothing to eat or drink for hours. One thing that got me interested in Judaism was the love of food, and how interlinked it is with faith. On Pesach, my favourite festival, we have the seder meal (and it’s much more fun when you’re with your mates and you’re all a bit pissed, communal sederim are a bit formal sometimes); on Chanukah, we have doughnuts and latkes; on Shavuot, we have dairy; on Tu B’Shvat, we have loads of fruit, and so on.

Baking has become a trendy thing in the UK, and I actually find this rather pleasing because I’ve always loved baking. When I was a toddler, I learned to bake, as did my brother (whose cooking is out of this world). When Jack and I were teenagers, we were so into baking that sometimes we’d compete for kitchen space. Carrot cake was his speciality and brownies were mine. Delia Smith was the queen of TV chefs, and I learned everything about the basics of cooking from her. Both Jack and I cooked the odd meal. In my family, particularly on my mum’s side, cooking was and is not considered a gendered activity, and everyone does it, except a couple of cousins (although one of them is getting better). There is a running joke on my mum’s side of the family about my maternal gran’s secret stuffing recipe and how many times we’ve tried to replicate it. My cousin Andy has recently got into cake decorating (and not just him – his mum, my auntie Chris, my dad’s sister, made an amazing football-themed cake for my cousin Laura’s birthday earlier this year). My dad cooked, as did my ex-stepdad, and the current one does too (he makes some very nice pasta meals and grows his own vegetables and fruit in an allotment). Jack and I were both packed off to uni with more cooking equipment than you could shake a stick at; my housemates would often steal my garlic crusher, as I was the only person in the flat who had one. Some of my earliest memories are food-related, such as eating duck à l’orange out of a metal tray when I was very little, or coming home from tennis club to find my dad cooking pasta in the kitchen. My ex-stepdad was very big on roast dinners on Sundays. I always dreaded doing the washing-up on Sundays because there was so much stuff to clean, and fat was a bugger to get out of things. This might be one of the reasons why I went vegetarian in 2004, although mainly it was not liking meat. (No kebabs for me, then.)

On the negative side, however, there is the comfort eating, the guilt and the shame that comes with it. I’ve written about bulimia before, and how I’d comfort eat, binge and purge when stressed or unhappy. Recently, I was in Cambridge, visiting my parents. My mum spent most of the weekend in bed, and at one point I went to the Co-Op, bought a packet of crisps and a bag of chocolate raisins, ate them and threw them up. I’m hoping that if and when I see the local mental health services, I will tackle this.

How does this tie in with Aspergers? I think it’s because of my enhanced senses and being sensitive to noise and textures and lights – it stands to reason I’d be sensitive to tastes and smells. There are some foods which I just cannot eat because they make me gag. Aubergines, for instance, and bananas (though I’m OK with banana cake), and cabbages, and swede (I blame school dinners). I also have a raging hate-on for coriander leaves. It’s also the reason, I think, why I like spicy food and prefer to use herbs or spices rather than salt, not to mention the amount of garlic I get through. I am a vampire’s nightmare.

Finally, to end this post and tie in with the Space theme, when Space toured the UK with Republica in March, one hardcore fan, Andy Wilton, brought a cake that his mum had made to the Newcastle gig. It was shaped like a doner kebab. The band loved it and, if I recall correctly, got through it very quickly. (One of my many happy Space memories of last year, incidentally was eating dinner with them; they ordered a Chinese takeaway in the dressing room at St Helens last year, and I ate some leftovers as I hadn’t had much for tea.) I’ve used food as a way to show love or appreciation for someone. (As has Jack – he made a beautiful fairy castle cake for his mate Woody in high school, and he used to bring cakes into clubs. I’m not kidding. He’d put the tin in his rucksack.) When two of my friends got married, I made them cupcakes (and beforehand, I made a chocolate cake which we took to the Wendy House for her hen night), and another time I made them a tin of Rocky Road, with a jar of Bovril in the middle. When my auntie Nicky put me up at her house when I went to see Space in 1998, I made her gingerbread as a thankyou present. I made chocolate fridge cake for my best mate one Christmas, and I’ve made several birthday cakes for my mother over the years. One year, I made her a cheesecake which nearly went horribly wrong, but luckily I had a Plan B. It wasn’t aesthetically pleasing and Mary Berry would not have approved, but no-one cared. My stepdad and his kids were there, as was Jack and possibly his girlfriend, and I sang the Cuppycake Gumdrops song. We ate dinner around a tiny table. It was magical. That is food for me in a nutshell; not just fuel, not just tastes and smells and textures, but also a bonding experience.

September 6, 2014

Armageddon

UV rays, Factor 40
This game of Twister’s got a little bit naughty

Here’s something about me which may sound surprising: I like parties.

More specifically, I like parties where I can catch up with friends, people get a bit pissed but not to the point where there’s vomiting (of which I have seen and done my fair share) or fights, the music’s good, there’s noms and drink on tap, you don’t have to worry about the police closing you down or gatecrashers, and everyone’s generally chilled and happy. Most importantly, I like parties where I know people. I always found Jewish Society parties difficult because I could count the number of people I knew on one hand, and I coped by getting drunk. This is not something I would advise. A couple of bevvies are OK, but when you’re on meds and you have a tendency towards getting depressed, you have to watch yourself. I’m not worried about turning into my mum, it’s more that when I drink when I’m unhappy, I end up turning into a maudlin drunk and/or saying and doing things I regret, such as one time in Germany where I stole a pretty little glass from a pub, only to smash it in a jealous rage after seeing a guy I fancied getting off with another girl. I cringe when I think about it. Kids and animals could have hurt themselves on that glass.

I like parties that are not being thrown by me. I am, frankly, shit at entertaining at home. My parents gave a fair few dinner parties and my brother always had a gang of friends over for his birthday (and had a clandestine party while my mum and ex-stepdad were away one weekend, though fortunately he and his mates did not trash the house and cleaned up before the parents came back, and they were none the wiser). I can only remember having one birthday party, when I was in infant school, and I hated it. I found the whole experience really stressful. Ever since, whenever I’ve wanted to do stuff with friends for my birthday, I’ve gone out to a restaurant or pub or club. I’m less self-conscious when I don’t have to do the cooking or fuss over guests and make sure they’re entertained. Parties are not fun when the host is neurotic. I’ve yet to host a Passover seder for the same reason; I can lead prayers and the Hallel, which I know fairly well from having to sing them at synagogue, but the thought of cooking for a group of people and having to cater for different dietary requirements and abide by the kitniyot rule (which I don’t keep, but some of my friends do) brings me out in hives.

One good friend of mine, E, who I have talked about before, always threw the best parties. I have so many happy memories of those parties, mainly involving people doing stupid things while drunk, such as burning a Michael Jackson doll in effigy, climbing on the roof and balcony, and playing games of Binhead where the loser had to do a dare (mine was ‘rant into a sink’; apparently the only words anyone could understand were the swear words, of which there were many). Sadly, I missed the one where several men got naked. At one of those parties, my ex-boyfriend and I got together. I also went to a few in Sixth Form, mainly at my friend Clare’s house in Vicar’s Cross. I was with like-minded people, there was always good music playing in the background – Hole, Radiohead, System Of A Down and so on – and I was starting to come out of my shell. Then there were all the society parties at university. The Rock Soc ones were fun (save for the first year end-of-term party, which culminated in me vomiting into my sink and passing out on my bed); the J-Soc ones were tolerable if I knew enough people. Purim parties and Booze for Jews were the best; at least at Purim parties, everyone looks and acts like a tit because it’s customary to dress up and drink until you ‘can’t tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman’ (cue booing). (I was annoyed that my ‘avenging angel’ outfit didn’t get in the Jewish Telegraph.)

Of course, there were also terrible parties, like the rave I went to at Ed Whalley’s farm (he was a Chester politician with a reputation for being a bit eccentric) where most of the kids there were people who’d bullied me, or a party at the Scout Hut where I had one alcopop too many and got a ton of flak for it at school when it got out that I’d been drunk; the party at my ex-boyfriend’s house where one woman had an epileptic fit, I had a major depressive episode, and a guy was kicked out for breaking my ex’s guitar; or the Year 11 leavers’ party where I was so ill my mum had to pick me up, I told my ex-stepdad to fuck off, and spent the next day with an enormous hangover. It was a learning experience and a wake-up call. Rarely did I get so paralytic again. I hated the feeling of being out of control, and only really did it because I thought that was what you were supposed to do.

One reason I went to society parties at university was to push myself out of my comfort zone, to meet new people and socialise. It was hard, and there were a good few false starts and nerves, but it did help me become more confident, although I still have to make sure I’m in the right mood for fear of being a massive downer. I am not a massive party animal; I am a homebody at heart and always have been, and these days, due to being ill, I don’t go out much. But I don’t want to become a recluse either. Not everyone with Asperger’s enjoys parties, and that’s fine. They’re not for everyone and a room crowded with people and noise can be hell on earth for people on the autistic spectrum. But for me, the odd one is fine. In a way, it’s a form of self-care; I need to remember how to talk to people and interact with them. It’s something I worry I’ll forget.

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.

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 30, 2014

Suburban Rock ‘n’ Roll

TW: eating disorders

I hate that coward in my dreams
He steps in front of every goal
Life’s a suburban rock ‘n’ roll

In the summer of 1995, Mum, Jack and I moved to Chester. I left home for good in around 2006-2007, when I moved into a small flat in Victoria Park. When I started at uni, very rarely did I go back there, except to catch up with the odd friend or see my mum. Firstly, I was happy at uni, enjoying the new city, meeting new people and getting to live on my own and eat Nutella out of the jar and go out clubbing every week. Secondly, one of my now ex-stepsisters and her kid were living with us in Chester, and the atmosphere in the house was very tense. I disliked sharing my space with them and whenever an opportunity to go out came up, I took it, as did Jack. My ex-stepsister was getting away from her abusive boyfriend, and one time I accidentally let him into the house – I didn’t know who he was – and had to ring the police. Jack and I were hiding in the annexe, and I was in a mess. Another time, there was a confrontation and Jack had to look after the kid while Bastard Boyfriend threatened my ex-stepdad and the police had to be called, again. Luckily, I was at a mate’s house in Handbridge and missed the drama. At the time, I wasn’t very good at empathising with others, hated change and having to adjust to new people, and hated me, Jack and Mum all being sucked into drama that had nothing to do with us.

I don’t want to post too much about my ex-stepdad, except to say that I cut all ties with him in 2009, and a few years later, I cut all ties with my former stepfamily after Mum wrote an angry Facebook post about my ex-stepdad, and my ex-stepsister sent Mum a horrible message. Jack had cut ties with them long before me. He and my ex-stepdad never got on. I wouldn’t say they hated each other per se, but they antagonised each other a lot. My ex-stepdad talked shit about Jack in front of family friends, and took it out on Mum whenever Jack did anything wrong (he didn’t do this with me). He blatantly favoured me over Jack – when he and Mum were splitting, he asked about me, but not Jack, and made it clear that I was the only one he gave a shit about. This pissed me off. I felt he was trying to drive a rift between us (and I’ll talk more about this in Paranoid 6teen). He wasn’t abusive to me or Jack, he didn’t beat or neglect us, and he didn’t hit Mum or anything, but there was a fair bit of emotional abuse. Even now, I don’t think I know the half of what must have gone on, though a lot came out after the divorce. Out of respect to Mum, I will not go into detail, but what I will say is that she has a lot of demons, and he is one of the causes. It took her a long time to get over him. She constantly beats herself up about remarrying so soon after Dad’s death, and while I was angry with her, I understand now that she’s one of those people who just needs to be in a relationship and hates being alone, and he was basically a rebound. She wasn’t to know how things would turn out. None of us did. I had mixed feelings at first, as he was kind to me at my maternal gran’s funeral and he did have his moments, but now I feel nothing for him. Anyway.

I hate Chester. Not because it’s a shithole, it’s quite nice as cities go, but because of all the memories there. In Manchester, you can be fairly anonymous; in Chester, everyone knows your business. Even after I’d left school, people would shout things at me in the street. As I said in earlier posts, I had a reputation as the school’s weird girl. I couldn’t wait to go somewhere where no-one knew who I was. My social life wasn’t great; Foregate Street is one long row of wine bars, and the one club I did like, Love Street, closed down in 2004, with its metal night moving to Rosie’s, our local dive where most of my year went when we got our A-Level results. I started going clubbing in Sixth Form and loved it. Since we lived in the arse end of nowhere, in Christleton, it got to the point where taxi drivers recognised Jack and me. “Big white house, right?” After life in a city, living in a village where the nearest supermarket was at least half an hour’s walk away and buses were hourly was a bit of a culture shock, as was the fact that nearly everyone in my high school was white (there were about four Asian kids in my year, and that was it) and nominally Christian. Coming back from Manchester was even weirder and made me realise how much I wanted to get out. So many people I knew in high school have left Chester, whereas loads of the old primary school crowd are still in Brighton. People at uni said they loved Chester and asked me if it was like Hollyoaks. If only it were that exciting. Some people might think uni is a waste of time and teaches you no life skills, but had I not gone to Manchester and realised that, despite having Aspergers, I could fend for myself, I would have been stuck at home in Chester for years, living with Mum and doing crappy office jobs and learning nothing. No thanks.

Country life was not for us. We three are townies at heart. The endless walks at weekends that I put up with so as not to anger my ex-stepdad, the mud, the renegade cattle, the pavement-less roads with rogue drivers…it was like being on the moon. One thing I did like was the wildlife; the foxes, the badgers, the odd pheasant or weasel. Other than that, though, it wasn’t much fun being cut off, and it had a weird effect on Mum. She became a lot more conformist, always worrying what people would think of her, and by extension, me. A lot of screaming matches were had and at times I felt I was a disappointment and that I was not the daughter she’d wanted; I was prickly and aggressive and moody and preferred books to clothes, and she couldn’t dress me up and take me shopping and squee over shoes with me. I wonder how much of that was my ex-stepdad’s influence. I know he’s one of the reasons why it took me forever to admit I needed help; he despised depressives and thought they were weak. He also hated fat people. No doubt it would have been some consolation to him to hear his stepdaughter vomiting in her sink.

The song after which this post is named, and the album that spawned it, is about suburbia, the cramped and inward-looking nature of it and the goings-on behind closed doors. We lived in suburbia in our first year here, alternating between a tiny rented house in Hoole and my ex-stepfamily’s house in the sticks, and it was claustrophobic. So was living in the village. Jack’s mates all lived in the arse end of nowhere, while mine lived in Vicar’s Cross, in the sticks. Now that Mum and I have left Chester, we’re like Battle Royale characters whose explosive collars have been removed from our necks. We are free to be who we want. She’s got a new set of friends and I’m living alone. We are not forced into little boxes anymore.

March 29, 2014

Hell Of A Girl

And you’re a lovemaking, earthquaking, dead-waking
Breathtaking hell of a girl

Let’s get this out of the way.

I am bisexual. I have been attracted to men and women for most of my life. I have known this since I was in Year 9. If it’s a phase I’m going through – since a lot of misguided idiots seem to think it’s a phase, and/or we’re just straight people trying to be cool or lesbians in denial – it’s a bloody long one.

I always got called a lesbian in Year 7 because I hung around with my best friend at the time all the time, she was a tomboy, and I had short hair. I thought it was weird. I didn’t understand why people thought we were a couple. We were just friends. I didn’t really think about the possibility that I might be gay or bi until I had a crush on a girl in my class when I was in Year 9. She was blonde and pretty and popular, though I never really became friends with her. Then one day, I saw Cerys Matthews singing on TV with Tom Jones, and she was wearing this beautiful purple dress, and I felt…strange. I fancied her. I can’t describe this feeling, other than thinking she was beautiful and despairing because all these feelings were rushing through my head. Throughout my teens, I wondered if I might be gay. I knew what gay and lesbian people were. Growing up in Brighton, Mum knew LGBT people and I’d read about them in Our Bodies Ourselves. I’d voiced my suspicions to Mum several times, and after kissing a girl in a club during a night out, I officially came out to her and my ex-stepdad the next day.

I’m very, very lucky in that my parents were always OK with me being queer, as were my biological family (though I don’t know if my grans knew – my maternal gran certainly would have been fine with it, though). I’ve never been under pressure to settle down with a nice man and have 2.4 kids. My mum had gay and lesbian mates at uni and she never had a problem with LGBT people; she made it clear that any girlfriend I had would be welcome to come over, just as a boyfriend would. Bastard though he was, my ex-stepdad wasn’t anti-gay either, though some of his family were. I remember watching Strictly Come Dancing with a couple of them and they were making remarks about Colin Jackson being ‘as queer as a deer’. Evidently they were not aware of the bisexual woman sitting next to them, and I figured it would be best not to say. Even now, I wince when people call things ‘gay’ or call each other ‘queer cunts’ or say, “I don’t want to sound gay or anything, but…” especially if they know about me. I wonder if it registers that their words hurt. Do they think I’m disgusting too for not being completely straight?

My sexuality has been all over the place, and I started really coming to terms with it at uni, joining the LGBT Soc and going to gay clubs. I dated a woman I’d met in Poptastic, though nothing really came of it, although it made me realise that I would, in fact, be open to a relationship with a woman. In second year, I assumed I was a lesbian because I didn’t feel any attraction to men at the time. I went to Canal Street every week with the LGBT Soc and read Diva and fell in love with a woman. I was, I’ll admit, rather obnoxious about it, to the point where one girl in Rock Soc said something along the lines of, “How many times have you mentioned you’re a lesbian now?” Then I fell in love with J, my ex-boyfriend, and realised I wasn’t completely gay, and just decided to accept the fact that I can love people of more than one gender. I’m not going to say I don’t see gender, because I do – when I was with Sheryl, my ex-girlfriend, I was more conscious that I was in a relationship with a woman, whereas when I was with men, I didn’t think about it that much. I was more alert to my surroundings, you could say – the possibility of homophobia (she was butcher than me, though I’m neither butch nor femme – I’m somewhere in between) rearing its ugly head.

How does this tie into me having Aspergers? It probably doesn’t, apart from not feeling the need to conform to certain behaviours expected of me. Having said that, it took ages for me to accept myself as a ‘proper’ queer person. I still have a complex about not being queer enough because I’ve never had sex with a woman – the anti-depressants I was on while I was with Sheryl totalled my sex drive – because I’m monogamous and find the idea of being in a relationship with more than one person hard to handle; because I could never see myself as anything but cis; because I’m not radical, subversive or an anarchist; because I’m not a hard femme, I’m not soft butch, not high femme, not glittery and fabulous and beautiful like the girls on Tumblr. I would say I am straight-passing. I always got scared of going into places like Vanilla because I worried they wouldn’t believe me if I said I was bi. But I am more at ease with who I am compared to when I was at uni. I’ve come to accept that at the end of the day, though, when all is said and done, I like people. If the right person is male, female (and in both cases, just to clear things up, I’m referring to cis and trans men or women), or neither, or both, so be it.

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