The Hidden Village of Aspergers

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 25, 2014

Gravity

You’ve lost all the feeling in your heart and soul
It’s not enough to cry

We all knew the end was coming.

In that respect, we were lucky. A friend of a friend’s dad had gone to play tennis and never came home; he’d died of a heart attack. On 11th September 2001, eight years after my dad died, firemen and passengers alike were killed in a terrorist attack, their children unable to escape from the horrible images on TV and in the press for days on end. On 15th April 1989, several kids in Liverpool waved goodbye to their fathers as they went off to watch a football match in Sheffield, never to return. Other children have had to wait for days, weeks, months, not knowing if their fathers are alive or dead, until the dreadful news finally comes. That was the one advantage we had; we knew. Mum and Dad were always honest with us. Unlike my best friend at the time, who only found out her mother was dying through overheard conversations, we were told everything. There was no bullshit, no whitewashing.

All we could do was wait.

We had had a false alarm at one point; it looked as though he was going to be OK. But from the beginning of 1993, he went into rapid decline and had to move in with my paternal gran in St Annes-on-Sea; he was in a nursing home for a bit, but it was pretty bad. He gained a load of weight on steroids and sent letters typed on Gran’s typewriter and – thank G-d – was around long enough to meet Laura, his new baby niece. In September, on the day Jack was supposed to start primary school and I was supposed to start Year 5. Instead, we found ourselves on a train to Lancashire. Jack explained that Dad was going to die any minute. Me not getting my priorities right, I was pissed off because I was worried about missing school. We spent a few days with Gran and Auntie Chris and her family, and said goodbye to Dad, who was in hospital by this time.

That was when I experienced death for the first time, the realisation that people you love won’t be around forever. For days, I couldn’t believe he’d gone. It must have been worse for Mum – just being surrounded by reminders of him everywhere, the ties he would never wear again, the CDs he would never play again, the empty space next to her in bed. No wonder she went crazy. My memories of the time are patchy, but I do recall going to a friend’s house the day after, presumably because Mum was too worn out with grief to pay much attention to us.

Why do I write about this so much? This was the event that pushed me over the edge. It’s not the only time a death in the family pushed me over the edge; my maternal gran’s death in 2005 was one of the things that led to me trying to kill myself. I acted up in school. I could never handle change, but this massive change had hit me, soon to be followed by another one when Mum decided she couldn’t stand living in Brighton anymore, and the bottom had dropped out of my world. Little things got to me, and still do. The Lion King still makes me and Jack cry (and if you’re a kid who’s lost a parent, watch it – it is a fantastic film for bereaved kids to see and it came out at the right time for us), as does Home Alone 2, the last film we saw at the cinema with Dad. The funeral was hell – I’m glad Jack and I went, as it gave us the chance to say goodbye, but seeing Gran collapse and have to be carried out of the chapel by two men, and the coffin going into the incinerator, and grown men and women crying – it was too much to take in.

We didn’t want to scatter the ashes, so Mum went alone one day while we were at school and threw them in the sea. Seeing my maternal gran’s ashes freaked me out enough, seeing what looked like something you’d scatter on your driveway and realising it used to be a person – I could not have handled that at nine years old.

The other massive change that came as a result of Dad’s death was what it did to Mum. She and Dad were always close; they never argued. They loved each other to pieces. Dad dying broke her. We went on holiday to Menorca in 1994 and she spent most of it in bed with stress-induced migraines, while Jack and I amused ourselves in the swimming pool. In April of that year, Mum used some of the money Dad had left us to take us to Australia to see Auntie Debby, Mum’s older sister, and her family. We spent nearly a month there. When it was time to return to England, Mum broke down at the airport. I was still getting accustomed to seeing her cry. Adults crying confused me. I thought it was something only kids did. I couldn’t get my head around why she was ill all the time. Seeing someone you’ve known all your life acting out of character throws you.

I talked before about strong emotions in Mister Psycho, and how for a lot of people with Aspergers, everything is intense. We love intensely and hate intensely. We see black and white, not grey. When we love someone, we put them on a pedestal and act like the sun shines out of their arse, and are surprised and disappointed when they show any kind of flaw. We cannot always find the words or means to deal with strong emotions. Maybe that was why Dad’s death broke me. He’d been a massive part of my life for nine years, and now he was gone, and the despair manifested itself through behaving badly at school, crying all the time, running out of class, skiving, hyperventilating, being unable to interact with large groups of people, and Mum didn’t know what the hell to do with me, and the rest is history.

March 22, 2014

Diary Of A Wimp

(On Wednesday) I sent you a hundred letters in one day
I bet your friends had a good laugh at them
(On Thursday) Stood there before you all puppy-eyed
It’s my curse for falling in love

On TV Tropes, there’s much discussion of a certain character archetype, the Yandere (it’s an anime thing – the Western equivalent would be ‘bunny boiler’). The poster girl for this trope is Yuno Gasai (pictured), the main female character in the manga Mirai Nikki, who is obsessed with the hero, Yukiteru – and I mean, obsessed. If ‘Yukki’ so much as smiles at her, she explodes in an ecstasy of delight. She’s willing to kill for him, and anyone who poses the slightest threat, who so much as smiles as ‘Yukki’, has just painted a big target on their back. OK, so I was never that extreme, but I can empathise; I too have obsessed over men who did not love me back. The first one was R, my best friend in high school; the second was P, a boy in my year who I’d been friends with for a while; and the third, the most damaging, was a man I referred to as ‘Itachi’, a while back, who I met through the Rock Soc at university. It didn’t help that my obsession with him got serious a few months before my overdose and subsequent breakdown. Bizarrely, I’ve seen some men say that they want a girlfriend like this.

Let me tell you this: obsessive behaviour is not pretty. If you want a Yandere girlfriend, you are living in a fools’ paradise. Even if you’re so self-obsessed that the idea of a woman obsessing over you gives you wood, a woman like that will only make you miserable. I told my last boyfriend that he should be glad I didn’t feel about him the way I felt about certain men, because that was obsession, not love. I’ve never had a restraining order taken out against me, and it’s never gotten into such drastic territory, but it has caused friction, and in one case, turned the man against me. R and P remained friends with me, although I don’t see much of them now, but Itachi hated me.

I don’t know if it’s daddy issues or something, but I have a habit of fixating on certain men and getting obsessed with them. I have learned to recognise the warning signs:

– I google them a lot.

– They are constantly in my thoughts and dreams, and on my lips. I write songs about them. I drive my mates nuts with talk about them.

– I am terrified of making them angry. I make every effort to keep on their right side, because I’m scared of ‘losing’ them.

– If they have girlfriends, as was the case with P and Itachi, I make an effort to befriend said girlfriends, to get over my own jealousy. When I found out Itachi had a girlfriend, just as I was planning to ask him out, I went off to the toilets and cried.

– I get involved in the same stuff as I do in order to spend more time with them. In clubs, I hang around them like a bad smell. I dance with them. I try and sit near them. This is all stuff I did with Itachi, and he knew exactly what I was doing. A friend of his warned me, and I genuinely did try to stop acting like a lost puppy, but it was too late.

– I wander past their houses.

– If I text or message them and they don’t reply, I get panicky.

Do I have a type? Perhaps. The men in question have all been intelligent, tall-ish, outgoing (Itachi and R more than P), had fairly stable home lives in comparison to mine (although Itachi’s parents are divorced), and had the same sense of humour as me, as well as similar interests. Itachi and R even looked quite similar once Itachi got his hair cut, although Itachi is bigger and hairier. Each time, I felt a weird sort of connection with them. In Itachi’s case, I carved his initials into my arm. When he told me on MSN that he didn’t want anything to do with me, I cried for ages. I didn’t know what I’d done wrong and why he hated me so much. A year or so later, a friend of his took great pleasure in telling me that he didn’t like coming out with Rock Soc because of me always ‘following him around’. My obsessive love turned to hate. After the fall-out, when I returned to Manchester, every time I saw him, I’d have panic attacks. I’d feel sick and my hands would shake. I don’t know why – it’s not as if the guy raped me or anything. Perhaps it was because every time I saw him, I was confronted with the results of my horrible obsessive behaviour. I swore to myself that I would never fixate on a man like this again. Admittedly, I did worry that I might be getting like this with Space, and it’s a tendency I want to curb, though luckily it’s not happened, and when I hung out with the band on Thursday, they were as friendly as ever.

In an excellent article in the Times Magazine from April 2012, about girls on the autistic spectrum, a woman said of her young daughter, “I see kind little girls make friends with her and she’s so obsessive in her friendships, she literally wants to crawl under their skin. Eventually, she always loses them all because they can’t handle her intensity.” This is me with those three men. It goes back to the extremity of emotions: when we take an interest in something, we go all out. We love and hate in black and white. I went from wanting to do anything for Itachi to wishing him dead. Luckily, I don’t feel this way about most of my friends, though there are a couple I do tend to put on a pedestal, but I don’t fixate on them.

Love is beautiful. Love is powerful and strong and can move mountains, but love is not obsession and obsession is not love. It is merely a twisted reflection of love.

March 8, 2014

Influenza

You treat me like an influenza
You think I’m an idiot cos I’m not in Mensa
You treat me like a tonsillitis
I’m a pain in the neck and I’m not quite right

Note: this post will be shorter than the other miniblogs as I’ve already blogged on the subject of ME.

We love our routines, we people with Aspergers Syndrome. We do not love it when we have to adjust to a whole new routine. When I got sick with swine flu in 2009 and had to take a month off work, and started feeling tired and drained and achey all the time and ended up discovering I had ME, my entire world came crashing down around me. My work cut down my hours and consequently, my salary. I had to blow off friends for gigs and nights out. I slept more and found going to the gym difficult. It was a bit of a shock, but gradually, I got used to it. At least my mum backed off a bit about me being overweight and my house not being very tidy. Even now, when I’m typing this, I have pains in my arms.

I also had to deal with a lot of stupid comments about the illness. People in the choir at synagogue told me that I was too young to be tired, and I hated being made to feel guilty for constantly missing choir practices and services due to being ill. Maybe this is the paranoia talking, but there were women three times my age in the choir and a woman with hip problems, and I wondered if the general feeling was ‘they can make it to synagogue, what’s your excuse?’ I got told to try running, jogging, Zumba, horse riding. I can’t run and I’m scared of horses, not to mention that riding lessons are not cheap. They thought exercise would make it better, but it’s one of those things where you have to be careful; one of my friends, who was far worse than me, had Graded Exercise Therapy and suffered major setbacks as a result, while I myself was in pain for days after a pole dancing session. That’s the problem with having an invisible illness. If you’re not visibly disabled, you are assumed to be a fraud, and it doesn’t help that the likes of Julie Burchill and Rod Liddell think we’re liars, scroungers and fakers.

How does it intersect with Aspergers? Not much, really, although stress can make me tired, and combined with a draining condition like ME, by the time I get home from work, I just want to sleep. Combine that with depression, and you have a two-headed beast. The more unhappy or stressed I am, the more tired I am. I feel pretty drained now, for instance, due to my team getting thrashed 4-1 by Arsenal, and having had a very hard week at work which began with a horrible, frightening meltdown which resulted in cuts on my arms and cheek, and sore wrists and hands. All I can do, really, is ride these periods out. I’m seeing We Are Scientists at the Ritz tomorrow, so I will be resting up in preparation. It’ll be my first gig of 2014, and I can’t wait.

 

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.

January 1, 2014

And 2014 begins.

I am sitting here, in my kitchen, playing Farm Heroes. The happy, smiling faces of the cartoon fruit and vegetables make me sad for some reason. I think it’s because I’m feeling a little flat and empty after spending time with my friends and family. Post-Christmas comedown and post-exertional fatigue (I’ve not been exercising, but I have been busy) has kicked in; I just want to sleep. I’m amazed I even can sum up the brain power to type this. I didn’t go out last night because of it. I just stayed in and watched Wayne’s World.

So, 2013. It’s been hit and miss. On the plus side, I met new people, went to Barcelona alone and had a fantastic time at Primavera. I became a lot closer to my stepdad, not that we weren’t in the first place, had a fun time with the family at Ness Gardens (rain notwithstanding), got to see a football match for the first time in years (it was Cambridge United, not Everton), and saw more Space gigs than you can shake a stick at. The last gig I saw was on Halloween in London, and after talking to him backstage, Tommy Scott got me to come onstage with him for The Ballad Of Tom Jones. We both hammed it up, and afterwards, he gave me a hug and told me I’d done the song proud, while Franny Griffiths smiled at me and Phil Hartley also gave me a hug backstage, and the audience were great. I still can’t quite believe it happened.

On the down side, my best mate moved to Oxford, I had a horrible panic attack at a Space gig, my mum went into rehab, I stopped going to synagogue because choir stressed me out, and I had to deal with problems at work, delusions and paranoia. A good deal of it is to do with Space. I find some of the band very hard to read and worry that they dislike me and do not appreciate me coming backstage, although Franny did say at the Hebden Bridge gig that he was cool with it. Then again, they haven’t told me to fuck off, Franny actually got somewhat irritated with me when I called myself a ‘dumb whore’ and told me to stop putting myself down, and the one time I did get kicked out of the dressing room, all the other fans who were there got kicked out too as the band were getting changed, which is fair enough. I also rely on alcohol as a coping mechanism. It’s not a case of being starstruck; I know Space are only human. It’s more a case of worrying a lot about appropriate or inappropriate behaviour and how other people might see me.

Communication is a problem I have in general, and when I’m able to gather my thoughts more coherently, I’ll blog on it, because sometimes it’s like trying to navigate my way through a forest, blindfolded. I’m not always good at expressing myself, I can’t always detect nuance and like Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, I instantly suspect the worst of people and find it hard to trust others. I have to remember that just because some people hated me behind my back, and were only afraid to tell me how they really felt to my face because they knew I was mentally ill and feared I would flip out, does not mean everyone is like that.

I have plans for this year. I’ll be going to Space in March, at London, Liverpool and Manchester, and aim to get over my fear and paranoia. I’ve also got Nine Inch Nails and Primavera Sound coming up – I’ll be going back to Barcelona – and I plan to go down to Cambridge for my birthday, as well as visiting my auntie Chris, my dad’s sister, at the end of this month. I may well be going to Berlin as well – I haven’t decided yet. Hopefully there will not be a repeat of the unpleasant experience at Schonfeld Airport.

Also, I had a bit of a meltdown at Christmas when I got into an argument with my mum. She wants to get me a cleaner, as I have trouble taking care of my flat. I admit I have mixed feelings about this; I’m worried some of my friends will hate me for it and call me a spoiled brat, and I feel guilty for not being able to clean as much as I would like. I admit it; I am not a tidy person. I put cardboard and plastic in the recycling bins, I cook and wash the dishes, I change my sheets weekly and do my laundry regularly, I hoover, I clean the lav (again, not as much as I should), but it’s not enough. I haven’t cleaned the skirting boards, I barely wash the floors or dust. Mopping makes my back ache, as does any work on my knees. I think it’s a case of feeling like I can’t be that bad, that I’m not disabled to the extent that others are and I’m privileged and it could be a lot worse…and then the tiredness hits and I can barely think straight and I just want to crawl into bed. There’s a lot of internalised ableism and foolish pride going on as well. I’m still ashamed to admit I need help in some areas. When a lot of your friends are mentally ill and/or more understanding than most people, you become so used to that world that you almost forget how the majority of people see you. Cutting my arms and pouring boiling water over them at work seems normal to me, as does throwing up in the toilet after a binge…but to other people, it can come across as a bit scary.

I’m staying on the Venlafaxine for the time being. I’m not 100%, but let’s be realistic, I’m probably going to be on meds for the rest of my life. Still, I have some control over the delusions; when the Liverpool fans on my Facebook and Twitter sneer at Evertonians, I have to force myself to remember that it’s not personal and they’re not trying to get me, for instance. Hopefully it will get better. Fingers crossed.

October 2, 2013

It only takes one chocolate bar

First off, I should probably put a warning on this post. If you’ve ever had problems with an eating disorder, you might find this post triggering. Proceed with caution.

For reasons I’m not going into, out of respect for my family, addiction’s been on my mind recently. The other thing that prompted this post is the fact that I’ve recently been having difficulty breathing, and my chest hurts. After going on Google, I figured out I’d pulled my chest muscles from purging, and that was what was causing the pain.

I have an obsessive personality. I obsess over people, books, manga, bands.  My obsession with Space is one I need to keep a careful check on, as it’s caused me a lot of anxiety lately. I sometimes wonder if having an obsessive personality might overlap with an addictive personality; there’s the same kind of all-or-nothing quality in both cases. I have to go to as many Space gigs as I can and buy as much stuff by them as I can and back when I was a kid, I’d buy every magazine they were in that I could get my hands on, and I was in the fan club, and there were other, more embarrassing aspects of it that I won’t go into here. In the same way, when I’ve gone through phases of being obsessed with my body, I’ve counted calories and gone to the gym and pushed myself till I hurt. Even yesterday, I felt like a failure because I was only in there for 20 minutes and I had to get off the bike because my arms and legs were literally shaking. The last time I went, I was in pain for days.

I had a phase around 2004 where I was barely eating. I’d have an apple for lunch and things like two sausages on a plate of spinach for dinner, and I’d give up sweet things. That all stopped, luckily for my mum – who was worried about me – when I went back to uni. I was thin for a year, then I got put on Citalopram and my weight shot up. Looking at old pictures of myself made me want to cry. I missed being thin. I had to tell myself that being fat and relatively stable was better than being thin and cutting all the time and wanting to die, but when Mum was having a go at me over my weight, and when I looked in the mirror at the mikveh when I converted to Judaism and was ashamed of my gut, I wondered if coming off the pills might be an idea.

Food and I have a complicated relationship. I am a comfort eater. When I am stressed or unhappy, I comfort eat. When I’m going through a particular bad patch, I binge and purge. I have been doing this on and off for about half my life – I remember throwing up in the sink in my room. I can’t even remember what started it. I did it at school, I definitely remember that.

It only takes one chocolate bar, one biscuit, one packet of crisps on a bad day. You think, “I’ll just eat this thing.” Then you think, “Another one won’t hurt.” Before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole pack. You feel disgusted at yourself. You run to the toilet, fill a glass with water to help, shove your fingers down your throat, and vomit and vomit until your stomach starts to hurt and only bile is coming up. Alternatively, you’re out with mates, and they’re having pudding, so you do as well, and then you immediately start to feel guilty and it’s toilet time again, and you wonder if your friends know what you’re doing.

I know vomiting doesn’t help. Believe me, I know. I’ve started to suffer the side effects. Besides chest pains, after purging I get an irritating cough – apparently ‘bulimics’ cough’ is a thing – a sore throat, and damaged teeth. That’s not to mention the watering eyes and bad breath, and having to clean my toilet, wipe down walls, wash my hands, check that there is no telltale puke in my hair or on my hands or face or clothes. Bulimia is not pretty or glamorous. It is, frankly, pretty disgusting.

I tried Slimming World. It barely worked. I may go back on if and when I have enough money and willpower, but it is going to take a hell of a lot. When you’re stuck in bad eating habits, it is hard to get out. Add to that a chronic condition that makes exercise potentially debilitating, and you’re fucked. I sometimes wonder if addictive personalities run in the family. I’m not the first person in my family to have had an eating disorder, or at least symptoms of one. There have been alcoholics in my family. I don’t think I’m in any danger of becoming an alcoholic; I don’t drink these days due to my meds, which makes Space gigs awkward (at the last one, I came very close to having a full-blown anxiety attack in front of Franny Griffiths), and I’m not a big fan of alcohol anyway. I’ve done drugs, and although I did enjoy MDMA, I never got addicted to it (the novelty would have worn off, for one thing). My addiction, let’s be honest, is food. I am overweight, in a society that hates fat people, and I am stuck in a horrible behaviour pattern and I want to get out of it, believe me. Sometimes you think, “I’m going to change, I’m going to give this up and I’m going to eat this instead and do yay amount of exercise,” and for a few days it lasts and then you have a bad day at work or you’re PMS-ing and it’s back to square one. Again, and again, and again.

As I type this, my lunch is in the oven – it’s a salmon steak, a couple of potato waffles, and I’ve got some homemade salsa in the fridge made of avocados and red onion and tomatoes. I know I will keep it down. I tend not to vomit that kind of thing. Even I have my limits.

July 26, 2013

Barcelona. Believe.

Back in May, I went to the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona. My brother has been going for years, and although it’s less mainstream than what I’m used to (Reading and Glastonbury), I thought about going myself last year, and after a moment of self-pity on New Year’s Eve, I thought, “Oh, fuck it,” and booked a ticket. There were three reasons for this. Firstly, Blur – who I’ve loved since I was in primary school – were playing. Secondly, up until Belfast and Berlin last year, I hadn’t had a holiday since 2005. Thirdly, and most important, I wanted to see if I could manage in a foreign country, on my own, without my mum or friends to help.

Of course, Barcelona is not on the other side of the world, it is only two hours’ plane journey away, and there were people I knew who were in the city at the same time: friends from home, my auntie and uncle, and my brother (though he was the only one I ended up seeing). But it was still a big leap. Although I can read Spanish, I cannot speak it as well as German. I had to sort out accommodation and flights on my own (my mum and her boyfriend arranged everything in Berlin, and I had the help of two friends when sorting things out for Belfast). I would be staying in a youth hostel, sharing a small room with strange people. I had stayed in hostels before, but generally I’d been with people I knew. I would be managing my own finances and negotiating a festival site and the Metro system, and I would be adjusting my body clock. While bands at British festivals start around midday, the bands at Primavera do not generally start until 4pm, and the headliners don’t come on until the wee small hours. Blur, for instance, were on at 1:30am. My Bloody Valentine, who I didn’t see, were on even later. (As it happens, I ended up pulling an all-nighter on the Friday, as I wanted to see Blur, them being the main reason I was there, and I had to stay on the site as the metro stopped around 2am, but luckily there were bands on until 5am). I would become a nocturnal creature.

I am proud to say that I did it. I spent a week in Barcelona, staying in a youth hostel I’d found online that had got good reviews (it’s the Albareda Youth Hostel, if anyone’s interested, and I would definitely recommend it). I lived mainly on cheese sandwiches from Lidl, pizza and the odd bit of festival food – not super healthy, but I’m not keen on cooking in other people’s kitchens as I don’t know where stuff is. I pre-booked a travel card and managed to get to grips with the metro (being in Berlin helped). In the evenings, I hung out with my brother and his mates at the festival and got mildly twatted on some gin they’d sneaked in, as well as going for a drink with them before it started. I spent most of the days sleeping and reading, as I was too tired to do much sightseeing (except for Parc Guell, as I hadn’t seen it before, and I nearly got lost in the damn place, but managed to find another entrance after wandering around a residential area for a bit). I was introduced to the joys of the Breeders, Neko Case, the Wedding Present, Neurosis, Evans The Death, The Knife, and the Wu-Tang Clan (and I even managed to get near to the front without having a panic attack), and watched Blur do a 13-centric set. Parc del Forum is by the sea, and listening to Blur doing This Is A Low as the sea crashed on the rocks in the background was, frankly, magical.

The only major panic I had was finding out I’d left my email from Seetickets back at the hostel when I was going to pick up my ticket (though I managed it the next day, and I found out where Parc del Forum was, so it wasn’t a wasted journey) and getting to the airport on the way back, as I’d gotten confused about train times and had to hail a taxi, and I did have some language problems as Spanish does not come naturally to me, and I got into an argument with a rude idiot at Barcelona Airport, but I didn’t have anything like the problems I had at Schonefeld. My body was out of kilter for a week – standing for ages did not help, and it was particularly bad during The Knife’s early morning set on Saturday when I wanted to dance, but everything from the waist down hurt. Still, I did it. I managed in a foreign country on my own. I beat myself up a lot, but for once, I am actually quite proud of myself, because I learned that I can manage. I am not totally helpless. Being able to book accommodation and flights and time everything and manage my finances for a week is a huge step for me. It required massive amounts of planning and research and talking to people who’d been to the city, including Franny Griffiths, the keyboard player from Space and a former resident who knew the city like the back of his hand. It all paid off. I came home slightly less pasty than before and with a bag full of stinking socks and a well-thumbed copy of Tori Amos’ Piece By Piece, which kept me entertained during my down time.

If I can do this, who knows what I can do next? I could go to Berlin, another city I love, on my own (and if I go to Schonefeld Airport, at least I’ll be prepared for dealing with evil airport staff). I could go to a place where I don’t speak the language, or that’s further away from home – I’ve been talking about going to Thailand with one of my mates in a couple of years, when both of us are better off. I appreciate not everyone with Asperger’s can push themselves out of their comfort zones, and it isn’t easy. But I had to do it. I had to know what I am capable of, and I had to prove to myself that I can manage on my own, and I did.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.