The Hidden Village of Aspergers

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 21, 2014

Autism and Girls:

This has got nothing to do with the Space miniblogs, but 1) I need a distraction from the despair of my beloved Everton getting totalled by Crystal Palace, and 2) I found this on Facebook and it interests me.

Flyer found on Facebook

Flyer found on Facebook

In case the text is a bit hard to read, I’m going to reproduce it here and add my comments:

Unlike stereotypical autistic boys, autistic girls may have:

– No language delay problems This is true, I learned to talk quite young – I was about two, I think.

– NO interest in technical things (like spinning wheels) I don’t remember having any interest in ‘technical things’.

Autistic girls often:

– Are very shy Yes, I was pretty shy. Still am.

– Are less prone to aggressive outbursts (especially away from home) I don’t remember having any aggressive outbursts as a kid. Those came later, as a teenager and an adult woman.

– Want to make friends Yes, but it was very hard for me, which goes without saying.

– Copy social behaviour I still do. I have a rather large complex about what is and isn’t the ‘right’ way to do things. I should probably not take behavioural cues from Tumblr, though.

– Only have one mother hen friend at a time I’m not sure what a ‘mother hen friend’ is, but I was the sort of kid who’d have one best mate rather than a large crowd of friends like my brother did.

– Are highly intelligent and academically gifted Yes. I wasn’t a savant, but I did get good grades.

– Have very good memories (such as for facts or events) Yes, and not much has changed there. To quote my brother, “Lotte is an encyclopaedia of family history. She remembers everything.” This actually came in handy recently, regarding my mother, in an event which I am not prepared to talk about right now.

– Say NO a lot I might have. I don’t know. 

– Have poor eye contact, especially with strangers Yes, and I still do. If I don’t look you in the eye, I’m either nervous, or I don’t like you. Generally, it’s the former!

– Enjoy arranging toys into groups or sets Yes. Definitely. And later, CDs and books.

– Are very creative and imaginative Yes. I loved writing stories and I read like the clappers. 

– Create elaborate fantasy worlds Yes. Mum used to get angry with me for living in ‘my own little world’, and I got upset because I felt like she was attacking the fantasy world in my head where all my characters lived. This wasn’t a DID thing, incidentally. It was more like an imaginary friends thing. I used to play with toys and dolls and make up stories for them, often based on things I’d seen on TV.

– Have obsessive interests (such as in animals, songs or books) Yes. Abba, Asterix books, Sylvanian families, certain TV programmes. When I got older, it was Space, Naruto, Everton FC, the Chalet School series, and many other things.

– Are hypersensitive to stimuli (such as sunlight or sudden noises) Yes. I hated people shouting or loud crowds, and would put my hands over my ears or cry. I’m still the same. The partner in the Manchester office kept shouting at me when I was having a meltdown, and that made it even worse. People ask me how I listen to metal. It’s expected noise, basically. You know the singer’s going to start screaming, plus it often has a nice tune or beat to accompany it. I draw the line at drone, though. Friends of mine love Sunn O))), but I could never get into them for this reason.

– Have over-the-top seeming emotional reactions Yes. At one point, Mum said she was going to take me to a doctor because there was clearly something wrong with me, because I cried very easily. 

By age 7 or 8:

– Social alienation increases as peers use more complex nuances Yes. I felt left out a lot of the time, and some girls did take advantage of the fact that I was quite naive and took things literally. 

– Stress increases at home, whilst being model pupils at school Yes. Admittedly, a large part of it was my father’s illness, but there was also the fact that my mum was frustrated at my weird behaviour and my brother and I didn’t get on very well a lot of the time.

Credit for this flyer, by the way, goes to L Style, an autistic mother. At the bottom, she has provided a link to the National Autistic Society’s section on gender.

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.

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 17, 2014

Everybody In The Madhouse

If you’re cool, I hope you’re lucky
I hope your life is fulfilled
If you’re bad, I hope you rot in Hell
Or get run over by a train

Ah, primary school. Stanford Junior in Brighton, to be exact. Some of the best years of my life, and one of the worst (my annus horribilis, 1993). Most of the people I knew, it seems, are still living in Brighton. Helen, who was my best mate back then, is married (and I cried when I found out – not out of jealousy but out of joy, because she’s had a hard life and I’m just relieved she’s happy). Many others have kids. It seems so long ago, but I can still remember it as clear as day.

Primary school wasn’t as bad as high school for bullying, though I do remember an older boy threatening me with a knife in Year 3, and another boy stealing my hat, and other kids certainly thought I was weird. I remember breaking out into song one time in class and the other kids would not let it go, and I wished the ground would swallow me. Helen was picked on a lot by other girls in our class, and there was only so much I could do. She was probably the only real friend I had, although there were others I got on with. A group of us would walk to and from school, and for some reason, on the way back, they’d walk through the infant school and I didn’t want to for some reason, and Kate, the group leader, would lie to me about things happening, and I believed her. She claimed she was doing it to prepare me for the future, to help me. Somehow, I doubt that.

One of my proudest moments was writing the script for our class play for assembly, ‘Pandora’s Box’, when we were doing Greek myths. Primary school was where I discovered a love of writing and history, and later on, languages. We learned French in Year 6, presumably because of being on the coast. This bit me in the arse somewhat in high school, as I was way ahead of most of the class and ended up being bored. We did shows at the Dome – I remember doing one where I was dressed up as a male evacuee. My memories of primary school are fractured. Dressing up as a policeman to sing ‘A Policeman’s Lot’ when we were doing the Victorians. Mrs Cairns, my teacher in Year 5/6, writing a little poem for me in my leaving book. Reading Chalet School books. Jack giving me a thumbs-up from the stage when his class were doing a play. A trip to the museum, where I failed to copy a David Hockney painting. Playing short tennis in the playground and coming home to Dad cooking pasta with tomato sauce. Playing girls’ football and being rubbish at it. Trying to make one of the teachers laugh, as part of an activity day where different teachers hosted different activities. Walking out of assembly in front of everyone else. Writing a story about a character who ate too much chocolate and vomited copiously. Dad winning a jar of pickled beetroot in a raffle and Mum refusing to let him bring it in the house because of the smell. Those were the days. I only have to hear Blur’s ‘End Of A Century’ again and I’m in the classroom on the final day of primary school, before we all went off to the Big School and started to grow up.

It was in primary school that my symptoms started to really come out, and luckily, there was support. After Dad died, I saw a counsellor at school and it helped somewhat, though I still had crying fits and an abject fear of anything unusual happening. I talked more about it here. The other major change that occurred during primary school was my mum meeting J, my future stepdad (not to be confused with Richard, the current one, although I did meet Richard when I was a kid). If I recall correctly, she found him through a Lonely Hearts page in a newspaper. She’d been dating various guys, but J was The One. When Mum told us she and J were getting married, I cried a lot and accused her of wanting to replace Dad; it was only two years after his death. Jack, ironically considering how much he and J ended up hating each other, was fine with it. I liked him at first – I compared him a lot to Gerald, the heroine’s mum’s boyfriend in Goggle-Eyes by Anne Fine – and made myself adjust to the fact that I was living in a new town and going to a high school where I wouldn’t know anyone. Had I stayed in Brighton, I would have gone to Varndean, but instead, I found myself at an induction day at Christleton High School, before seven years of hell began.

March 16, 2014

Numb The Doubt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 13, 2014

Fran in Japan

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” – Judy Garland

My family was full of female role models for me, growing up. I had my mother, my aunties and my grandmothers. They are and were all people I look up to, though I felt for a long time that I wasn’t the daughter my mother wanted; that I wasn’t feminine enough, not interested enough in clothes or make-up or stereotypical ‘girl’ things, not sociable or outgoing. She used to compare me to Flora Miller, one of the other girls in my class, and ask me why I couldn’t be like her, to the point where I wanted to ask her if she could adopt Flora and get rid of me, since she liked her so much. I even wondered if she actually loved me. Of course, I know now she does. I blogged about my maternal gran, Margaret Elma Carder, a while ago; the more I found out about her after her death, the more I admired her, and the same is true in Mum’s case. I had no idea that she helped organise a conference for women in industry, or that she was Head Girl, or that she never got to do the full uni course as planned because my grandad was ill and she had to take care of him. I’d known for years that she was anorexic as a teenager, suffering a relapse years later, and that she had two brothers – Robin and Andy – both of whom died. Robin died when he was a baby (he had a hole in his heart), and Andy died when I was very little; I think it was pneumonia complications. Other stuff has come out which I will not repeat here, because I respect Mum’s privacy, but I will say that she is one of the strongest people I know. She says having a daughter with Aspergers has been a learning experience for her, and I feel that at last I’ve managed to make her proud of me. I don’t feel like so much of a failure anymore.

I also found people to look up to outside the family, people whose behaviour I wanted to emulate – and not all of them were female. R, my best friend in high school, was one of these people. Even before things got a bit more personal, I loved how outgoing and friendly he was, how he could talk to anyone – something I could never do. He was so refreshingly normal, compared to me. Without him, high school would have been even more of a hell than it actually was. There was also P, who I saw as a kind of academic rival, and who I became quite friendly with in sixth form, but sadly, he was the second man I got obsessed with. He wasn’t the most serious case, though. That one came later.

When I got to uni, there were people I met there who actually got me and liked me. One woman who really helped me at uni was someone who I’ll call E. I’d seen her around the languages buildings and she seemed nice, but I didn’t really get to know her until a year later when she and her boyfriend – who is now her husband – got talking to me outside Owens Park. She started inviting me to parties, for coffee etc., and I got to know her and her circle of friends. She is a couple of years older than me. Half of the people I know on Facebook, I’ve met through her, and if I meet someone in a goth club in Manchester or Leeds, there’s a good chance they’ll know her. She’s that kind of person. Like R, she can befriend and talk to anyone. I did have a tendency to put her on a pedestal, though I realise now she gets down and anxious too – she’s just better at hiding it than I am. She helped me a lot when I was going through a hard time in second year, and I was able to return the favour a little when her dad died a few years ago. She was also one of the people who made me decide to convert Reform rather than Orthodox, and one time, she drove out to see me and take me back to her flat when I was having a panic attack at Grand Central. She’s in London now, and I miss her loads. I admit I relied on her far too much when it came to a social life.

On a less personal level, there was Cerys Matthews – more on her later – and the boys from Space, in particular Tommy Scott and Franny Griffiths. I’m never entirely sure what it was about Franny that made him stand out to me; maybe it was the fact that it was his tracks I loved, or the fact that I played piano and keyboards myself, and listening to Space made me want to write songs like Tommy, and make the weird noises Franny made. I fell in love with ‘Fran In Japan’, the instrumental track on Tin Planet, especially after watching Franny playing it on Tin Planet Live video, and played it in GCSE Music for my performance exam and got an A. When I finally got to meet Franny and Tommy in 2002, I was amazed at how nice they were. I’ve met them several times since then. I’m not saying this to namedrop, but because they say you should never meet your heroes, and I’m glad that old saying was proved wrong for once. I have no idea what Franny thinks of me (apart from ‘ her team are shite’), but he’s never been rude or arsey towards me, and neither has Tommy. Hell, the guy let me sing ‘The Ballad of Tom Jones’ with him, and gave me a hug and took me backstage when I had a screaming meltdown at a gig, after a bouncer was yelling at us to get out while I was trying to talk to Franny. At London, Franny said he was impressed how I came to out-of-town gigs on my own. I think one reason why I admire Franny and Tommy so much is because they both came from nothing, played in bands and worked for years to get to where they were, and in Franny’s case, he went off to live and work in Spain, something I couldn’t ever do. Space also made me realise it was OK to be a misfit, that you don’t have to be like everyone else. Like me, they didn’t fit in. The music press in general hated them and wrote them off as wacky, the record company tried to make them change and they refused to compromise, and I have a lot of respect for them for making the sort of music they wanted and sticking to their guns.

As a conclusion: I know some aspies look down on neurotypical people, but I don’t. While some of them frustrate me, I need them in order to show me how to behave. Not how to confirm, but how to get ahead in society. The majority of people I admire, people who I wanted to be like, are neurotypical – and they’re neurotypicals who were able to accept me.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.