suzefricker@mylifeaccordingtome.org Available all the time, just send me an email and I will get back to you.

The Autistic Brain

Through talking to other autistic people I feel like I can say this with confidence. When you have to get something out you gotta get it out. I regularly find myself with songs stuck in my head and the only way to get it to stop is to sing it. It is important for me to get it out otherwise I get stressed out.

Before my diagnosis, my ex used to get frustrated with me because we would be having dinner and then I would just start singing something. Before my diagnosis, I did not understand why I did it, but now I do and when I need to get something out, I just gotta get it out. Sometimes it has to be a couple of times before it goes but it goes away eventually.

Just remember if you are autistic and you need to get it out just do it. Don’t be concerned about the people around you. It would be worse if you kept it in and that lead to a meltdown.

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I have friends

I know this is something that people have issues with relationships, even more so when you are autistic.

I have struggled my entire life to understand what a real friendship is. Not just having friendships but keeping them. Since my autism diagnosis however, being able to accept my short falls, I can safely say I have friends. It is amazing for me to say this. I never really had a frame of reference so I had to discuss it with my support worker but I have friends.

This however brings on the fear of how do I make sure that I do not loose them?

I am just so happy I can say this out loud.

The Box

This is a random title I know but it is to explain something to you. Prior to 2018 and my diagnosis of Autism, I felt like I was in a box. I did not feel like I was able to express to people why I felt different or what I was struggling with. I felt like I was in a steel box that I could not get out of and it was very isolating.

Since my diagnosis, however, I feel like someone opened the lid to the box and set me free. This is because I have been able to be my true self.

The problem with being let out of the box is that no one wants you to be out. They want you neatly categorized because that is how they know who you are and what you are doing. This for me is something I can not let happen to me ever again. I was in that box for 31 years and I never held a steady job for a long period of time and moreover, I was struggling with my mental health. So when someone sends ignorance my way, I fight their views and their ignorance. The second that I stop fighting these ignorant people who refuse to accept difference as a positive they win and I will be back in the box. If I stop being open about my autism I put myself back in the box and I can not go back into that cold place. I just wont do it!

To help with Autism – Who else has it

So because it will be National Autism Awareness Week I wanted to share something I have been researching. This has come about because my workplace set up a picture gram of famous people in history with Autism… They used quite a lot of old people which, we could not conclusively say were autistic. So, I decided to do my own research into this.

The first person I have found which was a shock to me is Anthony Hopkins (the original Hanibal Lecter). He was diagnosed with Aspergers because his “wife was trying to figure out who she was married to”. He has credited this to why he was usually restless which has also made him an extremely hard worker. This is his Autistic Super Power.

Courtney Love is another one. She was one of the lucky ones to be diagnosed as a child as “mildly autistic”. Her autistic superpower was that she was “unusually intelligent” even if she was socially awkward.

Kim Peek who was the inspiration for the movie rain man was absolutely a fantastic person. He could recall the content of up to 12,000 books. This was his superpower even if his motor skills were lower then everyone else.

Daryl Hannah an amazing actress who was in the Kill Bill movie and The Splash was diagnosed with Aspergers as a child. She is very shy and whilst she does stay away from Hollywood no one can deny her acting abilities.

Matt Savage who is a musical Savant (I do not know what Savant is) is also known as being autistic. This guy has toured the world and is successful. His superpower is clearly his music.

Caiseal Mór is also autistic. This guy also is a best selling novelist.

Jonathan Jayne is an autistic special olympian. Though his story does not have quite a greatness as he was cruelly mocked when he went onto American Idol. However, the plus side is that he is an Olympian!

James Hobley is an autistic dancer. He was also a finalist on Britain got talent.

Susan Boyle who most British people know won Britains Got Talent back in 2009. She was diagnosed with autism.

As you can see there are a lot of modern day people who are on the Autistic Spectrum which also makes them Neuro Diverse. They have lived amazing lives and they have done what they love. You can too. It is not something that you should be afraid of. Your autism makes you special, it makes you someone who thinks differently to the rest of the world which gives you something to be proud of.

I personally am proud to be autistic. I know I am different from everyone around me and when I got my diagnosis I was honestly relieved because I am now able to think about what makes me who I am as a positive. Everyone on the spectrum has things both positive and negative that makes them special. We have to accept the negatives so that we can thrive on the positive.

Reading – Important for Autistics and Dyslexic

So, something I have come to learn is that my Autism can help my dyslexia. As a dyslexic I really struggle to read books.  I find it very hard to get into a book and as such I live by the rule, if the 1st chapter does not capture me then I do not read the rest. Why struggle with a book that could take you over a year to read when you have no interest in it.

Since my Autism diagnosis I have been thinking about my special interests which are:

  • True Crime; – specialists in serial killers and profiling
  • Super Natural
  • Mythologies
  • War
  • Native Americans

As such, I am focussing on reading books around my special interests. Whilst, some of them I would consider the short end of the stick in having I find that focussing on these areas with the books helps keep me interested in what I am reading.

My autism is helping my dyslexia. You have heard of disabilities affecting each other negatively however, in this instance, it is a very helpful and beneficial impact.

Ahead of autism awareness week

Autism Awareness week will be here in 2 weeks and I thought that before that happens I would share with you all my Autism story as an Adult who was diagnosed at the age of 31.

Growing up was rather difficult. I never knew how to make friends and keep them, I was easily led into behaviors that were not correct, however, I knew certain things were wrong and I would throw a tantrum if someone tried to get me to do something that was wrong. I was also from a family who didn’t have much in the way of anything so I was unable to hide behind new clothes or fancy toys. I was seriously stunted in education due to my also being dyslexic as well and would say things that I just did not understand were wrong or I would be saying one thing out loud, but what I thought in my head was completely different. Peoples reactions to things as well always alluded me.

In the 90s girls, unless they were low functioning or violent, were not diagnosed as autistic and as such, no one really looked at girls very closely for autism. This is something I am now very thankful for (as a change) since when I was a child.

I lived in a world that I never understood and what was worse, I could see everyone else around me and they seemed to cope with it and yet I wondered why I could not. To protect myself, I would create personas of what I thought a “normal” person was. This never lasted very long. People would see the true side of me and then they would realize I was different. As such, I was bullied and teased. I carried the fake personas into my adulthood. I had an image constructed of what a person in the workplace was. This included:

Someone who was never late;

Someone who agreed with everything their boss said and didn’t say no to them at all;

Even when things went wrong you had to be someone everyone turned to for help and never asked for anything in return.

To be honest, the list could go on forever. This did not work, however. I would last in a job no longer than 5 years (sometimes less) before I would tire of always being this person who I was not. I had to hide everything and could not ask for help from anyone. I kept it all inside and I would follow a pattern, I would make my self sick, then my mental health would suffer, I would sign off sick and then quit. Because of this, my CV looks rather frantic at first glance.

That was until I got my diagnosis. It was like a light bulb went off in my head and honestly, I felt like giving myself an NCIS patented “Gibbs Slap” on the back of my head. Everything I had struggled with made so much more sense to me. An example, when growing up if my routine had been changed last minute I would get so upset I would start crying. This went all the way down to small things like getting on a bus which my mum missed and the conductor had to stop the bus so my mum could get on. The shear sudden change of her not being on the bus with me set me off. Now I have my diagnosis I know that is what is called a “Meltdown”.

SO in the last year, I have had my diagnosis, I decided to make the very most of it. I promised myself that I would be my true self even in the workplace. Case in point, when advertising an event my team was running, I sat in the Atrium of the building wearing my pug slippers. I just felt that day was something I wanted to do, so I did it. I have also learned that it is OK to ask for help. I regularly go back to people now when they email me and I don’t understand what they have asked and tell them that I don’t understand. This has been liberating for me. I didn’t understand how I couldn’t understand what people had been emailing me until I realized, the more specific people are with me the easier I find it to understand. Once I realized this I found that I was asking less for constant approval of work I was doing and actually getting more work done.

I found that instead of hiding who I was and that is an Autistic Woman I was able to have conversations with people and tell them when I was struggling. Just ask my line manager, she will tell you this is true. When I am getting nervous or anxious I go to her and I said, I am struggling and she talks me through what the problem is. I know if I need support I have it from her and my entire team. And, because I am more open about it I can honestly say, I have never felt better in my life. No longer is the facade that I had built up tearing me down, I was embracing who I was.

I often get asked by people “How can an Autistic person enjoy being a Civil Servant”. The truth is, I have always been one for a challenge and that is what I tell them. I know there are things that are beyond my control which I am unable to cope with and it can lead to meltdowns but the truth of the matter is, I am still able to wake up every morning and love going into work. Part of this is because I have a job that I love but also because I work somewhere that realizes that I have differences and difficulties and allows me to embrace them. What more could an Autistic want out of life if not to be accepted for who they are? You may think this is me sounding like a recruitment poster for the Civil Service but honestly, I have never had so much support to be my true self than in the Civil Service.

Now you may now be asking what does that mean, do I come into work with a label that says I am autistic deal with it. The answer to that is no. I know there are things that I am unable to control for instance the way that I twitch my legs. I never realize I am doing it. However, I do tell people who work around me, if you see it happening and it is annoying you tell me and I can try and find a way to make it less annoying.

My Autism Story has only really started as I look into how I can improve myself and I use it every day to find ways to help others with autism get on better. So, what is the moral of this then? The answer I believe is that you must always be true to who you are. When you deny who you are you get tired and that leads down a road that is not good to be on, believe me I know. You do not need to be something you are not, with the right support you can do anything you set your mind too. It may take a little longer to get there, and there may be a few bumps in the road, I sure as heck know this all to well but you will get there.

My advice to anyone in the workplace who has autism and is not happy in what they are doing;

  1. Be true to who you are. Find ways to make sure you can bring your true self to the work you do, even if it is wearing pug slippers in the atrium of your building;
  2. Don’t shy away from opportunities that come your way for fear of a meltdown. By trying we learn and once we learn, we can grow.
  3. Do not feel ashamed of who you are and what you go through. The shame will keep you in your own facade which will pull you down eventually.
  4. Make sure you do what makes you happy and do not let people stand in your way by using your autism against you. Autism is its own superpower.

I am still learning about my autism super-powers but I will continue, no matter what to stand there and say, “So what if I am autistic, doesn’t mean that I can’t do that”

Autism and surprise

Well, as we all know, Autistic people are not very good with sudden change. That is why this one particular autistic person feels the need to say this as it was a good surprise I got. On Wednesday I went to go and see Giovanni Pernice, which I have already had a slew of people telling me “your autistic, you can’t do that” so please no one who reads this please say it to me as I will honestly find a way to block you.

The surprise came when during the intermission, I went to get a picture with one of the Strictly stars who had been on this current season who I thought was soooo amazing and I loved watching him with his professional dancer Janette Manrara. Can you guess who I am talking about? Obviously, Dr Ranj.

I was getting very overwhelmed and was almost at full meltdown mode when I got to him. I asked if I could take a picture with him and started to cry. Embarrassed by it, I told him I was autistic and that I was getting overwhelmed. He took me to one side, ( a quiet space) and stayed with me and talked about dancing and what I liked and stayed with me while I calmed down. I had explained to me that I was diagnosed last year and that I was still learning how to cope which was hard for me. I then fretted that I got a picture with him and my friend who was with me didn’t… He came back in with me when the intermission was over and went to my friend just so she could get a picture with him as well.

This was a surprise to me as I have been having meltdowns at least once a week and have had varying reactions. The good ones came from very different places. He did not have to help me. He did not have to stay with me. He certainly did not have to make sure my friend got a picture with him as well and yet, this celebrity, who I have adored watching on telly took the time to make sure I was ok. He made sure that I was able to go back and watch the rest of the show which I did. I was able to stave off a full meltdown until the very end because of him.

Dr Ranj had never met me before and will probably never even see this but his random act of kindness was so important to me as I was getting quite low about the lack of support I am getting in some areas of my life that it really has inspired me to continue in my quest to make sure that anyone who is autistic and wants to be able to do things others say that they can’t because they are autistic have the courage and the support they need to be able to do it.

Dr Ranj you are amazing and this random woman who you have never met before and probably never meet again is so very grateful to you for everything 🙂