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The Mask (but not the awful sequel)

This month, there is a #TakeTheMaskOff social media campaign, about the role of masking in autistic lives (and the harm it can cause), so I thought I'd write a quick post about my own personal experience.

A quick definition, in case anyone needs: masking, or camouflaging, is affecting learned social behaviours in order to not appear autistic. Its importance as a social and medical issue has been significantly raised recently, following an extensive and thorough study by Sarah Cassidy, Louise Bradley, Rebecca Shaw and Simon Baron-Cohen that assessed risk factors leading to suicide amongst autistic adults (https://molecularautism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13229-018-0226-4).

As I've said in previous posts, I was diagnosed aged 36. Like, I'm sure, many other late-diagnosed autistic adults, the diagnosis didn't come as a shock, didn't sneak up out of the blue after decades of thinking I was 'normal'. I had never been terribly good at fitting in, was alwa…
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Loneliness, suicidal ideation, and why some of us don't have a loved one to cling onto

I've thought about writing this for a while now. 

It's not strictly about autism, although it is related. Lots of autistic people are lonely, want company, but either lack the social skills or society lacks the skills for socialising with autistics (I'm increasingly leaning towards the latter, but that's another post for another day). But that said, a lot of autistic people are lonely because a lot of people are lonely. It can and does hit anyone.

But the loneliness, it's invisible. Many mental health matters have been, still are - including autism - and many people are doing fantastic work to bring them into the light. Loneliness, however, is different. Loneliness makes itself invisible. Loneliness is out of sight and of mind for those not suffering. Loneliness hides in plain sight and loneliness hides in dark corners. Loneliness inherently, inescapably, makes it hard for those affected to talk to those who aren't, to find support, to find a way out. Loneliness …

I've not been able to write much lately

Hello. I know I've not added anything to this blog in a while. It's not been by choice.

My brain has, for want of a better term, collapsed. The best I can do is to get out of bed at some point during the day, to eat, to breathe, to hydrate. Work - and some other daily life stresses, including my parents' health, but primarily work - has completely overwhelmed me. I can't do it any more; for one thing, there's been far too much of it, I've been covering three jobs for six months now, but there's also the strain of being in a work environment, the sensory overload, the masking, the unpredictability.

What has been exhausting before has now become highly debilitating. My life has just... well, it's broken. I can't do anything. That, in itself, is saddening (I love to walk and to cook, and these have been taken from me of late), and being all sad and woe-is-me about that just serves to pile on to the underlying problem.

Underlying problem being: autistic bu…

Voices

Right then. Forgive me if this gets a bit ranty. I've been annoyed today.

I started a post a little while back with someone having blocked me on twitter, an antivaxxer. To be honest, this whole business is rather new to me. I've been blocked by the odd Nazi before, and I take no little pride in having been blocked by a major anti-EU campaign (leave.eu, who are currently, the poor dears, being shown to be massively corrupt cynical far right cheats).

Anyway, today I was blocked by somebody who wasn't a) an antivaxxer, b) a Nazi, or c) a cackling white-cat-stroking Bond villain. Someone who posted this:




(I haven't redacted @PEAT_NI, in case anyone's wondering, because it's a campaign group and not an individual.)

Why was I blocked by this apparently kind, helpful person? For reasons which, I'm now finding out, are depressingly common amongst the autistic community. I used my voice. I specifically said that autistic adults should be listened to when we object (and …

BREAKING NEWS: research suggests Pope may be Catholic

Going to hammer out a quick post today, because I'm annoyed.

A link here:

Spectrum: Ask me first - What self-assessments can tell us about autism

It appears, blimey, crikey, knock me down with a feather, stone the bleeding crows, that after extensive research, an astonishing new discovery has been made: autistics might know something about the experience of being autistic.
FFS.

It is not amazing science breakthrough! to say that members of a minority (or otherwise oppressed/suppressed) community are the people to talk to when studying those actual people. Want to know about the experience of women? Ask women. Want to know about the experience of trans people? Ask trans people. Want to know about the experience of wheelchair users? Ask wheelchair users. Want to know about the experience of people of colour? Ask people of colour. Want to know about the experience of gay and bi people? Ask gay and bi people. And so on and so forth.

Is it because autism is so often associated - wrongly - w…

SMARTIES, in tubes, like they used to be

I loved Smarties as a kid. Of course I did. Every kid did. They used to come in a tube, like this:









And the little plastic cap had a letter on it - educational sweets! But now, they come in, oh, something else, I don't know, I'm old. Anyway, for those outside the UK and Ireland and wherever else they may be sold, Smarties are like M&Ms. Just a bit bigger, and a bit better. Small chocolate sweets with a coloured shell, that's the point here.

Imagine a bowl of them. A big bowl. No, a vat. Lots of them, all poured in together. Every one is a different aspect of a human - a personality trait, a skill, a strength, a weakness. This one means you enjoy swimming, this one that you hate noisy parties, this one that you're good at sculpting, this one that you can't stand the taste of prawns. And so on. You're going to take a mug, scoop up a mugful of Smarties, and all those distinct human details, they will come together to make up you. Everyone gets the same size mug a…

Red, gold and blue

You're an explorer! An explorer from way back, in the days when Europeans knew little of the wider world, and set sail for who-knows-what. You spend days, weeks, nothing to see but the endless sea, and then- ho! As I believe such explorers used to explain. Ho! Land ahoy! And all that.

Suddenly, your empty world is now full of this land, your thoughts now devoted to a place that, until a moment ago, you didn't know existed. A bit of the map gets coloured in.

The point of this rambling is that, for the first eighteen months after my diagnosis, I looked out and I saw the endless sea. What I didn't see were other autistic adults, only parents speaking for autistic children (or parents speaking for themselves, in many cases). I felt alone, out there in the broad and unbroken ocean.

Until, a few weeks back, I found my New World, the #ActuallyAutistic community on social media.

(I have no plans to conquer it and kill the indigenous inhabitants, though.)

This community is a very fine …