Different point of view

Sharp lines with curved edges lie within perfect circles- confusing, right? As a young person with autism spectrum disorder this is how I see the world. I want to tell people how I see the world differently because a lot of the time people think I am not neurodiverse and the same as them. This is because I can hold down a full-time job (mostly) and go to social events both of which are hallmarked difficulties of those with autism. What I want to show people is that autism is so much more than what’s on the outside and on the inside, I can be really struggling. I am Laurie and this is my autism story.

My first main difficulty is my sensory processing. This means any I take in sensory information differently to most people. Firstly, (especially when I am getting overwhelmed) sounds and lights can feel so much more than they are- sometimes to the point of pain. Even the noise of quiet chatter in the office can sound like someone’s shouting in my ear. This means little noises can become very, very distracting and make me unable to concentrate on my work. To help with my light overload I wear dark blue tinted glasses. These glasses dim my surroundings slightly and make the light not look so bright. Recently, when I broke my glasses I really struggled not only with my actual sight (my glasses have a prescription in too) but with the pain from everything just being far too light. A second element of my sensory processing is not being able to “hear” properly. Physically I can hear but a lot of the time I cannot understand what is being said or it takes me awhile to understand. This can be a problem in a conversation; often people will ask me a question and I haven’t “heard” what they have said so they start to repeat themselves and halfway through their repetition I answer the original question. From experience this get very annoying for others. A second element of this is that I find it hard to concentrate and pick out information when there is lots of different auditory streams at once. For instance, when watching a film especially one with lots of background noise I find it hard to understand the audio even though I can physically hear it. Due to this, I always try to have subtitles on when I am watching television or other media.

Another main issue for me is understanding people emotions and what is right to say in a situation. I know this is a difficulty for many people but in my experience of autism it can be even more so. Firstly, I don’t really understand sarcasm and can take things very literally. For example, when Laura said she would do something in a minute I got upset and annoyed when it wasn’t done in a minute- not realising it was just a figure of speech. I also find it hard to know what to say in a situation to make it appropriate. Whenever I talk to someone my mind runs through hundreds of potential replies to their statement to continue the conversation. I can manage this superficially however it sometimes becomes obvious I don’t really know what I am doing or what to say. For example, when my colleague came in on Monday he said, “god I’m tired”. Now in my head I knew I could say particular responses. For instance, as it was a Monday I know that people complain on a Monday as they have to work on a Monday after relaxing over the weekend. As I knew the weekend was coming at the end of the week I could have said “least its only 5 more days till the next weekend”. However, if the conversation then moved on I would be stuck as I wouldn’t know a response to their reply to their statement. For instance, if someone said, “I can’t wait for the weekend” I would not know what to say because obviously I would have to wait for the weekend as I can’t move time. This not only means conversations can just get stuck with me both online and in person which can make me feel isolated and unmotivated to talk to people but equally can make me seem strange and my responses stilted especially when meeting someone for the first time.

My autism affects me in many other ways which I’m not going to bore people however the most important thing living with the mix of all these symptoms means I am exhausted constantly- no matter how much coffee I drink. As my mind is constantly trying extra hard to work out information and process social interactions I have very little energy to do anything else. On the outside I can just look lazy or unmotivated to do things when in reality my brain is so tired it feels like all my thinking is fighting through a fog to make sense. This exhaustion which I know is always coming means I have to psych myself up for all situations often hours before instead of being impulsive. It also means although I can “manage my autism” in the office and in my social world when I get home I can seem a lot more autistic with many more obvious symptoms as I just don’t have the energy to mask it anymore.

An example of all these symptoms manifesting was when me and Laura went to see Little Mix the other week. I had bought the tickets from my mentor at work and was really looking forward to taking Laura as she absolutely loves them. I knew standing in amongst the crowd would be difficult but this turned out particularly bad. Firstly, I was panicking because routines are very important to me and the support act weren’t on at the time they said they were going to be. Secondly, as I find touch very difficult I was upset as I was pushed into the crowd surrounded by others. Thirdly, the smells, noise and sound was so intense I was very distressed. I had some earplugs to wear to dry and dampen down the noise (I use these at a lot of loud events such as the cinema) but these weren’t enough due to the sheer volume of the gig speakers. I was also getting overwhelmed and upset at the unpredictable loud noises throughout the gig including fireworks at several points. I was getting very distressed but tried to internalise it as much as I could so Laura could enjoy the gig. I wish I could have enjoyed the gig I really wanted to but every other feeling was drowning out my enjoyment. I felt as if I had to peel away layers of sensory overload, panic and concentration in order to enjoy the show- which I wasn’t able to do.

This was my compromise for Laura that night and I tried my very hardest to stop my perception of events from souring the night and I managed my compromise quite well until I went into full blown meltdown mode on the metro. A meltdown is really hard to describe even for me as it’s really hard to remember and sequence my behaviours during a meltdown due to the situation. Meltdowns are different for everybody but in my world all the sensory overload and all the distress and being confused about a situation overcome me and I sort of feel as though I am in the eye of a storm. Inside I kind of shut down- the sounds are so loud and the lights are so bright that I cant really see or hear them anymore, I find it incredibly difficult to speak and everything around me feels detached and a million miles away. Externally because I have kind of switched off I can act very much like a panic attack or an emotional breakdown. I am often crying from frustration, shaking and I stim a lot.

Stims are repetitive calming movements found in autistic people that can escalate the more emotional disruption a person has. Some of my main stims include pulling my hair, repeating a word that has me fixated, rubbing my hands, rocking backwards and forwards as well as repeated rubbing or hitting a rhythm out with my body against an object. I very, very rarely realise I am doing these behaviours and sometimes they have led to self-injury. An example of this was when I was overwhelmed the other day about the routine changing I was repeated rubbing my arm forcefully up and down the corner of the living room wall which cause some very big bruises.

I know whenever Laura sees me overwhelmed especially at the Little Mix gig she really comes into the spotlight and is an absolutely amazing help. Different people recover from meltdowns in different ways. Most importantly is time especially recovery after a meltdown where a person including myself can feel exhausted, drained and potentially weepy. A good way of helping me out of a meltdown is by applying a lot of pressure to my body and in Laura’s case that often comes in the form of a hug. When I start to come out of a meltdown especially with pressure there comes a point where I feel an almost instant release and I start to become aware of what is going on around me again. My breathing suddenly feels different and nicer and the vice goes from around my body and my muscles relax. In the past because I appear neurotypical people have said that I am just being rude or making a scene when I am having a meltdown but this is really not the case. I sometimes really wish I didn’t have autism and that I could just deal with change and understand conversations and emotions like most other people. Most of the time however although it causes me struggles I would not change the way I am as it makes me me and gives me a very different and often very funny perspective on the world.

So that’s a little glimpse into my life and how my autism works in my brain. I can’t comment on other people’s autism or their experiences as they can be very different. I do hope through this blog I can educate people or at least make an interesting read. I am happy to answer any questions people have left on the blog.

Love Laurie

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Oops, we did it again.

Hey everyone!

So this post is a long time coming and if you know anything about Laurie and me, you know we LOVE drag queens. More to the point, we love queer culture. When Laurie and I first started talking they asked me if I’d been to the drag show bar Boulevard in Newcastle and I didn’t even know it existed never mind been to it. Laurie promised to take me and last May we booked up to go and see the show. I had no idea what to expect, none, I knew there was a “comedyish Queen” and a “dancey queen” (as Laurie put it when they described it for the first time) but that was it. But I have to say I was blown away! (And not just by Danni Dee’s incredible legs either…)

From Laurie booking our first time at Boulevard together I was impressed. Laurie contacted a member of staff who advised the best place to be seated in the bar for the dog and the best place for me to go to try to see and they arranged that when we arrived the staff would make sure we were seated there. On arrival we were offered water for the dog and we were also told when there were pyrotechnics that could scare the dog so we were prepared to protect his ears from the noise. This might sound like something small but this made a huge difference to our experience as it meant that I knew when to take precautions and protect Willis. Willis doesn’t tend to jump at loud bangs but it isn’t something I really want to risk. Boulevard are now so familiar with us, they tell us on arrival when we can expect things that may spook him and should the show get too much the staff are happy to have him in the reception area which gives me peace of mind that no matter how he is feeling he is looked after and in turn, I am looked after.

I talk about Boulevard a lot to my family and friends and people do say “you really love those drag queens don’t you?” and while, of course I do but for me Boulevard has become a safe space because they have made myself, Laurie and Willis feel so welcome there. things that a lot of places simply wouldn’t think of such as allowing Willis to be in a different area if he decides that day that he doesn’t like the noise, finding out when the bangs are going to be, giving him water, letting us out of the fire exit to avoid the crowds. To some they may be such small acts of kindness but for us, it makes our experience so different.

On top of this, Boulevard, unknowingly help Laurie too. Willis is not the only person who does not like the bangs and loud noises that can happen on stage, Laurie’s autism leaves them feeling overwhelmed and distressed if they are not expecting loud noises so the staff alerting us to them means that they are prepared and know when to block their ears in preparation. Although it doesn’t bother Willis as much, Laurie is also extremely sensitive to bright light which means if the staff tell us there are going to be bright flashes, again Laurie can prepare themselves. Having this help not only means that we are prepared to have the best time at the show possible it makes us both feel wanted and never had us asking for help left us feeling like a burden, like we have both experienced separately and together many times.

As for the actual show, I wouldn’t even know where to start! Laurie and I have been to Boulevard, at least 12 times since may last year. We have seen 8 different shows there – I couldn’t tell you what they all were but I know we saw 2017’s Spring Show, Summer Show, Halloween Show, Winter Show and Pantomime. Then 2018’s Spring Show, Diva Show and most recently Summer Show. So, clearly we like Boulevard, a lot. We have been to see the show with four different people/groups to show them the show (because y’know word of mouth is the best advertisement) and we have made three of our queer friends fall in love with the place.

I think one of my favourite things about Boulevard is that fact that you get a mixture of Comedy (we basically go to be insulted by Miss Rory, let’s be honest, that’s what I mean by comedy) and theatrical dance performances by Danni dee and the Broadway Dancers. I have no clue whatsoever where Danni gets half of her ideas from for the show with loads of different segments, each show has so many routines and all of her ideas are fabulous. I just can’t even imagine having to come up with a show of that standard like Danni. (These are just some of the photos I have, I have tried to pick the nicest ones but I have to admit I do have some hilarious photos of faces that Danni has pulled while on stage)

As far as Miss Rory’s comedy goes, she is… cutting to say the least. It’s pretty much expected if she speaks to you she will make some witty remark about you. Part of Laurie and I attending the shows regularly has meant that we have built up a rapport with Miss Rory. I have always used humour to cope with my disability, I always say “if you make a blind joke I will make one twice as bad back at you.” And through building a rapport with Miss Rory she has learned that I give as good as I get and although some of the comments that she makes leaves the room gasping in fear of me being offended, I find it hilarious.

My first experience of a “comedy drag queen” was very different to the experiences I have had with Miss Rory. The first ever queen that I spoke to was just… rude. I can see in hindsight (pretty much the best sight I have) she was trying to be funny but clearly didn’t know how to be and this just left me upset. Before going to Boulevard I was nervous about being a target of Miss Rory’s comments, luckily this is a queen that does know how to be funny while being mean af at the same damn time and she can now say whatever the hell she wants to me and I couldn’t care less.

It’s because of all of these things, the staff, the show, the comedy, the atmosphere that always makes me want to go back to Boulevard. Laurie and I have always felt so welcome, not just for our sexuality (I mean, if drag queens don’t make queer people feel welcome then we really would have a problem – don’t even start me on prides banning queens) but for our disabilities too. We’ve never been made to feel in the way or too much trouble. Our love for Boulevard goes so much further than “really loving those drag queens”. Anyone with access needs, anyone looking for a fun night out I genuinely would highly recommend Boulevard, it really does deserve its title of best night out in Newcastle.

(I love this photo we’re all trying to make sure Willis is in the photo and he’s having none of it!)

“how lucky I am to leave something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Hey everyone!

 

It’s nearly a year since I got into a taxi and left three of the most important people in my life crying outside of my old halls of residence. I kept it together until the second the taxi moved and I was gone. I was a heartbroken mess. It wasn’t fair, that was my experience of RNC done. I knew I’d return for visits but I knew it’d never be the same and leaving behind a group of people who had become my second family and the place I had fallen in love with… hurt.

I know that this time it’s a lot of other peoples turns to leave. Two of the people that cried over me leaving are now preparing themselves for the same moment they have to walk away to start a new chapter and the third has some more time in September but will then face the same.

Going to RNC for me was one of the best decisions I have ever made. When I went for my assessment visit I knew within five minutes of being on campus that RNC was the place for me. I’ll never forget my step-dad beaming from ear to eat at me and saying “this is where you want to go, isn’t it?” and all I could do was nod. After fighting for years to get the support I needed RNC stood out in the best way possible. With them I wouldn’t have to fight for support, it would already be there waiting for me. I could be independent and build back up the confidence that my previous college had so mercilessly torn away from me. I could be me.

While RNC had its ups and downs I will never be able to measure the skills, the independence, the knowledge,  the confidence, the happiness, the strength and the memories that will last forever from RNC. I guess that is what made leaving RNC so hard, it almost felt like I wasn’t done learning and if I had a good enough reason for staying the likelihood of me trying to stay would have been high. the fact is however, I didn’t have a reason to stay my time was done and I had to make peace with that.  while leaving was hard, I am so proud of everything that I achieved at RNC and no one will ever be able to take that away from me.

I guess that is the advice I would give to students who are leaving, it will SUCK if you love RNC as much as I do leaving won’t be fun but you can visit, you can help the college run to the best of its abilities by volunteering, donating if you can, encouraging others to go to RNC but most of all drawing on your experiences at college and allowing them to push you forward to greatness. You should all be proud of what you have achieved and use it to push you on and that is probably the best thing that the staff could ask for at RNC – the money and qualifications is all well and good but if you didn’t get anything more than your certificates out of your time there (which is pretty impossible) then you missed out.

for the students who are starting RNC or who are thinking about trying to get a place, do EVERYTHING you can to make being in Hereford the best experience it can be because the experiences you have will not only determine how much you enjoy your time at RNC but it will help you grow so much.

I still have days that I feel sad that I’m not at RNC still but I made friendships that will last forever, I made some of my favourite memories there and I can truly say everything I got out of that experience did and still does help shape me.

For those who are leaving, Good luck for whatever your future holds, whether you’re off to Oxford (or any other university), starting work or just figuring it out as you go along, go be awesome and RNC won’t be going anywhere, you can still visit even if it feels like you will never get to go back to see everyone.

 

Laura =)x

 

A promise to myself for Anaridia day

Hey everyone!

Today is Anaridia day, anaridia is one of the list of eye conditions that I have. Anaridia, however is the main eye condition that I have and the rest have occurred as a result of this.

So, what is anaridia?

In simple terms, it’s the lack of the iris in the eye meaning that the person has a big pupil and no colour in the eye. So I get cool black eyes but at the cost of my eyes not being able to control how much light gets into my eyes. This essentially means any light is too much light and after a certain level of darkness my eyes just don’t work (I’ve only been ‘night blind’ since being a teenager when my sight went down hill).

On top of Anaridia, I have other conditions; I have glaucoma, nystagmus and cornea disease. These have contributed to a lot of the other eye issues I have had over the years. I don’t want to go on too much about my eye conditions because a) if you saw my hospital folder it’d take a month to read and b) because this isn’t a sympathy “listen to all my problems” post. I don’t want to be a sob story, yeah I’ve suffered but so have other people.

The reason I wanted to post this was because I felt like the day that I recognised my eye condition is important and I wanted to post something on here that would encourage me to promise myself something.

We all have our insecurities and things we wish we could change and I’m 100% no exception to that. I talk about my sight loss daily, I stand proud that it makes me who I am but I shy away from talking about my eyes appearance. I like that my right eye is black but when it comes to my left eye, I get mighty uncomfortable mighty quickly. It’s not black, it’s blue, lazy and looks like Elsa has put a layer of ice on it. (I have always called this my frozen eye). Laurie’s little (adorable) sister Frankie out of the blue said it looked like Elsa had hit it with ice, she should probably just let it go though! and I’ve always been aware that it makes me “look blind. I don’t know what I think walking into things and having a guide dog makes me look but I get it into my head the left side of my face “looks blind”.

The fact is, the reason my eye looks like that is because it tried it hardest to work, had lots of surgeries done on it (which turned it blue), couldn’t cope and gave up and eventually became lazy. So my eye fought for me to be able to see and didn’t manage and it had to leave it all to my right eye. I’m sad that I no longer have sight in my left eye but why do I beat myself up over the way it looks? In the five years it could see my left eye probably worked harder than someone with 20/20 vision eye would work in its life time.

I’m in a constant battle with myself over the way my left eye looks, I take photos and make sure that only the right side of my face can be seen, I apologise online if my whole face is in a photo, I get my photographer stepdad to try and take photos of me where you can hardly see my left eye. Why? Because of my own fears about how it looks. I don’t honk there has ever been a time that anyone has made a comment about specifically that eye yet as a result of feeling like looking perfect is the only way to look I hide part of my face part of my smile, part of the story.

At 21 I try really hard to focus on being positive about my body and my looks but there’s still just that nagging feeling about my eye every time someone properly looks at me or I’m in a photo of my whole face or even when Laurie talks about how much they love my eyes I’ve never once felt able to say that my eyes are great. They’re fighters and unique, they may not live up to super modelling standards but I love cake far too much for that profession anyways.

So, this is my eyes, unedited, close up, unapologetically blind. I a. Going to try and post more photos with my whole face included because beating myself up isn’t hurting anyone but me!

I love my eyes, I am grateful for the little remaining vision I have in hem every day and my left eye may not be able to see but it didn’t give up trying and I don’t want to either.

Happy Anaridia day everyone,

No matter what I joke you all know you’re beautiful for even the parts of you you think make you look flawed, are the parts of you that make you, you.

Laura =)x

A Blog Post? Could It Be True?

Well… this is… awkward isn’t it? It’s no longer September, I’m no longer 20, I’d like to say I’m smarter but even I’m not that optimistic. I started this blog with the intention of having somewhere to write about life and my adventures and then I stopped writing blogs because I felt so terrible about setting myself a goal and not sticking to it and here I am months later coming back with a cloud of shame hanging over me because I failed. what I didn’t recognise was, as much as I did fail at the task I set myself, giving up for this long would affect me more than I care to admit. rather than having a blog that I can celebrate, I almost cringe over. equally though, why should I? Why didn’t I just come back earlier and just laugh it off? That’s a good question that I don’t have the answers to.

I won’t waste everyone’s time and apologise for not writing because who does that help? The only person actually affected by this is me and while I could give myself a huge kick up the arse for not writing. I have MUCH bigger fish to fry.

So much has happened since I last wrote a blog post, obviously Laurie came home from America, we started having adventures and seeing what life was like as a not long distance couple. Together we made so many wonderful adventures with our friends and family too. We had theatre trips, had days out, went to London for my birthday, Went to York for our anniversary, volunteered together, faced good and bad times together oh and… we moved in together. as you can probably imagine in the past 8 months with everything going on, life’s been a rollercoaster and while we aren’t anywhere near the end of the bumpy part of the ride, I feel like I’ve learned how to find some comfort in embracing life as a cohabiting couple.

Today, I just wanted to break the ice, let anyone reading this know that I haven’t given up completely and to put it out there that for now, there won’t be a schedule on my blog posts because we all know how well that worked out! I still have a lot to say and no 8 hiatus will stop that.

 

Laura x

30 Disney Questions Challenge

Hey everyone!

Gong to answer the 30 Disney Questions Tag because you can never talk about Disney too much, really! Enjoy!

1. Favourite character? Tigger or stitch!

2. Favourite princess? Oh gosh, it’s between Rapunzel and Belle, so i’ll say Rapunzel for this one!

3. Favourite Heroine? Belle!

4. Favourite Prince? Beast.

5. Favourite Hero? Peter Pan, who wants to grow up anyways?

6. Favourite animal? Tigger!

7. Favourite Sidekick? Gotta be Pascal!

8. Favourite Villain? As much as I have a love/hate thing for him, I’m going to have to go Gaston, I love how sassy he is but can’t stand his arrogance and trying to get rid of poor Maurice is just not on!

9. Favourite Original Character? Mickey and Minnie (couldn’t choose between the two, sure theres a law against that… or there should be)

10. Favourite Song? I just can’t wait to be king from the Lion King

11. Favourite love song? Tale As Old As Time

12. Favourite Villain Song? Mother Knows Best

13. Least Favourite Song? I can’t think of a specific song that I don’t actually like

14. Favourite Kiss? The amount of times I’ve cried over it, Belle and the beast of course

15. The first Movie I saw? first one I remember is Snow White

16. Favourite Classic? Cinderella, bambi, Alice in wonderland… so many more too

17. Least Favourite Classic? It’s not that I don’t like it but the sword and the stone never made a big impression on me

18. Favourite Pixar? Inside Out or Finding Nemo

19. Least Favourite Pixar? I never really liked Cars all that much

20. Favourite Sequel? Lion King 2

21. Overrated Movie? Heads will roll and my niece will never forgive me but Frozen it’s just far too big and yeah, I like it and i’ll happy watch it but in no way shape or form will it ever be better than Tangled!

22. An Underrated Movie? I don’t think Inside Out got anywhere near as much hype as it deserved.

23. Movie that makes You Laugh? Finding Nemo!

24. Movie that Makes You Cry? Beauty and the Beast, Lion King and Bambi, oh gosh my heart it hurts!

25. Favourite Scene From Your Favourite Movie? With Beauty and the Beast besides Tale As Old As Time, Belle’s giggle when Beast gives her the Library in the new version makes me weak. In Tangled either the lanterns or the frying pan!

26. Saddest Death? Like I’ve already said, Lion king because of Mufasa (It cripples me) or Bambi because of his mother being killed (nope, can’t cope)

27. Favourite Disney Quote? I love so many but I’ve chosen this one for today “all you need is faith and trust and a little bit of pixie dust”

28. Favourite Theme Park? I’ve only been to Paris but it’s always been my dream to go to Orlando but I have a feeling that’d be better than Paris by quite a long shot!

29. Favourite Attraction? I’ll let you know when I go…

30. Favourite Theme Park Show? Gotta be the fireworks! They’re incredible!

This was fun, I’m also going to be doing a 10 facts about Disney post soon and maybe some other stuff in the future but I hope you enjoyed these questions!

Laura =)x

[photo credit goes to my beautiful girlfriend Laurie]

The man of this lesbians dreams

Hey everyone!

Y’know when people swoon over being in love and if you’ve never been in that situation you have no concept of what on earth they are feeling? Well, my relationship with ‘my man’ is like that. I have a boy in my life that not only I fell head of heels for he’s completely changed my life. We’ve been together for a long time now since 2011 and I am a completely different person since I met him and we became partners and unless you’ve experienced having this kind of partner and love, it’ll never be something that could be understood it’s a relationship that becomes completely unbreakable. A while ago I wrote a poem about it and I thought I’d post it as I mentioned at the start of the blog that I write poetry so here is a taste of my writing for you all!

The love in my heart, the strength when I cry

His complete dedication I could never deny

He walks beside me everyday

And when it’s hard he makes sure it’s ok

Is he perfect? No of course not

But no matter what he gives it his best shot

People ask me if I believe in love at first sight

And I say yes because with him I knew it was right

Mr. popular gets all the girls

I don’t mind that they see him and they end up in whirls

Because he loves me the most and I know it’s true

Ask anyone who’s seen us they’ll say so too

With him by my side the world seems to unfold

For people to say I won’t do something seems pretty bold

For he’s my superhero with his own power

He gives me a reason to go on, with every passing hour

Now I get you’re wondering where you can get a man like mine

But the fact is you can’t, he is my one and only sunshine

He keeps me smiling when I want to cry

He looks at me and makes me want to retry

Because that’s what life is you push through

With a simple look I can see a love so true

Imperfectly perfect we stick together

A sweet part of life I want to last forever

And I know when we have to say goodbye

All I will do is want to sit and cry

But he’s stood by me through it all

Even looks sorry when I fall

We work together as easy as 1, 2, 3….

Willis my guide dog is the only man for me.

Laura =)x