Depression

Great start to a new blog, couple of blogs and then silence.

I can’t really say anything has happened to cause my sudden lack of activity, but I have been feeling down quite a bit.

I’ve been diagnosed with depression for quite a while, been on meds for years tried different counselling and therapy.

I’ve mostly come to terms with it, especially know I have the autism diagnosis. I can see what is causing the stress and the feeling that tend to effect my depression.

But I’m still getting days when I’m just sad. Something will trigger a memory and I’m suddenly reliving past events, if I want to or not.

And I’m just so tired of doing this. I have a great present and an even better future ahead but it’s the past that tends to dominate my mind at the moment.

I’m hoping to move soon, from a flat in the city to a house in the countryside with a big garden. I really hope that this change will help with my thoughts.

But I know the depression will never go away fully, that I will always be more melancholy then most. I guess that’s just me.

Ahh so your…..

If you are autistic and manage to make it through school and your 20s then your not really autistic because people would have realised. That seemed to be majority consensus from the people I’ve spoken to about my own autism.

When the potential of the diagnosis came up I spoke to my line manager at the time. She was supportive but the first thing they said was ‘I’ve worked with autistic people before and your not like them’. After that I was temporarily working with another team, again I mentioned to the person who would be managing me. This time I was told I can’t be autistic as I give live training and workshops.

From friends I had a few ‘Yeah but your high functioning’ (also had this from a family member), and also ‘I couldn’t tell’ which is nice as I couldn’t tell either.

Not that I hold this against any of these people. The responses were not meant to be hurtful, but for them I challenge their view on autistic individuals. They couldn’t see beyond the years of masking, of learning how to be part of their world, of making myself fit in. They can’t see inside me, at the turmoil, the pain and the anxiety that swirls within me just like I can’t see what’s happening inside them. In their way they were trying to be nice, trying to reassure me that to them I was normal, an unintentional compliment on my masking ability.

This is what happens when we rely to much on the labels and stereotypes we have. Stereotypes are an essential part of how humans have developed. Our brain uses stereotypes as a quick reference guide, what do we know about this situation(or person) so we can try and predict what is about to happen and to quickly get the conscious up to speed. We know a tiger is dangerous so our brain makes sure this is the first thing we think about when we see them. However social situations are more complex then simply looking at an animal and trying to work out if you are in danger or not. We tend not to consider an animals personality, desires, their current personal situation etc, so we have less to consider. But when dealing with other humans we have a lot more happening then just working out if there is a threat. In fact even if there is a threat the person could be disguise it from us.

On animals I would like to say this is a bit of a generalisation, those who work with animals definitely can build a bond, and can learn even the most dangerous animals personality. I love animals and personally think we underestimate both their or so and emotional intelligence but that’s a different subject…

Back to humans. Urgh why. Sorry. Errrrm stereotypes right. So stereotyping is natural and part of our brains processing, but that doesn’t mean they are going to be right. And most people tend to take their internal stereotypes as gospel and don’t tend to challenge these internal judgments, which is really what we should be doing, asking ourself if this is correct for the person or people I’m with.

Just like stereotypes we also use labels to sort different parts of society. These labels generally fit around basic and usually biological differences such as gender, age, race, or ability. But the labels can be restrictive, gender is not as simple as the biological gender you were born with, and neurological genders are now more recognised. This causes the labels to expand to include how people see their gender. But this starts to confuse people, especially those who see gender as a biological factor and don’t understand the neurological side, which leads to misunderstanding and potential resentment on both sides of the arguments that arise as more people question what should be considered normal.

Labels have their own stereotypes and when it comes diagnostic labels it’s easy for a certain stereotype to form, especially if it’s a ‘hidden’ condition which is one that potentially comes with no outward signs like Autism, and with conditions that have only recently been discovered. So it’s easy to have an image of an Autistic person based off that kid you sat next to in school who was a pain in the arse, or the guy who had a meltdown in a supermarket, or Sheldon Cooper because that’s what autism looks like right? And if you not met anyone or somehow managed to avoid TBBT then you probably will use the symptoms or at least the known symptoms such as lack of empathy and/or socially inept (both of which aren’t necessarily true for all Autistic individuals).

So I can understand the comments I got, I was a challenge to the label and it’s stereotypes in their head, I didn’t fit so they questioned it, or some cases tried to refute it, and I hope that next time they will be less set on their stereotypes having met me.

The label also doesn’t really do justice to how differently individuals experience conditions like Autism. For example I like to think I am generally good at reading people, using facial expressions, body language and voice tone. However I don’t know what to do with that info, so I might recognise your upset but not know what to do to make you feel better. I also struggle to recognise if a situation is the right time to discuss the emotions I’m picking up, or even if they want to discuss it. I am sure I’ve annoyed so many people with my constant ‘are you ok’?

And that’s me. But some people with Autism will struggle to pick up any of this, and some will be able to do it better then me or slightly worse then me. Like some people with Autism can find loud or certain pitch noises painful, I personally don’t but instead struggle to filter out all the noises around me. Both are caused by the way the brain processes sensory input, and in both cases caused by to strong an input from the ears, but they show in different ways. It doesn’t make me more or less autistic then the other person, it just means I need different support for this particular aspect of the spectrum.

And this is why the labels and stereotypes can be dangerous. I am one autistic individual in a world full of individuals. My needs, my struggles, my success, my fuck ups, they are all mine, and have nothing to do with any medical diagnosis or other label you might want to give me. I didn’t seek a diagnosis because I wanted to be labelled in anyway, or to have an excuse for my actions, or to be treated as a stereotype. I wanted the diagnosis because I wanted to know about myself and for me the certainty of a medical diagnosis is what I needed to be sure.

And it’s complex, because autism is part of me, I can’t remove it and still be the same person as I am now. So I am the label but the label isn’t me. And that’s what we need to remember, we are individuals, and shouldn’t just be seen by the labels and stereotypes we enforce onto ourselves.

I do want to say not everyone gave these sort of responses. Those closest to me asked how I felt about the diagnosis and have accepted me for who I am and are helping in allowing my masks and walls to come down. To these people I will always be thankful for accepting me as me and not just seeing the labels I have.

Odysseus

I thought I might explain the reasons for the name of the blog. So the autism bit should obvious and Odyssey is long journey or travel. Ok maybe it’s a bit more obvious then I thought. But there is a bit more to it.

Mythology I guess is one of my special interests. By that I mean I want, in fact feel compelled to learn and try to understand as much as I can about mythology. I even did part of my degree on classical mythology. And the Odyssey is possibly the most well known epic stories from that period, and is certainly an easier read then its sister poem the Iliad.

When I was thinking about what to call this blog I wanted a link to something that meant something to me. And it’s not just because it’s a journey, a long quest full of difficulties and triumphs, love and hate, which mirrors life and all that. It’s more about the hero himself.

Odysseus (Ulysses to any Romans out there) is a well known hero, one who uses his mind just as much as his sword and shield. This makes him stand out to most, but just saying he was clever doesn’t do him justice. The other Greek hero’s were not dumb, Heracles used his brain just as much and if not more then his brawn during his labours. The Greeks, especially the Athenians, were proud of their ‘intelligence’ and this was reflected in their hero’s.

However Odysseus still stands out as the clever hero, but why? For me it’s because he looks for unusual solutions, he thinks outside the box. Who else could come up with a hollow wooden horse as a way to break a siege but Odysseus, the trickster of the Greek hero’s who sees a different perspective of the world around him then his peers. Sound familiar?

Wait are you saying Odysseus was Autistic? How the hell do I know, he is a fictional character from a poem that was written years after it was composed. But for me the character is basically someone who is different but he is still respected, and even celebrated for this. Maybe this is how I would like to be seen, or just thought of.

There are other ways I feel I can relate to Odysseus. He is the architect of much of his own problems, such as telling the Cyclopes Polyphemus his real name. I can relate, well I guess everyone can, but my decisions have cause me, and others, lots of problems. I’ve lost friends and even family because I do the things I’ve done, and while there are always reasons for my actions and decisions it’s doesn’t take away the hurt I’ve cause to others and myself.

Odysseus also masks a lot. Ok more accurately he uses disguises a lot, and tends to hide his identity, which is like masking so I going with it. I even found my Penelope (not her real name) in my own hypothetical Ithaca. I also have a random and not always pleasant history with boats and the sea that may get covered one day.

So that’s why I went with Odyssey as the name of my blog, not just because it’s a fairly solid metaphor but also because of the hero and how I relate to him and his adventures.

Finding out

Last night as I lay in bed I thought of a great way to open this post. It was awesome full of imagery and analogies between mental health, autism and the works of Homer. This morning of course I can’t remember any of it. In fairness I might have dreamt it.

I’m kinda embarrassed to admit this but I didn’t really know what Aspergers or Autism was until my mid 20s. I knew of it, but actually had no idea what the symptoms were etc. I knew about the Rain Man stereotype but I’d not seen the movie so it wasn’t particularly helpful. Then I saw an episode of South Park call Assburgers, and this was what spurred me to actually find out about the condition. Yep South Park was what’s got me looking. But as I watched Stan, who was diagnosed in the episode, struggling to find something good in life, trying to find a connection, I don’t know why, but I related to the little 2d fella, possibly because the Simpsons helped raise me (not literally I watching d and still do watch it al the time).

But I still didn’t really associate myself as being Autistic. Possibly because all I did was read the wiki pages, but the year before I had finally received a diagnosis I had been trying to get for a while – Dyslexia.

It was odd because I always knew I was Dyslexic, my Dad had said the school mentioned it but the consensus was it was mild and didn’t need to be diagnosed. This always annoyed me as I always struggled with writing, still do, and I’d rather read Sumerian Cuneiform then figure out dates and long number strings. I paid for a private assessment and it felt like a real achievement to get the diagnosis.

But I quickly realised that being Dyslexic didn’t account for everything. It was around this age that my depression which I had been hiding for years finally broke through. I started acting differently, stopped going to work, became irritated and withdrawn and kept exploding with anger at the smallest thing.

My life quickly unraveled, my then Wife left me taking our daughter with her. This was hard because up my little girl is what had kept me going for those years. But I started over, met someone new, moved on and tried to fight back against the depression.

Then 3 years ago I split up from my then girlfriend. I had to move out of the place we rented and back to my dads. A few months before I had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, and had joined some FB support groups. I was contacted by another member who suggested I might have autism (we went on to become good friends until I managed to piss her off 3 months later – notice a patterns developing!)

I mentioned this to my gp, well a gp, who just went with it and sent off the referral. For the first time in my life I was certain I was autistic. This lasted about 2 weeks before I started to doubt it, kinda just thought that perhaps I’m making up all up. A year later I had all but forgotten about it when I was informed of my assessment.

I’ll probably go into more detail about my assessment another time, all the matters is the outcome, a diagnosis of ASD and a report about all the things I can’t do, and a good luck and that was it.

I felt a bit lost, like I just got my car MOT’d to find out it’s a write off. No help is offered, no further advice, just off you go. But I started to chat to people in FB groups, reading articles, and I realised that I was viewing it wrong, that I wasn’t someone suffering from Autistism but I was an Autistic person suffering from the effects of the ‘real’ or ‘NT’ world. Knowing about my Autism hasn’t solved my problems, most of them are because of my actions and decisions. Yes the Autism played its part in what decision I made, and how I acted, but it’s not to blame.

And having a diagnosis doesn’t mean I am cured of my depression or anxiety, if anything I’m more aware of both. But I do feel like I have been given some instructions in how to figure myself out. Not good instructions mind, the ones with pictures and written in a different language, but it’s something damn it. So this blog will hopefully allow me to untangle all this and if anyone else reads any of this, I hope it will help you to.

So that’s a brief account of how I found I was autistic. I’ve seen a lot of people ask on t’internet why bother getting a diagnosis as an adult. I think that’s a personal question for everybody, but for me it’s being mostly positive. For once in my life I don’t feel like a complete outsider, and maybe I can find the happiness I have been longing for for so long.

Setting off

Hello to anyone who has stumbled here. I have no real aim at the moment so let’s see where this goes.

Last summer at the age of 35 I was diagnosis with Autism, and until the diagnosis process I hadn’t considered that I might be.

How can you go half your life without realising your autistic? Apparently quite easily!

This blog is an attempt to help figure stuff out and talk about shizzle. Hopefully.

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