Scared To Tell….

I think people ought to be more honest about the way they feel, rather than subscribing to the closest categorical identity that they feel equates with them perfectly.

 

Today, I am going to discuss sexuality.

 

In this world, there are gay, bisexual, heterosexual, transgender people-and more! But sometimes I wonder, how concrete are these identities for everyone truly?

 

I’m not saying that deep down everyone is gay, or that within every gay person there is a crying urge for the opposite sex. What I am saying, is that not everything is so clear cut. The world is grey, and when we act like its black or white it can actually create a lot of problems for some people.

 

By no means am I suggesting that anyone should not identify as gay if that’s what they feel comfortable with, or any other sexual or gender identity. It would just be nice if you didn’t go around declaring your certainty about it, as if you know yourself completely, because it makes others who are still questioning, and have been for a long time, feel isolated and even more unsure of who they are. There is nothing wrong with asking questions, or uncertainty. It’s part of living.

 

Ever since I was about nine or ten, I’ve been questioning my sexuality. I have never been able to come to a solid conclusion as to how I should identify, and consequently been afraid to share with anyone, my feelings. My biggest fear is that I’ll settle on an identity, tell people, and then turn around later and be like “oh whoops, my mistake! I was wrong!”

 

The last thing I want to do is wear a label that others have worked so hard to feel comfortable with, and not actually ‘be’ an accurate representation of that label. I don’t like to hurt people, or offend. In fact, sometimes I do offend, and oftentimes I’ll feel guilty and regretful about my actions.

 

Maybe I’m not being too clear, but I guess what I’m trying to convey here is that if there are people out there like me who are consistently up in the air about what they’re into, then there sure as hell is a big chance that all the others who are ‘so sure’ about their sexuality, at least question themselves a little bit. I’m willing to bet that even the straightest stick in the stack has had ‘gay thoughts’ at least once, whether it was conscious fantasising or a random unexplainable dream. Of course, it doesn’t mean that someone is gay, or even bi, but it is an expression of some level of uncertainty, which is human.

 

It is not my intention to try and convince people to be sexually or gender fluid in any way. You be you. Be the you that you are comfortable being. Just please, be comfortable with the feelings or thoughts that might find their way into your mind and body from time to time, and avoid attaching much meaning to it.

 

For me, an ideal world would be a place where everyone could be with who they want, and not have to justify who or what they are. It would be nice if that just didn’t matter.

 

What saddens me more, is that a community that I fully support with all my heart, to some extent is behaving in a way similar to the supposed prejudiced opposition that for years brought them down. I’m talking about the LGBTQI+ community. No, not everyone in that community is at fault here, but there are some who have a habit of invalidating the “B” part of the equation, and urging people to ‘figure themselves out’. Stop. We all do things in our own time. Just because you are out and proud, and happy to flaunt your sexuality openly, it doesn’t mean everyone is like that.

 

I’m sick of trying to figure out where I fit, and feeling like I need to put a label on myself. I’m Carla, and I mostly fantasise about women and watch same-sex romance compilations on YouTube. I have a big crush on Tom Hiddleston, and adore the character Poussey from ‘Orange is the new Black’. I love emotional connections, and have little interest in sleeping around. I am attracted to whoever sparks my fancy; whoever I connect with. I just like people, and don’t mind who I end up with as long as I love them for all they are, and they me.

 

I know what you are thinking; “but you’re pansexual!”

 

No, coming to that conclusion for me is unhelpful and totally goes against the whole point of this post. Screw being certain. Screw settling on a label. I’m Carla, and that’s that.

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How to Manage in a Workplace as an Autie

In the past week or so, I’ve noticed a trend of employment being discussed witin the Autistic community online, so I thought I’d share some tips on how I’ve sustained employment as an Autistic person, so far.

 

I applied for my first job when I was fifteen, and was lucky enough to receive an interview only a couple of weeks after submitting my application. I was working at a fast food store, and remained there for two years until I left to focus on year 12.

 

Frankly, in my time at the fast food enterprise, although my incredible focus was appreciated, and my ability to beat other stores times in getting burgers out an ready was valued, I made quite a few silly errors.

 

Most of the errors revolved around my slower information processing, so when people instructed me to do something, or told me where to find equipment and how to operate it etc. I would often need to ask multiple times for clarification, and do it myself before it really sunk in. Given that I was an insecure teenager though, I didn’t want to be perceived as dumb, and so I refrained from asking questions, which would have subtracted a few of the errors from the equation.

 

Had my wonderful employers not noticed my focus and dedication, I would have been fired within the first couple of months. But I wasn’t, because my employers realised that front counter was not for me, but giving me a chance in the kitchen might do the trick. And it did.

 

So in hindsight, what I’ve learnt is to be upfront with your challenges to your workplace, if you are on the spectrum. Don’t hide them as if they don’t exist, because you’d rather your employers are prepared for potential challenges you may face rather than get smacked with a massive surprise. That being said, given that there are many strengths attributed to Autism, mke sure you don’t shy away from letting your employer know that you have some amazing strengths, which you definitely should mention in detail.

 

If you are able to showcase your talents, that could be something like dedication, hyper-focus and attention to detail, they will be very impressed, no doubt.

 

Of course, it does depend on what workplace you are trying to get into. What I’m mainly addressing in this blog post are first jobs that you get while at school or studying at university. I’ve worked at two other places besides the I Can Network and at both places, I grew and learned how to function in the workplace, generally.

 

 

Some of the things you might have difficulty with as a person on the spectrum is communication related dilemmas. Unfortunately, not everyone in a workplace has high moral standards as you may; having a classically Autistic sense of justice. Unfortunately, not everyone in a workplace will be friendly, but in a way that’s a good thing because in the long run in will teach you how to function in reality, and how to problem solve.

 

The key messages I want to get across, are:

 

  1. to be honest to your employer, without embellishing the negatives or challenges that can cause you and others strife. Be straight up about what makes you great, and what can upset your greatness, such as too much information at once, or loud noises in the workplace (you could arrange to wear headphones if its in retail but not customer service related)

 

 

  1. Never sign a contract you haven’t read through (take as much time as you need, and highlight key bits of information), because you could get lured into shift arrangements that don’t necessarily suit you. That way, if you aren’t contracted for a Wednesday, and your workplace roster you on a Wednesday, then you technically aren’t obligated to work on Wednesday (Wednesday was just an example day, don’t take it literally).

 

 

  1. Be vocal about your concerns, with your workplace. Don’t let the frustration build up inside of you until it reaches boiling point and an angry soup explodes everywhere!! If you have any issues, whether they are petty, serious or in between, speak to someone you trust at the workplace, or the manager. If the manager is a bit of a d*ck, then talk to your parents, other family member or close friend for advice. You could also talk to your therapist if you have one, and get some advice on how to handle work conflict, from them.

 

 

 

I hope that helped. Sorry my posts aren’t that frequent, its just my writing is bit shit at the moment given that I’ve been on holidays and the PlayStation has fried my brain.

 

Peace out.

 

 

Burnout

It’s all too common in the Autism universe, for burnouts to occur. It usually happens because of overstimulation of the senses, and as we’re all unique, we can all be overstimulated in different ways.

 

For me personally, I usually burnout if there is a tonne of information coming my way, that is too difficult for me to moderate. For example, I might have multiple assignments to do, and so several criteria sheets and instructions to follow. To top that off, I’ll have several emails from work regarding mentoring, outlining some other instructions. With these emails constantly rolling in, and massive chunks of criteria from uni, it can be very overwhelming. Often times I’ll have to take an entire day break from everything just to work out where I need to start, and how to approach it. I’ll also most likely require the assistance of someone from uni, or a work colleague to make sure I address everything in the appropriate fashion, and in a way that won’t send me into meltdown mode.

 

This might seem normal in that lots of people get overwhelmed, but I suppose it might be a bit different for me, and others on the spectrum who can relate, in that the amount of information that overwhelms me might be different to the amount that overwhelms you.

 

This is why my bedroom is covered in whiteboards. Each one has a different purpose, and enables me to remember things I need to do, or appointments I need to attend etc. The best thing about whiteboards are that you can rub off what you’ve done, which is extremely satisfying.

 

It doesn’t stop there though. Everything is colour coded, and I also have notepads where I write lists for individual days or whole weeks, as well as a diary. All of this is what makes me so organised, and without it I’d be a disorganised wreck.

 

Having ‘to do’ stuff on my whiteboards also serves as an incentive for doing the stuff quicker, because I desperately want to rub it off (it’s a bit of an addiction).

 

There are other things that overstimulate me aside from too much information (that makes it hard to process), but usually I can manage them easily. I don’t like hanging out with hordes of people for more than a couple of hours, or else I get totally worn out. One time, I facilitated an aspie social group in the city, and to top it off the weather was absolutely atrocious. After that, I had to go to a party. I ended up leaving the party early because I was ended up crying due to all the stuff that I’d been up to that day! Too many people! So much going on! Not enough space!

 

That’s a just a bit of what overwhelms me. I’m usually okay though.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

The feature image was borrowed from:

 

http://everhelperblog.com/whats-burnout-and-how-to-treat-it/

 

Progress Report: How am I managing OCD every day?

What I have learnt this year, is that OCD is not something you can get rid of. There is no cure, or easy fix to this mental disorder. However, accepting this fact has not impacted me negatively, rather it has shaped me to be a more functional, positive person.

Every day I have run ins with some pretty nasty thoughts. I could list several of them, but to name a few, I might obsess that I’m a sex offender, that I could lash out and kill anyone at any moment or that I’ll get violently ill from eating chicken or fish that I’ve cooked. It sounds irrational, and you’re right it is. That’s the malice that comes with OCD, it torments the rational mind with countless, raging “what if” questions that plague the mind with worry.

That is, if you let it.

I’ve never found success in trying to eradicate my intrusive thoughts and compulsions. Each time I’ve tried its been met with disappointment and depression, and I don’t want that. After experiencing a pretty horrible relapse this year, I had a kind of revelation that I needed to work on myself as a person, and reassess my outlook on life.

 

I had been so consumed by my OCD that I hadn’t even realised that I had also become very depressed, and honestly did not even realise. Sometimes it takes feeling better to know that you weren’t feeling all up to scratch before.

Basically what I’ve been doing lately, is I’ve been pushing myself but not to breaking point. Some days leaving the house for me comes with intense fear and what if questions, but I leave anyway and even though anxiety will hit, it always subsides. I’m trying to limit how many avoidance behaviours I carry out, because the more of those challenges I take on the less challenging they will be down the track.

Exercise has also been great. I’m doing yoga and pilates at my local gym, and not only is it helping me further develop mindfulness strategies, but my strength and fitness levels are improving dramatically. Not for a second do I view yoga or pilates as another quick fix to my wacky mind, but it certainly helps in taking control of how I feel about my OCD.

In short, my thoughts will always be there and anxiety will never just disappear, but I can keep it quiet by acknowledging its presence and just letting my mind be. I will have good days and bad days, but I’ll only have terrible days if I forget that accepting OCD is what can assist you in living with it.

 

Don Burke Offends Autism Community

 

This is how I feel right now, in light of the remarks made by Don Burke, the host of Burkes Backyard , a show that stopped running a few years ago: If I could meet him in person, I’d dish him my thoughts on his poisonously skewed perception of Asperger’s, and his nerve in using it as a justification for his behaviour.

 

Now I don’t know what he did, but the allegations point towards disgusting behaviour that is inexcusable. Everyone makes mistakes, but mistakes are only valuable if they are not made repeatedly, and you learn from them. I know this, because I have made a lot of mistakes in my time.

 

However, it is a complete, utter cop out to blame his ‘mistakes’ on his supposed ‘genetic failings’, being Asperger’s, because most of the people I know on the spectrum (and most of them are my good friends and colleagues) have an inspiringly strong sense of morality.

 

You see, because of narcissistic idiots like Burke, who are too insecure to admit to their misgivings with pure truth, things like Autism/Asperger’s are painted as a tragedy, rather than a mere difference.

 

How dare he. How dare he blame his poor self-control on his personal diagnosis of Asperger’s. Last time I checked, horticultural experts were not registered psychiatrists. Even so, considering that he just randomly blurted out that he has Asperger’s on Current Affair in response to the allegations made against him, you’ve got to question his level of integrity, that many Aspies have a lot of.

 

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that you’ll rarely meet an Autistic person who is a massive prick. If anything, they might be unintentionally rude or perhaps a little blunt, but the way I see it, Burke is skirting around the edges of truth with his bullshit excuses.

 

You know what else? Avoiding eye contact is not something that is exclusive to people on the spectrum, its also a characteristic of deviant social behaviour, that has nothing to do with Autism. So if you don’t make eye contact, then maybe you’re just social vermin. A weed that needs to be pulled from the garden, if you like.

 

I know this article probably comes across as quite aggressive, and I accept that, but its hard for me to show some diplomacy towards someone that apparently views Autism as a complete burden, without acknowledging the positives. It affects me personally, and many others.

 

I strongly believe that my Asperger’s is largely responsible for my strong sense of empathy, my resilience, and my creative abilities.

 

Autism has shaped who I am, and has allowed me to do great things for others, and show other people on the spectrum how wonderful they can be. I beg the Autism community, who have been so deeply hurt by his comments, not to let him dictate their outlook on their lives and potential. You do what you believe in, because you can.

 

Screw you Burke, and screw your backyard. Avert your deviant eyes to the floor in shame, because you should be; ashamed.

What a huge year!!

Hooray, Hooray! I’ve finally completed my last assessment for the year, and now I’m free from the shackles of education for another three-four months! Go me!

 

Its been a pretty crazy year for me, a lot has happened, both unfortunate and wonderful. However, its all been worth it because its contributed to the person I’ve become. I’ve changed a lot in the last year. My politics has changed, my breadth of knowledge has evolved and I’ve become more in touch with myself. That probably sounds super lame and hippy-like, but its true. In the beginning of the second half of the year I had a kind of mental breakdown due to the stress of work and uni, and a big, overwhelming overseas holiday. As you may also know, my Nanna passed away, whom I had grown very close to in the past couple of years. She was a true light in my life, and a friend, if I’m going to be honest.

 

Anyway, since my mental collapse, I’ve had to pick myself up again from the relapse and still am in the process of doing so, but doing very well all the same. Through changing medications, and learning to cope with the hectic aspects of life, I’ve started to follow some new paths in life. I no longer drink much alcohol. Its not been easy, because wine is delicious, but I feel it is best if I don’t drink it too often so I keep myself under control. I am also restricting my caffeine intake, which means only decaf for me! I found I was relying too much on the caffeine hit to smash out my essays and study, and given that by nature I think I have a somewhat addictive personality, I felt it would be better if I can enjoy the taste of coffee without relying on it for energy.

 

Some might feel bad, and wonder why I am doing all this, but to be honest I’m happy doing it. I have given myself a compromise anyway. Since I’m not drinking a lot of alcohol and drinking only one coffee every couple of days (decaf), I can afford to eat more cake and chocolate. No, I’m not going to stuff my face every day with it, but I figured I can enjoy it substantially more on weekends than perhaps others can, because I’m healthy anyway, exercise and also not going over board with any of the other stuff either. That being said, I am also going to really keep an eye on my diet from now on so I don’t get into any bad habits.

 

I still love me some wine, and can satisfy that desire by drinking non-alcoholic wine from the supermarket. It tastes the same, except it doesn’t make you foggy headed, and you can still go through the same motions as you would with an ordinary glass of wine.

 

What has also been a big and positive change for me lately, has been how I am perceiving myself. For a while this year, I was angry and frustrated and would not stop fixating on every part of my life to ensure I was living it meaningfully. Thankfully now, because of my medication and new mindfulness practice techniques I am becoming more at peace with the reality that my mental health will probably always be a bit of a rollercoaster, but that doesn’t mean I have to suffer.

 

I’ll have bad days, as we all do, but they will mean something in hindsight.

 

As I’ve been getting better, I’ve slowly eased back into my normal routine, as well as taken on some pretty cool challenges! Last week I spent the weekend in Fremantle, Western Australia to speak at the Autism West Symposium. It was my first interstate trip alone, but I’m glad I did it. I was so privileged to have been able to share the magic of I Can with the other side of Australia, but also very happy I stepped out of my comfort zone and told my OCD F**k you right off! Well, when it really interfered with my thoughts and concentration anyway.

 

Even though I enjoyed my trip, there were times my obsessions nearly took hold, such as freaking out about contamination or having a severe reaction to something….but as I said, I told my anxiety exactly where to go, and it usually worked at least during the weekend anyway.

 

Next year, I hope to learn even more as I have this year, and cope better with the workload that really overwhelmed me this year. Things can only get better from here.

 

 

Feeling Down

There have been times where nothing has felt necessary. I’ve lived, and carried on but with the baggage of guilt lagging behind me. It’s the scariest, saddest feeling seeing no point in anything, and especially when you are genuinely engaging in meaningful activities. You know you should feel fulfilled, but can’t, and that makes you angry and sad. You want nothing more than to make sure others are okay, and if you were to go you know you’d hurt them.

It’s not about hating life, or not wanting to live anymore. It’s about feeling like you can’t live anymore, as if it’s physically impossible. Exhausting.

That’s why it’s so scary, when you start to find comfort in the idea of ending it all, because you know it’s a step towards saying goodbye to all the good things you know, and the people that love you.

Even though you can’t see in the darkness of misery, there are still glimmers of light, so small yet so profound.

When you are used to so much darkness, even the tiniest spark of light can fill you with such fulfilment that the revelation of finding that happiness does still exist, almost brings you to tears.

I felt alive and connected again, when that little boy in my mentoring program expressed how lucky he felt to be involved in the program, and how it connected him with others like him, who he could be friends with.

I smiled, and found hope that day.

How to Succeed with OCD

My name is Carla, and I am a human.

Some of us seem to forget that, and often without realising it. I want to try and make more of an effort to remember that I am indeed human, and subsequently not perfect.

What has compelled me to ponder such things? Well recently, my resilience has been tested once again with a rather severe mental health relapse. I am currently undergoing a medication change, which can have certain temporary consequences including exacerbated depression, anxiety etc.

In my case, my anxiety obsessive thinking has exacerbated. To be quite honest with you, I have not felt this awful since about 2012. Now don’t get me wrong, that does not for a second mean that I am wallowing away in misery and lying in bed. However, when I feel like this I am often limited in what I can do, when well-me can do things quite easily.

But to be honest, that’s just a reality I’ve come to accept. There will be wonderful periods of my life, where I’m on top of the world able to achieve big things, but in order for me to enjoy those parts of my life I have to accept that I’m not always going to be on top of my game in that way.

You see, medication pretty much saved my life, as well as family and friends. If I didn’t have the support of my loved ones, and have their shoulders to lean on, then I would most likely be in a hospital. In the past week, I have been very close to admitting myself to a psychiatric facility, and collapsed into tears of overwhelming agony, but the tears helped. It’s good to cry, and when you have someone to listen to, that also helps a lot too.

But back to the medication. Medication does help HEAPS, but as your body changes sometimes the affect the medication has on you can change also. For the first year or so I was on Pristiq, which was sort of helping, but not really. So then I started taking Lexapro, and that worked beautifully for me, for a long time. Unfortunately, it started to stop working. A lot of that was due to my own poor impulse control, because I indulged in drinking excessively and even dabbled in smoking a few times, and weed once. I’m not bragging about that, because in hindsight it was the stupidest thing I could have done for myself.

Being an anxious person, its just common sense that weed could very well mess with my head, and make shit a heck of a lot worse. And after a big weekend of getting completely hammered on 12 standard drinks while on Lexapro, it was the turning point for my mental health.

That’s when I began taking sertraline. It was designed to target depression and ocd to some extent, because my psychiatrist wasn’t quite sure if I had OCD or it was anxiety that was the key player in my distress. Anyway, sertraline didn’t seem to help me either, which brought me to fluoxetine, which is a type of Prozac.

So yeah, Prozac has been working its way through my body for the past week and its been significantly unpleasant.

But so not to get hung up on the negatives, I just want to make something very clear. I am not suffering, and refuse to be a victim. This is just a bloody annoying inconvenience to my life, and it makes me angry and sometimes pretty upset.

But that’s okay. All those feelings are normal and okay for someone who suffers from debilitating mental health issues. A lot of people don’t realise that for someone who does live with mental illness, feeling better does not mean you should jump for joy over the fact that you have escaped it and have been cured. You won’t be cured most likely. Sure, I’ve heard some amazing stories of people claiming to have been cured from stuff like OCD, depression etc. but the way I perceive that is that they’re either naively denying the reality that their symptoms could resurface, or that their definition of cured is that they have a good handle on their struggles, which is absolutely fantastic.

The way I see it, is that you should not strive to get better, but to do better. Each day counts. You should wake up every morning, and on your most fragile days wake up and rise with caution. I don’t mean be paranoid and close all your curtains, I mean be aware of all the thoughts and feelings that enter your mind and make sure they don’t present any harm to your functionality. That is the best way to start your day, and sets you off on a good start.

Optimism is is so important, but only if its realistically exercised. There is no point acting like everything is going to be okay, when sometimes it won’t be. It will set you up for failure.

I hope that by the end of this year, I thoroughly learn that lesson and don’t find myself getting too addicted to the freedom that medication can provide. Of course, I want to be well, and will appreciate being well, but I also want to be totally prepared for another setback.

Come at me life.

Nanna, my friend

This post is dedicated to my beautiful Nanna Josie, who passed away recently. I wanted to share with people how important she is.

 

Nanna, I’ll always remember the good times we shared together. The coffees we had, the cakes you insisted we spoil ourselves with. I’ll always hold those memories fondly in my heart.

 

There are certain memories that I’ll always cherish, that I was privileged to have shared with you, like the time you were “browned off” and you leaned your head on my shoulder and said to me “You’re my best friend, I can tell you anything.”

 

You’re big smile will never leave my mind, especially the one you gave when I entered the room when I visited. You always look happy.

 

I can vividly imagine you now, telling me to make you a coffee “white no sugar”, and “a bit of cake”. You could never say no to a lovely bit of cake or slice, and neither could I, which did no favours for my attempt at healthy eating.

 

Nanna, you were a trooper. You smoked for most of your life, until you were forced to give up. You lost your soul mate far too soon, and siblings to follow. You went through so much, but still you were a bright presence in every room.

 

Another memory I’ll keep close to me always, is when you interjected my 21st speech with “don’t forget me!” When I was thanking people for coming.

 

And of course, of course I was pleased you were there, and you enjoyed yourself. No gathering or party would be as alive without you. And that’s saying something for a Nanna.

 

Nanna, I love you. So very much, and if there is a heaven I would like to think you are up there rejoicing in the company of your brothers and sisters, your parents, your husband and Mum. I know Mum would definitely give you a warm, hearty welcome.

 

You’ll be you again, but perhaps thinner as you seemed to like in your last days, which you made very clear. You’ll be cooking casseroles, roasts, enjoying some fish and chips.

 

Nanna, I like to think in heaven you are over the moon with joy.

 

Apple pies will remind me of you, the cafes down at Macleod will remind me of you, and the Macleod park where we used to sit after lunch somewhere and you’d watch the kids play, will forever remind me of you.

 

You were an amazing Nanna, mother and friend.

 

Thank you Nanna. Thank you for bringing joy to many lives.

 

Love you.