STIMMING OR, WHY I CAN’T ALWAYS KEEP UP MASKING… AND THAT’S OK.

AUSTISTIC PEOPLE STIM BECAUSE THEY FEEL THINGS SO DEEPLY… 

I don’t always see eye-to-eye with my mother, the parent of an autistic young adult woman (hello), but one thing we will be prepared to firmly agree on and publicly declare is that vaccines did not cause my condition, and in all likelihood have not caused anyone to develop autism which was not already present. A purely anecdotal but kind of strangely wholesome reason for our agreed belief is that I have always stimmed, way before vaccines. Even as a baby, when everyone thought the flappy hands were just a cute expression of excitement. Even before I was born, while in utero, though at the time it was just presumed I moved around a lot.

We should probably clarify what “stimming” is. The term has been increasingly used particularly within autism communities as in informal alternative to “self-stimulatory behaviours”, which often include: rocking, hand flapping, tapping/slapping joints, pacing around a space, and/or repeating sounds/phrases (also called “echolalia”). It can essentially include any physical behaviour that an autistic person uses to help them cope with the intensity of emotions or physical stimuli and processing information. For example, I often use echolalia to take in information someone tells me verbally, by repeating the end of a sentence. This is because my brain is slower to register information I hear rather than see, and repetition helps speed up my cognitive process. Sometimes NT (neurotypical) people also have their own form of stimming by bouncing their leg, twirling their hair, biting their nails, etc. However, the difference here is that because these behaviours aren’t as noticeable compared to those displayed by autistic people, it is considered more culturally and socially acceptable.

“Surround yourself with people who value acceptance, are willing to listen, and find the most authentic version of you to be the most likeable.” – Sarah Kaye

Autism is often described as an “invisible” condition, because we can have any features of appearance and there are no physical marking or devices which would immediately give away that our brains are different. However, my stimming has often been the first sign when I meet people that I could be a bit “different” with regards to how I experience the world. I’ll often pace around a certain space, whether it’s a train platform, a bus stop, a supermarket aisle or my own kitchen. I like doing this. It makes me feel free. I’ll also often flap my hands, tap my joints, and be quite twitchy simply while sitting and talking to someone, in a way I can’t really demonstrate unless you catch me doing it in the moment. If I do this around you, it’s a positive thing because it means I feel relaxed within the conversation.

The main issues from stimming arose as I got older, because people stopped seeing the small kid expressing herself as “cute”, and progressively started seeing a taller, bigger person with increasingly adult features expressing the exact same behaviours as “distracting”, “unnerving”, and “freakish”. My family started asking me to “tone it down” in restaurants. It’s accurate to assume it made me a target of bullying within school. I unfortunately dated a guy who would hiss in my ear that I was being embarrassing whenever a passerby clocked me mid-stim and gave a sad smile which indicated they thought I must be “special”, i.e. not self-aware.

Sometimes I can use “social masking” (a feature already brilliantly explained by Lyndsey in prior articles) as an attempt to hide my stims. It means I have to be constantly on guard, aware of every single movement I make, always focused. This is the mode I am more likely to be in while I’m concentrating intensely on a task or on shift at a work placement… or on stage. When I’m being an actor. Playing a role. Now I love being an actor, reading scripts, and building the list of crazy characters I have taken on for the sake of entertaining and emotionally moving others. What I don’t love is being forced to be an actor of sorts even when I’m supposed to be representing myself. You can probably imagine that it leaves very little space for establishing my own identity and the older I get, the less time and energy I have to push that sense of self aside.

So I stim happily in public and choose to laugh at incidents like the old lady who accused me of being high on drugs at midday in a Costa cafe. Sometimes strangers do come up to me, ask if I’m alright, whether they should be concerned. I’m always happy to be open with them and explain what I’m doing and why it’s nothing to worry about. We might still have some way to go but the responses are definitely getting more accepting as awareness of autism and other neurological differences increase.

My hope for autistic girls and women reading this who might be able to relate at all is to minimise any priorities for those who won’t let you be yourself. Surround yourself with people who value acceptance, are willing to listen, and find the most authentic version of you to be the most likeable. Please embrace the stims that make you happy.

 

 

Writer

Sarah Kaye

“Sarah sometimes writes, mostly out of passion or anger. She likes lists, an embarrassing number of Netflix shows, and having purple hair. She also acts, but more for the sake of enjoyment rather than success.”

WRITING ABOUT BEING QUIETLY, INVISIBLY, DIFFERENT BUT SAME

Quiet misfits mulls over introversion, energy management, autism in females, highly sensitive people, managing loss, LGBT women, creativity, and being yourself.  

Attending LGBT carnival when you get over stimulated by sensory data

5 REASONS WHY I’D GO TO LGBT PRIDE CARNIVAL AS AN AUTISTIC INTROVERT 

IF YOU CAN DEVELOP GREAT COPING MECHANISMS AND YOU HAVE REASONS FOR STEPPING OUT INTO THE EXTROVERTED NEUROTYPICAL WORLD ONCE IN A WHILE, WHY SHOULDN’T YOU?

 

 

Visit the Youtube channel

 

Once when I was in Riva Del Garde, Italy, I made myself climb the Torre Apponale, a 13th Century Clock Tower that offers amazing views over the Lake fort and town. I knew it would be breath taking up there. I also knew making myself go up high (it’s 34 metres high but it feels higher) and facing vertigo would also do something to my breathing, my digestion, and my ability to form sentences while quivering in my boots. I wasn’t completely comfortable getting up the 165 steps, or trying to manoeuvre myself at the tower top. I calmly moved around to make way for crouching photographers, when inside I wanted to scream “will you stand still until we get helicopter-lifted back down please,” as I tried desperately not think thoughts about how any moment I might accidentally walk off the edge. I was glad I got up there though, and for about 2 hours after when I was back on terra firma, I did nothing but drink tea and watch the calmness of the lake. I slept well that evening.

You may be familiar with the fact that I don’t like crowds either. No? Shocker! It’s true, the LGBT scene rarely speaks to me because it’s a physical manifestation of extroversion and makes me feel about as fun as the winner of the dull thing award 2019, presented in a museum of dried turds. So why as an autistic woman, with high levels of introversion and given to sensory overwhelm would I attend Birmingham Pride Carnival in 2019?

I’m writing a fiction book about an autistic woman going through bereavement, and the themes of the book touch on the journey to self care, self love, and thus emanating love while becoming more neuro bilingual. But it’s also intended to show one type of autistic experience from the inside out to bring awareness to how autistic people fitting “the female profile” try to fit in but sometimes get it wrong.

So with that in mind, here’s why I am going to Pride Carnival:

1. Exploring the LGBT community more if you’re unfamiliar with it

As a member of the LGBT community, I don’t frickin’ know much about the LGBT community, so maybe this is an opportunity to absorb the vibe and be with others who are more in the know about the community. Autistic people feel things so deeply because we’re profoundly sensitive, but putting ourselves in other’s shoes isn’t always easy. It’s not that we don’t care, on the contrary we care deeply, but we just don’t see what you’re getting at and would love for you to just tell us. Autistic people make great observers, but don’t always get right what they observe, or get it right and irritate people by bluntly pointing it out. It’s good to understand what people like about their community when it’s unfamiliar to you because that can help you find a way to see it through their eyes and sit in their skin. This is a great skill to practice if you want to be neuro-bilingual because while being direct is great, practising active listening without passing comment, and offering calm suggestion if appropriate can help to create bonds with people if that’s what you’re looking to do.

2. It’s LGBT activism inviting you to love yourself and others more

Perhaps the most important reason is it’s LGBT activism, as the theme of carnival is love out loud, signalling our right to love others and ourselves too. This is the single most important reason I’m going. 

3. Develop self knowledge about your emotional bank

On the theme of self love, I can see how long I can be energised by the event before I feel under energised, which is data for my emotional bank and can help with future self care strategies.

4. Practice self love, communication, and boundaries in the field

Once I’ve had enough it’s a great space to practice communication & boundaries by saying this has been lovely but I’m tired actually, so I’m going to leave now.

5. How to best express the sensitive experience to non sensitives?

Lastly, if I can, I want to get research: as I’m writing a fiction book, it would be helpful to understand what makes extroverts lose energy. That info will really help to comparatively describe what it’s like being sensitive to sensory stimulation in terms extroverted, non-sensitive people can appreciate and empathise with.

See you at Pride…

I need major self love to attend this event in the first place, because it’s likely to drain my batteries very quickly. This event is really going to test me to see how far I’ve come in looking after myself, but I also have a great opportunity to inform my book in a way that can help me bridge the gap of sensory experience between sensitives and non-sensitives, while doing the LGBT activism I always wanted to take part in. Look out for the next post about developing self care strategies in over stimulatory environments!

 

Visit the YouTube channel

 

 

 

Lyndsey Pearce

Writer

Lyndsey Pearce

Lyndsey Pearce is a UK based writer. She lives with four male gerbils, but only knows the name of the albino because the other three are identical brown. She eases her guilt over this by singing the outro of “Humiliation” by The National to them all, badly. “

WRITING ABOUT BEING QUIETLY, INVISIBLY, DIFFERENT BUT SAME

Quiet misfits mulls over introversion, energy management, autism in females, highly sensitive people, managing loss, LGBT women, creativity, and being yourself.  

 

OVER ANALYSIS AND RESISTANCE TO CURVEBALLS

WHAT DOES THIS LOOK LIKE IN YOUR LIFE?

One weekend I went to the library to meet with some friends and do some work. When I got there it was clear that one of my friends was needing to chat about something that was difficult for her at that moment.

Now, I am the most sensitive and emotional person I know, but my brain likes to over analyse stuff and it likes things to be scheduled and go the way it was planned. So what was I thinking? I was thinking, when are we going to do some work? When will you feel ok about this so we can work?

I’m not proud of this, but the reality is my mind panics when things change, even if I look totally cool on the outside. (I never look that cool to be fair).

As a younger person I used to lose friends this way because, to them, if I showed anxiety or said the wrong thing in response to their emotion, I looked like an asshole who didn’t care about their feelings as oppose to a person panicking about change and feeling scared by the pain they were in. BUT I know me. I’m the expert of me. I’m not an asshole.

I have tools and awareness now around how my mind works. I realise that although I might go into over analysis and not give into feelings right away, I can listen more to my friend with my body. I can feel what she’s saying and listen less with my mind, a mind that is upset that we’re not doing the thing we planned to do.

“I am not my mind and neither are you. You are your being, your body, your soul.”

I checked in with my friend a little later. I apologised for taking a little while to really *be with* her emotionally right away. She said she thought I was great and listened really well.

And even before my friend said she was cool, I’d already forgiven myself for my little listening delay, because, you know, shit happens.

What do you need to forgive yourself for today? 

I’ll see you at the park!

 

Quiet misfits 1

 

Lyndsey Pearce

Writer

Lyndsey Pearce

Lyndsey Pearce is a UK based writer. She finds reading Sarah Scribbles a lovely thing to do between colouring in and drinking hot chocolate.

WRITING ABOUT BEING QUIETLY, INVISIBLY, DIFFERENT BUT SAME

Quiet misfits mulls over introversion, energy management, autism in females, highly sensitive people, managing loss, LGBT women, creativity, and being yourself.  

You are special, you matter

I’M AUTISTIC, SO WHAT?

WHAT DOES BEING AUTISTIC MEAN IN GENERAL TERMS?

So, I’m autistic. It means I interact with the world differently compared to non autistic people. So what? 

Being autistic means that a person has differences in thinking, feeling, socialising and communication to varying degrees depending on where they fall on the autistic spectrum. Some autistic people also have some learning differences. What all this means is no two autistic people are the same. And autistic people are different to non autistic people, who are often referred to as neurotypicals or NTs by the autistic community.

You are special, you matter

WHAT DOES BEING AUTISTIC SPECIFICALLY MEAN FOR ME?

The only thing that is real is the planet, nature, and the species that live on that planet. The systems and rules which we live by are made by people’s brains, for people’s brains.

Being autistic isn’t a disorder, it’s just another type of human being. But because autistic people are trying to bend their brain to work in a world of systems that was created by another brain type, it means they become exhausted, confused, and disheartened when they experience disconnection, failure, anxiety, and judgement for what they don’t do when they already feel they’re working so hard.

The brain produces tons of information we can use to create our lives, but it’s only one source of information from the human body. There is also information that we feel in our gut, and our heart for example. Rarely in society do we use all of this information together to make decisions or design outcomes for us, the people; largely we think our way into creating our world, and while thinking is amazing, it’s not all we have to draw on to create our experiences. 

Autism is a spectrum condition that describes a percentage of the population, although we’re often hiding in plain sight, especially if we’re women, because as girls we’re conditioned from an early age to be good, fit in, and accommodate everyone, so no one notices us. We’re invisible autistic women. Pretending we’re not autistic is done unconsciously from a young age, and called social masking. This means we’re hiding autistic traits to pass as NTs. This can be catastrophic to an autistic person’s mental health due to exhaustion and identity issues. Those problems are worsened as an autistic person ages, especially if that person doesn’t have an understanding of what their needs are and how to provide for them.

Getting an appropriate diagnosis for autism can be so helpful to you getting access to help from the government to navigate the systems of society that have been based on the NT brain. If you’re autistic and get a diagnosis, this can improve your understanding of yourself in the context of work, education, health, and other more formal areas of life, which means you can get help in those areas if you’re struggling. But the clinical language in diagnosis reports, while useful to other clinicians, isn’t that helpful as you make friends, over time build trust with them, and want to share your autistic needs so you can choose to meet each other where the other one is at.

 In my family of origin we’ve over-adapted to the NT world, and we’ve often struggled as a result. This has lead to hidden shame about being an invisible autistic and not being an actual NT. This isn’t an autistic trait as such, more a feeling that I’ve picked up through my environment that I should cope better with the demands of the NT world. I’m also poor at asking for help and explaining to friends exactly what my needs are, but I’m getting better. And the more I learn to understand myself as an autistic woman the more I can inform my family and friends of my needs. 

Obviously autism is a spectrum and we’re all different, but I’m going to tell you something of my autistic traits, as though I were explaining them to a friend I’ve been getting to know, I trust them, and I want to tell them more about me as a person and what my needs are. I’m doing this because this is how it is in the context of making and keeping friends, and you need to let people know what’s going on for you, so you don’t keep trying to over adapt where it’s too difficult and compromise your mental health. Let’s have pride and let our real friends know just how it is for us. We owe them that so they have a chance to meet us where we are. Let’s stop hiding like being autistic is something of which to be ashamed.

MY PERSONAL AUTISTIC TRAITS IN A VERY NON CLINICAL DESCRIPTION

I struggle with social imagination which means I can’t always think of what I would like to do in friendship groups straight away. My point of reference has always been the extroverted, NT view of what being social and happy is, and that perspective is off kilter with my actual needs. Without some introspection and writing things down it can be hard for me to remember what I actually like in the context of socialising. This can make it difficult to approach a friend and say “hey, want to do this? Wanna hang out with me?”

I like to plan, because I’m ADHD and a hyperfocusser. This means when I start something I hyperfocus on it and lose all sense of time, but transitioning to a new thing catapults me into to ether where I become a scatterbrain. I’m not good at adapting to change or last minute plans as a result of this, despite really enjoying doing different things. 

I like to be occupied and have things to do in social settings because it means I’m less conscious of having to use social language and social norms. Having a task to do together gives me something to focus on which calms my anxious brain. But I don’t like too much to do at once, because of differences in something called executive function and short term working memory. Differences in executive function, where my long term memory is better than my short term memory, makes it difficult for me to manage lots of tasks all at once.

Being autistic means the social part of the brain is asleep, so all social processing goes through the part of the brain dedicated to decision making, working memory, and other day to day functioning. In short? I’ve got a short term memory like Nemo, but I will remember what you ate for brunch the day we did the whole Cinema Brunch edition of Lost Boys Restoration, along with the entire Lost Boys script, because films from the 1980s that I loved as a kid is one of my special interests. BUT, I can’t do basic maths without a pen and paper and lots of quiet. When I worked in retail, I needed a list to anchor me back to the jobs on my shift so I could happily break away to interact with customers. 

I struggle to follow social communication sometimes, particularly in nosy environments because of auditory processing differences. My brain can’t filter the important bits (the people speaking) and it wants to prioritise ALL the stimulation at once. This means two things. A) I get exhausted because I’m over stimulated. B) I’ll be aware of the general feeling of a group, whether the atmosphere is good energy or turning into something else, but I can’t necessarily pick up all the details of social conversation because it’s coated in other noise. Also, a social conversation moves pretty fast, and the subtle meaning changes as it hops from person to person. This means you may say something between you as a group like “we love red wine, but most of the group agree, while some of us like French wine, we prefer the Spanish variety”. I might fathom that we’re talking about wine and that someone mentioned French wine, so as I love French wine, I might chip in with “Yeah French wine is the best”. On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with saying this. This statement is true for me, and is still true for me whether I say it or not, but in the general connectedness of this particular conversation, to state this at this time, it seems to the others a bit random. My general work around for this is to have a fringe conversation with a person, because I’m better at one to ones as I know who to focus on. But if it’s noisy, I may still have the same problem.

I suffer with sensory overwhelm and regularly need to decompress after being out amongst people and overstimulating environments.

Social language is a second language to me, so I analyse what I said and did after a social interaction and wonder if I got it all wrong. I have little idea of why people do the things they do on social media and will micro analyse why someone posted an image of their sandwich that day. If you tell me to ask questions if I don’t understand, I will ask lots of questions and draw out what you say, as long as you’re still standing there talking to me. I’m a magpie of the social language, picking up new shiny bits all the time to include in my social performance, and when I say “performance”, I don’t mean I have an intention to deceive, but I understand the more socially nuanced I can be the more comfortable other NT folk are. I appreciate NTs, and I want to understand them, while not losing myself in the process. I once had an experience in Italy; I tried to ask for directions in Italian but got it wrong and ended up saying with my eyes and my embarrassed look that “actually I’m English but I’m trying because I’m interested your language and in the churches you have here in this gorgeous country”. The lady I spoke to actually walked me all the way to the church because she knew I didn’t speak her language, but she appreciated that I was trying. That’s the reason for understanding the other, yourself, and disclosing to people your needs where appropriate. Once people know you’re autistic, what that means to us all as humans, and that actually you are asking for help, they will offer help. People are actually cool and nice. But we just need to understand that we are all still people even when we communicate a bit differently and sometimes, it’s a bit awkward. 

Sometimes it will take me three days to process what you said and work out how I feel about it. My long term memory will store this information and release it the next time I see you because conversing and connecting with you is important to me, but I might not do it in real time, not because I don’t give a shit, but because that is how my brain works. I hope you don’t mind that? I know it looks weird, but it isn’t. It’s perfectly normal when you know my brain type. Love ya too:)

Sometimes I will be so excited to talk to you, about the thing I’m excited about, I will talk over you because I’m not sure when it’s my turn to speak, but I’m excited. Other times you’ll be waiting for me to speak and I won’t know I’m up, particularly if my nervous system is overwhelmed.

Sometimes when you’re in emotional pain and I can feel it in my body like it belongs to me and I’m also already very tired, I may forget that I have to just be there for you emotionally; my default mode may come online instead, and I’ll offer practical solutions to stop your pain that seem completely invalidating to how you feel, but really it’s because I feel your pain so much that I want to help. I forget, that illustrating to you that our relationship means everything to me needs to come first over any practical solution I may have to offer.    

I may frown when I’m shutting down because I’ve been out all day, doing lots of “peopling”. I may not be able to speak or make facial expressions. I’m not rejecting you, bored of you, or thinking you’re a problem. I’m an electric car that can only go 100 miles before my battery is flat. I can’t afford to apologise for that anymore.

I will go into nature a lot to recharge my batteries. Nature is also my mirror and helps me to see myself. I will also be a bit of a cat whisperer, and an animal lover in general. But you don’t have to be. We are all different.

Are you autistic? Pitch in with your experiences and reactions to this. I’d love to know what you think:)

 

Lyndsey Pearce

Writer

Lyndsey Pearce

Lyndsey Pearce is a UK based writer. She lives with four male gerbils, but only knows the name of the albino because the other three are identical brown. She eases her guilt over this by singing the outro of “Humiliation” by The National to them all, badly. “

WRITING ABOUT BEING QUIETLY, INVISIBLY, DIFFERENT BUT SAME

Quiet misfits mulls over introversion, energy management, autism in females, highly sensitive people, managing loss, LGBT women, creativity, and being yourself.  

Creativity for introverts and highly sensitive people

CREATIVITY FOR INTROVERTS AND SENSITIVE SOULS

DREAM YOURSELF TO THE FUTURE.. 

Did you get overwhelmed in an open plan office at work? Were you tired at school in the afternoon lessons from doing a lot of peopling and eating all that shite in the canteen? Did you need a bit longer to digest information, and that got you labelled as slow? Aah, remember the time you were inventing a new thing in your brain whilst looking out of the window, and that got you labelled dreamy, dizzy, empty!?! 

Dreaming is work. Introverts are always on the edge of the future, inventing, dreaming, creating, but what school and work places think of as creativity doesn’t always factor in introversion and its associated gifts.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams…” – Eleanor Roosevelt

What is creativity? Well there’s the old adage that creativity is born out of constraint…limitations on time, conditions, money. Creativity is also those flashes, those sparks, where something just pops up that you didn’t plan. So if you don’t have to plan anything, and you don’t need time, the right conditions, or money, it should be right up our street, yes?

So I want to give you permission to dream and tap into your creativity. It actually starts with rest. Sit still for a moment and try not to think, and just relax your shoulders and any tension in your body. Go for a walk and sit near some water if you can, just so you can hear water; it’ll calm your nervous system. Doodle thoughts, impressions, feelings. Don’t judge what you produce as you have been judged—it’ll be tempting to tell yourself how shit everything is, but notice if you speak to yourself like this, and ignore it, carry on. Don’t judge how you do what you do, just do it without censorship. Do this for 5 minutes. Now tell me there’s no time to be creative.

I’ll see you at the park!

 

creativity-for-introverts

 

Lyndsey Pearce

Writer

Lyndsey Pearce

Lyndsey Pearce is a UK based writer. She finds reading Sarah Scribbles a lovely thing to do between colouring in and drinking hot chocolate.

WRITING ABOUT BEING QUIETLY, INVISIBLY, DIFFERENT BUT SAME

Quiet misfits mulls over introversion, energy management, autism in females, highly sensitive people, managing loss, LGBT women, creativity, and being yourself.  

Writing your future

SETTING CREATIVE GOALS

WRITING THE FUTURE EXPERIENCE YOU DESIRE

It’s not very exciting, but last year I had a problem with one of my outside drains and was advised by the company who unblocked it for me to inspect all of them. This was to ensure that all the drains had all been correctly installed by the house builders in case there were other defects that might cause problems later on. It was coming up to the end of autumn. I was annoyed that I was responsible for a building defect, but responsible I was. I knew one thing: I didn’t want to start any intrusive work outside my house during the winter months if there was a major problem. I would need to wrap up and batten down the hatches in winter; my neurology prefers that I hibernate like a bear, but I did have this problem. What should I do?

 

Writing your future

Creative freedom

 

 

For a few weeks I agonised over whether to do the work or not. What if there were problems, AND, what if there weren’t and I’d spent all that money? I cycled around whether or not to start the work, and then I made a decision. I decided that problem or not, I didn’t want to deal with work during the winter, I’d prefer it to happen in the spring in the hope of better weather conditions.

I still don’t know if I made the right decision, but the point is, once I’d made a decision to wait, I allowed myself the space to stop thinking about it and used that energy for other things that were important to me at the time.

Indecisiveness and cycling around thoughts stems from the fear of making a mistake, and the false belief that while we worry about something, we’re doing something about it. The ego loves to create thoughts and our very identity can be caught up in them. If this doesn’t sound positive to mental health, that’s because it’s not. It’s the root of anxiety. Left unchecked, it can become debilitating.

 

Of the psychology we have come to know in our time, Freud and Jung asserted that creativity was to do with our subconscious and all that was repressed being allowed to flow; the subject of quantum physics has unpacked this further—that creativity is the not manifested, and more specifically according to Amit Goswami, PhD, and theoretical nuclear physicist, it’s the realm of possibilities.

Even if we didn’t have a specific problem to solve cycling around our minds, creating mental abstraction that clouded our creativity, what would it mean if we just stayed curious to what our own hearts really desired when making decisions?

 

THE BENEFITS OF WRITING YOUR OWN OBITUARY

Writer Ernest Hemmingway took great pleasure in reading about his life contributions in his own obituary. He was able to read it because the press incorrectly reported his death after a plane crash. Hemmingway was able to see the kind of person he had been, and, what he still wanted to be.

What decisions are you putting off making? Where certain aspects of your life are concerned, you may make a choice, but could you decide it’s also possible to do nothing about them right now and stop thinking about them? With the clouds lifted from your head, what might your heart call out for?

I’d like to invite you to journal a fake obituary including what you’ve done in your life to date, very much in the way you might write a CV to list your achievements, but don’t just list achievements, list experiences and relationships, what people mean to you and you to them. Is there anything in your obituary that’s missing? That’s to say, if you died tomorrow, is there stuff not written because it’s not yet manifested in your life?

If yes, then write in your fake obituary what you’d still like to manifest, and set out to make decisions to get you there. The obituary serves as a kind of map for your future…you may change this several times, but the point is to have some goals and get there, to have direction and some plans. After you’ve done this, will you then begin to know what else to say yes to, and to which you’ll say no?

How did you feel after you completed this exercise?

Lyndsey Pearce

Writer

Lyndsey Pearce

Lyndsey Pearce is a UK based writer. She lives with four male gerbils, but only knows the name of the albino because the other three are identical brown. She eases her guilt over this by singing the outro of “Humiliation” by The National to them all, badly. “

WRITING ABOUT BEING QUIETLY, INVISIBLY, DIFFERENT BUT SAME

Quiet misfits mulls over introversion, energy management, autism in females, highly sensitive people, managing loss, LGBT women, creativity, and being yourself.  

woman in nature

WHEN I’M A PETROL ENGINE AND YOU’RE DIESEL

A DIFFERENCE IN COMMUNICATION & PROCESSING SPEED ISN’T A LACK OF FEELING…

When was the last time you asked what, why, and when, to fully appreciate and listen to what another human being was saying?

When I was about seventeen years old I worked Front of House at a theatre. This meant that I took people’s tickets, sold ice-cream in the interval, and dealt with any issues customers had. The seating in the theatre was impermanent, and because the actual seats themselves were very old, a common issue to occur during the performance was a seat could collapse. When that happened, the customer wasn’t a happy bunny.

 

woman in nature

 

 

Somewhere during 1998, about fifteen minutes into a Tale of Two Cities, a huge guy stomped down the aisle towards me. I was sitting on a little pull down seat at the back of the auditorium. I stood up and smoothed the collar of my usherette uniform. I saw his silhouette. He wasn’t happy.I thought, oh shit.

You know a man isn’t happy because he’s landed on his arse in front of fifteen hundred other people, like you can imagine the discontent of an idling tiger that just got smacked in the face with a swing ball.

After receiving a series of infuriated facial creases and hushed anger from the man, I responded with my sincerest, compassionate, and still very much whispered apologies. I invited the man to sit on my pull down chair while I went to fetch new seat tickets. His wife and daughter were ok where they were, and I planned to reseat them altogether once I’d been to the theatre office.

 

I trekked up the stairs to see Charlie, the theatre manager. He would have some complimentary tickets held back, for seats to where I could move the family.

When I got upstairs I said: Charlie, a seat collapsed down stairs. I need to reseat a family.

Only, he apologised as his phone rang and, I had to wait.

There were some posters on the wall that caught my eye, and I started hyper-focussing on things of interest. When Charlie approached me after he put the phone down I’d almost forgotten what I’d come up stairs for.

Tell me about this party, said Charlie.

 

COMMUNICATION ERROR…CAN YOU FEEL ME?

How many for the party?

Now I was starting to feel anger’s vibration in my chest. What was all this talk of a party? What party?

No matter how hard I thought about it, I had no idea what Charlie meant. My brain couldn’t map the word to my query, and I’d completely lost track of what we were even doing. I should mention that I’m a literal thinker, and I experienced this question as utterly confusing and unspecific. At one point, I thought Charlie was being deliberately obtuse.

What do you mean Charlie? I don’t understand your question.

I didn’t know myself that well back then, and all I could feel was the disconnect in our communication because, to me, Charlie’s question was confusing. I also remember that Charlie looked visibly nervous by my frustration; this is never good for any relationship. I mean, this guy was my boss. I’m lucky in that instance I didn’t get fired. While I understand it was normal for me to feel frustrated, I would’ve preferred to have understood why we had communication differences. I would’ve liked to have known how to manage my irritation better during the disconnect.

Eventually Charlie reworded what he was saying.

How many people need reseating? he said, a little sheepishly.

THREE. I said, then I snatched the comps and barged back downstairs.

 

TOO LITTLE AND TOO MUCH DISPLAY OF EMPATHY

Empathy is such an interesting thing, isn’t it? Throw in the worry that you’re not good enough with a little miscommunication between both people and all of a sudden, there are fireworks. Or at least there’s a little sparkler, cracking and snapping, threatening to run down towards your gripping, fleshy hand.

I went home that night feeling bad about how I’d reacted to Charlie. He was a good guy. As an empath, I’d also picked up Charlie’s bad feeling and internalised it as though it was my own.

It must be me, I thought.

It would’ve been better for my mental health to see the situation as: something happened, and someone felt something—the end! Only I didn’t. The confusion continued, and my bad feeling about myself prevailed.

Charlie showed tremendous empathy towards me in terms of communication, when I failed to show it back in the moment. He did that for me in a way other bosses in my working life really haven’t.

 

LOSING YOURSELF AND YOUR COPING MECHANISMS TO FIT IN 

During my IT career, with no clarity around my neuro-diversity, I spent many meetings utterly confused, clear only that I was to action something but what, I couldn’t have told you. During my time in that field, I was guilty of over-empathising and neglecting myself in a bid to be, in my own eyes, a better person. As a visual thinker, I would scribble down images in meetings to try and understand concepts or action points as they were spoken. I was good at my job, when I knew what I was doing.

It’s not appropriate to doodle. What’s with the pretty pictures? It’s not play school!

If you’re not clear, ask! said another boss.

No, there’s no time, that’s enough information now, said the same person a month later.

Instead of seeing the incongruence of others in this situation, I stayed afraid, and absorbed their projected frustration as I went crazy with confusion. I felt bad about my coping mechanisms, and despite my unconscious knowledge of what I needed, I abandoned all my positive strategies which meant my ability to function slipped even further.

For me personally, I feel a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Condition compels an employer, or a service provider, to listen, and compels us both to start a dialogue around what’s to be done and how we can best achieve the outcome together. I also feel that it’s sad we need these labels to compel us in the first place. By and large, it’s all bullshit. There are people. There is no standard brain. There are people with social, thinking, feeling and communication differences.

With a desire to understand where we’re all coming from in terms of feelings and needs, communication leads to amazing things.

Needless to say, I left that career for many reasons, but also because the environment wouldn’t change anytime soon and life is short. I went away and obtained some data on myself instead. I figured out how I like to work, what makes me tick, what brings me joy, and what I have to manage. I’ve had to accept stuff about myself. Communication issues still arise, but I have enough awareness to know it’s not my fault, because I’m not responsible for the entire interaction. I’ve also had to learn to face painful things about not feeling worthy enough, or smart enough. How can I, or anybody, not be enough? We’re all an expression of life, and working out what to do as that expression of life is the ticket. Mostly those feelings of unworthiness come from a) society’s demand for life control systems which don’t factor in individual needs, and b) other people’s judgements, or c) our belief that the story we’ve told ourselves about what the other person just said is completely true, which then become internalised self-judgements. Jeez, it’s no wonder we’re in mental prisons.

What’s your purpose? Do you feel worthy enough to live it? If not, why? What would it take for that to change?

 

Lyndsey Pearce

Writer

Lyndsey Pearce

Lyndsey Pearce is a UK based writer. She lives with four male gerbils, but only knows the name of the albino because the other three are identical brown. She eases her guilt over this by singing the outro of “Humiliation” by The National to them all, badly. “

WRITING ABOUT BEING QUIETLY, INVISIBLY, DIFFERENT BUT SAME

Quiet misfits mulls over introversion, energy management, autism in females, highly sensitive people, managing loss, LGBT women, creativity, and being yourself.  

AM I A DULL,  UNCREATIVE, BORING DIPSHIT?

IS THAT RIGHT?

Have you ever felt ashamed for something someone reprimanded you for, because there was an ongoing pattern to this disapproval in your life, which made you feel less than?

 

 

 

I consider myself to be a fairly self aware and reflective person, but sometimes being too reflective has cost me positive mental health. It’s a fine line isn’t it? There’s a balance between wanting to grow and improve while also accepting the things you cannot change about yourself. But, piggy-backing “The Serenity Prayer” for one moment, how do you know what can be changed within you, should you wish to change it, and what can’t be changed and needs acceptance?

Why we remember somethings and not others is often a mystery, and I can’t say for sure why I remember certain parts of my history and others are completely blank, but the childhood memory of this particular story is my truth, and very much entangled around my brain like twine.

 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

THE SAFARI PARK, THE GOAT, AND THE PELLETS…

When I was a child, a teacher at my infant school took us on a trip to West Midlands Safari Park. I can remember little about the day, accept that there was a fairground that seemed overwhelming to my little six or seven year old self, and as the day must’ve been drawing to a close and we left the animals and the fair, there was a final enclosed area housing a few goats which the teacher pointed out to us. Our teacher, Mrs Jones, gave each child, including me, a handful of pellets to feed to the goats. And it’s this experience of feeding Caprine that is burned on my memory, eclipsing the rest of the trip forever.

In this memory, I take off one of my mittens, so I’ll feel the goat’s warm tongue on my hand as I feed it through the chicken wire fence. I can see the goat’s white fur on it’s face and wisdom in it’s eyes. I could stay there evermore, considering the goat’s curly horns, and wondering how something so beautiful became synonymous with Satan—already through semi-religious assemblies of 1980s education, where I live in constant fear that I still haven’t learnt the words to The Lord’s Prayer, I’m being programmed to be obedient and manageable while at the same time oblivious to the concept of bribery.

I GOT LOST BY STANDING EXACTLY WHERE I WAS…

I ran out of pellets, and the goat moved away from me. I put my mitten back on my hand and turned from the chicken wire fence. My class and my teacher were nowhere to be seen.

I was pragmatic. I told myself not to panic. I went and found an adult, because that’s what other adults had taught me to do in these situations. Don’t talk to strangers, unless you get lost.

WE RESPOND TO OUR PERCEPTIONS…

So I picked the kindest-eyed guy, who had a wife and kids, and I told him I was lost and needed his help. He asked me to follow him and his family, and as we arrived back at the fairground I thought, my teacher and class won’t be here, we’ve been here already. Family guy took me back to the goats, where my teacher was waiting, and furious. I kept quiet, but inside I was thinking, wasn’t it you that left me? If anyone should be angry, it’s me, right?

From Mrs Jones’ perception, it was totally my fault. She must’ve been frightened underneath that anger. I know she cared for my welfare. She was probably worried about what she would say to my parents. She was probably worried about what it might mean for her career if I wasn’t found.

Needless to say I had to do the walk of shame up the coach as the lost child. The other kids didn’t let me forget it. I was labelled the dull, dreamy kid. There’s nothing going on inside, that’s why she doesn’t listen to instruction. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

I like to think of hyper-focus as a camera lens, where focus is sharpened onto one thing and everything else is blurred out. Without this state, my nervous system takes in everything, all sensory information, and that can be overwhelming for long periods. Did I mention difficulties with auditory processing, making it difficult to filter out sounds?

To be fair to my teacher, it’s entirely possible that she said something like come on children, that’s enough now, we’re heading back. If she did, I never heard it. I was completely in the moment, and to this day, the feeding of the goat is my single greatest memory. I often think about it, the peace of it, the connectedness I felt. I was timeless, and hyper-focussed. In that moment I couldn’t hear a thing, other than the powerful breath of the goat on my small hand as it ate the pellets.

PATTERNS OF REPRIMAND REINFORCE NEGATIVE SELF IMAGE, WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW THEY’RE JUST PATTERNS

Spool forward eight or nine years, and I’ve catalogued a bunch of similar experiences to do with hyper-focus that have further reinforced my negative self image, that of an absent-minded airhead. What do I mean? I mean…

 

  • Doubling the family water bill, by overflowing baths, because a family member repeatedly told me to come down here now
  • Being insolent to a teacher by not answering him when I was immersed in my book
  • Burning 25 cookies in my cookery class while I helped someone with a food mixer…

Teacher: “Your oven is smoking.”

Me: “Your food mixer is broken.”

IF THERE’S A WAY TO POSITIVELY ADAPT, TRY IT, AND IF NOT, TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT ANYWAY

When I was 35 my life partner died and my entire life changed. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I got a job on a supermarket deli counter. I used lists of tasks and a structure to help me manage sensory distractions and unplanned customer interactions while focussing on completing my tasks. The interactions with the customers were fairly scripted, but I was happy to break away from whatever I was in the middle of to help. I knew my lists would anchor me back to my other duties. It was easy to make customers happy there because they just wanted to be taken care of in the interaction. I could do that. I enjoy food. One of my love languages is acts of service; providing food makes me feel caring. Having food made for me makes me feel cared for. I could understand why customers liked the idea of the deli counter.

When I made a pizza, or sliced and wrapped ham, I made it like a piece of art before their eyes. I watched customers beam as I handed them carefully constructed Texas Barbecue Specials and Veggie Hots with extra chillies. I remember thinking that when I regained the emotional energy I wanted to write and book and start a business, but that I hadn’t a clue about how to do either. If I gave the level of focus and care to both those endeavours as I did wrapping ham, I thought, then I’d have little to worry about. I can’t say that my colleagues always understood or shared my perspectives. I told myself to hang on, and to do one thing at a time.

One of my favourite jobs at the supermarket was code checking cheese. I would slip into the cheese zone, meticulously checking every last piece for quality and date, not always seeing or hearing customers at the counter while I was doing that particular job. An explosive colleague once accused me of being slow, and shirking. I prefer to label myself as thorough and methodical.

I asked that same colleague to use their voice calmly to thank customers for their patience. You know the drill though, right? You can’t control anyone but yourself, and eventually because of pressured, negative control, I slowly began to abandon my own coping mechanisms. The environment became too much. I left that supermarket and applied to University.

In 2019 I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Condition. Diagnosis will help me access support while I’m studying. I don’t consider myself disabled. My hardwire works differently, like so many other people’s hardwire. I understand the systems in place across aspects of society work based on what is known about one type of neurology—my response to this? You can physically put diesel into a petrol engine, but it doesn’t do it any good.

Labels don’t define a whole person. In that respect they’re useless. However, if that label is what you need to start a dialogue with an employer, a colleague, or a friend, then it becomes the most useful thing in the world. Some semblance of shared vocabulary goes a long way to reach the necessary understanding.

ACCEPTANCE STARTS WITH KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT IS

My psychologist talked about my strengths, hyper-focus being one of them, and that we need autistic people in society. She recommended that, while learning and growing is commendable, I aim to appreciate how things are and learn to accept all parts of me as enough.

Whenever I think I don’t know myself based on my ego, or the ego of another, I think back to feeding the goat, or making a pizza. I remember how laser focused, effectual, and peaceful I felt. I think about the connection I made. And that’s all I need to know.

Hyper-focus allows me to be in the moment. Perhaps that’s how I stayed calm long enough to find an adult to help me that day at the Safari Park when my teacher was blaming, angry, and stressed—despite thinking I’m this little kid and I’m alone, I didn’t resist what was happening. That’s how I know hyper-focus is one of my greatest strengths.

What did you used to consider a personal weakness and what happened, or what would it take, for you to reappraise the situation?

What else about yourself and reality could you perceive differently?

 

Lyndsey Pearce

Writer

Lyndsey Pearce

Lyndsey Pearce is a UK based writer. She lives with four male gerbils, but only knows the name of the albino because the other three are identical brown. She eases her guilt over this by singing the outro of “Humiliation” by The National to them all, badly. “

WRITING ABOUT BEING QUIETLY, INVISIBLY, DIFFERENT BUT SAME

Quiet misfits mulls over introversion, energy management, autism in females, highly sensitive people, managing loss, LGBT women, creativity, and being yourself.  

WOMEN ARE CRAZY?

IS THAT RIGHT?

Have you ever found yourself in a new situation where you need to make friends? First day of school, new job, new city, new country? But what if you’re grieving too?

I’m 38 years old. I met my partner when I was 19. I was a kid. We were together for 16 years. In 2016, she died.

 

You got this darling

 

There was a platitude that stuck in my mind:

If you can’t go on as you were and you’re stuck, something has to change. So I left Manchester where our life had been together, and moved back to Birmingham. I stayed with my sister’s family for a while, and at that time my sister was nothing short of a mother to me. 

Many of my friends had moved away from Birmingham, and I was struggling to make new ones, because if I’d ever known at all, I’d forgotten how to love myself. 

 

IF YOU CAN’T GO ON AS YOU WERE, AND YOU’RE STUCK, SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE

Maybe it was the PTSD, but people didn’t seem to get me. 

I thought I was failing, rather than realising that we weren’t each others people, or that they just couldn’t see me yet because I hadn’t shown them who I was. It’s shocking the horrible things your mind can tell you when you don’t have a handle on yourself:

 

“If she doesn’t have people already she must be an asshole, right?”

“She looks paralysed, aloof and speechless. Total asshole.”

“IS that why she keeps four pet gerbils? Are the gerbils her only friends?”

I did meet some people eventually, and I set up a dinner thing with them.

On the evening of the meal I put a lot of pressure on myself. My mind was particularly sarcastic towards me.

“She’s eating that lasagne really quickly. Did she eat all of her other friends?”

AND because I was grieving, I was suffering from compulsions. Here’s the thing: people don’t want to be around you when you’re sad, mad and fucking compulsive.

 

crazy

 

– “Oh her girlfriend died, that’s so sad.”

– “Yeah, shall we not discuss it anymore, it’s a downer.”

– “Awww, it’s lovely that she’s stacking our desert plates,

only I haven’t finished my desert yet.”

– “I haven’t started my desert yet.”

– “I haven’t eaten anything. She keeps tidying the menus away.”

 

If they don’t know you well enough to like you and fully accept you, they won’t stick around. If they’ve been around you like this for a while, they will ask you to act your way into thinking differently. At this point it didn’t matter. I already felt less than. I felt ashamed because my sense of worth was wrapped up in another person who had died and I didn’t even know it until she wasn’t there anymore.

When people meet you, all they want to see is you. But I wasn’t only grieving for the person I’d lost. I was grieving for the person I’d been.

I went back to my sister and said “I need you.”

And she said:

“No, you need YOU! It’s 6 months later, and you need to detach from me. You need to be able to stand on your own two emotional feet. And quite frankly we’re tired of you putting the pots back in the cupboard when we’re trying to make dinner. How are we supposed to put up a shelf when you keep rehanging the pictures? My husband’s standing in the lounge like an idiot in the dark, because you keep unplugging the lamps and the masonry drill.”

I went to see a life coach, called Jan, and told her this was ruining my life. She suggested I needed something energising. And that’s when I found comedy improv.

Improv is a kind of performance that’s unplanned and like the social games we play in life to form groups. I was interested in writing and I’d heard it helped with that too.

So I went to improv class, and this is what happened…I made a decision to be happy from the moment I arrived. I made a decision to commit to the activities. I told myself that whatever was going on for other attendees I would do my best to be the constant for myself so I could also be the constant for them; I would emotionally hold what I could for myself and the group.

Do you know what’s special about improv? Well, obviously, you laugh together and you bond, and, yes, eventually my compulsive behaviours reduced, because being in the moment meant I was in my body, connected to myself, and out of my head, out of my ego. Eckhart Tolle would be proud.

But what’s really special??

I was no longer alone. Because I wasn’t just an individual. I was a part of a bigger thing that relied on me and me on it, made up of several other hearts and smiles, even if on that particular Monday evening they’d been broken just a little bit by this weird thing that is life.

I could turn up to class destroyed, and the pure energy that was created between us put me back together again every single week. And every single week I knew it would.

Possibilities stretched out before me. I volunteered for everything.
I was surprised at how little I worried about failing. I felt there was this huge safety net underneath me so I could try things, because I was bound by the cosmic glue of the group.

In one scene or game, people in the class have seen more of whatever me is, than I could tell them during a hundred meals with my mind raging. And I have seen them.

And I know and love them. And I couldn’t love them if I didn’t love myself too. And that’s why I know I’m not alone.

Lyndsey Pearce

Writer

Lyndsey Pearce

Lyndsey Pearce is a UK based writer. She lives with four male gerbils, but only knows the name of the albino because the other three are identical brown. She eases her guilt over this by singing the outro of “Humiliation” by The National to them all, badly. “

WRITING ABOUT BEING QUIETLY, INVISIBLY, DIFFERENT BUT SAME

Quiet misfits mulls over introversion, energy management, autism in females, highly sensitive people, managing loss, LGBT women, creativity, and being yourself.