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Thoughts on why I am still unemployed

‘Many managers make a hiring decision within the first 90 seconds of meeting you’ (Clare Whitmell writing in the Guardian).  The exact time of judgement in an interview varies according to different sources, but all agree it is within the first few minutes.  As an autistic person I think this puts me at a disadvantage.  I do not think I always make a very good first impression.  I take a few minutes to work some situations out.  My OCD often plays up when I first enter a new situation, with me worrying about my hair or clothing.  It often depends how stressed or nervous I am beforehand, which can often be related to how well my journey to the place went.  Once the interview really gets going and I am distracted my OCD almost always dies down and I am fine again.

I think interviews are often not suited to autistic people.  I like to plan ahead, at least in my head, but I often can’t do this very well for interviews as I often do not know what kind of interview it will be.  Will it be one on one, a panel, a group interview with tasks, who knows?  This means I can be thrown in at the deep end, although sometimes employers do give you a good idea of what will happen in advance and this can help.  I prefer one on one interviews mostly as they are a lot less stressful with only one person to focus on at a time.

I am aware that I often talk way too much, so in an interview I try to say less.  However I think sometimes I end up not saying enough and going too quite in interviews.  I struggle to get the balance between saying too much or too little.  I have always been bad at picking up on social cues as to when I should and should not speak.

Maybe I just do not interview well and it has nothing to do with my autism, but I suspect it has at least something to do with it.  I have had so many interviews and yet still have no job.  I cannot think of another reason for it in most cases.  I dress well, turn up on time, answer all the questions sensibly and am always polite.  Employers are often vague as to why they did not hire me, leaving me to suspect that I come across as somewhat odd or ‘special’.

I might be going for the wrong type of work that does not suite me, but I am not sure what other kinds of work I should go for or how you even get other kinds of jobs.  I would really like some decent careers advice, but this seems surprisingly hard to get.  The Job Centre were less than helpful, asking me what kinds of work I would like, rather than trying to find out if a different kind of work would suite me better.  (After over two years in the system you might think they would.)  I have done almost all the courses the Job Centre has to offer.  I can get the interview, for me that is the easy part, which is annoying as once you reach interview the Job Centre seem to think that is it.  Job courses seem aimed at people who lack any kind of qualifications which is not the case for me.  Courses very rarely spend much time on interview techniques and seem to concentrate on the CV and job searching stage.

It has been suggested by numerous people that self-employment is the way to go.  However they never suggest what work I should do to achieve this.  I do not have a hard skill such as plumbing or carpentry that people need and despite trying cannot think of a good business idea.  Also once you start your own business the benefits you are on get cut and what am I supposed to live on whilst I wait for the business to make a profit, if it ever does?  Plus I want a job that gets me out of my flat, not stuck working from home.  Too much time alone is not good for me.  I know autistics are often said to prefer being alone and I do like time to myself, but too much time alone and my own thoughts start driving me mad.  I end up over thinking with my OCD getting worse and my anxiety flaring up.

‘It’s not what you know, but who you know’ as the expression goes.  Clearly this is true as some people seem to get a job from knowing someone in the company and not from being very good at it.  However most people I know are also unemployed or retired and were in the wrong line of work for me when they did have a job.

Someone suggested I try the online careers planner from Prospects (www.prospects.ac.uk/planner).  It asks a lot of work and personality related questions and then suggests suitable jobs for you.  Almost all of the job suggestions it made for me were obscure and not very realistic outside of a major city.  The first job it suggested was a trade union research officer, a job I have never heard of before, let alone seen advertised.

I think I would suit office work, but not really sure how to go about getting it.  I looked at NHS administration jobs as it was yet another suggestion from someone, but a lot of the jobs require you to know how to use computer programs I have not heard of and I suspect mean they are looking for internal candidates who have learnt to use these NHS only programs.  How an earth do you learn to use them in the first place and get your foot in the door?  A lot of office administration work these days requires you to be able to do a lot more than it used to such as accounts and pay role so they do not have to hire another person to do that.  I do not trust my maths skills to do accounts and doubt I could do pay role either.

People judge me too quickly.  I would love a chance to prove myself to an employer, but they never give me time.

Officially a freak and relived

I have always known there was something a bit different about me and I have long suspected I have autism, but no one actually sent me for testing till I was thirty one. I had to actually ask for it and then wait over a year for the appointment at the clinic. It took three appointments, two of testing and one for the results. I had to take a close family member with me, in my case my mum and she also had to answer a load of questions about me and my childhood. (Not so easy to remember everything over twenty years later!) I am now officially diagnosed as high functioning autistic or what used to be known as Asperger’s, but they changed it to reflect the fact that high functioning covers more types of people with it. They asked me how I felt about the diagnosis, so I said relieved, it helps explain a lot about me. It also helps me explain myself to others at times and I am hoping in future will help with things like benefit claims or getting job seekers support.

Not long after my diagnosis I found a fantastic book in the library called Freaks, Geeks and Asperger’s Syndrome by Luke Jackson. He wrote it when he was thirteen and it is a brilliant insight into what it is like to have high functioning autism. I can relate to a lot of what he says and he helps me to explain things better to others. I will use some quotes from the book as jumping off points for me to discuss my autism.

AS (Asperger’s Syndrome) is usually described as a mild form of autism, but believe me, though the good outweighs the bad, there are some bits that are most certainly not mild.’ You try telling the parent of a screaming child far too old to be having a temper tantrum in the middle of the street that it is mild! I remember wishing it was less mild sometimes then at least they may have taken my problems more seriously in school, but of course I am glad it is not any worse.

When we didn’t know and didn’t have a diagnosis (or were not told about it) it was a million times worse than you can imagine.’ ‘You may think that if the child or person you are seeing has lots of AS traits, but you can’t fit them neatly into your checklist of criteria, you are doing them a favour by saying that they haven’t got it. In fact this doesn’t make them not have AS, it just muddles them up more and makes them and all around them think they are even more ‘freakish’.’ Quite a few people have asked me if I really needed a diagnosis, would it not better just to be happy with myself as I am. I get where they are coming from, but knowing is better than not knowing, as it means you can understand yourself a lot better and so can others. I remember being bullied as the class freak and weirdo. I was the odd child that did not quite fit in and I never had any way to explain myself. If I had been diagnosed it may have helped school to help me and it might have helped me to feel like at least I was not a total looser and freak.

To be on the autistic spectrum is not the same as being on death row- it is not a death sentence, it is not terminal, it is merely a name for a lifelong set of behaviours’. So if you suspect you child has autism push for them to get tested for it and do not ignore it. It is not the worst thing that they could be diagnosed with and it may even help them to know they have it. It could help them find support and maybe even get taught in school in a way that is more useful to them.

I can imagine how adults have gone all their lives confused and misunderstood would seem as if they had a severe mental illness. I am sure it would cause depression too.’ I have suffered from depression in the past and have anxiety issues which I am sure are not helped by my autism. I think that if I had been diagnosed and helped at a younger age it might have helped me to not develop such bad mental health issues. Not knowing what was wrong with me as a child did cause me to feel very isolated and frightened at times, which I know made me more of an anxious person and depressed.

I just have to talk about it and the irritation at being stopped can easily develop into raging fury.’ I have always been known as a chatterbox, but for me not talking as a child just seemed wrong, if I had a thought I had to express it out loud. To not be able to express my thoughts was very upsetting and I felt like if I did not express them they would get louder and louder in my head till they were too much to handle. I used to get very angry if I was interrupted or prevented from talking to the point I would scream and shout just to be heard. Although I still talk a lot, I no longer feel I have to express every single thought that comes into my head and have learnt to be quieter in some situations.

Seem to speak rather differently and have difficulties understanding a lot of other forms of communication such as facial expressions and body language. These can be learned to a certain extent I think.’ I now think I am quite good at recognising facial cues and reading body language, but it took years of practise to get this far. I sometimes struggled to understand people when they were not being literal. People seemed to make jokes about things that I did not find funny at all. I understood that it was sarcasm, but I often found I did not like the joke. I think my performing arts and drama studies have helped me a lot in understanding body language, expression and emotion in others.

It seems as if the taste buds are over or under developed.’ It is to do with the presentation, the texture and the smell of food as well as them needing sameness.’ I had a huge thing about the texture of my food as a child, I hated any lumps or bits at all, I even hated bread with seeds in. I wanted all my food smooth like a paste when I was very young. Bits felt very wrong in my mouth and hard to swallow. Now however I love texture in my food and adore seedy bread.

Most AS kids genuinely have a really hard time with games.’ I hated PE in school, sometimes for me it was like a form of torture. I had one teacher who accused me of being lazy, but it was not that at all. It was the fact I would have to change, and then change back again, which with my OCD was one of the hardest tasks they could set me to do by myself as a child. The whole changing into a PE kit thing seemed pointless to me anyway as I could barely catch the ball, let alone do much with it, so I never broke into a sweat. I was unable to keep up with team sports and my coordination for catching and throwing is woeful. It was not helped by the fact that I had no friends whatsoever in my first secondary school and whoever ended up with me on their team resented me for it.

It is very unfair of the media to portray us all as people who talk continually about train timetables or constantly talk about dates or facts, or computers. We are called freaks and nerds enough anyway.’ ‘Despite the film Rain Man, we don’t all have these amazing mathematical skills- I wish!’ ‘Savant autistic is very rare- I seem to have got the nerdiness and freakishness, but none of the genius. These programs seem to make Joe Public think we should all have some seemingly supernatural ability and that is not at all helpful.’ I have in fact got terrible maths skills; one teacher even suggested I might have a maths learning disability. I am now able to use enough maths to be able to function in everyday life, but as for fractions and algebra I never understood them. I find train timetables very useful for catching trains, but dull as ditch water to discuss at any length. I can be very nerdy at times, but I really do lack the genius part, I actually had to work very hard to get to the degree I now have and was never a child prodigy at anything.

I just don’t want to run with the pack. I don’t see the point in pretending to like things when I don’t.’ I never seemed to like the same things at school as everyone else and I most definitely did not fit in with the social life my friends had at college. I could never understand why they wanted to go out drinking heavily and end up in some nightclub listening to awful music. I never saw the point in pretending to like things just so people would be my friend as they would not have been true friends anyway. I was bullied for being different in school and was actually quite depressed for some of my teenage years, but I never saw why I should have to fit in just to please them.  Both at university and now I have made real friends who actually have some of the same interests as me and we enjoy spending time together.

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For the want of a diagnosis

I have been trying to define my mental illness for years.  I decided that I have a combination of mental health and learning disorders that overlap and interfere with each other.  However apart from OCD I do not actually have anything else officially diagnosed in my medical notes as far as I am aware.  I have been told by medical professionals and therapists I clearly have other issues going on, but they have always failed to define exactly what it is I have.  I do not fit the boxes society likes to categorise people into, which is a problem when it comes to certain things.  I seem to have high functioning or borderline conditions that taken separately do not seem that bad, but together make me frankly a mess at times.

One of the hardest things to do when you do not have an officially diagnosed illness or overlapping ones is to fill out a government form.  Recently applying for Employment Support Allowance benefit was very tricky.  I failed a medical assessment as I did not have any medical evidence apart from OCD and I come across as coping quite well when I talk about things.  The initial form and medical seemed to take each issue separately and failed to take into account how my conditions interact with each other.  Luckily at my appeal tribunal they did seem to look at my issues as a combination of things and how they affect me as a whole person.  Also they allowed my key worker at the time to speak up for me and say how it really is, which the initial form had far less room to do.

School was made harder by not having my mental health and learning disorders diagnosed.  If things had been diagnosed they could have gone on my statement of need, which hopefully would have been read by my teachers and then they could have helped me more in the right ways or at least have given me more understanding.  Instead I had a deputy headmaster who told me I was attention seeking and that my crying was crocodile tears.  I think the fact that I am verbally articulate and read and write well contributed to schools not picking up on my issues and suggesting I should be tested for anything.

Getting a job has proved very difficult for me.  Two seasonal part time jobs are the total extent of my paid work history, despite getting many interviews and most of them seeming to go well.  I can not explain my mental health and learning disabilities to potential employers, as I am not exactly sure what to tell them.  It can be hard to explain high functioning; overlapping conditions, even harder when you can’t even put a name to what it is you have exactly.  So my guess is that in interviews I may sometimes come across as a bit odd or different, something employers can’t quite put their finger on seems to be putting them off me.

I have had a few attempts at therapy over the years, but again without knowing exactly what I have it can be hard to get the right help.  I have mainly had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for my OCD.  Well this has helped a little, it never seems to get past the initial stages before my therapy sessions run out or I hit some other obstacle that makes it difficult.  For a start therapy only seems to deal with one issue at a time, which makes it hard for me.  I try to carry on my therapy at home only to find it triggers other issues I have such as my emotional behavioural problems, so I end up taking out my stress on those around me in anger or crying and getting depressed.  I would like to find some therapy that helps me deal with my issues as a whole taking into account how they interact with each other.  However it seems very hard to get any kind of therapy without named conditions and the types of therapy available on the NHS seem very limited.

Since I started writing this blog progress seems to be happening on trying to diagnose me.  I have an appointment at the autism clinic fairly soon.  The appointment took well over a year to come since being put on the waiting list, which is so long I had almost forgotten I was on the list.  I have wanted to know for certain if I am autistic for many years.  I am pretty sure I have high functioning autism, but an official diagnosis on my medical notes would really help.  It took me changing doctors surgeries and having a mini break down for my mental health issues to be taken seriously for the first time in a long while.  I actually had a mental health assessment with a mental health nurse for the first time as an adult, my last one being when I was about eleven.  She seemed to really understand my issues and made sure that something was done to help me.  I asked if I could have an assessment for autism and she actually said that would be a good idea.  No one in twenty-nine years before that had referred me to the autism clinic despite seeing therapists on and off since I was a teenager and clearly having problems.

I hope to get a definitive diagnosis soon so I can start to make sense of who I am, but also just to make my life that little bit easier when it comes to filling in forms and sorting things out.

 

I’m Mentally Ill, Ha, Ha

‘I am totally mental, the men in white coats will be coming to take me away any day now.’

‘Talking with me for while is enough to give anyone depression.’

‘If you think you’re mad, I’m totally bonkers.’

Those are some examples of how some people have reacted to me when I told them about some of my mental health issues. I am not that surprised at the responses, but I am disappointed. Some people just do not take mental health seriously and see it as a bit of a joke. Someone even once said to me that a lot of people use mental health as an excuse, to get away with being more selfish or lazy!

Out of all mental health conditions I have experienced for myself, depression seems to one of the most trivialised and dismissed. The NHS Choices website states that ‘Some people still think that depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They’re wrong. Depression is a real illness with real symptoms, and it’s not a sign of weakness or something you can “snap out of” by “pulling yourself together”. People often seem to miss use the word depressed, saying that they feel depressed, when they actually mean they feel very sad. Real depression is ‘when you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days,’ NHS Choices website. When I am depressed I feel like my whole world is collapsing around me and I cannot see the point in trying to do much at all, even getting dressed or washing seems pointless. I think why bother, it is not as if anyone will notice or care. Some people say things like ‘I had depression, but woke up one day and decided the depression was not going to win and I was going to get on with my life’. I know people who say things like that are trying to be helpful, but it just makes me feel worse, like I have failed yet again, as I am unable to flick a switch in my brain and not be depressed. People who say that clearly either never really had full blow depression or they were at the end stages of it anyway. When someone has depression unless you are a mental health professional who is actually that persons assigned councillor or therapist, offering advice is normally the last thing you should be doing, as it will probably not help much and could make the person feel worse. I would rather people just said that they care, they love me, they are there for me, they are not going to abandon me and to maybe offer me a hug.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is another condition to get silly reactions. I get the ‘just try to relax and not think about it’ one and I get the ‘everyone has routine and ritual that is just part of being human’ one. If it was that easy not to think about it, I would not suffer OCD in the first place! I agree, everyone has routines up to a point, but not ones that make this little sense and that slows you down to the point you are late for things or even miss them altogether. The one I hate the most though is ‘I’m a bit OCD’. No you are just organised, or a tidy person or just really like something. The charity OCD-UK explain it very well on their website:

‘As understanding and public awareness about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder has grown, so has the use of the term ‘OCD’ as a description for some kinds of behaviour that are not related in any way to the actual condition. When people use the terms ‘obsessive’ and ‘compulsive’ incorrectly, it leads to misunderstanding about OCD and belittles and trivialises the true suffering that the disorder can bring. As the internet and social networking websites have become more widely used, there has been an ever-increasing trend for people to refer to themselves as being a ‘bit OCD’. However, these obsessive or compulsive quirks, that last a brief moment, and rarely cause distress or any anxiety, do not warrant the label or a diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which can actually leave a person debilitated for hours at a time.’

The responses I get for autism are generally not too bad. People say that they either could not tell at all, or that they guessed as much, but it really does not bother them. I do get tired of people assuming my maths skills must be fantastic, as they are not very good at all. I think I might even have dyscalculia which is a learning difficulty with numbers and maths concepts (a bit like dyslexia for maths). As one blogger puts it ‘Asking if we like math, computers, or numbers because we’re Autistic is like asking a Black or African-American if he or she likes watermelons or rap music because he or she is Black or African-American.’ There was the time I was in a chat room and a person who works as a classroom assistant with autistic children said ‘they are all such lovely children’. Firstly she should know better than to call all autistic children they as if it was a race of people and secondly I honestly don’t think I always was such a lovely child. As with everyone else on the entire planet autistic people are a varied bunch, some lovely, some not so lovely and a lot of the time it has nothing to do with the autism.

When some people make a joke response to mental health I realise that some do this out of a sense of discomfort to try to make light of a topic they find very hard to discuss seriously with others. They themselves might have experience of mental health and still not feel like they can discuss it openly. However it is not a good idea to make a joke about mental health as a first response to someone who tells you they have issues. It can be very hard for people with mental health issues to feel that they can discuss them honestly with anyone, so the fact they feel they are ready to talk about them should be taken seriously. You should listen to them, it may help you understand the person better.

The other thing that gets me is having watched one documentary or met one person with the same condition people then think they totally understand you. Yes they may have some idea of what the condition is, but mental illnesses tend to vary from person to person a great deal. For example with my OCD I do not wash my hands over and over, but after one documentary showed a woman with OCD washing her hands excessively till they were red raw, for a long time after people kept asking me if that was something I did. When someone tells you they have a mental health condition please be sensitive in your response to them and think before you say anything.

Links:

NHS Choices on Clinical Depression 

OCD-UK on What is not OCD!

15 Things You Should Never Say To An Autistic blog

 

Thoughts Intrusive

Sometimes I feel like my brain is struggling to deal with everything.  My mind feels like it is over whelmed with thoughts and I start to feel down about things.  During a recent session of this I decided to write down what it felt like, this is what I wrote:

Over thinking a lot of things, some of which are simple things.

Worrying about things before they even start.  Building things up.

Pre plan over and over in my head, seeing the future event taking place in my mind.  It can be something as simple as what I will do when I get home that day or what I will do at the weekend.

Visualizing things in my mind’s eye in great detail, sometimes they seem almost real.

Overcrowded brain.  Loud, chattering thoughts.

Thoughts swimming through my mind jostling for position.

This can lead to:

OCD  When I over think some things it can trigger me to think an action or task needs redoing as it might not be right.  When I am worrying about something my OCD tends to become worse.

Anger I get angry with myself sometimes at not being able to control my thoughts.  I get angry when I am stuck in an OCD loop or when confused.  I mostly just feel angry inside, but I have been known to shout out loud at myself sometimes, mostly when on my own.

Confusion When my mind is swimming with thoughts I sometimes get confused as to which thoughts matter and which don’t.

Worrying I worry something will not go to plan as I saw it happening in my mind.  I sometimes worry that I will never get better from feeling like this and that can scare me.

Tiredness  Having a brain that will not shut up can be very tiring.  When I am over thinking things too much it can make me tired.

Putting Things off/ Giving up I have an idea or a plan, but sometimes I put myself off the idea by over thinking it and imagining all the reasons it is a bad idea.  I worry about it either coming across as a daft idea to other people or just not working well.

Depression/ Low Spirits  When I over think something to the point it makes me worry or give up, then I can feel very low.  Sometimes I just go back to bed and sleep instead of having to listen to my overcrowded brain.  My thoughts can start to all be negative and I start to blame myself for how I feel.  I also feel low sometimes when something I pre plan in great detail does not work out that way exactly.

The worst is when I start to take out my mood on those around me, mostly my parents who I live with.  I try very hard not to do this, but sometimes I struggle.  I do not like how angry I get with other people at times.  Sometimes I feel the anger is somewhat justified towards them, but most of the time I know afterwards that it was not.

I wonder if anyone else who has OCD or high functioning autism or an anxiety disorder can relate to any of this.

 

 

High Functioning Autism

I have autism, what is often known as high functioning autism.  This means that I am on the autistic spectrum, but have average intelligence.  It also means I can basically function on my own as everybody else can, but I can struggle sometimes with certain situations.  Sometimes people with high functioning autism can find it hard to get a diagnoses as they don’t exhibit all the typical signs of autism and often seem to be functioning well.  The idea that I was on the autistic spectrum did not come up till I was in my early teens.  A child psychologist first diagnosed me with OCD, which is something people with autism often have.  However I am not even sure I am officially diagnosed as autistic, but the psychologist definitely brought it up as something I probably have, and having looked into it, I am pretty sure I do.

I am glad I know that I know I have it as it helps explain why I often feel like I do and helps others to understand me.  The problem for me with autism though is that I am fully aware I have it, but can not seem to do anything about it.  I have wished in the past that I was more autistic in some ways to the point where I was ignorant of the fact I had it, then it might bother me less, but this thought never lasts long.  It can be frustrating to look back at some situations and realise the reason it did not go so well was mostly your own fault, but at the time you could not see what you were doing or saying was the wrong thing.

The main way in which my autism affects me is in social situations.  I find it hard to make and maintain friendships.  I always felt like I was a bit of an outsider in school and preferred my own company sometimes.  I found it hard as a child to read people’s emotions and body language sometimes misjudging the situation and saying the wrong thing.  Over the years I think I have got better at reading emotions and understanding other people, but I can still struggle with more complex situations.  I can come across as selfish or self-centred with some of the things I say, but I do try to think of others and not just of myself.  I have noticed that I can be quite good at responding to social interaction, but I struggle at initiating it.  I often fail to make good eye contact at first and come across as slightly shy, when in fact I am not shy at all.  The website WebMD describes it well:

‘Unlike People with other forms of autism,  people with high functioning autism want to be involved with others.  They simply don’t know how to go about it.  They may struggle to understand others’ emotions.  They may not read facial expressions or body language well.  As a result, they may be teased and often feel like social outcasts.  The unwanted social isolation can lead to anxiety and depression. ‘  WebMD

I was bullied in school and think my lack of social skills was a huge factor in this.  I have had some serious anxiety and depression on and off since I was a teenager, some of which was brought on by being socially isolated and feeling very lonely.  I have managed to make a few friends, but still do not have very many and do not consider myself to have much of a social life.  I sometimes find it easier to get on with older or younger people than people of my own generation.  I have always felt a connection to older people, they just seem to understand me and have more in common with me.  I find it easier to interact with my two-year old nephew than a lot of people my own age.  Very young children are clear with their emotions and with what they want to do, they do not hide how they really feel and I can understand what they are asking of me instantly.

Another way in which my autism manifests itself is in my emotions.  I am a very emotional person with a high emotional response to a lot of things.  In school if I was frustrated, which was quite often, I would get very angry with the teachers and other staff.  I would have full on temper tantrums as a teenager in front of my whole class.  I think I did this in primary school when very little, but I seemed to stop after the infants, but it started up again in my first secondary school.  I think it started towards the end of year seven when the bullying got too much for me to handle any more, and I started yelling in class at the bullies.  After that I started to yell at the teachers when they failed to do anything about the obvious bullying going on in front of them.  At my next school  I used anger to express my frustration when I found the work too easy or too hard.  I could switch from a perfectly OK mood to a full on temper tantrum in a matter of seconds.  I would then get sent out of the room or choose to walk out and cry for ages in the corridor.  I never planned on having a tantrum before I had one and I am sorry for the disruption they would cause for the rest of the class.  I stopped having so many classroom tantrums once I went to college, although I had the odd few at first.  I think I felt less frustrated at college as you could pick what you studied and the work was more at my level.  I still used to have tantrums now and then at home which I feel awful about now as it was so unfair on my mum.  I do not seem to have full on tantrums now, but I do still get too angry at my parents sometimes.  I shout too much at them instead of talking out my problems with them at times.

I also get overly anxious about things and then this can lead to feeling very low, even depressed at times.  I feel helpless, like nothing I do will be worth it and I find this spoils my enjoyment of doing the things I would normally enjoy, so I simply stop doing things.  I have spent whole days in bed not bothering to get up as it is simply not worth the effort.  If this carries on too long I start to get negative thoughts that play on my mind over and over, making me feel even worse.  Although not totally linked to my autism, I am sure it is in some way, making me less able to deal with my emotions in a more healthy way.

Other ways in which I find my autism seems to effect me include my need to be perfectionist about my hair and clothing.  I resist change in my immediate environment and  hate when things are not as I left them.  Mostly now I can cope if someone makes minor changes in the house, but if someone does something in my bedroom without me knowing I can get very upset still.  I find fine motor skills take me longer to learn than most people, I know I was older than most of my peers by the time I could tie my own shoe laces for example.  I have always had a low pain tolerance and this is supposed to be a common trait in autistic people.  Another thing autistic people are supposed to enjoy doing is keeping large collections of things, which I most certainly do with my charity badge collection and my postcard collection, although unless this gets too out of hand, I can not see this as a problem.

There are other symptoms of having high functioning autism I do not seem to have, but maybe if you asked my family they would consider me to have other autistic traits that I have not recognized myself.  Sometimes I find it hard to know when my personality stops and my autism starts.  However autism does not define me and is not who I am.  I have heard autistic people referred to as ‘them’ or ‘they’, such as a woman I met in a chat room who works with autistic school children who said ‘they are all such lovely people’.  I had to point out I was autistic and far from lovely at all times and not all my unlovely parts of my personality could be put down to autism.  That would be using my autism as an excuse to get away with bad behaviour and selfish acts at times when it had nothing to do with it and that is something I would never do.  I have a personality outside of my autism as does every single person with autism no matter where on the spectrum they come.