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AARGH!

Autistic Meltdowns

I suddenly start to yell at the people around me, getting increasingly loud.  I yell abuse, threats and swear.  I stamp my feet, bash the table and cry, sobbing loudly.  I look like a toddler having a tantrum, except that I am a full grown adult.

A tantrum is voluntary, used as a tool to manipulate and get your own way.  However I have no control at this point, there is no planned purpose or manipulation intended.  My emotions are at over load and crashing down like an avalanche.  I am having an autistic meltdown.

This describes my meltdowns at their worst, when I totally loose it.  Not all my meltdowns are at that level.  They vary in intensity and in how long they last.

What causes me to have a meltdown is not always easy to pinpoint.  It can be caused by a sudden change in plans or lack of knowing what the plans are.  If plans are made and I am expected to be part of those plans, but I am not informed in exact detail as to what those plans are in advance, it can cause me to get confused and upset.  Any kind of confusing situation can cause a meltdown if it continues being confusing for a significant length of time.  Frustrating situations such as people continuously not listening to me or things going wrong a lot can be a trigger.  Another trigger can be interrupting one of my OCD routines, when I am already somewhat stressed.  Fatigue can be a cause, when I am too tired to control myself any more.  Major disappointment has been a trigger in the past.  Sometimes a meltdown can be me having made such an effort to fit into a situation for hours that I eventually explode.  I will have kept back opinions, been polite to people who frustrate me and basically have been in a situation I find difficult for so long that in the end a meltdown is like a cathartic release.  Putting pressure on me to do something I have clearly already said no to is a big trigger and can cause me to feel like you do not respect me, no means no!

Often a meltdown may not be caused by one specific thing, but by a series of things that can build up over time.  It can take hours or days for the triggers to build up sometimes and one last thing can be the final straw.  I can sometimes work out why I had a meltdown afterwards, but often struggle to know at the time and sometimes never figure it out.  Asking me at the time why I am having a meltdown is not a good idea, often it just makes my meltdown worse, making me frustrated that I do not know why I am having it.

Sometimes I can feel myself getting increasingly annoyed and know I need to get away from the situation.  If I need to leave a room or walk away let me, it will be better for everyone.  However I can’t always feel it coming and it will happen like it or not. 

When I was younger I had more frequent meltdowns that often lasted longer than they do now.  I had them a lot as a teenager in school.  I think I was frustrated with life then, feeling trapped in a school that did not really meet my needs.  Being undiagnosed I was not getting the right support.     Also I am sure puberty played a part.

I still have meltdowns, but less often than I used to.  I feel maturity has helped a lot having had time for my hormones to settle down and time for me to get used to life as an adult.  I also feel my independence has helped me.  Since l got my own flat I feel more stable and able to manage my own life.  I am in charge of what do and when, making me less confused and frustrated.  I am also better at dealing with certain kinds of stressful situations.

When I do have a meltdown now I find I they do not last as long as they used to.  I can calm myself down more quickly and rationalise with myself somewhat about the situation.  Being angry at people who can do nothing to help is daft and will not get me anywhere.

Yoga breathing can help slightly to prevent a meltdown getting worse, but it depends on the exact situation.  It helps me to focus my mind on the breathing and think calmer thoughts. 

I hate that I still have meltdowns at all.  It makes me come across as immature and selfish.  It gives the wrong impression about me to other people, like I am just some angry, hate filled bitch.  Telling me to grow up or to stop being so over sensitive is unhelpful, if I could totally stop having meltdowns I would.

My experiences of therapy

I have tried various kinds of therapy for my mental health over many years, some though the NHS and some I have found for myself.  These are my experiences of the therapies I have tried.

Cogitative Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

‘CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle’, (www.nhs.uk/conditions/cognitive-behavioural-therapy-cbt/). 

It aims to break down problems into smaller more manageable parts.  You are shown how to change negative patterns to improve the way you feel.  Unlike other talking therapies it focuses on current problems rather than issues from your past.  It is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression; hence I have had it for my OCD, which is a type of anxiety disorder.  

However it was not that well explained to me when I had it and seemed based on the idea that I could just stop and walk away from my OCD rituals, which if I could do that I would not be needing therapy in the first place.  The NHS website says each session should last thirty to sixty minuets, but after my initial session most of them did not last that long.  I was encouraged to take a lot of my therapy sessions by phone, which seemed to not be a very effective form of therapy for me. 

CBT does not address winder problems such as other mental health issues that could be impacting on your anxiety or depression.  I have since found out that CBT is often ineffective for people with autism, such as me, as it does not address the autistic side of things.  All CBT seemed to do for me was to get rid of one OCD ritual for it to be replaced with another.  I can see how this might help if you have a dangerous ritual, but otherwise seems a bit unhelpful.  I can see CBT might work for some who have not got more complex issues, but it was not for me.  However this seems to be the only therapy a lot of people can ever access on the NHS as if it is a panacea that will cure all mental health issues. 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a type of meditation that focuses on being present in the moment without judging anything. ‘A typical meditation consists of focusing your full attention on your breath as it flows in and out of your body. Focusing on each breath in this way allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind and, little by little, to let go of struggling with them. You come to realise that thoughts come and go of their own accord; that you are not your thoughts. You can watch as they appear in your mind, seemingly from thin air, and watch again as they disappear’, (http://franticworld.com/what-is-mindfulness/)

Mindfulness is about noticing what your body and mind are telling you, and then being able to react more calmly to things.  One exercise is a mindful body scan where you focus your attention slowly through the body one part at a time.  Tensing up and relaxing muscles as you go so you notice the difference between the two states.

Mindfulness can help problems such as anxiety, depression and stress.  Some mindfulness exercises are often used as part of other therapies and workshops.  I have found some of the exercises helpful as part of laughter yoga and drama therapy.  I find focusing on my breathing sometimes helps me to clear my mind and relax.  However I feel that the word mindfulness has been corrupted as a marketing term to sell stuff from colouring books to health food snacks, and I refuse to buy anything labelled as such.  

Counseling

Counseling encourages you to talk about your feelings and emotions with a trained therapist.  They can help you clarify issues, explore your options, develop strategies and increase self-awareness.  I had counseling at university and later through my GP surgery.  I found it slightly helpful at university as she gave me some strategies I could use, but the other counseling I had achieved nothing other than me talking about my issues and going round in circles.    

Anger Management

Anger management aims to help you understand why you are angry and find a healthier way to express yourself.  CBT is often used in anger management to help deal with negative thought patterns.

I had some anger management as a teenager, whilst the relaxation part helped a little bit; I feel I was not mature enough yet to put the techniques into practise properly.  I was also depressed off and on at the time which may have not helped me to make the most of it. 

Group Therapy

Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which one or more therapists treat a group of clients at the same time.  Some uses CBT or mindfulness.  Group therapy tends to be focused on one particular issue such as addiction meetings, a shared illness or mental health condition or a traumatic experience you may have in common.  Some groups use skills training as therapy such as art, drama or music.  Group therapy has several advantages such as knowing you are not alone with the shared experiences and feelings, sharing ideas and information and hope when you see others recovering.

I had some group therapy in my early teens which used activities and discussions to help us.  Whilst I feel I did benefit slightly from it, I feel that it was hard to make the most of it due to some of the group not really wanting to be there.  I also feel that some of the group could have been a bad influence on me had I been more vulnerable, trying to persuade me during the breaks to take up smoking for example.

Laughter Yoga

Laughter yoga is a group therapy based on the idea that laughter is healthy, both for the mind and body.  Exercises are done to create laughter, starting with forced laughter; it usually turns into real laughter.  It uses chanting, clapping and games to encourage a sense of playfulness.  It often uses elements of drama therapy and visualisation techniques.  Yogic breathing is done in-between laughter exercises, relaxing the mind and body.  At the end of each session laughter meditation is done using some elements of mindfulness. 

I first encountered laughter yoga about three years ago and then last summer I started attending a new weekly session run by a friend of mine in the town where I live.  It helps me to relax and de-stress.  It is not hard work and I find it great fun.  I can understand it might not be for everyone, you need to be fairly comfortable with letting yourself go in front of others, (my drama background maybe helpful in this).  However I highly recommend giving it a try as it is my favourite form of therapy I have tried.

Drama Therapy

Theatre techniques are used to help personal growth and mental well-being.  Drama therapy is often used in schools, prisons, hospitals and in work places to promote team building and healthy working relationships.  It involves role play, voice work, movement and storytelling.  It can help people explore personal and social issues.  It helps some people learn to express themselves better.  As part of my drama studies over many years I have done a few workshops using drama as therapy to explore various topics. I think workshops have great potential to help a lot of people, but it has to not be forced on people as some could be very uncomfortable with it and not everyone is able to do things like this in front of a group.  

Self Help Books and Online

Often I have found that self-help is more effective.  I have read a few books on autism and mental health and used various online message boards and chat rooms.  Also I have watched some documentaries on TV about my issues.  I have often learnt more about how to help myself from these things than any professional therapy I have had because I can pick and choose what elements to read and watch and do it in my own time.  I also feel less pressure to recover or learn a technique in a set time period.  Plus the ideas are not restricted to the NHS guidelines which often appear very strict and limiting.

Hobbies can also be a kind of therapy, for me writing is like that.  Writing my thoughts down is helpful, so I keep a daily diary.  Writing this blog often feels as satisfying as therapy.  Sharing my issues, anxieties and feelings often helps me.  A lot of people seem to find art therapeutic.   

I have found therapy is a very personal experience and what works for one person, maybe less effective for another, even with same diagnosis.  It is worth trying different therapies or even retrying one at different stages of your life.  What may have not helped as a teenager, maybe more effective when you are more mature and not forced into it by your parents.  Do not just rely on what a doctor can refer you for, but do your own research into what is on offer in your local area outside of official medical channels.  There are other kinds of therapy that I know less about that maybe worth looking into.  Sometimes people need a combination of therapy and medication which is perfectly valid, it does not mean therapy has failed if you also need medication.  Therapy also requires will power and wanting to learn from it, being ready to get well, forcing it will not work.

Lyrical

When I am struggling with emotions and feelings writing helps me sometimes.  I find writing lyrics can be helpful, especially when confused or heartbroken or sad.  It can help me to get my anger or sadness out in a safe way.   It helps me to explore my feelings towards someone or something.  I cannot go and yell at the guy in person in a lot of cases, so this helps.

I enjoy writing in various song styles and genres.  A lot of the time my songs end up coming out in ‘Goth emo’ style, but not always.  I am a huge The Rasmus fan, which is what a lot of my songs end up being a bit like, but some also turn out more like Train or other things.  I wish I could write music and put the tunes down on paper, although I do not actually think the tunes I have in my head are very good most of the time anyway.  Someone else can write the tunes one day if they wish.

I write lyrics for myself about very personal things, they are not written to be taken seriously as hit songs; they are just to help me.  I thought I would share a few of my songs though just to help explain myself a bit better to people and also I love to share what I have been writing whatever type of thing it is.

A lot of my songs are about love and relationships, like most songs seem to be.  These next ones are about my last long term relationship ending.

Silence of the Ghost

You don’t have a master plan

If you wake up tomorrow

You think you’ve won the game

You don’t see a future

You’re living day to day

 

I need something solid

That I can build upon

But you have no foundation

You’re crumbling to the ground

‘Cause you’re afraid of life

 

(Chorus)

So now you’ve gone and ghosted me

And just left me with memories

What am I supposed to do?

I have no way to get through to you

 

You don’t even know

What you’ve left behind

Do you know how much you hurt me?

Do you even care?

Or are you lost inside your mind?

 

(Bridge)

You’re a ghost and you haunt me

Bet you think you set me free

But you’re a ghost and you haunt me

(Chorus)

That’s what scares me most

It’s the silence of the ghost

It’s the silence of the ghost

 

Dreams/ Reality

There’s a difference between dreams and reality

But you don’t see

See the bigger picture

See the picture of me

Standing right before you

But you don’t see

 

I’m not what you need

You need someone who is ripped at the seams

Someone who has no dreams

But baby that’s not me

I want to have a life

Maybe be someone’s wife

 

There’s a difference between dreams and reality

This is something I’m learning

But I refuse to give up on my dreams

So I’m giving up on you

Then maybe I will see a new reality

 

Thief

You said all the things that I wanted to here

That I’m loved and you’ll keep me near

Was it truth, was it lies?

Was it part of your plan?

As you committed your crime

 

(Chorus)

You became a thief of the night

You stole my life

My heart, my soul are in your possession now

When you walked away

You took everything I need

I am no longer me

 

I can’t ask for them back

Since you went on the run

I can’t ask for the truth

You’re in hiding now

Since you committed your crime

(Chorus)

(Bridge)

 

I would say let the punishment fit the crime

But I think you’re already broken inside

Just like you did to me

Now I’m broken too

Since you committed your crime

(Chorus)

 

This next song is about when you are finally starting to move on from a painful break up.  It is much more hard rock than the other and the words in capitals are supposed to be almost shouted.

Break Down

I came back today

Back from time away

But it weren’t no holiday

It was a mental break

DOWN!

 

Although I never left my own bed

I wasn’t there inside my head

I was going out my mind

Thoughts were dragging me

DOWN!

 

I have no one to blame

I drive myself insane

Living inside the pain

The pain that come from having known

YOU!

 

Today I finally felt OK

I woke up and got out of bed

Decided to get out of my head

Now I’m living just for me

FUCK YOU!

 

This song has parts about several men I have met along the way, but is mostly about one specific person.

 

Over You

You told me you needed someone

But after you had your fun

You said you’re too broken inside

To take any-more

Well I’ve been broken since the day I was born

I’m totally twisted and torn

But that don’t mean I want to be alone

So don’t you dare use that excuse

 

Why can’t you just tell me the truth?

(Chorus)

 

I know I’m supposed to hate you

But you know I don’t

If I did it would make it easier

For me to move on

But I’m not ready to be over you

Not over you quite yet

 

I think I knew from the start

But I’m slightly insane

So I played along with your game

Hoping to make it real

 

It still hit me like a hammer when you left

I should have seen it coming

But it’s hard when you want it so bad

Now I feel like the guilty one

But that really should be you

(Chorus)

 

There’s a deep emotion I get when I think of you

I both hate it and love it

But I’m not ready to be over you

Not over you quite yet

(Chorus)

 

This song has nothing to do with love and is about my mental health, partly my OCD.

 

My Darkest Sin

There’s a darkness surrounds me

It comes from within

I try to fight it

But I have to give in

So I end up committing my darkest sin

 

(Chorus)

Sin, sin, sin, what do I win

When I commit my darkest sin

I win silence from the voices inside my head

I win back the silence of the night

The silence of the night

 

There’s a confusion surrounds me

I don’t know what is right

I try to be part of this world

But it’s always a battle

Against my own sin

 

(Chorus)

(Bridge)

I am only human

I will often fail

I can’t live up to what is always expected from me

 

There’s a darkness surrounds me

It’s dragging me down

(chorus)

 

This song was written when I was feeling very low and lonely.

The Lie

You gotta’ try, try, try everyday

Even though you want to die, die, die in so many ways

You got to pretend that you are OK

Don’t let them see your vulnerability

Or they’ll take advantage one of these days

 

(Chorus)

I feel numb, numb, numb, nothing inside

There’s a void inside where the love should be

I try to fill it, but it feels an impossibility

I can’t seem to find what I need

I come close, but it’s not meant to be

 

You gotta’ lie, lie, lie everyday

That you don’t wanna cry, cry, cry is so many ways

You make out you cope on your own

There’s no way they’d understand at all

 

(Chorus) 

(Bridge)

You ask yourself why, why, why it happened again

You gave it your all, but it wasn’t enough

Still you must try, try, try

 

(Chorus)

 

If others can fake it so can you

But for how long can this go on?

 

 

This last song is about trying to fit in and being true to myself.

Being Me

I have tried everyday

I have tried to be regular, normal

Gave it my best, gave it my all

But eventually I had to fall

They all rejected me

 

(Chorus)

I can’t be something I’m not

So I’m going to give it a shot

At being who I truly am

Without no massive plan

I am being me

 

I have finally found

What I want to be

But I think I left it too late

I’m way past the starting gate

They just locked all the doors to my youth

 

(Chorus)

 

I refuse to give in

I will finally win

I will find a way

To make tomorrow my day

I don’t care what they say

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some things I hate

I Hate…

frownie-emoji

OCD, on certain days it really controls me and seems to take over. My worst traits at the moment are often to do with my hair having to be perfectly neat and my bedtime routine. On days when I am really struggling with my OCD I can be afraid to go to bed. OCD nags at me and gets exhausting at times. I am glad not all days are as bad as others.

Being autistic at a confusing level. Being Asperger or high functioning level means that I am more than aware I am autistic, but still seem to have very little control over it, so I just know I mess up a lot. Being aware of my faults, but unable to do much about them is very frustrating.

When I clearly have said something wrong and upset someone, but am not quite sure what I said that was wrong. Knowing me I spoke my mind too freely, said too much or I have been told I can come across as somewhat self centred, but I never mean to. Then if you ask someone what you did wrong not knowing sometimes makes you appear even more self centred.

My anxiety issues with people I care about. I worry too much if they are happy or content when with me and sometimes ask if they are OK too many times, till they get annoyed with me. When alone I can annoy myself by worrying if they miss me as much as I miss them or is it a relief for them to have a break from me? I am often unsure of the right balance between giving someone space and showing I care.

My mind in one of its frequent over thinking states when I am alone. I end up getting emotional or anxious, over dramatising things in my head. I can work myself up into a sad or angry state.

How tired I feel a lot of the time. Day time naps no longer seem to help as much as they used to. Often I feel drained or lethargic. Is it my OCD and anxiety that cause it?

People who say things like ‘you’ve done so well considering’ or ‘you’re so brave’ or give you that look as if to say ‘ah bless the special needs person’. I know they mean well, but it is patronising. How do they know that actually for me I am having a bad day and on a good day I can actually pass them by unnoticed and do not come across as special needs at all.

How messed up my posture is from my hip issue. Years of limping and using walking aids such as crutches have left me with shoulder, neck and back problems. They can really hurt at times. My spine now has a slight curve and I am often rounded at the shoulders. On bad days it can cause me to walk somewhat wrong and give me pain in my feet. I hate knowing that as I age this might get worse and I could be one of those bent over old people you see that can hardly stand upright. I do exercises most days that were given to me by physiotherapy, they do not take long and do help somewhat with the pain, but they will never cure it and are tedious to do when I am not in the right mood.

People who say getting a job is easy if I really wanted one. They do not know how hard I tried to get paying work. They should try it with autism, mental health issues, benefit money issues and living in a small seaside town.

Depression days that are so crippling now and then I can not even dress and leave my flat. These are the days when my mental health issues win. I let people down, spend too much time alone and then end up annoyed with myself. I am too low to fully function and my OCD too bad to dress fully.

I am not saying things are always this bad, but during bad phases these are the things that get me down. I think writing them down and sharing them with others helps me feel less anxious about them somewhat.

Drinking and Why I Went Back to the Booze (or What I Learned in Nine Months Sober)

I admit it, I caved, and I drank alcohol again. Not vast amounts, enough to be tipsy, but not wreaked. In total I drank two pints of cider over several hours in four half pints. I was at the local pub and too distracted by the karaoke and chatting to drink any faster. I also find I drink less if I have halves as I do not drink so much at once and do not want to keep going up to the bar too often.

I decided after nine months of sobriety that I could drink again without it being a problem. I have never actually been a problem drinker. One of the main reasons I drank that night was due to anger and a ‘who the heck even cares any more’ attitude. Finding myself newly single and having had a birthday that week I thought, here I am at thirty-two single again, being good has got me nowhere so stuff it. I partly gave up drinking to help my ex when he was really struggling with drink problems and seeing what alcohol could do to him scared me. However seeing as he left me I was feeling pretty annoyed at the whole no alcohol thing. ( Although he was not the only reason I quit drinking.)

Actually when I was with him I found giving up alcohol pretty easy. I was happy and did not need it for a good time. He managed at least eight months sober and together we were getting our lives sorted. However on my own alcohol became tempting again. I know being left by someone and being angry and upset is a stupid reason to drink, but frankly at the time I did not care and I know I can handle drink better than some people anyway.  I think this song by Train sums up why I drank that night rather well

However I am very glad I did spend nine months totally alcohol free. I was starting to drink more than I should have and looking back did need to take a break from it. I also got to see how it looks when you are sober around drunk people. No one very drunk looks good to a sober person, no matter what you think the alcohol does to you, it is not helping you become more attractive or better at things trust me on this. Drinking heavily on a very regular basis can make you a tedious person to spend time with. Far from enhancing your personality it makes you overly emotional and dumb. Drunk people tend to say stupid things and end up in situations that I can see could easily have been avoided if they had drunk less that night. I found some occasions actually more enjoyable sober. My cousin’s wedding for example, was easier being fully sober with all my wits about me to deal with so many people at once. I found I saved money sober as well as I had better judgement on what I was spending at the bar. Coming home from a night out with change from a £20 is quite nice.

I have decided that alcohol is fine in moderation and not too often. I will drink again, but not every time I go out, just occasionally when I feel I am able to handle it. I also plan to not drink too much at once. You do not have to drink heavily to get a nice buzz from alcohol and the hangover is not so bad in the morning this way. If you need at least six pints to have a good time maybe you have a problem or at least could do with a break from alcohol for a while. In fact everyone could do with a break from alcohol now and then, maybe not nine months like me, but a month or two so you can see things from a sober prospective.

Some people like my ex can not do moderation and in those cases should remain totally alcohol free. For them one drink will never be just one drink. I however am lucky and can do moderate drinking, so why not? I never did get much pleasure from being very heavily drunk. I also plan to keep my flat an alcohol free zone. Living alone, solo drinking is the worst kind of drinking, it tends to be depressed drinking. Alcohol is best when with other people enjoyed sensibly in moderation.

 

Alcohol is not for everyone

index

I have given up drinking alcohol. Since mid December last year I decided that alcohol and me do not suite each other. Some of my friends have questioned this abstinence and do not really understand why I have done this. So I have written down my reasons for no longer drinking and hope it helps others to understand that alcohol is not for everyone.

Before I start I would just like to say this is not an anti-alcohol rant, I have nothing against people having a drink and do not mind if people have a drink in front of me.

  • Health

Alcohol is a poison, ‘Your body can only process one unit of alcohol an hour. Drink a lot in a short space of time and the amount of alcohol in the blood can stop the body from working properly’, (www.drinkaware.co.uk). Not only can alcohol effect your liver, it can affect your stomach and digestive system, your kidneys and in fact most of your body systems.

Alcohol also has a big effect on mental health. Alcohol is a depressant, at first it may help to relax you and make you less anxious, but after a while it can make things worse. I certainly felt a low mode sometimes if I had a heavy night of drinking. Drinking can become a vicious circle, drinking to reduce your depression and anxiety, but actually making it worse long-term.

I already have both physical and mental health problems, so I decided it was not worth the risks to make them worse. I can get quite depressed and anxious without the help of alcohol and last time I was very drunk I felt even more low than normal the next day.

  • To stay in control of my emotions better

As an autistic person I sometimes struggle to control my emotions. When I am not feeling at my best I can get very upset or angry easily. When I was drinking I noticed that it often just amplified the mood I was already in rather than relaxed me. So if I was feeling depressed or anxious it just made that feeling worse. ‘Regular drinking lowers the levels of serotonin in your brain – a chemical that helps to regulate your mood’ (www.drinkawear.co.uk) so it was bound to make me feel worse since I am naturally a rather anxious person. Also I have noticed that some people become more angry when they are drinking and more sensitive to things they would normally dismiss as not important, which is not a good way to keep healthy relationships with friends and family.

  • Weight

According to an article in Elle magazine ‘When Alcohol is in your system, it’s harder for your body to burn fat that’s already there’ (www.elle.com). It slows down the rate at which fat is broken-down. Not only that, but drink itself full of calories and sugar. For example cider (what I used to drink most) has 216 calories on average in just one pint. A 175ml glass of wine has 159 calories. A pint of beer has 182 calories on average. In other words alcohol is not a diet drink and can help you gain weight. ‘People eat about 30 percent more food when they consume alcohol’ (www.elle.com) which is something I can relate to. After a night out drinking I always feel hungry, and often end up getting some kind of greasy burger to take home. The large queues at the late opening fast food joints show that this is true for many people. I already enjoy my food a lot and do not need any help to eat more.

  • To Save Money

If you have any taste buds and drink not just to get out of your mind, but actually enjoy the drink itself, you will not be able to drink the cheapest alcohol on the market, such as that shockingly cheap cider you see in stupidly large bottles in most convenience stores. I tried that stuff once and I decided that I might as well just be drinking paint stripper it was so disgusting.

  • Have a good time without anyway

I still go out and have fun with friends without alcohol. I go to a pub quiz most weeks and enjoy it despite sticking to coffee and fruit juice. In fact I think I might be better at the quiz with a clearer mind and no alcohol to make me unfocused. On a night out with friends I sometimes feel a natural buzz from the atmosphere around me and don’t need drink to feel like I am having a good time.

  • Hangovers suck

To state the obvious hangovers suck. When I was younger I used to hardly get hungover, just a dry mouth and a bit of a headache, but the older I got the worse the hangovers got. Being autistic I cope very badly with feeling unwell, I am overly sensitive to even a small amount of pain and I panic when I feel sick. Hungover me was not pleasant for other people to be around. I decided to try and avoid having to feel that way as much as possible. To those who start coming up with hangover cures the NHS website tells us ‘there are no cures for a hangover’ (www.nhs.uk/livewell).

  • To stay safe

After a night out I have to get home again, often alone, I would like to do this with all my faculties intact so I can look after myself better. I would rather not have to go home alone late at night, but sometimes it cannot be avoided, at least when sober I am less likely to end up in difficulty. Alcohol dulls the senses and slows down reaction times, which when walking home can be a dangerous thing.

  • Less chance of making an idiot of myself when sober

When you are the only sober person on a night out, you can see how much alcohol is affecting people. They do things they would normally not, sometimes embarrassing, stupid things. People tend to flirt more when drunk and this can lead to some awkward situations, and sometimes not very safe situations. People often become less careful about what they say out loud and this can lead to saying some hurtful or embarrassing things. Also when drunk people are more clumsy. I know that I used to trip up over my own feet more and found stairs and curbs of pavements tricker. It can be embarrassing and very annoying to spill your drink all over yourself.

  • Supporting my boyfriend who is trying hard to stay off drink

‘Substance abuse in general (that is the abuse of alcohol or the use of street drugs) is a significant problem for people living with schizophrenia, with over half of all people with schizophrenia having co-morbid drug or alcohol abuse issues’ (www.livingwwithscitzophreniauk.org). My boyfriend has schizophrenia and has had alcohol issues for most of his adult life, but is now trying very hard to beat his alcohol dependency. He simply cannot have just one or two drinks; once he starts he ends up having more and more until he is unable to function properly. He so badly wants to live his life without alcohol and has managed to not have a drink for well over three months now. I admire him for this as it is very hard to give up any addiction, let alone when you have a mind that races all day long and will not shut up. So for obvious reasons we cannot go to the pub together and I would rather not have a drink in front of him. I hope by not drinking I am showing him it is possible to live life happily without alcohol.

I am not saying I will never drink again, I might well do, but right now I just do not want to.

OCD, Anxiety and Me

OCD and anxiety have affected me for as long as I can remember.  They are both linked and when anxious my OCD can get worse, and then my OCD makes me feel even more anxious, it is a vicious circle.

How OCD affects me

OCD wears me out both physically and mentally.  It is exhausting having to redo the same things over and over till my brain tells me it is done to a satisfactory result.  It affects my bed time routine, often making the time I actually get into bed and fall asleep very late.  I can be ready for bed at a more reasonable time, but then I have to recheck things, sometimes making it as far as getting into bed, but then having to get out again.  I can sometimes lie in bed and then notice I have not tided something away and then have to get up again to deal with it, despite the fact I know it could have waited untill the morning.

OCD can make me late for things by slowing me down.  Having to redo things and double check stuff before I can leave the house means I have to factor in more time to get ready for things or I can be late.  Also it often means I over sleep in the morning due to my awful bed time routine keeping me up late.

If I do not get the chance to do something till my brain tells me it is done satisfactorily I can feel uncomfortable.  It will play on my mind that I did not complete my routine, sometimes rushing what I am supposed to be fully focusing on to get back to it.

I am aware that sometimes my OCD can make me come across as odd.  My OCD is not as bad in public as it used to be, but it can flare up more when stressed.  When I go to the toilet I know I can sometimes take longer than normal and do a perfectionist routine which has led to others giving me curious looks.

I have fallen out with people and argued due to my OCD before.  I realise it must be almost as frustrating for others close to me to deal with as it is for me.  When I lived with my parents I used to argue with them about things around the house that would ‘bother’ me.  They would leave something where it did not normally go or rearrange things and I could freak out, getting angry with them over it.  The trouble was I did not do this all the time and it could be hard to predict what would trigger me, making it tricky for people around me.  I used to argue with my parents and my brother quite often over OCD things.  (Since leaving home this has got a lot better as when I visit it is no longer my living space so I do not feel such a need to control it).

How anxiety affects me

Anxiety often makes me over think about things.  If something does not go very well I may replay the incident in my mind and worry about what went wrong.  Sometimes I only worry about it weeks after it happened, or months or some events still play on my mind from time to time years later.

I like to be in control and often over plan things in great detail.  I imagine what will happen and picture the future event like a film in my mind.  If it does not go to plan I can get upset and get very anxious, although often I can take smaller changes to plan, but the bigger things throw me.  Not only do I plan big events in my mind, but everyday events are sometimes planned out in advance, what I will do that day and in what order.

During major change and stressful events I often feel very anxious.  For example after signing the lease for my first flat on my own I felt very on edge most of the two weeks before the actual move.  I felt physically unwell with stomach ache, which I often seem to get when I am nervous.  I was more easily upset either crying or getting angry at those around me over silly little things.  I had visions in my mind of things going wrong and felt like my world could come crashing down on me at any moment.  I was unable to function totally alone and had to rely on those around me such as my parents and support staff to get me through this period.  Part of me was excited to be moving into my own place and I knew that I would cope with my families help, but I still felt very anxious.

Like OCD, anxiety is mentally draining, I feel tired a lot of the time even if I have not done much physically that day.  My mind never seems to stop thinking and it sometimes feels as if it is racing to get all the thoughts out.  On my worst days this can give me a headache, but mostly it just makes me feel tired.

I find silence hard to deal with as I can then hear my own negative thoughts too much.  I find distraction helpful, doing something that requires a lot of concentration such as crafting, or writing.  I also find background noise helps from the radio or TV, although I do prefer a decent programme that can take my mind away from my thoughts, any noise is better than total silence.  Although I do like silence when trying to go to sleep last thing at night.

In the past I have suffered with depression, which I am sure is brought on by my anxiety.  I end up over thinking everything and feeling so negative that I think there is no point to trying anymore.  Depression is the most tiring thing of all, I end up way over sleeping, not dressing, hardly moving except to the bathroom and maybe to sit in front of the TV watching rubbish this that requires very little brain power.  My anxiety when at its worst is like a spiral dragging me down, feeding on itself with negative thoughts.

Things that help me

Being organised and tidy with my things helps me feel in control.  Having my things in a set place where they live helps me.  Also sorting and rearranging is something I enjoy.

Cleaning also helps me feel a sense of control and it is satisfying seeing something look better than it did before.

Writing lists or mind mapping can help me to organise my thoughts somewhat and not feel so overwhelmed when I have a lot to do.  For example when I at university I found mind mapping helpful when the work load got heavier in my second year as it showed me how each little task led towards getting the bigger goal done.

Having certain loved ones around and friends helps to not only distract me, but sometimes helps me see the positive things in my life and feel better about myself.

Benefits

OCD and anxiety are things I would much rather be without, but they do have a few benefits.  I am more organised due to my OCD, having the things I need to hand more often than I might otherwise.  I plan things out more thoroughly which can be helpful at times.  It helps me to be tidy both in my living space, and in my personal appearance.  The fact that cleaning is something I find satisfying helps keep me hygienic.  I sometimes get things done faster and better thanks to my anxiety as it can play on mind that something needs doing, and I will do it quicker, but I am also anxious of doing a good job, so I am extra careful.

Please understand that I am not always so anxious or OCD and some days are better than others for me.  I have learnt to deal with some situations a lot better now, especially in public.  I am still trying hard to deal with my anxiety and OCD issues and find that I win the battle with my mind more often than I used to.  I think that my life is more stable at the moment which is helping a lot.  Also maturity has helped me; I understand myself better now and know more often when my OCD or anxiety is taking over, so can try to take steps to prevent it going too far.  When something stressful or upsetting is going on in my life I can fail to stop my anxiety, but it always seems to pass in the end.  I hope this blog post does not make others feel worried about doing or saying the right things in front of me.  I understand that other people have issues and that sometimes I just have to learn to deal with them.

How OCD and anxiety affects sufferers varies a great deal.  However I hope this blog post gives some insight into what it can be like to live with these issues.just-my-mind