Alcohol and Autism (initial splurge)

I’ve been mentally writing this one for ages.  But it’s just too big to fit in a post, and when I start methodically breaking it down, the task becomes too large to start.  Now I have asked my GP to refer me for diagnosis, though, it feels important to make a start.  I’ve read a lot recently about women going for diagnosis, but the professional undertaking that diagnosis feeling that their issues are related to their experiences, not to autism.  Obviously, from reading social media posts I can be no real judge of whether the women in question are right (convinced they are autistic) or if the professionals are right (convinced they are not).  I think the alcoholism and my lifelong poor mental health are due (in part at least) to undiagnosed autism, but whether this will be apparent at diagnosis, or a red herring, I’m not sure.

I’ve done some thinking on it all, and I think the alcoholism can be roughly (very roughly) attributed down to three (ish) things.  Firstly, the social stuff, secondly a remarkably poor grasp of cause and effect(this also makes me a pretty fearless climber and scrambler, which is cool) and thirdly numbing.  Just shutting my fucking endlessly thinking brain up.  I said this latter to a few of the health and addiction workers when I was going through detox and they patently thought I was being overly dramaatic and hysterical.  It’s only lately I have learned that not everyone thinks, plans, analyses, strategies, writes, fantasises and proseltyses permanently.  There was a weekend with my boyfriend a year ago where I interrogated him every half an hour.  “What are you thinking?  What are you thinking about?  What are you thinking about NOW??”  In the end, by Sunday afternoon, he snapped “I am DRIVING, that’s all, that is all I am thinking about.”  Poor sod.

That was when I was drinking.  Now I don’t (mostly), I am pretty sure my relapses are attributable to meltdown, incipient meltdown, or just Too Much.  Too much thing, too much information, no quiet, no peace, too much stress, a week with something happening every evening.  All of that.  meltdown, really.  Generally.

One thing I have always found so utterly frustrating is when, after a relapse, as I tiredly recover, my sister or Mum will ask ‘why?’ and I have no answer, no real answer.  Not like the people in my abstinence support group, who can quite specifically relate back to emotions and events.  Most of the time, I just don’t know.  Looking back though, it’s so bloody obvious.  That time I’d been working from home, and got nothing done as I was paralysed by the size of the task.  And the house was a tip, but I couldn’t do anything about it, as I was paralysed by work and paralysed by the size of the housework task.  I’d sat, all day, staring at my laptop, doing nothing.  By 4, I felt enormously physically and emotionally wired.  And I didn’t know how to control any of it.  It was a frightening, overwhelming feeling and the scale of it was shutting down my mind so I couldn’t logic or calm out of it.  So I drank.  Then there was the time I went away with my boyfriend and his family (!), sharing a cottage (!), having only been with my boyfriend three months (!) and my elderly cat died whilst I was away (!) and I got home and there was still laundry draped all over the house and I just couldn’t think or cope and it felt like the whole world was greying round the edges and there was an unsettled ocean of feelings in me and nothing was ordered or neat or right and I went to Costcutter for a half litre of Glens (£3 cheaper than Smirnoff, FYI).

In the six years since detox, I’ve been going, on and off, to abstinence groups and I’m quite lucky in that the excellent therapist who did CBT with me post-detox runs most of these.  We’ve worked out I don’t do well if I think I have too many time commitments.  I had a drink last year after I had a week with a wedding, a funeral and a graduation in it.  It was in part the acting level required (three separate events, three separate audiences, all stressful) and in part that I just had no recovery time. No alone time.

I’ve wandered.  But that’s helped.  I might do some delving back into the past again later.

 

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My executive function and dysfunction

I can and have sat down with colleagues for an hour, then single handedly turned their vague idea into a multi million pound successful bid, with milestones, deliverables, outputs, costings, business case and cash flow.

I spent most of my twenties hideously in debt because I didn’t understand credit cards and hid my own post from myself.

I studied and researched the legislative processes, guidelines and procedures for access arrangements between estranged parents (subset domestic abuse cases) and guided my sister through a two year court process, including writing highly professional, yet quietly and calmly threatening letters and negotiating satisfactory rates with a solicitor and appearing in court.

I also appeared in court in Worcester, after my local police sent an officer round with an arrest warrant for me as I had failed to respond to a series of letters about a speeding violation (46 in a 40!) because it all all too terrifying and difficult, so I’d hidden the post.

Most days for my adult life (apart from the bit where I was in detox) I have got up, dressed appropriately, gone into an office, smiled at colleagues, switched on a computer and produced strategy documents, bids, plans, briefings and at one point responses to MPs letters.

Most days of my adult life I stand in front of the dressing table after a shower and concentrate really hard on what comes next before dressing (mosituriser, underwear).  Then make up.  Sometimes I can stand stock still in the living room for several minutes, as I am trying to mentally checklist what I need for the day and it just doesn’t happen.

I’ve written two fundraising plans for two separate charities, showing desired breakdown of income (public, private, fundraising, gifts, alumni, Trusts, tenders) and an annual business process for maximising income.

When I lived alone I ate the same meal every night I bothered to cook (other times it was coco pops, lovely cocopops) because I don’t have the mental wherewithall to think through food variety and prefer to follow  simple, familiar steps.  My boyfriend and I still only have about eight evening meal staples, and they’re all one pot things because the thought of things finishing cooking at different time gives me the raging panic.

 

I record this for my own benefit, pre diagnosis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who am I? (Part 2)

I suspect this could be a series that goes on. And on.  And ooooon.

No, I don’t know who I am.  I know who I have tried to be.  There’s a wardrobe full of suits of clothes, with different names, like I’m some kind of modern day and female Mr Ben.  I can still put each of them on, shrug into it, twitch against the constriction then act out the part.  Well, probably not the good time hard drinking party girl one, given these days just the sniff of a bottle of vodka sends me into a litre in a day binge.

But if they are not me, who am I?  When I was talking about masks on Twitter, after I asked my GP for a diagnosis the wonderful Rhi said she didn’t know quite where hers started and ended, and where Rhi started and ended.  I like that.  There’s a little bit of me in all of them, I imagine.  There’s not a void lurking under the surface facade, that would be ridiculous and frankly Hitchcock Serial Killer terrifying.

So working out who I am isn’t starting from scratch, of course it isn’t.  It’s a gentle teasing out.  A journey. As a recovering alcoholic I’m more than familiar with that concept.  It’s just I kind of thought I was on mine, and heading in one direction, and now the road before me is less clear, less defined.  Optional turnings, paths of desire. More possibilities.  Some different limitations.  New stiles to vault over, new fences to follow.

I know some things anyway.  I am still a woman who loves, almost more than anything, clean sheets and a new book.  I am still R’s girlfriend, who does aeroplane impressions (with noises) when going down hills.  I’m not going to stop loving the woods and the trees and hills and the streams.  I won’t stop being buoyed into passion by a new obsession.  I won’t stop hitting slumps after days out and events.  I know all this.  I am me.  Where I go next will just help to find more of these things.

 

 

Less Cross

I was so very angry last week.  Angry about having no diagnosis, having to find out for myself.  Angry because I was stuck with this stupid, executive dysfunctional mind.  Angry because I didn’t know who I was.  Angry because I was looking at another difficult few years ‘finding myself’ when I thought I’d done that bit six years ago.

I couldn’t even find anyone to be angry with.  I know there are people out there, autistic, diagnosed and undiagnosed, who feel they’ve been brushed off by the medical profession, and maybe that will happen to me.  People who’ve butted up against mental health services, been referred, received misdiagnosis.  I’ve no-one to blame though.  I can’t blame parents or teachers – in the 70s and 80s who even knew girls got autism?  Who knew boys did if they weren’t non verbal with a learning disability alongside.  I couldn’t expect them to notice.  Nor uni, who put me on a Watch List (almost as ominous as it sounds) for the self harming, but tagged it to my Dad’s death when I was 19.  Not the various A&E doctors who sewed me up when I cut myself, I don’t think they had mandatory mental health nurses in A&E then, or the time or knowledge.  Who else could see?  I waded through my twenties pretending to be capable career woman and nursing a serious drinking problem.  When that exploded in my face with a suicide attempt and then detox, who could be expected to see beyond the implications of that explosion to the nuances underneath?  Not my wonderful CBT Lady who helped enormously, but whose help stopped short of just quite getting there.  Why would she see it?  (I’ve bought her books, the poor sod, she might pick someone out in future).

It was odd being angry, but with no-one to target.  That’s faded now.  The anger.  I think I find it difficult to sustain without a target.

It’s just a case now of continuing on.