Females with Aspergers Syndrome Checklist by Samantha Craft

A post by Samantha Craft well worth reading if you are investigating autism and Asperger’s syndrome for women & girls.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Disclaimer: This is my opinion and based on my experience after 12 years of researching about autism and being officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. It is not meant to replace the DS…

Source: Females with Aspergers Syndrome Checklist by Samantha Craft

A little obsessed?

This morning I caught myself looking at women’s clothing online. That’s probably not especially unusual. Perhaps what could be unusual is the fact that I had been sifting intensely through ideas, shapes, colours, even how some garments were constructed (I can knit and sew reasonably well) and adding them to various Pinterest boards and wish lists. In reality, I am unlikely to purchase or wear any of these items.

Special interests

I would not have identified myself as autistic on the basis of having special interests at first glance. If someone had asked me a few years ago about this I would have had to stretch quite hard to picture what this type of obsession or deep interest might look like, and how that person might behave. I had met plenty of people who were devoted fans of a band, or a team, or who were very keen on a particular activity or hobby. I would not have recognised that I was any different to them.

In too deep

I still don’t think that reading or other research, collections or any other keen interest are unusual or unhealthy. However, I can hardly name all the things I’ve been obsessed with (and I have chosen the word obsession mindfully) during my lifespan. Some things come around cyclically, others are  relatively short lasting from a few days to a few months and then fading away, sometimes after I have sunk in many hours of research, time and money.

My interests have often been about clothing and fabric: for example drawing women and sometimes men in specific outfits over, and over again; Knitting, and researching knitting, sometimes into the middle of the night and at the expense of other activities and interactions; buying and researching patterns and cloth, starting many projects; learning how to dye and weave my own cloth, harvesting plants to do this with. I would often manage to cook up some beautifully dyed cloth on the stove and yet would have made no dinner for myself or my family.

Obsession: an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind

One of the aspects of my behaviour is that I spend a lot more time thinking about the interest than I spend actively doing it. Thinking can be active, such as searching for information online or reading patterns or instructions. It can also be repetitive, as in going over the same extensive set of patterns multiple times, doing various calculations and considering alternatives. Finally it can be going on even when I’m supposed to be concentrating on other things, such as work, household chores or even during interactions with other people.

Being a bore

I’m highly likely to go on at length about my current interest or interests, without necessarily realising that the other person is bored or that I’m not giving them a chance to speak or contribute. Again I have probably slipped under the radar with this a bit by finding other people who had similar interests and were mostly willing to listen, or were just as likely to go on about their own niche or specialised take on it. So for instance when I got obsessed with spinning wool I sought out a guild of weavers and spinners who held a monthly meeting; and when I became engrossed in running, I joined a running club.

How is this autistic?

I think there are many elements of these behaviours which, taken on their own, would be considered fairly usual, dare I say it, particularly for a man. Male stereotypes abound with blokes who disappear into their sheds with their pastimes, men who know model and serial numbers of classic cars, or are always talking about a technical detail in military history. As a woman, my interests have tended to fit more feminine or gender-neutral stereotypes. It was only when I confessed to my husband that I weighed every ball of yarn I had and then used this to calculate how many yards were left, and logged it that the lightbulb went on that this went beyond a usual level of interest.

It is the intensity and duration of a person’s interest in a particular topic, object, or collection that marks it out as an obsession.

Source: NAS

One thing I realised recently is that when I have a deadline looming or a phone call I’m dreading, I will seek to escape into one of my special interests. On the positive side, looking at images of pretty yarn is very soothing, and reduces anxiety (for me). However, while I’m looking at yarn my deadline or urgent call is getting even more pressing. There can be an internal battle over whether to just dive into the special interest, feel relaxed and forget the real world, or, unfortunately, to be an adult with bills to pay and mouths to feed who does actually need to get important tasks done, ideally without becoming terribly anxious and losing coping capacity or melting down.

Stimming

In my case stimming, or soothing, repetitive behaviour, is linked to some of my special interests. Running or swimming are repetitive and soothing, knitting is an ideal socially acceptable repetitive movement, which may incorporate the sensation of touching soft material. Sometimes I avoid doing a special interest activity because I have far to much on my plate in the “adult” world, and I try to just get on with everyday tasks. I believe there is a correlation with the fact that my anxiety levels rise considerably when I don’t allow myself time to be in the world of special interests.

Dangerous?

There is a reason that obsession is considered unhealthy. It is possible to become obsessed with other individuals, which may lead to odd or stalker-ish behaviour. It is easy to forget to eat or sleep, and to let personal hygiene or other helpful routines fall by the wayside. It is easy to damage relationships, either by being boring about an interest or by just not engaging in them and being fully present for the other person, as the interest becomes all-consuming.

In my case, I have become obsessed with exercise before, which led to an injury that I’m still dealing with. I have become obsessed with counting calories using tracking apps before. Fortunately I didn’t develop an eating disorder, just became a food bore. But some researchers are now highlighting the overlap between eating disorders and autism for this reason.

Higher level thinking

The world of special interests is a flow state, it is highly connected, it is detailed and can be both exciting and very relaxing. I often have some of my most creative ideas and solve problems (both of a personal nature and intellectual ones) when I’m in this state. I feel very fortunate to have doorways that allow me to access this state so freely and enjoy so many rich thoughts. I am also fortunate that I have friends and family who both tolerate and understand this. Now that they understand it better, they signal when I have pushed the boundaries into obsessive territory that could lead to me failing to take proper care of myself or others.

Friends

A post I relate to so much by Rhi. Thank you Rhi.

It’s hard to make friends when you’re a grown up. Plenty of neurotypicals struggle with it, it’s certainly not just autistic people who find building new friendships hard. The pro…

Source: Friends

Christmas post-mortem

baubles

Christmas day isn’t even over and here I am reflecting on it. In a quiet corner on my laptop. With the lights off. Far from other people.

This was my first Christmas knowing I had autism. I must admit I was mindful of it throughout the day. I had been mindful of it in the weeks approaching Christmas as well. I’ve realised that knowing that didn’t quite lead to perfect results – other people don’t always go along with my best laid plans, however thoughtfully I’ve made them.

The prelude

In the weeks before Christmas I explained to all key family members about my diagnosis. They were broadly supportive, with a variety of levels of understanding of how deeply this affected my life on a daily basis. One of my siblings has dabbled with questionnaires to see if they are on the spectrum themselves, another works in a medical field and is quite well informed. For my mother, it was something of a relief, giving her an understanding of my difficult childhood behaviour and later issues, and the limitations of how standard parenting could help.

Simplification

So far so good. In addition to explaining my diagnosis, I also asked bluntly for a less materialistic Christmas, with no gifts exchanged between adults and just items for the children this time (there are 5 children in the family). This was accepted by everyone but even once decided, did not quite allay various rounds of emailing, gift planning, and checking that no, in fact we really did mean that we weren’t buying adults a gift. This was a good example of how my aspie brain assumed that an agreement was an agreement, but despite the various levels of autistic traits scattered among the family, my bluntness was still not taken quite at face value. Also there have been family routines in place for several years. I guess what I did not think about was that I was proposing changing a well-worn routine. I thought this would lower the stress, but perhaps for some people the change in routine actually provoked new stresses.

Planning

Even with that taken care of and some boundaries about avoiding overly-complex visits laid down, it still falls to me to manage Christmas (I mean food planning, gifts for our own kids, wrapping, any cards, etc.). Again, I found myself conflicted. On the one hand, I wanted to do less, to give myself a break, and to make it simpler. On the other, every time I veered off my usual course and tried to modify my routines/traditions, I actually got a bit stressed.

The result is that I didn’t really give myself enough of a break, and still ended up planning a full roast meal, cakes, pies, pudding, various drinks, stockings, etc, etc. It’s one thing to think you want to change something, it’s something else to actually stick your neck out and make that change. Through choice, organising Christmas celebrations has mainly been my domain. But the results are predictable, and my partner and children do have certain expectations about how the day will go. One of my children (undiagnosed so far but almost certainly with autism) does get quite anxious about plans changing and needs a lot of warning about what’s coming up next or what we are eating. Managing stress and expectations is a complicated game.

Christmas day

No matter what I plan, I can’t control other family members. I could not have foreseen that my other half would get almost no sleep, wake up feeling a bit unwell as well as exhausted, and have very low tolerance for fitting in with plans. Them taking multiple naps at random times throughout the day derailed plans for both myself and our child mentioned above.

You may be able to imagine what happened – I rigidly followed my plan and so did my child. Both of us repeatedly bugged my exhausted spouse making requests and trying to get them back on track with our plans. Ultimately they just refused to play along, and unfortunately spent part of the day avoiding both of us deliberately because of our demanding behaviour.

I made a delicious dinner. I cleared up after the delicious dinner. Alone. Others showed up to eat it, although sick spouse took a tiny helping and complained of feeling unwell and then retreated, which rather spoiled the vibe.

Finally after some hiding in private (and I admit it, sobbing with frustration) I took the children to a planned short visit with some relatives. Spouse stayed behind and worked. Yep, worked. The visit to relatives went quite well and did not go on for that long, but it was a bit hectic and by the time I said goodbye and drove home I was buzzing and my ears were ringing. Driving in the dark is not one of my strong suits and it took all of my concentration.

Hiding

Spouse offered me a cup of tea when I got back and he saw me siting in a side room in total darkness. I’d brought up my aspie stress levels earlier in the day…now it seemed to have sunk in the extent to which I really had gone over my safe input limits.

I’ve been reminded that:

  • To be autistic for me is largely about stress and anxiety.
  • Other people don’t always go along with my plans.
  • People don’t always appreciate just how fucking important it is to me to stick to my plans, however trivial they may seem to them.
  • I am prone to meltdowns at this time of year, it can strain my relationships.
  • Changing traditions isn’t easy – they are a form of plan. It may be easier to stick with a tiring plan than to attempt to affect change.
  • We can’t do the traditional “family” Christmas. We don’t all sit in the same room and play along together – we hide out in various corners and only come together briefly.

That’s all for now folks – I need to go and find some respite because one of my siblings and a fresh wave of young children arrive tomorrow…

Dysfunctional Neurotypical Communication?

apple

I have been doing a fair bit of reading about autism and connecting with a great bunch of people on Twitter. For anyone wanting to meet more autistic folk and strike up a dialogue or get your questions answered I would strongly recommend searching via hashtags such as #autism #actuallyautistic #sheCantBeAutistic and so on to join the conversation.

This dialogue has sparked a lot of questions in my own mind. An issue that comes up time and again from various perspectives is that of missed communication opportunities, missed cues and misunderstandings between autistic people and others. (As a side note, this relates mainly to verbal spoken communication, and I appreciate that this is therefore only relevant to a certain section of the autistic community.)

It occurred to me that some typical aspects of autistic-style communication include bluntness, honesty, finding smalltalk unhelpful, and a need to include the correct details to enhance accuracy and understanding. It could be argued that strengths of this style are that it is direct, transparent, and fact-rich.

With the exception of a common tendency to talk at length rather than to be concise, this seems like a clear and valid communication path, which echoes positive values traditionally championed in areas such as science and journalism. It is in line with the values we are generally taught as children (social norms), which say that the right thing to do is to speak up, and to speak the truth.

Is “normal” communication dysfunctional?

And yet in practice there are other things going on in neurotypical conversation that are more complex, nuanced and (often contradicting supposed social norms) acceptable from a social point of view. Things such as: saying something in a roundabout way that omits the core point; saying one thing and meaning another; and having facial cues or body language that hints there is something different actually being expressed than the message in the words spoken. From a viewpoint of inclusion and of clear, unambiguous communication, all of these behaviours could be argued as counterproductive and confusing.

From my personal perspective this style of communication can often be summed up as “lying.” This is extremely frustrating, because having been taught the norms (rules of social engagement) as a child and attempted to follow them, the outcome is not that I win at life and at communication, but that people and situations can seem unnecessarily complicated, and, to be honest, sometimes unfair.

And so I tweeted:

Nicole Radziwill from James Madison University in Charlottesville, VA responded to my tweet and since she has knowledge of building and validating surveys has started to compile a list of queries from autistic people about what they view as problematic neurotypical behaviour in a Google Document. You can view it and add your own questions here.
I just want to be clear that this is not simply meant to be a dig at non-autistics. I have spent two decades in communication-related work, listening to people and having conversations with them, trying to connect and understand. Concise communication is an art, and has value.
There is plenty of research about autism and rather oddly-worded questionnaires and scales designed to highlight social shortcomings. If we are going to think about the strengths of an autistic worldview and also improve communication and understanding between autistics and neurotypicals, it is worthwhile to also look at the shortcomings of neurotypical approaches and attitudes and show where they may be less than effective.
Related ideas
Sarah Hendrickx pointed out this similar list on how to diagnose “NT Syndrome” from a few years ago, and for the academically-inclined Damian Milton has published a very interesting paper that delves into the epistemological aspects of autism expertise and whether we can ever fully inhabit the social world of NTs, or vice versa.
Once again, if you’d like to take a look or contribute, you can view the Google Doc and add your own questions here.

Meltdowns – or how my work and social life fell apart

16784884310_7c18bbc441_b

Something that I wonder about as a late diagnosed autistic/aspergian: what did I think was going on or did others around me think when I had a meltdown?

I am good at masking; I’ll make eye contact and can go for stretches operating apparently ‘normally’ in the big wide world. I can do job interviews and various other social ‘performances,’ and I treat many of my interactions like structured interviews.

There were raging meltdowns labelled ‘tantrums,’ when I was small. I learned quickly that I’d get less negative attention if I ran off sobbing to my room. By the time I was in high school, I generally kept a pretty even demeanour, but would sometimes bail out of lessons with a major headache or coughing fit. Mostly, the meltdowns happened at home in private. I spent many hours stomping angrily around the hills near my house to draw the buzzing out of my brain and body. Nature, even on cold, bleak, rainy day, has always earthed me. I burnt out frequently, spending time in bed at home reading.

In my late teens a few friend witnessed spectacular meltdowns, once when I had a car accident and raged, kicking the vehicle in the road until someone dragged me away. On other occasions I lost it, swearing uncontrollably and kicking inanimate objects (bins, bus shelters). My friend were mainly angry young men, so this behaviour wasn’t considered that much out of the ordinary. “She’s lost the plot!” It was all a bit of a laugh.

Employment

And so it continued into the workplace, mostly bottled up with physical issues such as IBS, migraines, and panic attacks playing out largely on the fringes. I was ‘fine’ at work, waking shaking and gasping for breath in a cold sweat at night or spending whole days at the weekend sleeping. I was plagued with nightmares.

My body and mind had been crying out for over two decades that they just could not cope with this level of input. When I failed to rest or retreat, my body would have its own way by crashing the system through illness.

Finally I confessed at work that I was not coping. This seemed absurd as I was simultaneously taking on more advanced and intellectual assignments. The ‘simple’ routines and responsibilities I was also meant to complete had spiralled out of control. I have since learned that this is a very common pattern among autistic people like myself – the hard things come easily and the easy things can be incredibly hard. In other words, I could (and did) pass a course in quantum mechanics but my brain ground to a halt when faced with four or five simple filing or letter writing tasks due by the end of the day.

There were other signs of not coping. I was drinking too much alcohol in the evenings and too much caffeine to get through the day. I was losing self care routines, eating sporadically and spending unwisely. My behaviour became spiky and several relationships with my peers started to crumble – I was erratic, inappropriate or rude. I’d stopped being “fun and a little bit crazy,” and was now acting just angry, sad, and out of control.

Failing at friendship

Much of this happened outside of the workplace, but one work colleague who had become a friend and drinking buddy was warned off by another woman who told her I couldn’t be trusted, I was unreliable and out of control.

I had given a slightly creepy guy the benefit of the doubt and he was living in one of the rooms in my house. My poor judgement was based on the fact that other people I trusted were friends with him. Later they told me that they didn’t trust him that much, but that they trusted me to make my own decision. How wrong they were about me and how little they knew about my social skills. Autistic people are unfortunately often misled, manipulated and abused for this reason. One of my more impressive meltdowns involved me raging and swearing uncontrollably at him after proof emerged that he had been doing some inappropriate and stalker-ish behaviour. While my reaction was understandable, my actual behaviour was truly a sight to behold. The majority of people (excluding very close friends and family) who have been on the receiving end of one of my extreme meltdowns never speak to me again.

I was on the fringes of a larger group of young people from another country, introduced to me by a mutual friend. They were all up and coming young professionals, did a lot of partying, hosted dinner parties, met in bars and that type of thing. In other words, successful neurotypical young people. To begin with I was accepted. I have no doubt that the fact I was from another country and there were some language bridges to cross was a factor in me not appearing to “stand out” initially for the wrong reasons. In parallel with my performance at work deteriorating, I also blundered through a string of unfortunate social gaffes with various members of this group – including some inappropriate attempts at intimacy. They gradually realised that I was not just “foreign” but also deeply weird by their standards. After several months of being included, they stopped returning my calls, had “other” plans, and politely but firmly made it clear that I was no longer invited.

Burning bridges

At work I was hauled in for a conversation with human resources, and they asked incredulously how it has got this bad, why didn’t I ask for help? I asked myself the same question. The answer? I didn’t think anyone would understand. Not knowing how to ask for help is another common problem for autistic adults like me, I later learned. Even the idea of it makes me very anxious. Through trying to hide my difficulties and act professionally, I had become increasingly unreliable and actually more unprofessional.

Passed over for a promotion that would have meant more of the intellectual work I found so easy, I burned my bridges and left for a similar job elsewhere. In hindsight, much of my behaviour at work had been awkward or embarrassing in some way. I did not understand office politics.

Undiagnosed

All of this happened without my awareness that I was autistic. A number of other people pointed out that some of my behaviour was strange, but it didn’t really register with me that this meant “strange: get help from a professional!” I did seek help for my panic attacks and IBS a few times, but having been assigned a clueless doctor by the NHS and with no-one joining the dots between individual incidents, I was just sent away with some vague advice about “stress.” They were correct that I was suffering from stress, but they did not look further and I did not think to push for more information on the underlying severe anxiety I was dealing with, or the reasons for it.

Some things I learned during this time were:

  • That I could not keep up socially, and needed more time for rest and better routines.
  • That I should choose my flatmates very carefully (I moved into a house share with two kind and trustworthy people next time around, although as it turned out they did have mental health issues of their own.)
  • That office politics are complicated and I needed to watch quite carefully and sometimes keep my head down. (I only partially succeeded in my next job.)
  • That exercise, both in the gym and long solo walks at lunchtime, were absolutely essential to my mental health. Many of these benefits apply to everyone – the part that I understood later on was how important it was to me that during this time I was alone. Without the chance to do this part way through the day I could not function in a 9-5 office environment.

I offer this experience as a window into how an apparently heathy young woman with very good qualifications and superficially acceptable social skills can, in fact, be physically and psychologically falling apart. How someone with a high IQ can be a poor judge of her own and other people’s emotions. How a so-called (and this label is problematic) “highly functioning” autistic might be barely functioning at all…

Hyperlexia, or why I didn’t study English Lit at Uni

Autisticzebra is the first person who’s described an experience that resonates with mine when it comes to books: I was also hyperlexic and didn’t want to study literature because that would have ruined them for me…

autisticzebra

My mother tells a cute story of taking me to work at the Middle Eastern Technical University in Ankara when the babysitter didn’t show up. I guess I was around two years old. At the bus stop, I exclaimed “Bak anne” (Look mommy) “A-K-B-A-N-K-A-S-I… Akbankasi” In Turkey, public benches are often sponsored by banks. The punchline was some onlookers joking about how young college students were these days.

When I was four, and living in Ireland by now, I used to read my brother’s schoolbooks and long for the day I too could go to school. Nobody remembers teaching me how to read.

By age seven, I was getting into trouble for reading when I should have been “paying attention”. My teacher never did catch me out though, I’d know the answer to whatever question he asked me, even while secretly reading my copy of Jane Eyre hidden on my…

View original post 616 more words

The inconvenient truth

140515_kids_lying-png-crop-original-original

The truth hurts. I’ve been turning that nugget of wisdom over in my mind. It seems the hurt can go in any number of directions.

Cognitive dissonance

One of the situations I find hardest to deal with is when I know someone is lying to me in a conversation or explanation. Many years of experience have taught me that I am generally right when I get this feeling – right in the sense that later events or confessions have come to light, showing that they did indeed lie. I can feel a strong cognitive dissonance between a person’s words and other signals they are giving off – their body language, face or tone.

It makes me feel guarded. It makes me want to withdraw. It makes me lose respect.

For most of my life I have assumed that no-one likes this, that nobody enjoys being lied to. This appears on the surface to be the case, backed up by various plot lines in dramas and books, and how relationships can crumble when lies come to light. But my day-to-day experience with other people (I’m talking predominantly about neurotypical people here) tells a different story: many of them find lies comforting. Small, insincere words of comfort seem to make their world go round.

Social niceties that gloss over glaring problems. Lies about events that happened in the past that leave out the painful bits. Lies about a person’s appearance or achievements meant to make them feel good, rather than to impart information they can use.

Spit it out

But I don’t feel like that. If you think something I’m wearing is inappropriate for work for fuck’s sake tell me rather than laughing behind my back. If I put my foot in it and offended someone just explain it to me, preferably quickly, rather than giving me the cold shoulder and no chance to make amends. Don’t pretend to like me and smile a wooden smile. I’d be more comfortable with your honest indifference or even dislike. You don’t need to pretend to like the gift I gave you – I’d rather be informed of your taste and not repeat the same mistake…

Don’t shoot the messenger

Apparently this makes me unusual and hard to deal with. For so many people, small acts of truthfulness cause pain. Being a straight talker won’t always win you popularity contests, unless you have some compensatory grace and charm.

Paradoxically, the truth hurts me too – but then I’m not a robot. Despite being awkward and blunt, my feelings are pretty close to the surface. The people I have the most time for, who have been lifelong friends or who in some cases are relatives, tend to be truth tellers as well. I have felt despair after being told I’d hurt someone with my choices. I’ve been called ‘cold and heartless’ for dishing out the icy truth to pour cold water on an emerging drama. I’ve been called weird, pushy and aggressive – by the people I love and respect the most. This causes me pain. But these are the most valuable relationships, longer term.

If I’m passionate about integrity I have to be open to hearing inconvenient truths about myself. I have to sit with the discomfort and feelings of failure, see what I can learn. There are often diamonds in the dirt.

Subjectivity and theory of mind

Intellectually I know this, but I have to remind myself of it often. My truth may not be your truth. It’s hard for me to grasp that my carefully thought out (evidence-based!) view is only MY view. The passions of my younger self, ranting and angry that others didn’t get what was plain to see have softened with age. I would still prefer to talk with someone with diametrically opposing views who is honest than a liar who appears to be on my side. I also realise that when I get new evidence, MY truth can also change. Truths are fluid and parallel, not linear and absolute.

The mirror

And so back to that social event, the person in front of me is telling a story. Am I the only one in the room who can see their nose growing and growing, as lies heap upon misrepresentations? Why does this act to make them look good make me feel so bad?

I have to accept that they may be unaware. As well as lying to me, they could be lying to themselves. People tell and retell and embellish. Half the reason justice is so complicated is because eyewitnesses are often unwittingly inaccurate – we can’t always remember exactly what happened, or who said what. We fill in the gaps. Our memories shift or fade;  our concepts about ourselves get tried, broken and re-made.

And so I leave you with a deliberate ambiguity to ponder. Is there an objective truth? Do people always know they are lying after a lifetime of being socialised to say what sounds good rather than what feels true? Can you always tell whether you are lying to or about yourself?

Truth may be a feeling as well as a fact. Integrity is complicated, but I need it as a touchstone.

The truth hurts, but lies do more damage, in the end.

Fallow 

img_1781

Sometimes I inhabit the barren lands, fallow of expectations. Empty but raw.

Life grinds on…eat sleep work rinse repeat. The ache in my gut at daybreak tells me I am empty but I rise and continue, burying my soul out of sight. My face does not emote, that’s right you can’t read me.

I’m the person who told you months later that the day you met me I’d just split with a long term lover. My face. My voice.  Showed no sign. No inflection no clue. I was placid as a lake, reflecting only you.

I do not lie I just lie low, not choosing to get into the maelstrom of my emotional world when you would rather discuss football scores, who’s up for a date, what you’re watching later on TV.

Sometimes my emptiness is just that – I do not compute. Nothing to contribute beyond the sensation of the chair fabric, the clatter of metal chair legs, the futility of this entire hollow venture. Everyone knows meetings are a waste of time…

Sometimes the emptiness is a quantum leap. You taste coffee, I sample the sunlight and the soil. You  hear foreigners, I am immersed in a linguistic texture that keeps me eavesdropping on whispered conversation in the library, long after my reading is done. I tingle at each syllable. You shuffle documents, I cringe at imagined paper cuts and imagine the screams of a dying forest.

No, there’s nothing going on, nothing, really.

Waving or drowning?

the_fall_of_icarus_by_ecthelian

So I’ve been trying to get on top of things, grab chaos and snap it into shape. My energy has been focused, pure, driven. My patience for distraction low, my peripheral vision extinct.

I can be a difficult customer at times like this. The phrase often used in obituaries for misanthropes, “s/he didn’t suffer fools gladly,” would be fitting. I don’t care about anything else right now but THIS… Leave me alone. I’m busy.

I’m cleaning, organising, systematising. Getting my environment and my tasks in order. Taking back control after a fallow period of heaped laundry and unpaid bills, email inbox overload and unanswered calls. It’s going to be great, I’m on top of things at last!

And so I fend off the catalyst, pushing it to the corner of my awareness. I said I would show up, speak in front of a crowd, about my work. Be an expert, represent, have something to say.

I feel an imposter – everyone else knows how to do this, to inhabit their own skin in person in public. I can do this. Just show up, it will work out, right? I begin to plan and schedule and make lists.

Transport is nebulous and I have fears. My husband throws in a childcare-related uncertainty about the date and I feel the ground slipping out from beneath me…he talks me around a meltdown. I can hardly think straight in my own (scrubbed clean) kitchen. How can I take the floor? I can barely think at all, images fire and jumble but words run dry.

Breathe…I still have five days. I’ve got this…I’ve done it before. Reigning in chaos is alchemy and like all reactions, the energy has to go somewhere.

Mind numb I know I’ve paid the full price. I hope to draw in fresh energy through my porous edges as I sleep, I imagine calling down the moon and the silent music of the stars as the last illusion of agency ebbs from my weary bones.