Odd Socks

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HELLO!

So I finally feel like my heart is a little healed and I can finally write about something else other than my incredibly personal and slightly pathetic injury. (But it does currently feel like it’s being held together by duct tape and dodgy stitching so I need to remind myself not to run before I can sew and also feelings aren’t pathetic they’re.. whatever the opposite to pathetic is!)

It’s been a pretty difficult year – to the point that 1) I actually can’t believe it’s May and 2) That I survived the winter! I thought a much nicer image for you nice friends/family/brief acquaintances; instead of the ugly truth – I’ve just been hibernating. I absolutely love butterflies and after seeing them at Bristol Zoo nibbling away at pineapple and flying directly into lovely strangers faces / eyeballs – I felt quite attached to them and got a little tattoo to represent the amazing process these little miraculous creatures go through. To tell you the truth I’ve felt like a little green squidgy caterpillar my whole life – In fact I even prefer insects and creepy crawlies because they’re so weird and wonderful and I’ll always have a soft spot for the outcasts.

A lot of people close to me / my “intensive” team (my cocoon process apparently required an intensive team.. to my extreme, bound and constricted dismay ) tried to attempt to tie up & pin the blame on anyone they could catch. Parents; friends; boyfriends; strangers; teachers; whole countries; whole species; the universe – you name it. I think every day I got more and more well just genuinely sad really, I didn’t want to blame anyone. If somebody thought I was a caterpillar – you know what I probably was a caterpillar for them. There’s no rule in life that says that everyone has to like you although I do think respect for all creatures should be mandatory – I’m not actually queen of the world and I can’t enforce anything on anyone – I can just write what I think. Besides you just can’t be a butterfly for everyone; and I’m okay with that.

What was peculiar for my “team” was how I arrived every session in a new pattern. I remember distinctly one morning after some guilty pleasure listening (Marilyn Manson.. Not even embarrassed) I couldn’t wait to wear all black, huge heels and tightly tied up hair with a little red ribbon choker. An ode to my early teens. The next week I wore a long white dress and glittered eyelids with delicate polka dotted lace petticoats and ankle bracelets and earrings that jingled. I think I was listening to Gabrielle Aplin or Lucy Rose or some other magnificent unicorn earth angel. Another time they came to visit me at home after a marathon week of listening to Arctic Monkeys and I Mean Only Arctic Monkeys – I closed my eyes whilst brushing my hair and ended up opening them to a pretty spectacular “Alex Would Be Proud of Me” behind the ear elvis quiff and I put on my favorite blue silk paisley dress and army coat complete with Rough Trade band badges and my old riding ankle boots.

To reiterate; the team became a little on edge and a little frightened at these dramatic change in dress and attitudes and quickly donned me a lunatic – a very friendly lunatic – but a lunatic and I’ve spent the last 3 months trying to prove otherwise.

It’s just; I’m just not one pattern and I’m not just one colour and I’m not just one thing. I believe nobody is good or bad – as Lemony Snicket says “People are like a chefs salad – a whole mixture of things”. My “wings” are ALL the colors and they’re huge even though I’m tiny because yess they’re imaginary but they serve as a nice metaphor for my musical and pop cultural influences which I don’t mean to brag but is really effin huge. I think it’s just easier to label someone insane then to admit that a person can simply just like a lot of different things and feel almost everything – even the someone – so – small -  shouldn’t – like – the – dark – side – of – life – this – much – kind – of  -things. I have no time for problems with change; stifling stereotypes or nasty name calling. It doesn’t affect me negatively anymore because at the end of the day I’d rather be a delusional fucking fairy queen then a cynical bitter bully.

My itunes library is almost touching the 5000 songs mark – which I’m a little proud of even though it’s a long way to go until I’m finished and I still love actually purchasing music even if it’s only digital copies. I like ska and reggae and rap music and classical music and brit pop and pop pop and metal and “indie” and goth and dance music and acoustic boys with dreamy eyes and girls that sound like secrets – I don’t know I guess I just appreciate the time and patience that goes into being a musician and my respect for strong females in bands is endlessly inspiring. Blondie; Gwen and Stevie nicks just to name a few. I feel like each and every one of these magical people have added colour to my life and “wings” and I would rather spend my life thanking them; then blaming the few people who tried to squish me until my guts painted the pavement. (Please don’t try and do it again, any of you, it hurts)

Luckily cocoons are pretty squish proof and although I felt the many, many attempts to dishearten me or to push me into a miniscule match box – I survived and now I think it’s safe for me to emerge, wriggle a bit and then just drop it.. and fly away from it all.

I plan to do this by going back to college to study music and not dropping out no matter how many beautiful creatures try and tempt me with flowers and lies. I’m going to stick at it, be proud of myself instead of waiting around for the predators to confirm my devastating self deprecating self doubt and wait for my fellow butterfly to remind me of my own magic and my own wings – even when they themselves will have the most beautiful wings – because they will be wings that are earned from believing in somebody other than just themselves and I will never stop admiring that. Ever.

I guess what I’d like to end with is just; if pretending to be a fairy gets you up in the morning don’t stop for shit. Literally. Explore as many avenues that excite you as possible and choose one (or if you’re super smart maybe more than one) and fly as high as you want; however you want to achieve that and switch on those fairy lights and believe whatever you want to believe.

So thank you for those who coaxed me out of my cocoon (otherwise known as my bed/ my bedroom / my duvet) and encouraged me to listen to all of my favorite bands – not just one – and celebrate the fact that you know what – I actually just like everything.

Sometimes it’s tiring and I’ve definitely learned to reserve my love for someone really really really god damn special but I won’t succumb to hatred and spite. Being on any sort of high horse is pretty horrible. After all I’m a butterfly; not a jockey.

Who knows where I’ll end up; doesn’t really matter.. I’ll most likely like it. And THAT’S the way the cookie crumbles and you’re not allowed any of it if you’re mean. If you can’t say anything nice – DO something nicer.

Peace & Love as always, thank you for those who care.

 

 

So this is what you call love.

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Hi.

My name is Octavia and my heart is broken into a million pieces. I am also what is known as an exaggerator so please take this with a pinch of salt. (But not too much..)

Whilst sobbing into my good friend Jodie Winkler’s ample bosom (everyone needs a bosom for a pillow) I was forced to think AGAIN about the love I have and or haven’t had and it goes down like forced vile putrid soggy porridge. Yeah makes me wanna be sick too.

It’s a pretty sweet system I’ve got going on; I go to bed every night wrapped up in a blanket of hope; with the belief that my dream boy will throw stones at my window in his red converses and plain white T and we’ll run away together and listen to music in a safe place far far away with the people we love and care about – but most importantly a place where we can be ourselves. Then I realize that isn’t going to happen. I don’t mean ever;  but I do mean now which in my opinion – is when I need it the most. Catch 22. Isn’t it Ironic. FFS.

However that is not an open invitation. Love is like a fake silver ring – if it ain’t real it’ll leave your finger gross, green and grim and smelling like a smiley worm in a casino. Like a cheat. And it smells. Bad.

I know deep down as previously mentioned I need to focus on self love and learn to like who I am first blah blah blah. But let me ask whoever invented that rule : HOW. CAN.I POSSIBLY. LIKE. MYSELF. AFTER. I’VE. BEEN. USED.  CHEATED.  LIED TOO AND EMOTIONALLY MURDERED.

Above all, why am I like this now? I never used to want to yell and shout and be bitter and sarcastic. And you know why? Because I really, really truly believe in love and happy endings. I still wake up sometimes and make myself a make shift wedding dress, put glitter on my face and wear a fake engagement ring so I can feel like a fairy princess for the day because if it ain’t that; I’ll feel like a piece of scum. Yeah it’s pretty embarrassing – especially when it happens every day. Just want to grow up really.

So whilst I work on this “self love” ; which by the way is like finding a needle in a haystack, on your own, at night, naked. Lucky I’m not a “prude” then eh? psh.

So as for now I’m going to watch sad films ; cry myself to sleep; try to eat chocolate, try not to throw it back up in disgust at myself and spend time with my beautiful friends.

Thank you for coming to visit me if you have bothered- because I’ll be honest I’m not really up to going out at the moment. 

Not without having to resist the urge to sob uncontrollably about a boy who is happy with his happy sensible girlfriend and I’m just actually happy for them because it makes me think that maybe one day, someone might actually see that I’m a real human being and I need to be loved (yo morrissey you know what’s up ) and not just kicked in the ribs repeatedly.

But in the mean time. The thought of going through another heart break, another situation where I give somebody all I have, all 100% of it and totally committing to loving and protecting them for the rest of eternity – makes me want to do things that would make my mother cry. So. I’m down and out; for now.

So. For now I’ll be in my room listening to sad songs by girls who know how I feel and boys who make me wanna take my clothes off. (Stop it Alex, I already warned you)  Wish I could be skipping about town now like a normal 21 year old but yea.

Alas Onwards and Upwards. Life Goes On. Dear being 21: You’ve sucked.  Bring on 22.

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Not in this “New Romantic Way”

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Oh my god I am so mad I just typed this out and then my library time ran out. Right; anyway! Also this computer doesn’t have spell check so: tyopo hilarity WILL insue.

After an extremely nasty case of a broken heart landed me in a pysciatric unit – I felt it necessary to rexamine my approach to this god damn thing called love and luckily there is fuck all to do but think, so I had some time to mill it over.

I am a self confessed starry eyed rose tinted head in the clouds straight up sucker of a romantic. I have had my high levels of perfection and expectations picked apart and crushed more times than I’d prefer to acknowledge -especially publicly- and I’m well aware I’ve also broken a few that didn’t belong to me in the process.

So where was I going wrong? To be truthful it’ll probably take less time to talk about what I wasn’t doing wrong and considering I refuse to ditch this horrendously glass half full attitude – I think we’ll go down that route instead.

Before Christmas I had a double dose of horrific heart break. I’ll protect those boys identities but you know who you are.

The first was a boy I met in a far away land who was wise beyond words, so intelligent and hilariously funny and just so awesome I can’t find the words to explain him fully. Best of all he was reserved and he stifled my need to cuddle every minute of the day and taught me a lot about guarding your emotions and keeping your heart safe.

I’m afraid it’s not a happy ending as I managed to break my own heart and his with just one arrow, that son of a bitch self doubt. After a year and a half, some one word messages, seperate blankets at night and £8000 I found myself in the position where I was about to give up my friends, family, and a country that I loved in it’s own charming awkward-pop the kettle on-way. I measured my input and his (admittedly normal human amount) and came to the conclusion HOW ON EARTH COULD THIS WONDERFUL MAN LIKE SOMEONE LIKE ME. I relived every moment as if he was making fun of me and I’d misconsued his affection of my naivty for pure mockery at my expense. I felt pathetic. I fell. And I broke.

The second boy scooped me off the floor and saw the good in not only me, but everyone and helped me to channel my personality extremes for the good and I felt like a super human fairy princess mermaid queen. He was also my musical / cinematic soul mate and straight up the coolest boy in England. AND he didn’t even mind that I covered him in glitter! He fufilled every single one of my disney fulled fairytale fantasties only encouraged by christian slater in True Romance. I was gosh darn struck down.

All of a sudden I was terrified. I really felt for the first time resonsible for a real life squishy human heart. Somebodies son; somebodies brother and everybodies friend. I started to understand poetry and the need to create art to explain your feelings and the need to keep that private. I began to understand the imperative need to “teach” in a relationship. Your job as a partner, as a lover is to teach how to love. How you want to be loved and how to achieve that.

Yeah.. I was scared too. Some of the ways I’ve managed to examine so far: songs; poetry; letters; commitments; photographs; promises; never leaving them hanging; supporting and encouraging; flowers; plants; pets; gifts; just – thinking – about – you – notes, taking things slowly, being sensitive to their insecurities, not jumping into things, taking things slow enough to forsee if one of you will be hurt; trust; physical affection; always checking in; standing up for them when they aren’t around and the number one thing for me, personally:

never leaving. Ever.

My delightful stay at the pyshciatric ward rewarded me with this golden nugget of a bummer: I have a horrific fear of abandoment. My father left when I was a baby (and a big shout out for him trying to make that up to us every single day, no shame – you’re straight up my hero). My elder brother bravely stepped up and took responsibilities that were well above his young age and became a star to me - and he also left to travel to the world and find his safe place. My mother followed him and left us a few times to work on films – earning money for us to bring back and fix our little broken family.

Without realizing it I desperatley got myself in relationship after relationship desperatley trying to find a safe secure home. But I was always just waiting for that moment they would pack their bags and leave – the pressure of my expectations would often get too much for me and I would flee assuming that because of my over attentivemeness, constant gift giving and my oh – my – god – can – we – just - kiss – all – the – time attitude was making them secretly despise me anyway and upon my depature would follow a sigh of relief and a new sensible relationship with a sensible girl with a sensible hair cut. (often, it did)

So. I currently find myself, single and alone nursing a heart break so severe my dream world is in a constant state of dissary and I awake to the feeling of a car crash to the chest. And that feeling that deep down you know you need to just dust yourself off and learn to love your self and get a hair cut but it’s really fucking hard when you’re heart is bleeding all over the place in the coffee shop becuase Mardy Bum is on and yes Alex, I do remember those cuddles in the kitchen; yes they did help things get things off the ground but THIS ISN’T HELPING.

Anyway. What I can take from this is in the darkest of times the one thing that refused to desert me “love is purely the only treasure”. Real magic. An energy that is unique from person to person, that changes with time and is fed with private jokes and bursting scrapbooks and things only you two will understand.

My recovery can be pinned down to that old scamp walt disney. My sister and I watched a film together inwhich the lead female expresses her view of love – that moment of eye contact at a party that says to the other person; i’m here and I’m your person. I then watched FROZEN and saw myself in Ana jumping at my sister Indi begging her to tell me how she managed to get animals to follow her around in adoration.

And there it was. Right there all along right under my nose. My unconditional love; my sister ; my hero ; my ultimate role model who nursed baby animals back to health and released them sobbing every single time. My sister who never ever thinks of herself first who BUYS CDS instead of downloading them and who taught me to sing softly and gently and inexplicably taught me to love in the very same way.

She was my person. The one who received my “grandads just made another racist comment” look and who will commuicate with me in our own secret language. Who used her savings to visit our wonderful brother and his perfect girlfriend instead of taking her clothes off for money or something..

Not to mention my mother who is the very definition of selfless unconditional beautiful innocent all consuming you – can – even -try – to -hit – me – with – an – electric – fence – post – and I’d – still – look  – at – you – as – if – you – were -bloody – perfect. Or an aunt who brings you a pillow of love to cuddle in a scary hospital or another who gets your weird sadistic humour and texts you every single day no matter what.

And a brother who stayed right down the road from us so we could go bug him whenever we wanted and he’d be right there for us to make us laugh and hug us when we really need it. Also marrying a complete babe who watches disney films back to back with you.

I was so desperate for this unconditional love and it took me really having my heart destroyed time and time again to see I had it all along. And the pain?

Worth it.

So maybe next time I’ll let whoever I’m meant to be with come to me, prove to me that they won’t leave no matter what and I’ll never have to try and figure out what that message meant or wait for a reply until I feel sick with nerves or worry that his friends will hate me.

But, until then glubslyme gilbert grape, real life Disney Princess India Long, you will do just fine. And I promise I’m not going anywhere.

P.S sorry for posting this on facebook I only hope I can make this public display of affection up to you with emojis of bizzare creatures and fruit.

bap

x

What Was Lost

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Now I’m sure a lot of people are curious as to what on earth happened to this blog which was bursting at the seems with positivity and brave contributions before Christmas.

I’ve been away. To quote Ben Howard

“I saw a friend of mine the other day,
And he told me that my eyes were gleamin’.
Oh I said I had been away, and he knew,
Oh he knew the depths I was meanin’.”

I honestly can’t begin to describe the absolute horror I have been through so far in 2014. All I can do is hopefully articulate clearly some of the lessons I have learned and hope I can turn it into something positive. For really that was the reason for this entire project: for us all to feel less alone.

Somewhere along that line things got jaded and people got confused and even angry and we figured out that we are the “lost generation” and well… we just lost any sense of direction and broke down. It was like together we drew out an intricate map with snippets of agreements “this is why we feel we lost” “don’t go to uni” “go to uni” “fight the system” and so with this great map we were so pleased with making.. well we were still in the middle of the woods with no idea which path to choose.

First of all I can only apologize. I made a lot of sweeping statements, discouraged sensible thought and I felt angry at the government for letting us down. I was a rebel without a cause.. with a big old broken heart. The government, although flawed, is there for a reason. They are there to lend us money to learn. Straight up we live in a country where anybody can go to uni if they want too. Yes you get huge debt afterwards but then that gives you a reason to get a job and to go through the motions of life, to have a purpose and to have motivation. That isn’t for everybody; but that doesn’t mean it’s totally corrupt. I learned about how although it would be amazing for us to make money out of our art; I found that some of the best art is produced out of love – and that is sometimes best left PRIVATE. Also the concept of art is SO broad and whilst important: being a doctor is also very important. Being a teacher is also so important. Being a good lover is absolutely important. And sometimes art is best left private.

Second I was raging at gender stereotypes and trying to explain why burlesque to me was so important and inspiring; not realizing that I was causing harm through unintentional (!) pornography & the glamorization of tattoos. Now these two things I can argue to the ground about why they are good – but I forgot about the younger generation and what my duty was to them. I do have one or two tattoos I wish I didn’t have and can’t hide easily and I would absolutely HATE to see a young person fall into the trap of not planning or thinking about the consequences of permanently marking your body (sometimes with things that say things about yourself that you don’t even know.. the concept of literally wearing your heart on your sleeve.. trust me is very, very embarrassing).

Lastly I feel like I rallied together a group of people who to me were exceptionally talented and wonderful and kind hearted and I encouraged them to join me on this battle to no where and I’m sorry to say I did a titanic. A huge flaw of mine is acting first and thinking later. Now let me tell you if more than 5 of your closest friends think something is a bad idea; it probably is. Yes you can be a revolutionary figure but I don’t know anyone who happily achieved something huge without a wonderful team. I want to thank those people for putting up with me during the hardest time of my life and I hope they can forgive me and understand why on earth I did/said the things I did.

Love is a baffling, crazy, insane, weird, wonderful piece of evidence of real magic. Sometimes someone can sit by and do nothing whilst loving you so completely if you knew you would never ever be able to believe it. Some people hurt you to get you to learn lessons and some people no matter what you do, will never, ever leave you. I will say, truthfully I wouldn’t be alive today after the last few months if it wasn’t for purely my family and one or two close friends who never gave up on me.

So where are we going? I believe as a generation; we have a job to do and the job is to lead the younger generation into a world that is intelligent, safe and grateful and not so lost. After all we are so very privileged and although that doesn’t stop the pain we feel, every now and then gratefulness can extinguish a bad mood and most importantly be reused to help others. University is a wonderful option if you know what you want to do; if you don’t know what that is you mustn’t worry and you mustn’t panic. Passion is out there and don’t give up until you find it. Even if that means you work at Tesco 9-5 and live in tiny house in your home town. You may come home to the love of you life every day and that’s what gets you through. Or you may spend every waking hour honing and perfecting a skill that you love that you can make money from – even if it’s only enough to live a modest life. You might work really really really hard doing something you like that makes you enough money that you then choose to reach out and help others with it. Life is hard as hell but such a gift and if you believe in the good of people, have courage, follow your heart and don’t give in to fear and the anger that we all inevitably feel as hormonal passionate intelligent young people -

well more than half the time: what is lost is found.

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I’ve always been someone that everyone thinks enjoys the cent re of attention; who gets on with new people in the first 5 minutes; who is happy to be around people. However, nothing scares me more than others. When I told people that I was diagnosed with social anxiety last year, all of my friends were like, “You? Of all people I thought you’d be one of the least likely to be diagnosed with that!” Social anxiety is defined as ‘a discomfort or fear of social interactions that involve a concern about being judged or evaluated by others’. Writing this article created exactly that. I’m not one to write posts on the internet, however I am one who constantly refreshes social networking sites to see what others have to say. Family say I am addicted to the refresh button, however I’m actually obsessed with other people’s opinions, especially of me. I’m a perfectionist; an organised planner; someone who knows what their life will be like a years time.

In May last year, I left the University of Winchester with all the hopes and ambitions to be something. I was certain that I was going to leave, get an amazing job and be ‘someone’ within the following few years (the insurance that education gave me). How wrong could I be?! I chose Psychology because I’ve always been intrigued about other people. Throughout secondary school I got on with most people. I was never an argumentative type. I spoke to my peers and observed them throughout. I watched groups of people and judged them, just like everyone else does. Knowing that this whole of realm of judgement existed, meant that I then constantly worried about how I looked to others. I was never a girly girl, into fashion or cared about what I looked like. I was never felt popular. I never felt like I had a main core group of close friends (not until I look back now and see it). I ruined my own outlook of myself and lost my inner confidence based on constant paranoia of other people’s judgements. I acted like I didn’t care.

I put on this other personality, which has come known to my close friends as, Georgia. I went all the way through my degree being the level headed, responsible housemate. The one whose others’ parents liked and trusted. The one who just says it how it is and likes to get things out in the open. It’s the only way I know how to cope. I need to know what other people are thinking of me otherwise paranoia sets in. When I fell out with a very close friend of mine last year, not knowing what I had done wrong was worse for my mental health than knowing. I was going through the difficulty of not really feeling accepted in my job and my main group of friends. I’d left my core community at university. The distance between me and some of my closest friends felt like the distance to the sun. One person who I spoke to every day and knew me like the back of his hand was miles away. The other was next to me a lot but felt an awful long way away due to my mental barrier. That is when the judging turned to myself. I was paranoid about everything I did. I went back over every action. I over thought every conversation. I had panic attacks over others whispering, convinced it was about me. I would sit in complete silence, shut myself off from the group. I’d just blank out and only have my thoughts for company. I felt numb.

My parents noticed it first. I openly talked to them about everything. Always have, always will. At the age of 22, I laid in my bed with my parents and discussed whether going to the GP would be an option. So I let my Mum take me and discuss everything to the complete stranger over the desk. I instantly looked for other jobs. I needed to move on (even though the terrible reference from my then boss, nearly knocked that on the head). I calmed with the help of medication and was tortured through Cognitive Behavior Group Therapy.

Now, if you ever over think everything you do, then don’t go to a class where everyone talks about their symptoms. According to all those symptoms, I had a hell of a lot more to worry about than I first thought. Every anecdote, every tale about someone else’s life was compared to me and mine. Don’t get me wrong, it might work for some people, however I only managed half of the course due to not wanting to admit to new employers that I had a health problem. Now, according to laws and legislation mental health issues shouldn’t affect employment but who are we kidding? That’s another issue. Anyway, I guess I missed the half which was more about overcoming those symptoms and ‘fixing’ myself. Maybe that isn’t the point of that therapy, but I felt like I needed fixing. Having found myself on the opposite side of the therapy, compared to the side I saw myself studying, that bluntly ended my future plans. Gone was the organized planner who knew what their life will be like a years time. I didn’t predict my diagnosis. I didn’t know what was next.

That terrified me. One year on, I’m still socially anxious. I’ve had to move away from certain people who increase my heart rate negatively but I’ve found my true friends. My long distance friends are only a Skype call away. They never change when I see them again. They are true friends. I’m still happily with my boy whose been really supportive throughout. He knows me better than myself. I ask him for judgement before everyone and anyone else. He is my medication now.

I trust him completely. My parents’ words of wisdom are still greatly appreciated even if I don’t show my appreciation all of the time. I’m starting a new job soon, one with prospects, one which will open doors. It was the hardest decision with the biggest con being that I was leaving colleagues that have truly accepted me and I can totally be myself, panic attacks and all. My first port of call was my boy who told me I can do it. I rang them back without thinking (one of my many avoidance tactics) and accepted. New year, new journey. I don’t know my exact plan and that still scares me but I understand that people will always be judgmental. I don’t need a fix now, even though the medication helped me temporarily, it didn’t fix me. I didn’t really need fixing. I just needed to find my way of dealing with it. I still shiver uncontrollably and get panicky about certain things but I push myself to do things I dislike. I’m thinking more clearly. Its a life long thing but it will diminish with every day as I gain more control. I should control it and not the other way round.

Aside

Feeling grey

Feeling grey

So today I’m going to be writing about sexuality, and I’m sorry if the article is a disorganized mess (it’s the nature of the beast, I fear). I think a lot of young people can relate to feeling confused about it, finding it hard to talk about, finding that often people just don’t understand. That was definitely the case for me, and I guess I felt lost for a long time without even realising that I was lost. Because I just didn’t know enough to realise.

Back to the beginning then, I guess. I always assumed I was ‘straight’ (read: heterosexual), with a few lil girl-crushes along the way that I kinda grew out of. I guess I always felt a bit of an outsider though.

At 15 all of my friends were starting to have sex, and they talked about it endlessly. I was disgusted. I didn’t understand the appeal. So obviously they talked down to me and assumed I was immature or a little kid or something, which made me feel sad, alienated, and pushed to cut off ties with them. I didn’t think about it much at the time. I just assumed I was the dumb little kid they were making me out to be, because I didn’t know any different.

Fast forward 5 years and I found my relationship of the same length on the rocks. I was growing tired of ‘putting out’. People I knew told me I just had to suck it up. “You don’t deserve to be in a relationship if you don’t put out! It’s not fair on him!”. Hearing it all the time, you believe it. You carry on being unhappy. And my boyfriend decided that my lack of interest must mean I was getting it elsewhere. Because who doesn’t want sex, right?

Scrolling through Tumblr one day, I see a new word. ‘Asexuality’. It was like seeing the world in colour for the first time.

You’d think that would be the end of it, but alas and alack. I still felt alone. It was probably in my head, but the people online seemed to be all “you’re not a good asexual, you have SEX!”, and my friends were all “maybe your bf is just bad in bed!”. People trying to help were just being offensive and hurting my feelings. Having to endure stupid comments from near strangers about how “only people who’ve been abused become asexual” (falls very much the opposite way, in my experience), and “but you wear ‘sexy’ clothes! You must be wearing them for male attention and you definitely can’t just find them cute!”. And the good old “romantic, physical, and sexual attraction all go together – they just can’t be separated!” from heteroromantic heterosexuals who were being plain ignorant and not caring enough to open their minds even a little.

And then one day…a wild sexual attraction appears! We have just lost cabin pressure.

Having to re-evaluate my whole existence for a second time in the space of a few months wasn’t something I was expecting to have to do, and it hit me. HARD. I felt disgusted and physically sick by what I was feeling, and I found myself pushed from an obscure sexuality to the even more obscure grey area surrounding it. And guess what? People understood me even less. Cue “so, you’re straight then”, “grey-asexuality is a thing made up by special snowflakes”, and “that just means you’re picky!”. As if I wouldn’t have given anything to be ‘NORMAL’.

But I’ve come to terms with it now (after a lengthy internal struggle), my other half is more understanding, and my life is going smoothly again (relationship-wise, anyway!). I just wish sexuality was something that was easier to talk about without being judged or dismissed as an attention seeker making up an orientation. And I wish people would make more of an effort to stop being so ignorant and thinking that you must either be straight or gay or maybe in-between. Ignorance is a choice, and we can all do our bit to share our experiences and understanding. Stopping to think about something for a second can make all the difference. It would still be a struggle for a lot of people, but it’d probably make everything a great deal more straight-forward.

I guess there’s a big problem with stuff like this with regards to ‘labels’. They make things complicated. Why can’t we just be who we are; like who we like? But, then again, without them maybe I’d still feel lost.

Abbey Swift

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Autism & Creativity

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I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder. I’m also an author. To many, these two things don’t go together. Television has told us many times over that someone with Autism is either a child rocking and humming to themselves, or the little professor type who takes things too literally and doesn’t understand abstract concepts or emotions.

I take things literally, and I often have problems recognizing emotions (particularly my own), but to me Autism and creativity have always gone together. People are scary things you see. They’re loud, and worse, they have all these rules that I’m always breaking. These rules contradict each other, so to me they’re impossible to get right, but to everyone else they make perfect sense.

Always tell the truth. Sounds like an easy thing to follow, right? Wrong, because telling the truth is a VERY bad thing. No one wants to know how big their butt really looks. When someone asks you how you are feeling, they don’t care about the truth, they want you to follow the script and say OK.

In real life keeping up with all these scripts and rules is impossible, and exhausting. But in books things are simpler. Communication is much easier to understand in the world of fiction. The ‘ums,’ and ‘ahs’ are all but gone. The non verbal communication I fail to pick up in real life is pointed out to me. In fiction a twitch at the wrong moment can mean: ‘Ye gads! This guy is hiding something. Could he be the real killer?’ In real life, if I catch the twitch among all the other things going on I think: ‘A twitch – meaning: ???’

Trouble is that in real life the world is a mess of noise, chaos, and boredom. Things don’t make sense. People don’t make sense. I’ve never stopped thinking about the teacher who said I couldn’t walk down a corridor because of a sign. The sign said: ‘No food allowed in this corridor.’ I had no food on me. I walked away with a frown on my face and several scenarios. Technically I was protein based – was I food? Did he suspect my closed bag contained secret hidden food? My latest hypothesis is that he was a power hungry guy who had turned away several rule violators before me, and didn’t want to stop at me even though I wasn’t breaking the rules. Saying that, I’m still puzzling over a decade later.

You see, in my life things have to make sense. I don’t like random. I need to understand, and in fiction this works. Fiction has rules. It’s structured. In fiction people do random things, but if it’s a good book, by the end you have an idea what drove the character to that action.

Autism includes, among other things, processing issues. I spend most of my time in my room. I recently moved to nights at my new job because I couldn’t stand all the constant stimulation that goes with working days. Nights work much better for me as usually my people time is limited. I spend a few minutes talking to fellow support workers, and a few hours with the person I’m supporting, depending on how late they stay up.

Some might say this lack of contact with the outside world is a disadvantage to being a writer. I disagree. One of the reasons I don’t go out much is because everything gets in. Most people filter the outside world. I can’t. And I can’t seem to forget much I’ve seen either. I remember the man years ago who yelled at his three boys outside a train station. How one child kept still as a statue, his face pale and eyes old. How another yelled back just as loud. How the third seemed to hide as best he could.

I remember the look of love on a mother’s face as she talked to her baby in her native language in the hospital waiting room. I remember the apprehension on the face of the pregnant seventeen year old when a group of elderly women started talking to her before her checkup. When they were happy for her and told her she’d do well, she almost cried with happiness. She’d been worried they would criticize her because of her age.

The less I go out, the less overwhelmed I get. The less overwhelmed I get, the more I see. I notice things that others don’t. In a special school I volunteered at, a mostly non verbal child, when startled, once said a spontaneous four word sentence. There were three other adults in the room. I was the only one that heard it.

Most of all I read. I read 62 books last year, and am aiming for at least 65 this year. And this is me out of practice. School was torture for me. So much stimulation, so much of everything. Sometimes I would get so overwhelmed that my senses would shut down. My eyes would go blind, and my ears deaf just to shut things out for a little while.

And then in secondary school I rediscovered books. I’d found them before in primary, but things were stricter then. The adults had certain ideas about what I could achieve as a ‘disabled child,’ and I was discouraged from reading anything above my perceived reading level. I read every single picture book they had, and let me tell you, those things are boring. Sometimes when feeling brave I’d sneak chapter books and hope to get them in my bag before anyone saw, but I was not by nature a brave child. Once I saw a book with such a colorful cover I couldn’t resist. It was a Roald Dahl book, one of the larger ones, and well above my reading level. It was my first chapter book, and it took my eyes a couple of seconds to get used to all the words on the page, and then I was reading. It was like stepping into a circus, all smells, colors, sounds, but exciting and not overwhelming like I was used to. By the time I got back to my classroom I’d read the first ten pages.

I still remember stepping into the classroom, engrossed, and the horrible jolt of the adult’s voices when they realized what I was reading. They sent me back to the library to give back my book. I got a picture book instead. Since then I’ve read every single Roald Dahl book, except that one. I’ve tried, but even as an adult I keep feeling like I’m going to get told off.

Secondary school had no such restrictions. We were allowed two books out a day. Every day I’d go in, read a book at lunch, get out two more for the afternoon and finish them a few hours after getting home. I’d go back in the next day, rinse and repeat. Eventually the librarian started letting me take three out. By the time I’d finished school I must have read thousands.

I penned my first story at five (ironically – before I could really read), but I think reading all those books at secondary school was when I decided to be an author. I started my first novel at thirteen. Since then my life has been words. That’s another reason why I think Autism and creativity go well together: once you find your focus you become obsessed by it. The professionals even have a word for it: ‘subject of interest.’

My subject of interest is writing. I write short, long, and everything in between. My sloooowww reaction and processing times make me a slow writer. Often I only average 500 words an hour, but when it’s something you love, you do it anyway. My current monthly record is 72 thousand words, and I’m still hoping to beat that someday.

Best of all things, Autism gives me imagination. Yup, you read that right, Autism and imagination go together. I’m guessing the thousands of books help too, but when you get down to it Autism is just a way of thinking differently. I don’t have to dig for plot ideas, I have a file of hundreds on my computer. They come to me from dreams, and random questions I ask about the world that few seem to question. ‘What would happen if…?’ ‘Would the world be better if…?’ ‘What would really mess things up…?’

Autism has its disadvantages. I hate surprises, even slight ones. I plan out my day, sometimes to the minute. I like to know what I’m going to be doing a day from now, a week, a month, a year. Yeah, sometimes I over plan. I’ve lost count of how many five year plans I made last year.

I’m in the curious state of being very able in some areas, and very disabled in others. This puts my future in a precarious situation. My years of words and people watching have taught me well. Short term and with the right conditions you’d probably just think I was shy, but every social exchange costs me. I put on a good face, and then I go home and stim, and hum and rock my way back to normal. Once when I was unemployed my job counselor insisted I go to a job fair. Turns out job fairs and Autism don’t mix. I had a meltdown of the likes I have not had since my school years. I shut down, and still don’t remember the next two days.

I have a driving license, but when I started getting so overstimulated driving that I couldn’t stop stimming behind the wheel, and couldn’t function for days after and before a driving trip, I stopped. I have a tablet I take everywhere that has gps (as I get lost even on familiar walking routes), my calender, and other coping applications. This paradox of appearing able and being disabled means I receive no help outside family for my condition. It also means my potential work environments are limited.

Where I work now is pretty much perfect for my needs, but it’s a unique job, and I know from my forward thinking mindset that one day it might change. That’s my last reason why Autism and creativity go together. There are few jobs that would suit me more, or that I love more than being a writer. I keep hoping that if I work my socks off, one day if it comes down to it I won’t have to worry about fitting into a new job, I can just wrap myself in words.

Every week in 2014 I’m putting up a new short story on my website: http://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/ . At the end of the week it gets taken down, published, and replaced with a new one. I’m also editing a novel, writing another novel, and planning a third. I write horror, fantasy, and science fiction. There’s also a zombie novella I hope to finish edits on when I get ahead of the short stories. So have a peek at my short stories, and feel free to ask me any questions over at my website.

I was worried about writing this article, but in the end it was surprisingly cathartic. Hope you enjoyed reading it and learned something about the world of Autism.

by Sam Austin

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