World Autism Awareness Week

Truth is, being Autistic is exhausting. In every sense of the word. Perpetually living on high alert with all five senses, being misunderstood, judged and hated, scrutinised before anybody has taken the time to get to know *us* and the way our brains and bodies are wired, rather than making false assumptions, from false organisations like, for a very good example, Autism speaks.

People hear the word Autism and automatically think of us as being antisocial, cold-hearted, and hopeless when, in actual fact, this could not be further from the truth. What people need to realise is that we *do* feel and in lots of our cases, we feel too much. We think too much. We hear too much. We see too much. We even taste too much. Our lives are vibrant, reflecting who we truly are inside. And honestly, if I’m bed-bound (often, for at least a few days) from social exhaustion, forced interaction that has never come naturally, and senses that often leave me overloaded, so be it. I wouldn’t want to experience life any other way.

Here’s to World Autism Awareness Week. But most importantly, here’s to us; the millions of us around the world who constantly try so hard to be what we’re not. Atypical is the new neurotypical.

 

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My Bucket List

The title of this post is painfully self-explanatory, so without further ado, here is my bucket list.

 

  • Gain control over my mental illnesses. To fully recover, I feel, is impossible. I don’t say that to purposely try and sound morbid, I say it to sound realistic, to be realistic. Living with Mental Health has been all I’ve known for over six years, and as much as I’d love to wave goodbye to agoraphobia, OCD, generalised, social, and separation anxiety, I know that things aren’t quite that simple. If only, eh? My biggest goal is to regain control over my anxieties, rather than allow them to control me.
  • Write. Every day. This might sound like something so small, but for writers, it can perhaps be the biggest challenge. Comparison, writers block, and motivation is something we all deal with, and certainly contributes to how often, or not, we jot down words onto paper. It’s been almost two years since I completed my last novel and I can’t begin to tell you how much I miss the achievement of completing something and calling it mine.
  • Blog more frequently. While blogging wasn’t something I’d planned to get back into this year, it is something I’d like to dedicate more time towards. That being said, since I’ve started this blog, I’ve written much more than I had in the past.
  • Meditate each day. What can I say? I’m a sucky Buddhist.
  • Cut down on my alcohol intake. In my own defence, this is something I’ve been getting better at lately. I’m not a regular drinker, but again, being Buddhist, I know that it’s morally wrong to take any intoxicants.
  • Spend less time on social media. It’s overrated, it’s toxic, it’s boring.
  • Read more. To read more frequently was one of my New Year’s Resolutions, and honestly, it’s not going too badly. That being said, I know that I could be doing more. That hour scrolling through my Twitter timeline could instead be spent flipping through pages of my current read.
  • Dedicate more time to studying. Studying online, in my own time, with no set time limit to finish, is both a blessing and a curse. Agoraphobia has me housebound 90% of the time, so while I literally have no other choice but to study at home, it’s definitely something I could spend more time doing. I love learning, and it’s often easy to forget just how privileged we are.
  • Learn piano. This has been on my bucket list for the longest time. I know that I’ll get around to ticking it off eventually, it’s just a matter of when.
  • Learn another language. In an ideal world, I’d love to be fluent in Welsh. Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to be Welsh and only know a limited amount of your own, Native language? Having lived in England for eight years of my life is no longer an excuse I’m happy to use. Also, Spanish. I took lessons for three years in school and instantly fell in love. I’ve forgotten vast majority of what I’d learnt since it was so long ago, but I know that it wouldn’t take too much to rekindle my memory and limited knowledge that I’d gained.
  • Donate my eggs. From one extreme to another! Donating my eggs is recently something I’ve started to think about. It’s not something that you’re able to decide overnight, and perhaps, who knows, as time goes on, I’ll withdraw from the idealisation of going ahead with it. Having said that, I’ve always loved the thought of helping others. If you know me well, you’ll know that I’ve always said I’d adopt, but since I literally have zero desire to have my own family (fur babies excluded), I’d love to help others (specifically LGBTQIA+ individuals).
  • Travel. I don’t think there’s anywhere I wouldn’t go, but the two places at the top of my travel list are Amsterdam and Venice!
  • Dye my hair each colour of the LGBTQIA+ flag. Yes, really! As of now, we’ve achieved 3/6.

 

I’m pretty sure I’ve touched upon each goal I have for the present, near, and far future! I’d love to follow up with this post in a few years, or even a year from now and see what I’m able to tick off. Our goals can often seem impossible, which is why it’s important to revisit and update them! Celebrate your achievements and strive to better yourself.

 

Goals once on my bucket list, now completed:

  • Go vegetarian
  • Go vegan
  • Recover from depression
  • Recover from self harm
  • Dye my hair crazy colours
  • Shave my head for charity

 

 

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Two Years Clean

Before you begin to read, please note that the following post will contain open discussion of mental illness and self-harm. If you are easily triggered or uncomfortable reading, please leave now. Thank you.


Nobody hurts themselves for attention.

Self harm doesn’t equal “attention seeking”. If you think otherwise, I can’t imagine that you’ve experienced mental health, and certainly not self harm. If this is true, and you’re one of the lucky ones amongst millions of us who have, and do, I’m happy for you. I hope you never feel as though you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, that your emotions are drowning you, to the extent that the only way for you to drown them out and take control of it, is to deliberately hurt yourself.

Spoiler: it’s not. It never is. And it never will be.

Stigmatisation still continues to massively surround self harm. Sure, I can agree that it has lessened and that more people are educating themselves on what it really is, and why people feel lead to do it, but it’s not enough.

There are people out there who will meet another with peculiar looking bodily harm or scars, who’ve been too quick to use words and insults that simply aren’t true.

What’s mind-boggling to me, is how something so intense, so terrifying, can be brushed off as being irrelevant.

Professionals themselves, I feel, can often have the tendency to put self harm into a box. And unless you cut yourself, you’re inadequate. At least, that’s how they’d made me feel in the past. It doesn’t matter how I hurt myself, unlike I had been lead to illogically believe. All that matters is that I did.

To clear up any misconceptions, self harm is:

  • cutting
  • poisoning
  • over-eating
  • under-eating
  • biting
  • picking or scratching skin
  • burning skin
  • inserting objects into your body
  • hitting yourself or walls
  • overdosing
  • excessively exercising
  • hair pulling
  • purposely getting into fights, putting yourself in danger

I don’t ever want anybody to feel triggered the way I did; not by outsiders, insiders, or professionals.

If you know that you’re putting yourself in danger, you need to seek medical emergency. It’s important to recognise when unhealthy urges or behaviours arise and voice them to somebody, who can often help, before they develop into something much bigger.

I am two years clean from self harm today, and if there’s something I’ve learnt within these years, it’d undoubtedly be that you can miss something without wanting it back. I’m better than that, and so are you.

 

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Panic Attack Prevention

Panic attacks are something I’ve dealt with for as long as I can remember. I’d been experiencing them before I’d had any knowledge of what they are.

Back in 2015, before my mental illnesses had become as deteriorating as they are today, I was well enough to physically attend college. It was at this time that I was experiencing at least three, possibly more, panic attacks per day; consecutively. Day in, day out, I’d be filled with dread and emotional exhaustion.

At that time in my life, I was at a loss of how to help myself. Researching ways to prevent, or see through a panic attack would be enough to trigger one, but today, I’m proud to say that my experience with panic attacks have lessened drastically. I don’t think I’ve gone through a panic attack in nine to twelve months, which is something I’m grateful enough to be able to say. Unfortunately, though, attacks and triggers are something others have to constantly fight through each day, so I’m here to offer some first-hand, personal advice.

This blog will be split into three sections; education, prevention, and recovery.

 

EDUCATION

 

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a sudden, overwhelming sense of, as the name suggests, panic. Going through them can cause the sufferer to feel detached from themselves, as though they have lost all control of their consciousness.

Are there any causes?

Panic attacks can often be caused by various issues, such as stress, trauma, strenuous physical activity, and excessive caffeine intake. It’s probably important to note that these are just a few prime examples.

Does the sufferer show any symptoms prior to the attack?

There are many symptoms prior to somebody experiencing an anxiety attack. Withdrawal, loss of incentive, restlessness, irritability, struggle with communication, and exhaustion are some of the most common.

 

PREVENTION

 

  • Take time away from whatever is causing you to feel triggered. Whether you’re at home, or in a working environment, it’s important to remember that mental health is just as important as physical health. Respect yourself enough to remove yourself from the situation and take five, ten minutes to gather yourself.
  • Confide in somebody. Opening up to someone, whether that’s a family member, friend, teacher, or colleague can be daunting, but can help. Mental Health isn’t something we’re often able to visibly see, but in no way does that mean we’ve got to go through this alone.
  • Limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine is certainly something that has triggered panic attacks for me in the past. Decaffeinated coffee is just as good, if not better than the real thing. If you’re somebody who longs for the taste, rather than the surge of energy, consider switching. Herbal teas and hot chocolate are another alternative to coffee, and often, tastier.
  • Eat well, and regularly. If you’re running off no energy, or too much energy, this could just be enough to trigger an attack.
  • Regulate your sleeping pattern. Depending on your age, sleep for at least eight hours per night; more if you feel it’s necessary. Go to bed early, wake up early. Keep a consistent routine. Vast majority of my past panic attacks had been triggered through little-to-no sleep.
  • Exercise. Exercise has been clinically proven to help recovery from mental illnesses. Panic attacks are no exception.
  • Less social media. We’re all guilty, I know *holds up hands*. I won’t be the first to say that influence on social media (and television) has caused unnecessary pressure to build.
  • Meditation. Meditation is, personally, something I do for spiritual/religious reasons, but I do it to improve my mental health, too. I think, personally, this method has helped me the most.
  • Don’t bottle up how you’re feeling. Telling somebody how you feel is daunting, there’s no denying. If you’re not able to tell somebody what’s on your mind, write it down; keep a diary, rip out pages and scrunch them up into balls. Do whatever you find is beneficial. By opening up, we’re able to relieve small stresses that could otherwise build into bigger-than-necessary issues.

 

RECOVERY

 

  • Remember that a panic attack cannot last longer than twenty minutes. They’re said to reach their peak at ten minutes in, and decline from here onwards.
  • If you have long hair, tie/clip it back from your face. Seriously, do it.
  • Change out of tight fitting clothes. Bras, jeans, buttoned shirts. Panic attacks cause the sufferer to feel restricted enough as it is. Try to alleviate that the best you can.
  • Drink water. When you’re excessively sweating and going through horrific physical symptoms, it’s important to stay hydrated. If you don’t feel steady enough to drink, try alternatives, like ice lollies, or holding an ice cube in your mouth.
  • Take a hot bath/shower. Steam is known to help sufferers of asthma when having attacks, and has certainly helped me in the past.
  • Opposite of the point above, get some fresh air. Open a window, door, or go for a walk. Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Big, strong breaths.
  • Remember that you’re more than your mental illness. Recovery exists, and whether it takes a day, a year, or ten years from now, you will recover. You are worthy. You matter.

Depression: My Experience

I’d like to stress that the following post will contain in-depth discussion of mental illnesses, self-harm, and suicide. If you’re uncomfortable, or easily triggered, please leave now.

Thank you.


Being an August-born baby, subsequently younger than my peers at school, when late August of my thirteenth year approached, I was more than ready to grow another year older.

There’s nothing quite like entering your teenage years. Nearly eight years later, I can still remember how I felt at 12am on 19th August that year.

I thought my teenage years would be full of a newfound freedom, independence; growth. I was going to grow, but not at all how I had envisioned.

For the first year, everything was okay. Certainly not plain sailing, but I got by, regardless of the trips and stumbles along the way.

It’s probably important to note that I used to be a follower, rather than a leader. My voice barely a whisper among others. Friends (*snort*) at school tried to knock me down, and they succeeded; because I let them. It was all I knew.

I knew that I needed to find a voice for myself, but I didn’t know how. Defending myself seemed impossible, while others were doing it without a second thought.

Fourteen-year-old Emily was about to learn how to find their own voice. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but I’m here to tell you that it was worth it. So damn worth it.

My experience(s) with Mental Health all started early one morning in January of 2012. I’d been driven to school, like usual, by my Mum. Nothing was new. Except, nothing was the same.

Something had clicked.

The moment I climbed out of my seat, I wanted the ground to suck me up whole. It’s like the previous fourteen years of my life, the grief, the heartbreak, the confusion I’d felt had submerged itself inside my head. Vulnerability had hit me like a tidal wave. I felt bare, exposed. In danger.

I needed to be held. Close. Tight. Safe.

I knew that I couldn’t face the day, and so the same short, five-minute route was taken back home.

Mum was confused. I was confused. Neither of us could make sense of what had happened, or most importantly, why.

I’d headed straight to my room, collapsed onto my bed in a mentally exhausted, confused state. I can remember thinking how detached I felt; from myself, from those around me, from life. What made this day so different to any other?

“What’s going on, Em?” My Mum had asked. I can strongly envision her sat at the end of the bed, looking just as helpless as I felt.

I wanted to be able to answer her, more than anything in the entire world. But I couldn’t. How is somebody supposed to answer a question they don’t know the answer to?

We were both equally as clueless as each other.

A doctor’s appointment was booked that morning, filling me with dread.

The day of my appointment came. The appointment itself, I can’t recall. All I know is that at the beginning of it, I was probably crying, and by the end, I’d been put on a waiting list. Hearing the word ‘psychiatrist’ at fourteen was enough for me to realise that, perhaps, my teens weren’t going to be all they’d cracked up to be.

I can’t remember the time process from my appointment with my doctor to the appointment with the psychiatrist, but I can’t imagine it was a particularly speedy process. Good job, Mental Health services(!)

Psychiatrist number one was a complete and utter nightmare. Forcing somebody to talk, choking through their tears, when they’re clearly not comfortable enough to do so isn’t going to get anybody anywhere.

I’m happy to say that psychiatrist number two was a lot more forgiving! Wendy was a godsend, and by the end of the year, I’d been given professional diagnosis’. Depression was painfully obvious, but what wasn’t, was my second diagnosis. What had once been described with hilarity as ‘Emily-isms’ were about to make clear sense.

Diagnosis two: Asperger Syndrome, a mild, high-functioning form of Autism.

I left my appointment feeling lost, and again, detached.

Counselling was kept consistent. I attended sessions every/every other week, each filled with dread. I was snappy, pessimistic, and I’ll admit, rude. I refused to believe that anybody who hadn’t gone through depression, or saw the world through my eyes, understood me.

Truth is, it doesn’t matter how many degrees psychiatrists have, or how many years they’ve studied. Unless somebody has personally experienced mental illness, they won’t understand. Not fully. Regardless of that, I wish I could’ve told my younger self that, even if this were true, somebody cares. Wendy cared, and I wish at the time, I’d truly taken the time to think that through.

The thing is, though, I was unstable; emotionally, physically, spiritually. Back then, I wasn’t who I am now. I wouldn’t be who I am now if I hadn’t gone through those challenges with mental illness, no matter how debilitating.

Focusing on my education was impossible. Lack of concentration is often a side effect of depression, one of which many people don’t take into consideration or acknowledge.

Painting a smile on my face, forcing myself to uncomfortably make my way through unwanted, social interaction with fake friends, and pretending that everything was okay when really, all I wanted to do was die, was impossible. And so, in the end, with no other choice, my school days grew shorter.

Peers began to recognise the changes in my day-to-day schooling. It shouldn’t have surprised me when I began to experience bullying, by one person in my form class in particular. Hi, Rhys :).

“I’m f*cking depressed and I still go to school.”

“Why the f*ck don’t you go home? Nobody wants you here.”

I mean, he could’ve at least made his mind up.

Rather than asking why my attendance was beginning to stoop so low, my teachers turned against me, too. My Maths teacher, in particular.

I dreaded my Maths lessons, and for good reason. It seemed that every lesson my teacher would take any opportunity she could get to stand at the front of the class, and audibly question me on why I’d been missing her lessons; why my grades were dropping.

In my mind, I’d answer her questions. I’d tell her that just that same morning, while I was changing into my uniform in the bathroom, I’d fight the increasingly strong urges to jump out of the window, with the intent of ending my life. I’d tell her how I was awake until the late hours of last night, held by my Mum and choking through my tears, “I want to die, I want to die. I’m ready to die.”

Eight hourly school days dropped to six.

Six dropped to three.

Three dropped to zero.

Expectation and pressures from school left when I’d unofficially dropped out, but so did my diet, sleep pattern, and personal hygiene. Over-eating was a regular occurrence, but so was under-eating. I either overslept or under-slept. Weekly/fortnightly intervals between showering weren’t uncommon, and despite how gross I felt, I didn’t care; about anything. As far as I was concerned, I deserved every abundance of self-hatred.

May of that year, I attempted to take my own life. But at that time, I didn’t know that I was attempting to commit suicide. All I knew is that I’d promised myself that if it didn’t hurt too much, I’d let myself go.

As traumatic as it was, it was this very moment that I realised I needed to wake the f*ck up and stop damaging myself. Recovery wasn’t possible if I wasn’t willing to help myself. How could I rely on others to help me recover when I wasn’t willing to rely on myself?

Depression isn’t something you recover from overnight and recognising that was the first step. In order to help myself, I took the initiative and started taking the time to do small acts of self-care and kindness each day; sleeping for the right amount of hours, eating sensibly, showering. You don’t realise at the time, but looking back, I’m able to see how much of an impact those steps made.

Quotes were another thing that helped a lot, and it was around this time that my love for them began to grow. Taking the time to read through and pick one which I could relate to and follow gave me a purpose. It made me feel less alone, and gave me a goal.

Buddhism wasn’t something I practised at the time, nor something I knew much about, but from all of the hundreds of quotes I’d stumbled upon, Buddhist quotes were the ones I related to and found the most comfort in. Now, I classify myself as a practising Buddhist and can wholeheartedly say that religion has saved my life.

Through surrounding myself with my loved ones, attending counselling sessions (which were still tough, but a whole lot easier with the realisation that I needed to be willing to help myself), self-care and religion, I learnt from here onwards that life is all about the little things.

If Mental Health has taught me anything, it’d be that we’re constantly fed lies. More often than not, we’re made to believe that life is all about the ‘big picture’, but that isn’t true at all.

I needed to retrain my mind, to fall in love with life again, and in order to do that, I needed to appreciate and make the most of the smallest things. Smallest of the smallest things, like making a cup of tea, sleeping well, hugging my family.

Life is much more than what we’re lead to believe, and I wish everybody realised that. If we looked around us and took a moment to appreciate our family, friends, a delicious meal, hot showers, a cosy bed, safety, we’d soon see that, in spite of what television and social media tells us, that we’re the luckiest, richest people in the world.


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Blogging (For The Billionth Time)

I’ve got to admit here and now that, when I thought about 2018, I certainly didn’t envision myself beginning a new blog. I thought my blogging days were over.

Years have seen various blogs created, only to be deleted after a matter of months. To say that I’m motivated to blog again could just about jinx it, but in the optimistic hope that it won’t… I’m motivated to blog again.

Oops, there it is.

This time, though, for different reasons.

Within the past year, heck, within months, I’ve noticed myself change. Not drastically, but enough for me to say that, for the first time in awhile, I’m proud of my headspace, opinions, and who future ‘me’ is moulding into. Change is inevitable, and looking back at old blogs, I can see that sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen-year-old Emily wasn’t even half the person I am, typing this post right now.

Teenage years were the toughest years of my life, and I like to think that those years are the ones that taught me the most; they made me realise what it means to accept, grow, and forgive.

It’s time to trust the magic of new beginnings.


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