It’s not laziness.

Today is a rest day. This is what self care looks like sometimes to me. It is nearly 5pm and I remain in bed. Comfortable and alone. It’s not laziness.

With a beautiful but extremely busy week long holiday, then being ill and then working I have not truly rested for nearly 3 weeks. Some people can just go and go and go and I admire them. But I am not ‘some people’. I need recovery time for my physical and mental health. It’s not laziness.

Even tasks such as a weekly shop take a lot of my energy expenditure. Its not really the physical aspect, its more the assault on my senses, the mass of people to navigate, the huge selection of choices, the need to suppress the urge to impulsive buy everything pretty, shiny, new and amusing and of course adding the stress of another (or many!) family members with you to consider, listen to and communicate with is exhausting. I feel so drained. That’s why I usually shop online and get delivery. It’s not laziness.

And it’s not just ‘chores’ that drain me. Things I enjoy do as well.

I spent a lovely day in my local park celebrating the summer with some of my community at the weekend. There were craft stalls that I got to spend on, mainly for my family, but it’s the same dopamine hit! My daughter got her face painted and my step son made a wonderful work of art. They played football and nerf with us and had a lovely picnic in beautiful sunshine and a comfortable heat. My friends and my sister in law joined us and I saw a few people I knew (and liked lol) as well. There was very little stress. However, I got home and had to nap. All that light and colour and noise, all the talking, some of the time masking, again surpressing the urge to buy everything!, social anxiety (are they looking at me?!) and the pain of attempting to play football in sandals (don’t do it!) zapped me. So I napped. And was well rested for work the next day where my peers and patients rely on me. It’s not laziness.

It’s not laziness.

Stimming

Some of my main stims. I’m still discovering more daily as I am getting more in tune with my neurodiverse self. I’m also trying different fidgets in different situations to see what works best to keep my mind occupied, so far loving my fidget cube and fidget ring.

I’m still waiting for a formal assessment, I have connected with a few female late diagnosed ND folk and I know its a long process which may end me having to appeal etc to get the correct diagnosis. Unfortunately without the formal diagnosis there is a block on some of the support that I feel would be really beneficial to me. In the mean time the #actuallyautistic community continues to be amazing support.

A history of diagnosis’ and the road to discovery.

TW: Self harm, suicidal ideation, domestic abuse, depression, anxiety, c-ptsd, flashbacks, medication, mental health

I began self harming when I was 13/14. That’s when I knew that this horrible feeling I was experiencing wasn’t just hormones. I was completely alone in the world with debilitating depression leaving me suicidal on a daily basis. Having no one to turn to I suffered in relative silence until 17 when my abusive boyfriend dragged me to the doctors to prove I was “crazy”. Surprise surprise I was told it was hormones and I would be fine as long as I used clean sterile blades to self harm with! About 2 years later, I went back to the GP who prescribed me Citalopram for depression, social anxiety and Generalised Anxiety Disorder and sent me on my way.

Skip forward a few years, at age 21 I was hit with pre and post natal depression after my first child was born. My health visitor was concerned and I eventually went to counselling and my citalopram was increased . It didn’t do a hell of a lot, neither the counselling nor the increase to my medication.

Just prior to falling pregnant with my second child, I was in crisis, I went back to our local mental health team and had some CBT, there was a discussion around a possible diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Thankfully that query went no further as the pregnancy was difficult, physically and mentally and my citalopram was stopped so they didn’t feel it was the right time to go through an assessment.

After my second child, my life hit a turning point. I felt this need to really make my own way in the world, figure out who I was, what I wanted from life, what was important to me. This inevitably meant alot of mistakes were made, but I also found my local Children’s Centre and a bunch of amazing women who pulled me through it all.

In my second and third pregnancy’s I had SPD as it was called then which just got worse as each pregnancy progressed. By the end of my third pregnancy I had crutches for short distances and a wheelchair for long distances. I had a difficult time after giving birth to my third as the pain was still excruciating. Then the extreme fatigue began to set in. Within a year I couldn’t do a supermarket shop without having a 2 hour nap afterwards. I struggled to wake up in the mornings, often people tell me it’s like I’m in a coma. My vision would blur and tunnel, my speech would become slurred and my face would droop. My mum once nearly called an ambulance because she thought I was having a stroke. I went to the GP and after another year of fighting I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. My citalopram was changed to Duloxetine and I was given Amitryptiline. I also have to have daily vitamin D and Iron supplements as these tend to drop every 6months or so. These medications and the fibromyalgia support groups changed how I lived dramatically. I began to pace myself and put myself and my needs first. The depression was almost completely managed by this point.

My next big life change and diagnosis came when I left another abusive relationship. This time I was 30 and had had enough of shit people shitting on me in my life to just take it. I went to Women’s Aid. Through the courses, my IDVA and the staff I was encouraged to consider my past. I went back to the mental health team and told them all about the traumas I have experienced. I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD and then given EMDR therapy for a year. This helped with the flashbacks of some of the worst moments in my life.

This year I went back to the mental health team for some CBT for handling work-related stress (or rather people-who-I-work-with related stress). The assessor began asking questions that, looking back now were a little off topic. Eventually she said “have you considered you might have autism and/or Adhd?”. Well no. I’ve got training in both, for children and adults, but I never really applied anything I’d learned about autism or adhd to myself. She gave me the RAADS – r and the AQ10 to complete. I scored 146 on the former and 10 on the latter. She told me what neurotypical folk score and I was referred to the adult diagnostic service.

Since then I have obsessively researched female autism and adhd, I have followed and participated in the #actuallyautistic community and I am finally comfortable with saying I am neurodivergent, I am autistic. No diagnosis or suspected diagnosis has made me feel this kind of “aha!” moment before. It explains EVERYTHING! All the social struggles, the difficulties setting boundaries, seeing everything from a million different angles, the mood swings, the social exhaustion, the hypersensitivity, the obsessions! All the interventions I’ve had throughout the years have helped but never quite hit the spot. And now I know it’s because I’m autistic, I don’t think like neurotypical folk, that’s who all these therapies are designed for. The diagnosis of ADHD, I’m still not 100% convinced of, but I think that’s because the symptoms are so similar to autism in late diagnosed females.

I’m still waiting for an official diagnosis but I have already begun to tell people who I am. My managers have been amazing, the friends I have discussed it with have been supportive and my fellow nurses have been accomodating and understanding. I have connected with some local autistics already and I feel like my life has taken another turn for the better.