New year, new blog

A lot has happened since I last published a blog post. I received my results, got into university, met my boyfriend, etc. 

So let’s start with my results – I didn’t quite get the results I was hoping for, but my first choice university still accepted me. However, the university experience wasn’t exactly what I had hoped it would be. Instead of settling in well, I had issues with my flat mates which caused me to have to move into new accommodation. Then I started having issues staying awake in my lectures, causing me to fall behind on my subject. All this, whilst being homesick would be have been bad enough, let alone the fact that I was given little to no support from the university regarding my aspergers and mental health issues. It wasn’t long before my depression started to kick in again, and I was left feeling suicidal and completely isolated. As a result of this, I have now made the decision to change universities and start a new course elsewhere. Although my university experience wasn’t great, it wasn’t all bad – I did make some good friends on my course who I will keep in touch with even though I won’t be continuing at the university. Also, I would assure others not to be put off going to university due to the experiences of others, as everyone has a different experience of university life, so yours could be very different to mine. 

On a happier note, I now have a boyfriend, with whom I’ve been dating for almost 5 months. He has become my best friend and I couldn’t be happier, despite having our ups and downs. I actually found that with my issues, Internet dating can actually be quite helpful. You don’t have to worry about being too socially awkward to talk to someone initially as you can get to know them online first, which really helped me personally.

For the first time in a while, I feel like I’m starting to make my own choices, without worrying what other people will say or think, and I would encourage others to do the same. There’s no point in worrying what others think, just do what makes you happy.

Have a great new year everyone!

Depression in the Media – ‘Reasons to stay alive’

‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ is a fairly new book by author Matt Haig. It details his experiences with depression and anxiety, and the ways in which he managed to overcome these issues.

Unlike a lot of books about depression, this book is actually very uplifting, focusing primarily on his recovery. It begins with the author describing his lowest point – his attempted suicide – and then proceeds to follow his progress on his way to recovery, detailing the things which have kept him alive.

This book resonated strongly with me, having suffered with depression throughout the last few years, and having been suicidal myself. At times, the book was difficult to read, as it brought back a lot of memories of being suicidal. However, the book is filled with scenes of hope and the realisation that depression will eventually lift, and that we simply have to struggle our way through it – there is ultimately a light at the end of the tunnel.

The book is written in a variety of formats, making it a very interesting read. Parts of it are written as lists, other parts written as an autobiography, and other parts written as an informative insight into the causes and diagnostic criteria of depression.

This book details many strategies and techniques to helping overcome depression, from simple meditation exercises to cognitive behavioural therapy approaches, making it a helpful read if you are experiencing depression and/or anxiety,

Overall, this was a fantastic read, full of hope and inspiration, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has either struggled with/struggling with depression, or even for those who know someone with depression. You won’t be disappointed!

Update – July 2015

imageIt’s been a while since my last post, so I figured it was time for an update.

I have just completed my final exams, which means the end of school for me. As someone with Asperger’s, this thought fills me with both excitement and terror, as I come to the realisation that this is a period of total change and uncertainty for me. On the one hand, I am excited by the prospect of heading to university and starting a new chapter in my life. However, the thought of having to wait for my results to find out if I have met my required grades for the university of my choice terrifies me. Knowing that I will likely never return to school is also a huge concern, as this means change and I dislike change. So at the moment I am eagerly awaiting August, when I will find out my results.

Another progression is my decision to get another tattoo. This tattoo serves a dual purpose – on the one hand, the puzzle pieces represent autism awareness, and on the other hand, it acts as a means of covering my scars. A new beginning, so to speak.

During this stressful period, I have learnt that the best way to distract myself is to focus on other things, such as meeting up with friends, preparing for the upcoming birthdays in my family (July is a busy month for birthdays!), returning to some of my old hobbies, such as art and music, etc. This helps keep my attention on other things, and prevents me from worrying so much about exam results and university.

So if you’re struggling with anything which is causing you stress or anxiety, I would encourage you to find distractions and to talk about your concerns with others.

Good luck!

Very Inspiring Blogger Award Nomination

Thanks so much to ‘Art and Aspergers’ for nominating me for this award.

So here goes, I have to give 7 facts about me:

1. I am Disney obsessed, I have been as long as I remember – I even celebrated my 18th birthday in Disney World!

2. I am a Christian and God helps me get through difficult times.

3. I was diagnosed with asperger’s aged 17, after a difficult few years of feeling like a complete outsider.

4. I love animals – my favourite animal is a tortoise (I have no idea why, I just think they’re adorable) – and I have a pet dog called Merlin, a cat called Cleo and a hamster called Tantor (notice the Disney theme?)

5. I’m a massive klutz, and am a bit of a walking disaster – I managed to set fire to my hair at my birthday party once, and also fell into a brook on a different occasion!

6. People tend to think I’m really quiet when they first meet me – anybody who knows me well knows I never shut up though

7. I play the violin (I chose the violin because it was one of the hardest instruments – I guess I fancied a challenge) and am teaching myself (and failing) to play guitar.

And here are the 15 blogs I nominate for the award:

1. Rose With Thorns

2. Source of Inspiration

3. HarsH ReaLiTy

4. Megan has OCD

5. Pensive Aspie

6. Project Light to Life

7. Autisticandproud

8. Married, With Aspergers

9. Eating off Plastic

10. Aspie Haven

11. Aspergers: Through my Eyes

12, Aspie Story

13. Inconsistently Yours

14. Pieces of Me

15. Pensive Aspie

Personal growth

Although I’ve been blogging for over a year now, I realised I’ve never written anything particularly personal, so I figured I’d write one today.

Over the past three years or so, I’ve grown a lot. No, I don’t mean physically (I’m still as short as ever) but emotionally.

Today I read through the mood diary I made for my therapy sessions in 2013. Admittedly, my issues started long before then, but this is the first time I’d really documented how I felt. Although it was difficult to read through a lot of it, I felt it was important to see how far I’ve come since then.

I wanted to share a couple of extracts from back in 2013, at the height of my problems with depression, anger and anxiety. So here goes…

‘Woke up feeling very angry and tense’…’got really angry with my mum because she knocked something over’…’strong urge to self harm’…’extremely miserable – cried for an hour’…’screamed at parents for eating too loud’.

Most of my diary consists of these types of thoughts and comments. There was barely a day whereby I was calm all day. Even ‘good’ days were those where I only shouted at someone a couple of times, never just a day where I was fairly contented. I was self harming virtually every day, screaming at people for no reason, having major anxiety attacks on a frequent basis and just generally hating life.

However, if I were to make a diary now, it would be very different. I have far more good days than bad, and can generally go an entire day without any incidents. Yes, I still have bad days, or days where my anxiety gets the better of me, but I have methods of dealing with these without cutting myself or taking it out on my family.

When I look back on the last two years, though, I can see that although it’s been a bumpy road, I have progressed enormously. I can now use my experiences to help others, know what job I want to do in the future – I’m hoping to become a clinical psychologist, so I can use my experiences to help others – have friends who I actively meet up with, enjoy spending time with my family again, and am generally happy to be me and to be alive.

It’s hard to believe less than a year ago, I felt so depressed that I tried to kill myself. That doesn’t even feel like the same person I am today. I’ve learnt a lot about myself over the last few years, and I think maybe this all happened so I can help others in the future, so they don’t have to go through the same things I did.

Who knows? Maybe in another year I’ll have grown even more. I’d like to one day be free from depression and anxiety, but I realise I have a long way to go yet. Either way, I’ll keep working towards that goal, one day at a time.

Aspergers portrayals in the media – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

I must admit, this book is one of my favourites. I think it captures the essence of what it feels like to live with aspergers perfectly.

The book tells the story of a teenage boy, Christopher, who has Asperger’s syndrome. Throughout the book we see him take his first steps toward independence, as he uncovers a lie which has impacted him for several years. It is primarily a story about love and growing up, with aspergers as a secondary issue, making his journey harder than most.

I actually read this book prior to my own diagnosis, and found myself relating to a lot of Christopher’s issues, such as not being able to deal with change and furniture being moved. Up until that point, I believed I was the only person to feel like that. Meltdowns are also portrayed extremely well throughout the novel, with some fantastic descriptions of the thought processes involved, and the feeling of being overwhelmed by your senses.

My only critique of the novel is the fact that Christopher is definitely portrayed on the more extreme end of the spectrum, so wasn’t as relatable as some of the characters I’ve read. However, this is often done for dramatic purposes, so it didn’t really bother me.

Overall, it’s a fantastic book which I highly recommend to everyone looking for a book about aspergers, or just to avid readers in general. It’s an easy read, as it is officially considered a children’s book, but it’s also very relevant for adults as well.

Hope you enjoy!

Life isn’t all about grades

This is something I’ve learned recently. There is far more to life than getting good grades.

I used to be the type of person to spend hours every night stressing over homework, and making sure it was as detailed as possible. But, guess what? It never made me happy. This year, I’ve made sure to allow myself at least a couple of hours every day for ‘me’ time – time to de-stress and watch TV, or just do something fun for a while, without focusing on academics.

I recently met up with an old friend of mine. After we got talking, she revealed that she struggles with depression and anxiety. At first, this shocked me, as she always seemed incredibly bubbly and comfortable in her own skin to me. However, it soon became apparent that a lot of her depression stems from the fact that she feels her identity is purely based on her intelligence, and she doesn’t feel she has any real identity of her own.

All too often, though, our self worth is based upon how we compare with others. Someone is always prettier, more intelligent, more confident, etc. but why do we do this? Our self worth should be based on the things that are good about ourselves, and our individual traits.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve started to realise that I have more to offer than good grades. So perhaps I don’t get straight A’s anymore, but I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time. Of course I still suffer from periods of depression, but I think I always will do to some extent. I’ve started to realise though that I’m at my most confident when I’m being me – somewhat quirky and awkward, but with my own identity.

So to anyone who is worrying about getting the best grades, because everyone tells you grades are everything – believe me, they’re not. Just focus on being happy in your own skin, and the rest will work out in the end.

Have a great week!