Posted on September 12, 2021
And that’s that. I’ve finished the final module of my Masters and therefore the Masters itself. I don’t know what my grade is for the module or for the whole course yet but frankly, I’ve got a lot to process before I can even really think about the grades and graduation.
Looking back at a similar post before the module started, I was excited about the project but nervous about my health, mental and physical, and whether it would prevent me from doing everything I needed to do, from being able to enjoy the process. And those were valid concerns so I thought, having written a post about how I was feeling before the module started, I’d write another now that it’s ended – like bookends.
A lot has happened since the beginning of May.
Over the last four months, I’ve spent almost every day working on my final project, researching, writing songs, and working on the production of an album. It’s been incredibly intense and now that it’s all done, I’m utterly exhausted, both mind and body. And while, for the most part, I loved it, it’s also a relief to be free of some of the anxiety around it (I’m still struggling with my anxiety around the grade). Having said that, I feel strangely lost and untethered now that I don’t have this big thing to focus on. I know that I need a break but I am looking forward to the next project, whatever that may be. I’m always happier when I’m doing things.
My mental health was pretty good for most of the module, surprisingly so. By my standards at least. I think that the constant creating and the creating of stuff I’m proud of really helped. I had one particularly bad episode of depression, plus a handful of smaller ones, and my anxiety was pretty constant but that’s normal for me. It got very bad in the last month, which was hard to manage – trying not to let it destabilise me was a bit of a battle in itself. It hasn’t quite faded yet. For various reasons, I didn’t have any access to my therapist, which was an unforeseen difficulty and that made things a lot harder than I’d expected them to be.
I also really struggled with my concentration. I’m still not getting any support for my ADHD (something that I hope will change soon but I’m still so frustrated that I couldn’t get any help with it during my Masters) so staying focussed on my project, on my research, took all of my energy. It was exhausting. I felt like my concentration was so, so fragile that a single moment of distraction would break it and then it would be impossible or would take days or even weeks to get back. So I couldn’t stop. Not for anything. That was very stressful and resulted in many, many long days. Sometimes I’d work all day without moving (not healthy, I know) and end up going to bed very late. And then, of course, I couldn’t sleep because my thoughts were racing. So it did a number on my sleep schedule too; I’m surprised I’m not nocturnal at this point.
That, plus the general fatigue I deal with day to day, meant I was tired all of the time. I’ve drunk an obscene amount of Red Bull (my antidepressants make me really drowsy, just to make things even more difficult, although I may be changing medications soon, which hopefully won’t have the same side effects) – I am beyond sick of the taste of it. But it got me through and I’m grateful for that. I will however be grateful to never drink it again (hopefully). And I’m really looking forward to getting both some proper sleep and some proper rest now that my work is done.
I also mentioned back in June that I’d been having migraines that seemed to be being caused by an abscess in one of my teeth. Since then, I’ve been on antibiotics twice, continued to have migraines, and am still waiting to have the tooth removed, a decision that was made at the appointment in June. Given how much disruption it was causing though, I did get extenuating circumstances which allowed me some extra time (although it wasn’t really extra since it was making up for time lost to a medical problem) to cope with those problems. It’s not bothering me presently which is a relief but I’m more than ready for them to take the tooth out, just so that they’re not even problems I have to think about.
While I managed to keep swimming twice a week – a routine I’ve been trying to maintain to create a solid foundation for my crappy joints – I was in almost constant pain throughout the module. At times, my right knee was so painful that I couldn’t walk on it and my back has been consistently painful; my Mum, who used to be a massage therapist, said it felt like trying to massage rocks and now that it’s all over and I’m trying to relax, the muscles feel like their made of concrete. Which is about as pleasant as it sounds. I’ve also had great trouble with my hands and wrists what with all the typing I’ve been doing. So, all in all, I’ve been a bit of a mess. I haven’t had any support for this – the hEDS – either; I’ve been waiting for physiotherapy and hydrotherapy since December 2020 officially and May 2020 unofficially. I’ve just had to try and get by on various painkillers, none of which have been all that effective.
Despite working practically non-stop, I got everything for my project done just in time for my final presentation. My assessors were positive, which I’m trying to hold on to in the wake of my anxiety around the final grade. I’ve been really trying not to attach my self worth to my grades (something I’ve always really struggled with), or at least, lessen the power my grades have over me but I can’t help the fact that I really want to do well. I’ve worked so hard – with so many obstacles – and the idea that that still wasn’t enough to get a Distinction would be upsetting. I’d get over it but it would still be upsetting. I never want someone thinking, “Oh, she mustn’t have worked hard enough.” Or worse: I never want to think, “Oh, I would’ve gotten a distinction if I wasn’t autistic or had ADHD or whatever, thoughts left over from my late diagnoses and the resulting difficulty I have in setting standards and goals for myself (more on that in another post). This anxiety isn’t helped by the fact that I keep thinking of things that I should’ve included in my presentation. My brain clearly hasn’t quite processed that the module is over.
And then, just when I thought I could relax, the world tipped under my feet. The next morning, my Mum told me that my Granny had died a few days earlier. She was ninety-three. Having barely started to process the end of my two year Masters and intense final project, this news was just too much for my brain. A few days on, I feel like I’m bouncing pretty erratically between two states, the first being this weird bubble where nothing can touch me and the second being, ‘if I stop thinking or talking or moving for even a second, I’m going to completely fall apart.’ It’s surreal and exhausting and sad. I’d like to write a piece about her at some point because she was such an incredible woman but I can’t really write more than this right now but it felt really important to at least acknowledge what’s happened because it’s so big and so important.
I don’t think there’s anything else to say right now. I’ve barely been able to wrap my head around this last week: my final presentation, the ending of the Masters, Granny, and everything that’s ahead given all of these things. It’s a lot to take in; I’m exhausted. I’m just taking it day by day.
Category: adhd, anxiety, autism, covid-19 pandemic, death, depression, emotions, family, heds, medication, mental health, music, research, sleep, therapy, university, writing Tagged: actuallyadhd, actuallyautistic, adhd, adhd inattentive type, adhd support, album, antibiotics, antidepressants, anxiety, anxiety disorder, asd, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, autism spectrum disorder, autistic, autistic adult, autistic student, break, concentration, death, depressed, depression, drowsiness, drowsy, eds, ehlers danlos syndrome, exhaustion, extenuating circumstances, fatigue, final project, focus, generalised anxiety disorder, grades, grandmother, grandparent, granny, grief, heds, hypermobile ehlers danlos syndrome, hypermobility, identity, inattentive type, late diagnosis, loss, masters, masters degree, masters degree in songwriting, masters degree year two, masters part time, medication, mental health, mental health break, mental health update, mental illness, migraine, migraines, new album, new music, part time masters student, processing, recovery time, red bull, rest, self worth, side effects, singer, singersongwriter, singersongwriter life, sleep, sleepiness, sleepy, songwriter, songwriting, therapist, therapy, tired, tooth extraction, tooth pain, writing
Posted on May 16, 2021
Today is the most difficult, emotionally weird day of the year for me: the anniversary of my Dad’s death. I still find the whole series of events really difficult to talk about so instead I want to talk about getting through a grief anniversary and maybe even making something of it.
I’d never thought of us as a family that couldn’t talk about things but for some reason, it always felt really difficult to talk about Dad. No one person made it that way; I think it was just because the emotions were so big, no one knew how to navigate them, especially around other people. And because Dad didn’t live with us, it was relatively easy to slide straight back into normal routines because while there was this huge emotional hole, there wasn’t a physical one. So it just became easier to avoid the subject than engage with it. And after a while, it somehow became the new normal, something that I kind of hate when I look back at that time. I wish we hadn’t let that happen, even if I don’t know how it would’ve been possible to cope any other way.
For a while, we tried to do things on the 16th May. On the first anniversary, we went up onto the South Downs and played frisbee as a family – nothing intense or overly emotional, just something that we did together. But the tradition didn’t last very long. We were all very aware of the date and what it meant but I think it just hurt all of us too much to actually do anything about it; just surviving it was hard enough.
For a long time I just couldn’t even think about him because it hurt too much but at some point, he started creeping back into my consciousness, in more than a fleeting-painful-thought kind of way, even though it was still painful. But slowly it was more than just painful and I guess I stopped pushing it away as fast as possible. Because even though it hurt and made me sad, there came a point when I needed to think about him. It was important.
Almost everyday, there’s something that makes me think of my Dad, of a memory we made together or a memory we could’ve made had we had the opportunity: a TV show that he would’ve liked; something superhero related; when I FaceTime each of my parents, I wonder what it would have been like to have him to FaceTime too; seeing girls with their dads at concerts; something animal related or space related because he used to give us books on them and we’d look at all the pictures together; something wolf related because they were my favourite animal and he used to draw them for me… And then there’s the constant wondering because I know so little about him. I was only thirteen when he died and I wasn’t thinking about how long I had with him, how I only had a limited time to learn everything I could about him. Why would I have been?
A lot has changed over time and the family dynamics have obviously changed since we’ve moved into different houses, even different cities. Recently, my Mum and I have tentatively started doing something each year on the anniversary of his death, even if it’s something small. For example, on the first anniversary after we moved into the new house, we bought some wisteria plants for the garden, the flowers of which we both get great joy from. We liked the idea of having reminders of him around us, even if it was in indirect ways. Only one plant has survived but it’s growing well and that feels really special.
Last year, I ordered a poster of the Justice League that I found on Etsy. Justice League was a TV show we (my Dad, my brother, and I) watched obsessively together and he’s the one who got me into superheroes, something I’ve avoided for a long time but came back to fairly recently because they make me feel close to him, rather than just making me feel painfully aware of his absence. Superheroes and the surrounding stories and mythologies are now somewhat of a common thread in my life, in my writing, and in my view of the world and that’s something I got from him. That is his legacy to me so the poster felt like an appropriate purchase to make on that day.
We’re creating positive memories – or we’re trying to, at least – to associate with him, even if he isn’t here anymore to be a part of them.
I haven’t decided what to do this year, not yet. Life has been fairly chaotic and my brain has been very full: of last semester’s work, of the upcoming semester’s work, the migraine that swallowed up almost a week of my life… So I’m not sure how I’m going to commemorate the day this year but I’ll figure it out. With all the research into him and his family history, I feel like it should be something to do with that but I haven’t come to a final conclusion yet. I feel like there’s this weird pressure to get it ‘right.’
Ultimately we all deal with grief in our own way. I’ve read a lot about grief, about the five stages of grief, about the seven stages of grief… And in the context of those, I don’t really know where I am. Most of the time, I still feel frozen on that day, like I haven’t dealt with it at all. There was never really any anger or bargaining and yes, there’s been depression but that’s an incredibly complex issue for me and one I’m pretty sure can’t just be attributed to processing grief. Having said all of that, sometimes I do feel like I’m moving forward: I write songs about him, superhero stuff is a big part of my life, me and Mum have been talking to anyone we can to find out more about him before all of those stories get lost in time. I want to know who he was. I want to know where I came from. And, although it’s probably not super healthy to dwell on, I want to know what my life might have been like had I had him for longer. I can’t help thinking about it, at least from time to time.
Grief is so complicated, possibly the most complicated emotional process that we can experience as human beings. It takes on so many different forms, is attached to so many different circumstances, and even when the situation is the same, two people rarely feel it the same way. But that’s a discussion for another day. I just wanted to take a moment to talk a little bit about grief anniversaries and my experience and… I don’t know… talk about all of this in a way that felt… okay. I don’t know. I don’t really know what I’m doing here today but I needed to write something and this is what I wrote.
Posted on April 24, 2021
So, on the 4th January, England went into another national lockdown and this list was once again revived. This one felt much more like the first lockdown than the second, where many schools, businesses, etc were still open. When schools and universities started to open, my course remained online (it was one of the courses that could function solely online and meant less people going back to the uni) so lockdown continued for me. My life has only just started to involve going out again – swimming, getting a haircut, (safely) seeing a few people – and that’s why I’ve kept this list going as long as I have…
As I said in the last part of this list, hopefully there won’t be reason to continue this post; hopefully there won’t be any more lockdowns. But I guess only time will tell. I’ve found it strangely comforting to keep this list; it’s kind of like a time capsule for these strange periods of time, if that makes sense.
I hope you’re all keeping safe and well and I’ll see you in the next post.
Category: adhd, autism, covid-19 pandemic, death, diagnosis, heds, medication, meltdowns, mental health, music, tips, trichotillomania, university, video, writing Tagged: a&e, about-face, absentia, acoustic ep, acoustic sessions, adhd, adhd diagnosis, adhd medication, ancestry, ancestrydna, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ava, betsy lane, birthday, blood & water, cat family, christmas present, chronic fatigue service, chyler leigh, collaboration, coronavirus, covid test, covid vaccination, covid vaccine, covid-19, cowriter, cowriting, cowriting session, creating the queen's gambit, criminal minds, dare me, dbt, dialectical behaviour therapy, ecg, escape from pretoria, evermore, family history, fawm, fawm 2021, fearless (taylor's version), february album writing month, film, films, folklore, friends, grammys 2021, grey's anatomy, grief, grief anniversary, haircut, halsey, heds, honest ep, honest ep (sunburst sessions), hospital, how it ends, how to train your dragon, hypermobile ehlers danlos syndrome, hypermobility, inattentive type, interview, kalie shorr, lexie grey, lockdown, lockdown 2021, lockdown 3.0, luce, masters, masters degree, masters degree in songwriting, masters degree year two, masters part time, medical trauma, medication, meltdown, migraine, movies, my cat, my cats, my dog, natalie hemby, new amsterdam, new music, new music release, new music uk, new single, nicola walker, occupational therapy, online concert, part time masters student, peppermint, politics, put it in a postcard, remote writing session, research conference, rheumatologist, rheumatology follow up, richard marc, social distancing, songwriter, songwriting, songwriting competition, sunburst sessions, taking lives, taylor swift, the bay, the dig, the one, the one netflix, the queen's gambit, the shires, the wilds, therapy, tim minchin, tiny pretty things, travis meadows, trich, trichotillomania, triggered, tv show, unforgotten, university, us politics, world autism awareness week, world autism awareness week 2021
Hi! I’m Lauren Alex Hooper. Welcome to my little blog! I write about living with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as several mental health issues. I’m a singersongwriter (and currently studying for a Masters in songwriting) so I’ll probably write a bit about that too.
My first single, ‘Invisible,’ is now available on iTunes and Spotify, with all proceeds going to Young Minds.
I’m currently releasing my first EP, Honest, track by track and all five songs are now available on all major music platforms. However, there’s still more content to come…