Posted on February 20, 2021
It’s a whole new year, a whole new semester… and a whole new lockdown. So I guess it seemed as good a time as any to do another of these week-in-my-life posts. A lot has been going on recently so I thought it might be a good week to document, as much for myself as for anyone else; it’s all been a lot to process and I thought this might help with that.
The week in this post began on Monday 1st February and ended on Sunday 7th February 2021.
I usually like to keep Mondays gentle, given that Tuesday is a long day with my uni classes but this Monday was different. I struggled up (I’m naturally a morning person but between my medication and the pandemic, I’m just tired all the time, which makes getting up in the morning a real battle), had a shower, and managed a bit of breakfast before my first official Occupational Therapy session – I’ve had a consultation but this was the first ‘practical’ session, I guess you could call it.
There were still a lot of questions – all the hows and whens and so ons around the pain in my hands – but the therapist also taught me a series of exercises that I should do daily and how they would help with my pain. She also explained how it all linked in with my hypermobility. So it was really helpful and an encouraging step forward after feeling stuck for so long but despite how little I had to do each day, the exercises caused more pain. I’ve been trying to continue with them as the therapist did say that that could happen but it’s hard to motivate yourself to put yourself through pain. I will have had another appointment by the time this goes up so hopefully I’ll have had some advice on this.
She also had some recommendations on private pools that we could book since swimming is the only real exercise I can do, for the lockdown specifically but also to use until the Hydrotherapy referral comes through. She’d also double checked the Pain Management referral to find that it hadn’t reached the department and so pushed it through personally – apparently, because the pain is impeding my education that puts me further up the list than I might’ve been otherwise. So that was all good but the appointment was pretty exhausting. I actually fell asleep for a couple of hours afterwards.
I woke up suddenly and realised I was ten minutes late for my cowriting session with Richard. That startled me awake, I can tell you that. I scrambled up and logged into Zoom. We had a really good session, finishing a song we’d started the previous week, ‘One More Time.’ I really like it and I’ve been singing it, the chorus especially, ever since we wrote it. It’s one of my favourite songs I/we’ve written recently.
With the demo finished, we talked about the upcoming projects we’re working on, alone and together, for our Masters and for our own projects. That was productive as well, although the creating is always my favourite part of any session.
Several of the cats had been hanging out with me the whole time (I think we were on the call for about four hours in total) and they were being ridiculously adorable. Mouse in particular looked very content with the situation. Having them around all of the time is one of the things that has made this last year bearable; I’m beyond grateful for them.
I was exhausted after that and curled up on the sofa with Criminal Minds. I’ve been rewatching it over the last few weeks and I’d forgotten how much I love it, how much I love the characters; I think Emily Prentiss was one of my first Favourites with a capital F TV show characters.
My mind was wandering and I was thinking about one of my current song ideas, one that hasn’t fully revealed itself to me yet, when the perfect hook popped into my head. Unfortunately, before I could even reach for something in order to record it, it was gone. It was infuriating. I must’ve sat there for an hour, retracing every train of thought I could remember having before the hook occurred to me but alas, I couldn’t get it back. And now, of course, I’m convinced it was the perfect idea: just what I needed to make the song work. So that was very frustrating, which didn’t help with how overwhelmed and stressed I’d been feeling over the previous few days. Part of that was due to the results of the last module being released a few days before. I’m often slow to open results – I like to wait for a moment when I’m feeling stable enough to handle a good or a bad result – but I also had three cowrites and a day of classes in the following days so I didn’t want my emotions about the grade to affect those. That said, I couldn’t forget about them completely and the not knowing was stressful.
Eventually I gave up on trying to conjure back up that perfect hook (*sigh*) and did some writing for the blog. I even managed to finish the post I’d been writing about Lucky. That was a hard one to write so I was glad to have it done.
Mum and I had dinner together and then we had a family video chat, one that specifically included my Granny in Australia because it was her birthday. Since it was a milestone birthday, at the very least some of us would’ve been out there to celebrate with her if not for the pandemic, something that’s been hard for all of us but especially the one of my four parents who’s her daughter. So it was hard, but having a video chat was better than nothing and I think we made the most of it.
After we hung up, Mum and I had a gentle evening, continuing with our Criminal Minds rewatch. I also tried to do some catching up with my diary. I’m so far behind now that it’s more like keeping up: I’m just barely managing to keep bullet points as prompts for some imaginary moment in the future when I have the time to go back and write it all out. I’m finding that incredibly stressful because the need to write everything down is only being partially fulfilled, leaving me with so much anxiety that sometimes I’m left feeling suffocated. But that anxiety is constantly battling with the anxieties of other things that HAVE to get done, like my Masters work. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Plus, a lot of the time, I feel like my brain is wading through treacle, making it even harder to function. My brain feels a bit like it’s been hit by a hurricane; it’s just a chaotic mess and nothing’s where it’s supposed to be or doing what it’s supposed to do.
I went to bed early-ish, early for me anyway, but then I accidentally stayed up for several hours, watching videos on YouTube. One of the upcoming writing briefs for this module is to write a song based on a fictional story and I’ve wanted to write a song about Daisy Johnson from Agents of SHIELD forever so this seems like a good opportunity; maybe a deadline is what I need to make it happen. So watching all of these Daisy Johnson videos on YouTube and listening to the songs that people associate with her is research of sorts. I’m still trying to work out the perspective I want to write the song from, whether it’s about a particular moment in time, or about her emotional journey, but I found several songs that definitely have potential as inspiration. It didn’t exactly help my brain wind down though.
I managed to sleep through all of my alarms, which meant that I was almost an hour behind in getting ready for the day – my uni classes day. So I had one of the fastest showers of my life, put on minimum make up, and inhaled some breakfast, logging on just in time for my first class. Definitely not the most fun or graceful start to a day.
My first class of the day was our workshop, where we present the songs we’ve written based on the techniques we learned in the seminar the previous week. Due to a meltdown, I’d actually missed the seminar, which had been on the techniques of song maps and pyramiding, but after reading the resources and a long discussion with one of my friends who’d been at the seminar, I felt I understood the theory enough to at least attempt to apply it. I’d written one song with Richard and another with one of my coursemates, both of which I really loved. There was only time for one of them, given how many people had brought songs (some days, everyone brings a song and we have to be really efficient whereas on others days, some people haven’t brought a song and there’s more time and people can present both cowrites and songs for their own projects), and the cowrite with my coursemate got chosen. It was well received with a healthy amount of suggestions for improvement, some of which we agreed with and some we didn’t. We’re planning to work on it again soon, since one of the upcoming briefs is to redraft a song.
There were some other really cool songs played during the session but I don’t want to say too much about them since they’re part of other people’s projects. Having said that, my group is packed full of amazing writers so whenever they release music, I’ll be sure to share it on my social media. So check those out if you want to hear about these awesome up and coming artists and writers…
It was a good class but then we had a four hour break before the seminar in the afternoon, starting at 4pm. Tuesdays are hard for me: they’re long and they require a lot of energy and focus, especially the three hour seminar. So I’ve taken to using the break to have a nap to recharge for that class. I slept for almost three hours, had some food, and quickly recapped the notes from the last seminar before we got started again.
We began by discussing what we’d worked on over the previous week – song mapping and pyramiding – and talked about how we’d implemented songs maps into our work, what impact it had had on our writing process, and what we’d struggled with. Having missed the seminar where song maps had been introduced, I’d struggled initially but having incorporated it in the writing of several songs, I do feel like I’m getting more of a feel for it. We had some interesting (and, at points, entertaining) debates over various elements before moving into the new topic: different approaches to cowriting. In groups, we were encouraged to just talk until one of us said something that might make an interesting song and then start writing that song together.
I’d initially been worried about being dropped into a group of people I didn’t know and asked to create something so I’d spoken to my tutor and we’d worked out a solution that I’d be in a group with at least one person I knew. I’m always keen to write with new people but, being autistic, it’s a lot easier and a much more positive and productive experience if I have, at the very least, spoken to them beforehand. So having one person I already knew just created a safety net in case I got overwhelmed or something. I actually knew two people in my group and then there was another guy I hadn’t previously met; we got on really well with lots of laughing and goofing around but we also came up with a really strong concept and started working on the song. So we did pretty well, I think.
When the class ended, at 7pm, I was exhausted but the nap had helped. I wasn’t completely floored like I often am. I even managed to work on a song I’m currently writing, one called, ‘Astronaut.’ I’m usually barely capable of eating dinner and catching up with my diary so that was quite an achievement. The nap had clearly worked wonders.
There wasn’t much left of the evening but my Mum and I had dinner and continued our Criminal Minds rewatch. I also worked on a couple of blog posts before going to bed far too late, as is my norm at the moment. I just get this weird anxiety when I start getting ready for bed. Maybe it’s to do with anxiety about being unable to sleep, maybe it’s anxiety about a period of unproductive time (that’s something I’m struggling with at the moment)… I don’t know. And it just makes it even harder to get to sleep.
It took me a long time to wake up on Wednesday morning; I just couldn’t open my eyes. I feel like I’m having more and more trouble with mornings; my antidepressants are very sedating, which is one of the reasons I’ve been thinking a lot about trying a new medication. It’s just such a tough process and there never seems to be a good time.
When I eventually managed to keep my eyes open for longer than a minute, I forced myself up and had a shower before settling at my desk in the living room. With Criminal Minds as a backdrop, I spent several hours working on blog posts. I struggled to concentrate though because, in the back of my mind, I was aware of the fact that last module’s grades were still waiting to be opened. They’d come out the week before but I’d had three cowrites and a day of classes ahead of me and if the grades were bad, I didn’t know how I’d manage to be present and productive in those sessions. So they were still sitting there, unopened, and I was very aware that I really should open them and look. But it was really hard to make myself do it.
Eventually I did, when Mum went out to do the food shop. It’s not that I didn’t want her to know or anything; I just find it easier to see results, have my initial emotional reaction in private, and process it a bit before sharing the news with people. I was happy with the grade – for the most part (but then I’m a perfectionist and always somewhat disappointed if I don’t do exceptionally, something I think is an unfortunate consequence of being a really high achiever at a young age) – but I did have some issues with the feedback. Reading through the feedback sections, I felt like we hadn’t been assessed on what we’d been told we’d be assessed on. The more I thought about it, the more upset I got. I’d worked so hard and talked to the tutors so many times in order to get a clear pictures of the module and how it was assessed and then to see feedback that felt fairly unrelated to what I’d been told was actually really distressing. I guess I felt (and feel) like I would’ve done things differently if I’d known the type of feedback the work would receive. I’d worked so hard on my assessment submissions so that was just quite deflating.
I talked about it a lot with my Mum and after that, I was just exhausted. So I put on some Criminal Minds and spent most of the day working on blog posts. Or trying to, at least. Wednesdays are always my least productive days, like my brain and body borrow from Wednesday to get through Tuesday, leaving Wednesdays significantly depleted of… just everything. So I always try to avoid putting anything important on a Wednesday.
So a gentle afternoon turned into a gentle evening, watching Criminal Minds and writing for the blog in front of the fire. The cats love it when we have a fire. They all congregate in the living room and spread out in front of it, occasionally rolling over – ever so casually – to warm a different side of their bodies. It’s adorable.
I managed to go to bed at a reasonable time, watched some more Daisy Johnson videos, and was actually asleep before midnight.
I had to get up painfully early to go to the dentist (my dentist is a safety hub, which apparently means they can be open during lockdowns because they look after people with disabilities, although I didn’t know this until fairly recently), which wasn’t a pleasant experience. They have really strict safety procedures (the only reason that I feel safe going there), like an hour between each patient to sterilise the room and so on, so it takes a long time to get an appointment. Unaware of the fact that I could go to my dentist until a few months ago, it’d been a long time since I’d had a check up and so there was quite a lot to do. I’m not gonna go into detail because I don’t think anyone enjoys descriptions of dental work but it was a difficult experience, moreso than usual. I find the noises of the machines particularly difficult and in excess, they get dangerously close to triggering a meltdown, so by the time the appointment was finished, I was completely exhausted.
Back home, I finally managed to get through the Occupational Therapy paperwork and start doing the exercises for the pain in my hands and wrists. Despite the simplicity of the movements, it was hard work and every joint from my fingertips to my elbows hurt afterwards. I made a note of it to report back to the therapist – I had another appointment in a week – and took some painkillers that eventually took the edge off.
It wasn’t long before my next appointment, by phone this time with the Chronic Fatigue Service, so I lay on the sofa and watched Criminal Minds for a little bit while I recharged and gathered my thoughts for the call. I was already apprehensive about the call as it was a doctor I’d previously had a really bad experience with – one I’m tempted to go as far as saying was traumatic. It was a long time ago now but I was still anxious about the whole thing.
It turned out to be exhausting, upsetting, and a complete waste of time. He had very little of my history so most of the hour was spent taking a very extensive history, involving questions ranging from my parents health to my diet to my mental health diagnoses to my medication. And after all of that, he basically said that my case was too complicated for them, that with the more recent diagnoses – including the hypermobility diagnosis – I was better off with my current specialist. What may have previously been perceived to be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome might actually be Persistent Fatigue associated with hypermobility but it’s hard to be sure. But not only did we hang up with less clarity than when we started the call, the whole thing was just… unpleasant and awful; he claimed that I’d been diagnosed with CFS in 2007 by a doctor I don’t even remember seeing according to a letter that neither my Mum nor I remember getting; he was critical of how much Red Bull I drink (due to the sedating effect of my medication as far as I can tell) and acted like I was doing it for fun, not because it’s the only thing that keeps me awake and functioning; he talked about a set of blood tests that were never discussed with us, which was particularly alarming as one of the results could’ve indicated cancer… And on and on. It was a complete fiasco. Every time I think things can’t get worse with doctors, they do. I could’ve had cancer and no one ever even bothered to mention it. I mean… I don’t have any words.
So that was basically the day written off. I was just too distressed and too exhausted. There was an extracurricular uni session in the evening but I was just too tired. I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus and it would be recorded so I could always catch up later. Instead I spent the evening watching Criminal Minds and very, very slowly adding to some blog posts. I did get some exciting music news but unfortunately I can’t share that yet. So the day did end on a better note.
There’s no particular reason to include this picture other than the fact that I thought it was adorable: cat yoga on a piano.
I went to bed early, watched a few more Daisy Johnson videos (at the moment it feels like the only time I feel able to take the time to watch YouTube videos is right before bed or before I get up in the morning), and eventually went to sleep.
I got to sleep in a little bit and then it was up and out to the hospital for an ECG (echocardiogram). Since a small amount of people with hypermobility develop heart problems, I’ll have to have ECGs every five years or so to make sure everything’s okay. I wasn’t too worried about it but again, it was another distressing medical experience.
I’ve had an electrocardiogram before and just like that, you’re asked to undress so that the ultrasound wand can get a good image of every necessary angle of your heart. But I just couldn’t do that: the idea of being so exposed in front of people I didn’t know was and is nightmarish to me. I don’t know if that’s an ASD thing or or me thing or what. They looked at me for what felt like ages before reluctantly allowing me to keep my bra on, telling me that they likely wouldn’t get as good images. I was trying not to lose it completely so, as you can imagine, that was a super helpful comment. And then, to make matters worse, the doctor pressed the wand against my chest so hard that it physically hurt; part of me wondered whether it was a punishment for being ‘difficult.’ I couldn’t breathe properly and it hurt so much that I was almost crying, especially when she pressed it against my sternum.
When it was finally over, my Mum asked if they’d gotten what they needed and they said that they had. So much for my bra being an issue. When I was fully dressed, Mum asked me to wait outside; she was five minutes maybe and then we were out of there. She told me that she’d just done what she normally ends up needing to do with medical professionals and explain how important the language they use with autistic patients is (because, as usual, they didn’t know how to work with an autistic individual). So, for example, instead of saying they probably wouldn’t get the pictures and therefore making me feel guilty for my anxieties, they could’ve said that they could try and then, if they couldn’t get the pictures, we could all re-evaluate together, which would’ve made me feel like they were at least trying to work with me rather than dismissing my difficulties. Apparently they thanked her for sharing her experience and said that they would take it on board; whether they will, I can’t say.
The whole experience had been distressing and exhausting and I was barely holding it together. I just wanted to get home and curl up under a blanket in the safe little bubble that is my living room, curtains closed and fairy lights on. So that’s what I did. I attempted some blog writing but it was very half hearted; I was just really drained by the experience at the hospital.
Early afternoon, I had a therapy session. It was probably too much on top of the ECG experience but then I hadn’t expected that to be so dramatic and emotional. Again, I’m drawn towards the word traumatic but I guess I’m reluctant to call it that as just a person and not a mental health professional. Had it just been the one time, I wouldn’t think to call it a trauma – I’d call it distressing or deeply upsetting – but as the latest in a long line of deeply distressing experiences at the hands of medical professionals or in medical settings, it feels like it’s bigger than that, that those experiences have built up to create a big ball of trauma.
It wasn’t easy but somehow I managed to pull myself together enough for my therapy session. A lot had happened since my last session so there was a lot of catching up and processing, most especially about the medical stuff that’s been going on. It was really hard, both in the sense that it took a lot of energy to talk about it all and in that it kicked up a lot of emotions. It’s weird: it’s like I’ve been boxing it all up and hiding it under the bed for years and suddenly, the recent appointments have just kicked the lid off and I can’t get it all back in, like when you have to sit on a suitcase in order to zip it closed. So now all those emotions are just everywhere and I can’t move without tripping over one or another of them.
We finished up the session but I knew that if I stopped, I was really going to crash so I did some prep work for a cowrite I had the next day; I really don’t like going into cowrites without anything prepared, even if it’s just a list of relevant words or phrases. Since we ended up writing about something completely different, I think it’s probably fine to talk about the song we were planning to write: we’d been talking about our personal concepts of time and how time feels different since the pandemic began. So that was our concept but we needed to refine it so that it would work in song form. So I spent some time looking up interesting words in the thesaurus, searching for inspiration on quote websites, and free writing about how I’ve been feeling over the last year in relation to time. There were a few quotes that I loved and could’ve drawn inspiration from if we hadn’t jumped ship and worked on a different idea:
I thought those three quotes in particular were beautiful. I could write a song based on each one.
Late afternoon, I logged into Microsoft Teams for our group cowrite – a session to finish the song we’d started during Tuesday’s seminar. We’d already written most of the song but we kept writing and refining. We had a really good time together but we did talk about whether four people were necessarily needed for the first draft of a song. Having said that, I think everyone contributed in their own ways and the song wouldn’t be what it is without all four of us. We ended up being on the call for over two hours before deciding to call it a day. I was a bit frustrated to leave it unfinished again but I think that’s just coming from my issues with productivity; I hate leaving things incomplete. I was still staring at the Google Doc when I had a spark of inspiration and jotted down a full bridge to look at next time. I thought it worked well so I was hopeful that the others would like it too.
Less than ten minutes later, one of my parents (who doesn’t live with us but is in our support bubble) arrived. We try to have an evening a week where we just hang out together and have some real human interaction. We treated ourselves to an Indian takeaway and caught up while we waited for it and then watched a couple of episodes of Lucifer, the show we’re currently watching together. It was very chilled out and I was practically asleep on the sofa when she got up to leave.
Mum and I watched a couple of episodes of Criminal Minds before going to bed and I watched a few more Daisy Johnson YouTube videos. This is one of my favourites so far:
It’s one of several that are sort of building a sonic picture in my mind as I put this song together. Yeah, I’m trying to work out how to write my own Daisy Johnson song but I’m also realising that it’s a form of procrastination too. When I lie down at night, my thoughts start to spiral and the spiral gets tighter and tighter until I can’t think or breathe. I definitely can’t relax enough to sleep. I’ve tried all of my strategies but they don’t seem to be working so I’ve been seeing the early hours of the morning a lot more often recently.
After going to sleep so late, I slept in, hours and hours later than usual. I missed almost half of the day, which was very disconcerting. And even awake, I couldn’t summon the energy to get up for a while so I scrolled through Twitter on my phone. I’ve recently gotten into #ActuallyAutistic Twitter (I knew it existed but hadn’t spent much time looking at it) but I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it: some of the people on there are really lovely and share valuable tips and information but I’ve also seen some pretty intense debates that make me feel quite anxious, like it wouldn’t be safe to express my opinions or experiences without someone judging me or telling me how [insert word here] I am. So it’s a mixed bag and I’m not sure whether or not engaging with it is good for my mental health, right now at least.
Eventually, at about half twelve, I dragged myself up and into the shower. The points where they’d pressed the ultrasound wand were really tender and painful. There wasn’t any bruising but they hurt to touch.
Shower done, I settled in the living room. Sooty immediately hopped up for cuddles and ended up spending most of the day tucked up against me in one position or another. It was very cute and very soothing.
With so many big posts coming up, I decided to post a short, less intense post, editing and posting another Little Things post. It’s true what I write in those posts: I do want those of you who read my blog to know who I am as a full person, not just a Picasso painting made up of the specific parts I talk about in any given blog post. That’s part of why I write these posts too.
When that was finished and posted, I did some admin stuff, mostly emails: some music stuff, plus some messages around my long term project of tracing my family history (that’s a story for another post). I also continued my attempts at redrafting the lyrics of ‘One More Time’ but I was still struggling to get it right. It was going to be super satisfying when I finally hit the right combination of words but until then, it was somewhere between a really complicated Rubik’s Cube and banging my head against a wall.
Eventually it was just getting too disheartening so I took a break. I went to Tumblr as I often do for inspiration and while I didn’t find anything to help with this song, I did find some cool art, some interesting lyric analysis, and some beautiful gifsets from several of my favourite TV shows. At the very least, it released some of the tension in my brain.
It was an evening of Criminal Minds, dinner, and my physio exercises. Oh, and a further attempt at redrafting ‘One More Time,’ but still no dice. It’ll get there at some point; I just don’t know when. My brain just feels really overloaded and overwhelmed at the moment and that makes it really hard to think when I get stressed or anxious. And it just snowballs, everything getting worse and worse until I feel like I’m so twisted up in this net of my own thoughts that I can’t move, can’t think clearly. It’s exhausting and yet, sleep is such a struggle.
I really struggled to wake up but eventually I managed to drag myself into the shower and then the living room. One of the cats, Tiger, immediately sought me out for attention and paced relentlessly until I gave in and devoted all of my attention to her. The cats are all getting far too used to us being around all of the time…
Late morning, I had a FaceTime call with a friend that went on for over an hour. That was really nice and we had a good laugh, which I really needed after the week it had been. It gave me a much appreciated boost, which was only heightened by the flurries of snow outside. That was very exciting and when I went downstairs after the call ended, I got to enjoy watching the cats in the garden, watch their befuddlement at the snow: the little shakes when it landed on them, the pouncing on the settling snowflakes… It was incredibly adorable.
Back upstairs, I did a bit more thinking and searching for inspiration – in my various songwriting notes, in my diaries, on Tumblr – for my upcoming cowrite and I worked on that until it was time for the video call, about an hour later.
I think it was a good session, especially for a first time cowrite. It was with another of my coursemates and while she and I have known each other a while now, we hadn’t managed to write together up to this point. We had a good time and laughed a lot while still managing to write most of a really promising song in about ninety minutes. So I feel like we did well. I like the song and I like the message behind it; hopefully we can finish it sometime in the near future.
So I finished the session in a really good mood, that is until I saw that Sia’s dangerous, offensive, and incredibly ableist and problematic film, Music has been nominated for two Golden Globes. I was – I am – disgusted and appalled by how little so many people – in this case, the film industry – care about the wellbeing, the opinions, and the happiness of the autistic community. It’s horrifying. It makes me want to scream at someone but there’s no one to scream at. Put me in front of the Golden Globes people and I’d rip them a new one but that’s not gonna happen, not in this reality anyway.
can someone pls with a bigger platform talk about the fact that the golden globes nominated music, sia’s horrifically ableist movie, twice?? and the implications of that for autistic people ?
— maisie (@maiisiesh) February 3, 2021
Sia's 'Music' is a possible Golden Globe winner.
The film glorifies physical harm & inspiration porn for neurotypicals & a neurotypical was cast for a non-speaking autistic role.
Sia's response to #ActuallyAutistic critique with abuse.
Spread word: #NoGoldenGlobeForMusic
— Mx. Charis Hill ♿ (they/them) (@BeingCharisBlog) February 4, 2021
— Lauren Alex Hooper (@laurenahooper) February 7, 2021
Not sorry enough to pull the movie. Not sorry enough to reject the award nomination. Not sorry enough to leave her apology up on Twitter. Not sorry enough to reach out to the people she directly insulted. Not sorry enough to tell her fans to leave #ActuallyAutistic people alone. https://t.co/8zuYKvVqGM
— Julie Atwood (@jmatwood) February 7, 2021
– because Sias movie „Music“ portrays traumatic, deadly prone restraint as the appropriate response to autistic meltdowns.
– because „Music“ erases & harms autistic people, especially non-speakers.
— autistictic (@autistictic) February 3, 2021
I did my best to have a quiet evening since I had another busy day ahead of me but I couldn’t shake off all the unpleasant feelings around Sia’s film. I tried to distract myself and work on ‘One More Time’ but I just couldn’t focus. I was too emotional, too overwhelmed. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d spiralled into a meltdown, if not for the fact that I was too tired to even cry.
In the end, my Mum and I watched some more Criminal Minds while she gave me a neck and shoulder massage (one of her many lives was as a massage therapist). The pain is creeping higher and higher, up my neck and into the base of my skull so although it wasn’t the most comfortable experience, I felt better for having it. Less tension, less pain. Some of the time, at least.
Again, getting to sleep wasn’t easy but it was a better night than others so I’m grateful for that. I’ll take whatever I can get right now. I’m waiting on various things that will potentially help but everything’s moving very slowly. My logical brain is very understanding, given everything with the pandemic, but my emotional brain is less rational, struggling to cope with the pain and the anxiety and the lack of sleep. As human beings, we are more than capable of holding two such opposing emotional responses but it being possible and it being easy aren’t the same thing, are they?
Somehow that ended up being a lot longer than I’d planned, than I’d expected it to be. But apparently there was a lot of stuff in my head that was intent on getting out. Life feels pretty complicated at the moment.
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Posted on November 14, 2020
While I was going to write a series of posts about the events of this week, the way all of those events played out made that much more difficult than I’d anticipated so, after a lot of thought, I decided to put them all together in one post because I still really wanted to write about all of them. It was an intense week, with some really big events and a lot of anxiety.
The week in this post started on Monday 2nd November and ended on Sunday 8th November 2020, the autumn semester’s reading week. It involved an Autism webinar, the US election, Bonfire night, as well as the beginning of England’s second national lockdown.
My Mum was visiting her Mum, masked, social distanced, and outside where possible before we all go into lockdown again. So I was all on my lonesome, which is pretty unusual these days. Apart from the cats. Once Queen Lucy realised I was awake, she was climbing all over me, very clearly telling me that it was time for breakfast. So I dragged myself out of bed and went downstairs to feed the pride.
I spent the morning doing various admin tasks like replying to emails and finishing a couple of blog posts before having a shower, getting back to my computer in time to get a ticket to Tim Minchin’s upcoming livestream for his new album, Apart Together. It’s scheduled for the end of November so that will be something really fun to look forward to during lockdown. In the description of the event, they describe him as an ‘inimitable poly-talent,’ which is absolutely true and I just can’t help thinking what it would be like to be described that way. What an awesome compliment.
That done, I settled into my little home studio space and got to work. There were a handful of songs that I had been neglecting and so I finally forced myself to stop procrastinating and prioritising other things and spent several hours recording vocals for them. It’s stupid: I don’t know why I put off recording vocals so much. I guess they make me feel anxious and insecure, like I’ll listen to myself and suddenly realise what a terrible singer I am (which, yes, I recognise is ridiculous because while I know I’m not the greatest singer out there, I know I’m not terrible). But anyway, I always put it off and then when I finally do it, I remember how much I enjoy it. As I said… ridiculous, and yet we’ve all had that experience in one way or another.
It was a challenge because it was really windy outside, so windy that the microphone was picking it up and I had to delete multiple takes because the wind noise was so obtrusive. And then, Lucy decided that she was being left out of something important. I managed to convince her to lie on my bed (instead of climbing all over me) but even her stretching and clawing the duvet was making it into the recordings. I ended up barricading myself in my bedroom for the rest of the tracks. Fortunately, she (and the others) didn’t start yowling until just as I was finishing up so I was able get everything done without the feline interruptions. I think they’ve developed a form of separation anxiety after having me at their complete disposal (by which I mean I’m available to be sat on at almost all times) since late February and the closed door was just unacceptable.
I had a short time to rest and order my thoughts (change hats, if you will) before signing into an online meeting about an upcoming conference that I’m a panelist for. Just typing that out is wild to me; this is something I’ve always wanted to do. I mean, ideally it would’ve been on a literal panel, talking directly to people, rather than through a screen, but I’m not complaining. I’m nervous but excited. The other panelists were all really nice and we had a good discussion and planning session.
I was pretty knackered after all of that so I lay down on the sofa and attempted to do some blog post writing. I didn’t get very far – I think I was just too tired – but I made progress on a couple of posts so that was something.
I had a place on a webinar in the evening about Autism in young people but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t get into it and the anxiety and frustration and confusion – likely combined with my anxiety about the pandemic, the US election, and the impending lockdown – resulted in a lot of distress. I wouldn’t call it a panic attack or a meltdown but it was a serious overload of difficult and upsetting feelings. I talked to Mum about it afterwards and she suggested emailing them to see if they had a recording I could watch since I’d paid for a ticket and then not been able to attend. So that was a job for the next morning; I was too upset and all over the place to try and write a coherent email.
Despite not attending the webinar, I ended up staying up far too late, bouncing between writing for my blog and in my diary. Lucy curled up with me and, completely exhausted, I was asleep in a matter of minutes.
I woke up with a headache that even my prescription painkillers couldn’t kick. I’d had a busy day planned out, with the US election the next day (I knew it would dramatically affect my emotions and therefore my ability to work so I’d planned to get as much done beforehand as possible). I tried to get up and get things done but I just felt so unwell that I ended up shifting my week around to give myself a lighter day. I just couldn’t do the more demanding tasks I’d planned to do.
I didn’t manage to get much done that morning. My head was pounding and I was tired and I just couldn’t concentrate enough to get as much done as I would’ve liked to. I did start the essay for this module for the Masters, working out the different sections and the elements I could talk the most about. I also managed a little bit of blog writing; I swear, just as I think I have a decent buffer of posts, they’re gone and I’m panic writing to make sure that I have something to post (not that I’m panic writing this post – I just thought I had more posts lined up than I do).
Early afternoon, I joined the the video call set up by a group from my Masters classes last year (they were the full timers who’d done the whole course in one year while, as a part timer, I’m taking two years to do all of the modules) to watch their online graduation ceremony. As far as I know, everyone was watching the ceremony but not everyone was in the video call, including one of my best friends but we were chatting via WhatsApp. When the ceremony ended, the university had organised video calls for each course and so the majority of the full timers logged on, plus a few of the part timers as well as our course leader to celebrate together. Some of the other tutors on our course also dropped in briefly to say hi. It was so nice to see them all. It feels like so long since I’ve seen most of them and I do miss them; I feel like we had a really lovely dynamic. We chatted and caught up and had a drink together and the whole thing ended up going on for about three hours. I was pretty social-ed out afterwards but it had been so nice to see everyone and celebrate their achievements.
Not long after we all hung up, my Mum took Lucy to the vet as I think the cysts she developed a few months ago have returned. They were back within the hour and the vet had confirmed my theory. The recurrence has also confirmed where they’re coming from and so she’s booked in for surgery on the 12th to remove the cysts and hopefully fix the problem. Apparently it’s not much more complicated than the previous surgery and she’s a very healthy cat so there’s no reason to worry unduly. He’s a great vet: we haven’t known him long at all and yet he already takes my high levels of anxiety into account when giving explanations and laying out the options. I really, really appreciate that.
Lucy has never seemed distressed by going to the vet but she’s always very pleased to be home. She often comes and cuddles up with me if possible though. I don’t know if she feels in need of affection, if she was trying to get rid of the unfamiliar smell of the vet, or whatever but it was very cute.
We weren’t confident about the support bubble rules going into the second lockdown so one of my other parents (who we’re in a support bubble with) came over for the evening and we hung out, had dinner, and watched some TV together. It was really nice and I think we all needed it.
Throughout the afternoon and evening, I’d been working on a personal essay to go out as part of the campaign for my recent single, ‘Honest,’ and I finished it at around eleven. I could barely keep my eyes open by that point but I thought it was at the very least decent, as did my Mum when she proofed it for me – I’ve had much more positive feedback since, which has been good for my confidence as I was feeling quite insecure about it. But anyway, given how tired I was, I decided to leave it as it was and have another look at it in the morning before sending it off.
I’d been doing my best not to think about the US election all day, avoiding social media as much as possible, but when I went to bed, all the anxiety rushed in. I was so terrified of Trump getting in again; I was almost overwhelmed by the dread of waking up to that as the result. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t relax enough to sleep and ended up taking both my anti-anxiety medication and a sleeping pill.
While I think we all felt that it was unlikely we’d wake up to an official result, it was nonetheless tough to wake up and see that it still wasn’t over. But worse, was that it could still go either way when I checked the news first thing. I saw this meme making the rounds on social media and it felt very relevant; I’m pretty sure that this was how my face looked.
It ended up being a long, anxious day of refreshing the various news sites, waiting for updates and not getting much done. I did manage to edit the personal essay and send it off but other than that, I just bounced between writing blog posts and working on my Masters essay without making much progress in either. I was just so anxious; I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I may not be American nor do I live in the US but I have friends and family who do and the political decisions made there have the potential to ripple so far out, affecting so many countries and so many people. So to say I was stressing would be a massive understatement.
Slowly though, the numbers did start to shift in favour of Biden more and more. It wasn’t a done deal by any means but it was going in the right direction. I was refreshing my phone relentlessly; I could barely concentrate for five minutes without having to check to see if there was an update.
In the evening, Mum and I had dinner and then went for one last swim before lockdown closed all the gyms. We tried to make it as safe as possible, going close to their closing time when it’s always quiet. Plus they keep all the doors open to help with the ventilation. I still almost fell apart in the changing room because the experience was so stressful – whether it would’ve been a meltdown or an anxiety attack, I don’t know. But the staff helped us out and the few people swimming were very obliging about making it possible to put as much distance between all of us as possible.
We had a really good swim, including some of the new hydrotherapy exercises, and by the time we got home, Biden only needed six electoral votes to win and Trump needed fifty six. I was so excited; I actually felt like I might throw up from the anticipation. Again, I found it very difficult to sleep.
And so begins Lockdown 2.0…
I slept long and deep and when I did finally wake up, I didn’t get up for quite a while, going through the election coverage. The numbers hadn’t moved and it was making me edgy.
I got up, had breakfast and a shower, and got down to working on my essay. I’d only been working on it for about half an hour though when a friend called and we ended up talking for over an hour. It might not have been the way I’d planned my morning but it was really good to have that chat; I felt better for it.
When we hung up, I managed to do a bit more work on my essay before getting myself made up to do some filming. It’s getting dark so early now that I couldn’t wait any longer or I’d lose the light. I set up my little corner (I’d love to have a more permanent space at some point) and filmed some bits and pieces for the ‘Honest’ single campaign. It was a bit of a struggle – cold and uncomfortable and the cats wouldn’t leave me alone – but eventually I got them all done, which was an important job to have ticked off my list.
That done, I went back to my uni work. I spent most of the afternoon working on one of my song assignments: a reimagination of one of my own songs. It’s weirdly hard: you spend so much time trying to make a song perfect and then you have to turn around and create something entirely new from it, bring out a different emotion or try it out in a different genre. I took this really big, fiesty pop song that had this whole ‘I don’t need you’ vibe and turned it into this quiet piano song that was based on the moment of that realisation when it’s still fragile and tentative. I worked on changing the chords and then recorded them but they were still just one chord per bar; I planned to take it to a friend who is a much better piano player than me to help me expand on it, breaking up the chords and changing it a little for each section to keep it engaging since it was just going to be piano and vocal.
I was just finishing and stretching out on the sofa to relax when the fireworks started going off. I hate Bonfire Night. If you’ve read this post, you’ll know why but the short version is that, not only do fireworks massively trigger the noise sensitivity associated with my ASD, I had a firework thrown at me when I was at the cinema as a teenager. So fireworks make me very anxious and the more there are, the more anxious I get.
I was doing okay: I’d done some blog writing, Mum and I had had dinner in front of Legally Blonde (a friend of mine has been trying to get me to watch it for ages, ever since I’d said that I’d never seen it), but then excruciatingly loud fireworks (that we later found out were being let off a few gardens down from ours) started going off. It could’ve been machine gun fire. The sound triggered one of the worst meltdowns I’ve ever had: I was shaking, hyperventilating, sobbing, screaming (apparently I was screaming ‘stop’ over and over but I never really remember meltdowns afterwards), pulling out my hair to the extent that I was drawing blood… I have no idea how long it went on for but it felt like it could’ve been an hour. Eventually it stopped but meltdowns – my meltdowns at least (I don’t want to speak for anyone else’s experience) – often take a while to settle. I’d barely started to relax when a few minutes later, it all stared again and re-triggered the meltdown. Even after they did finally stop, it was still a long time before I was responsive again, able to interact with my surroundings, able to talk again. It was horrific. It was absolutely horrific.
I have no idea how much time that ate up, just that I was absolutely drained afterwards and barely able to sit up on the sofa. We finished the movie (I liked it for the most part but there’s a really problematic scene where one of the lawyers tricks a gay man into outing himself in public, which is just not okay – I get that it was almost twenty years ago but that doesn’t make it comfortable to watch) and headed for bed. The one thing I will say about it being Bonfire Night was that one of my cats, Sooty (pictured below), stayed with me all evening, snuggled up nice and close. I don’t know if she understood my distress or whether she, herself, needed some comfort but it was very nice to have her with me all evening. Nothing really helps with the meltdowns but it did help before when it was the odd bang and after when I was a collapsed on the sofa. She was an excellent little companion.
Despite being so exhausted by the meltdown, I couldn’t sleep, no matter what I did. Maybe it was adrenaline, maybe it was fight or flight… I don’t know. But I couldn’t fully relax for hours, even with the help of a sleeping pill. I think I eventually went to sleep at some point between two thirty and three.
I struggled up the next morning and after a while, decided to post about the experience. I’d seen #banthefireworks and similar hashtags trending on Twitter the night before, mainly to do with how traumatising they are for pets and for wildlife. It was, however, the first time I’d seen people with sensory issues and Autism mentioned as well though, which felt like quite a big deal. I’d been too out of it the night before to write anything at all but with my head a little clearer, I thought that maybe it could be a good idea and maybe raise some awareness about what the experience of Bonfire Night (and fireworks in general) is like as an autistic person. So I posted this on Twitter and on my Instagram stories:
I actually got a really lovely response with a handful of likes and kind, supportive comments.
I got up and got myself ready for the day and settled down to do some blog post writing. I was feeling very fragile after the meltdown(s) the night before so I put on one of the movies that I discovered during the first lockdown and ended up watching a lot because it just feels good. It’s called ‘Isn’t It Romantic’ with Rebel Wilson. I’m generally not a rom-com fan and I hadn’t seen Rebel Wilson in a role that didn’t make me cringe so I was initially wary when my friend recommended it but I ended up loving it. It’s just the ultimate feel good movie. So I had that on in the background as I tried to write (my thoughts always feel kind of fuzzy and not quite connected after a meltdown, sometimes for a few hours and sometimes for days – it can get really upsetting if I spend too much time thinking about it; feeling like your brain doesn’t work just feels so horrible and scary).
Mid afternoon, I had a session with my therapist. I haven’t ‘seen’ her for a while so we had quite a bit of catching up to do. We talked in depth about the night before, as I usually need to after an experience like that. I feel pretty lucky that I had a therapy session within less than twenty four hours, even if it was still very raw. But better that than in a week or two. The other main thing we talked about was how I’m struggling more than usual with my OCD: with the new semester of uni and the promotion of ‘Honest,’ it’s been really hard to find the time and emotional energy to keep up with my diary (for those unfamiliar, my OCD manifests as a compulsive need to write everything down. The overwhelming anxiety and pressure to keep up and do well in my Masters and what is effectively my job seems to be the only thing that can overpower my compulsive writing but then the anxiety around that only builds and builds until I feel like I can’t breathe, like my mind is coming apart and I’m no longer able to form coherent thought processes. We spent a while talking about that and about starting to tackle it as an issue, something we haven’t done because the pandemic has had such an impact on my mental health. It was an exhausting session but it was good to see her and hopefully, in therapy at least, I’m moving out of the frozen state I’ve been in since the pandemic hit the UK. I’m reluctant to commit to that as a statement but I’m cautiously optimistic.
I was pretty much done after that; I didn’t have any energy left. I posted a video to remind people about the new single but that was pretty much all I could manage for the rest of the day.
Since I was too tired to do anything, I ended up watching a new film, Inheritance. The trailer had looked good and while it wasn’t the best film ever, I thought the acting – especially the scenes that involved just Lily Collins and Simon Pegg in a room – was really good and I enjoyed the twists and turns. It was very dark though so I can definitely see it appealing to some and really not to others.
While the fireworks weren’t anywhere near as bad as the night before, people were still setting them off throughout the evening, which really heightened my anxiety. I could barely eat; it felt like my throat was closing up and swallowing was actively uncomfortable.
I spent the evening bouncing between trying to write blog posts and trying to write my diary, not achieving much with either. Again, I think I was just too tired. But it was still a bit too early to go to bed and I wanted to try and do something, even if it wasn’t much.
I FaceTimed with one of my parents before going to bed, which was really nice and then, during the call, I got an email saying that I’d got a ticket to Halsey’s upcoming livestream for the launch of her new poetry book, I Would Leave Me If I Could, which was really, really excited. And when I went to bed around eleven, Biden was very close to winning. So that was a good mental state to be going to bed with.
I struggled up at nine thirty and got straight to work, recording vocals for the reimagination of my song before my session with Richard. That went pretty quickly and smoothly because I was fairly solid in the new melody. I think it’s pretty good, although I was a bit concerned that the rhythm of the melody wasn’t that different from the original. I didn’t have the time to rework it so I thought I’d take that to class and ask for advice, both in terms of whether they thought it was a problem and how I should go about changing it if it was.
That done, I had a shower and breakfast, published my blog post about going back to the gym (pre this new lockdown), and then logged into Zoom for my session with Richard. We spent the next three hours working on the reimagination of my song and of the cover song. I found it quite frustrating since it was mainly arrangement and production based, so all I could do was offer direction and suggestions but Richard had to do all of the physical work, considering the Logic project was on his screen. This is one of the things I find hardest about collaboration via programs like Zoom: you can’t just take over from one another, swap chairs or instruments, or even point to things on the screen. Sometimes I end up finding it hard to engage and sometimes I just end up wanting to scream because I feel so limited. Most of the time it’s fine and I’ll gratefully accept the fact that we can work long distance at all but every now and then, the frustration just gets too much.
After hanging up, I put Friends on for background noise and spent a few hours working on upcoming blog posts.
I wasn’t refreshing the news as obsessively anymore so I didn’t discover it for myself. I got a text from Richard at 4:28pm with a screenshot of the BBC News announcement. I actually shrieked and shouted to Mum to tell her. I was positively giddy with relief: I laughed hysterically and then I just started crying because I was just so overwhelmed with so many emotions. It was like I could breathe again. And considering that’s how I felt when it isn’t my country or government, I can only imagine how everyone in America – those who had worked so hard to get Trump out and Biden in – were feeling.
The majority of people that I was seeing on social media were hysterical with joy and it being such a historic moment, I felt that I really wanted to add my own to mark the occasion…
We were just finishing dinner when the fireworks started going off. They weren’t bad enough to trigger a meltdown but they did make me anxious, cause me to flinch and lose my train of thought. I was going to be very pleased when those few nights of fireworks were over.
We had a quiet evening of TV (me and Mum are currently rewatching Hustle – it’s easy to watch but still such a good show) and I tried to do some gentle work on my Masters essay but I ended up in a state about all the musical theory language that I was supposed to be using but didn’t understand, being a self taught musician rather than having had lots of lessons or doing grades. So that was very stressful and I got very upset so I emailed my tutors to ask for some guidance.
I was still buzzing about the election news but it had been somewhat dampened (temporarily) by my uni anxiety so I went to bed just feeling like a complete mess. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and anxious and it was all just too much. By that point, I needed the emotional fresh start a new day would give me.
It wasn’t easy but I managed to wake up around eight thirty. I got distracted from getting up when I checked my social media though, looking through all of the posts about Biden getting in. There were a few negative posts but on the whole, my feed was mostly filled with positive ones, which was a nice way to start the day. Obviously our social media isn’t an objective view of any subject so I wasn’t going to base my knowledge of the election outcome on the reactions I was seeing but seeing so much positivity and joy on my timeline was a real lift in a very difficult week.
Eventually I tore myself away, had a shower and breakfast, and got down to work. I spent the morning working on blog posts and doing some Christmas present planning and shopping. And then I dedicated the afternoon to preparing for the conference. It’s a conference about University and the Covid-19 pandemic and I’m on a panel discussing autistic students and coping with change. So I wrote down all my thoughts, organised and input them into the powerpoint we would be displaying. It took a couple of hours but I was pleased with the work I’d done. Now I just have to pull together my notes for when it’s my turn to speak but I didn’t want to do that until we’d all met again and signed off on the powerpoint as a group.
I had some chill time before one of my other parents arrived for our weekly evening together (she’s in our bubble and it seems that bubbles – those that bring a household and a single person together anyway – are still permitted during this lockdown). We’d decided, given that we were already in a bubble and none of us do anything out but the essentials, that we felt safe to continuing seeing each other.
We had a really good evening. She’s a music teacher (or at least that’s one of her hats) and has been for decades so she was able to help me out with my essay: we went through the harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic elements of every section of the song and it was kind of hilarious how consistent I’d been without being aware of it: almost every element built on the idea of tension and release, except the release never comes. Non-diatonic chords, uncommon intervals, irregular time signatures, syncopation for days… The song had been an experiment in the weird and it was certainly that.
We had dinner with a movie (we missed the new episode of His Dark Materials because I got the time wrong – me and Mum made a note to watch it the next day) and while my parents were content to relax with the rest of the movie, I went back to blog writing. My brain struggles to sit still, to do one thing without getting distracted or bored. So I kept writing, with Sooty curled up between my knees. It seems to be her new favourite place.
Once it was just me and Mum again, we took our time winding down and then headed for bed. I checked my phone one last time and saw that, as promised if Biden won the election, Kalie Shorr had released a worktape of one of her unreleased songs, ‘Strawberry Blonde.’ It’s such a great song. Her lyric writing especially just blows my mind:
“…Sometimes I still get wasted
To stop thinking ‘bout the time I wasted
I started taking long walks again
And I started talking to God again
You’d hardly recognise me with my rose-coloured glasses gone
You might find it surprising I stopped taking shit from anyone
I got a new tattoo so you don’t know what I look like when my clothes are off
And I went strawberry blonde…”
I learn so much from her songs and I’d love to have the confidence she has in her writing style, in herself as an artist and as a person it seems. She is one of the people I want to write with most; I feel like it would just be so much fun and I’d learn so much. Plus I think we could write one badass song. She’s such an inspiration to me and has been ever since I met her and started following her career in 2016. I don’t know if she knows what an impact – what a positive impact – she’s had on my life.
My brain was going off like fireworks (ironic, I know, but it’s the only metaphor I’ve found that fits) after hearing that song, lyrics bursting into life behind my eyes, which of course I had to write down so as not to forget them. My brain is often at its most active and creative at night. So it took me a long time to get to sleep.
So it was a hell of a week. There was good, bad, really good, and really bad. I can’t say whether it was the week I expected or not because I had no idea what the week was going to look like, mostly due to the US election. Most of all it was exhausting. The new week felt daunting, going in so depleted, but it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last.
I hope this was interesting; I hope you enjoyed it. And I’ll see you in the next post.
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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…