Food · Uncategorized

Of all the Burger Joints in the Town

I was out with a friend fifteen years older than myself, and we met up with some of his friends who were his age. On learning how old I am (nearly thirty) one exclaimed, “You can’t be! What do you eat??” Sheepishly, I replied, “Fried chicken burgers.” My friend corroborated, “Yup, she eats shit.”

My food issues – I could talk about these for days. It’s this horrible mix of obsessiveness and emotional eating and fussiness and exhaustion and just… sometimes I wish I didn’t have to eat, that I could live off a pill and never had to bother with the whole thing.

I’ve spent the past few months eating terribly, which contributes to feeling exhausted, which means I’m too low-energy to cook well after work, so I eat terribly, and it’s this whole circle that is so hard to break out of. My palate becomes more and more restricted, until last weekend all I ate was chicken fingers and chocolate. As I was eating the last of the chicken fingers on Sunday night, I started having the stomach-repulsion, and despaired even though chicken fingers aren’t the most nutritionally-balanced meal at least it was something, and once I get that stomach-repulsion I find it difficult to eat anything. I haven’t eaten a vegetable (unless it’s tomato or beetroot in a fried chicken burger) for weeks, and my body is quite irritated with me and telling me to just get over that taste thing. The mouth-feel and the throat-feel and the texture and the smell and the combination of foods and all the things that make my tummy fussy.

I’ve made the grand plan of “eating better” this week for the millionth time. I’ve prepped food and planned it out and it’s the same thing every day so I don’t have to think too hard, and it’s warm roast vegetables instead of salad which is very iffy for me. I get really frustrated and grumpy with food issues. I don’t want to be fussy. I don’t want to have to ask a million questions about what is in a meal at restaurants so I don’t end up with a plate of food I can’t eat. I don’t want to get obsessive about a particular meal and eat it for weeks until one day I’m sitting at work with it in front of me and I want to throw up and I can never eat it again. And so the list of food I can eat dwindles…

Living

Existential Angst

I spent this afternoon lying on my floor feeling the press of existential angst and disability. I’ve just started my fourth year of psychology, while working full-time, and I’m just so exhausted and done. I wonder if I’m really doing what I want to be doing, and if I’m not, what would I want to do instead?

It is the same self-doubt that has plagued me for years. I get passionately invested in a career-idea, but then when it comes down to the work I baulk and give up, or suddenly one day I wake up and it no longer seems like my purpose in life. I really thought I’d found it this time, though, with psychology and the field I intended to work in. But the thought of all the study I have left to do is just so debilitating, and then will I even be doing something that fulfils me? I feel too old for these doubts, to change my mind yet again, and even more, I don’t have the energy. I am so exhausted and worn-out from trying, and I don’t have it in me to change track again.

And I think: what is so special about me, that I need a “career” and can’t be satisfied with merely working in an office?

adhd

Hyperfocus

I was talking to my psychologist about my ADHD diagnosis, and moaning about my scattered brain, when she mentioned “But then you have the flip side of awesome hyperfocus!”

I kind of brushed it off at the time, and thought that wasn’t really something that happened to me. I mean, sitting down and reading a novel cover to cover, or being unable to stop watching a TV show for hours, or starting a video game and then realising ten hours have passed isn’t really hyperfocus, right? It’s something everyone does, right?

Last week at work I was given a spreadsheet of 1,427 profiles to update. I was told just to do a few hundred over the course of a couple of days, then send it to someone else to do some, as it was a monotonous data-entry task. I did 300-odd that day, which people were quite impressed by (as I did it as well as a bunch of other tasks). I told the person who assigned it to me that I could get it finished within a week, and I didn’t mind doing it.

The next day, I sat down and started doing it, and then thought “Actually, I could do this whole thing today.” At one point, I asked a colleague to guess how many I’d done. “250?” He said. “700,” I replied, and he looked at me like I was mad. I did 1,125 profiles in five hours – and in those five hours, I went to the bathroom a couple of times, got some water, had conversations with co-workers a couple of times, answered the phone… We had a farewell morning-tea for a co-worker, and I stayed there as short as was polite and then scarpered back to the spreadsheet.

It was very repetitive, so I had my headphones on listening to a podcast while I did it. This kept my brain occupied, and probably allowed me to actually work as quickly as I did. Once I finished, a co-worker commented that it was physically impossible to do that many in the amount of time I did them in, and there must be mistakes. I thought “it’s not that hard” then did the math and realised I was updating a profile probably every 10-15 seconds… so I freaked out and did an audit of 50 or so profiles, and they were all fine. “That’s some Rain Man shit,” another co-worker said.

This is hyperfocus, I realised. While it wasn’t necessarily a task I was interested in, which is what is frequently flagged as a component of hyperfocus, I had that one-minded drive to work at something until it was complete. It really was no different to working to defeat all the dragon priests in Skyrim. I couldn’t divert my attention away from it (a co-worker: “Why don’t you work on something else for awhile to give yourself a break?” like, totally impossible to switch attention focus once I’ve started, dude). I went into this spacey zone – reflecting on it, I’d call it pattern-recognition auto-pilot. The data I was entering was very repetitive, and I just had to scan the spreadsheet and the program I was working on in case there was a profile that didn’t require updating according to the parameters I was matching the profile against. There wasn’t any requirement to invest energy into thinking about what I was doing, and so I could just let my brain drift and my fingers type (I’m a very fast touch-typer).

Hyperfocus is easy when it is something I am interested in, like a game or a book or knitting. In that case, for me, it I think it borders on “super obsessive” to a point where it’s not really healthy or productive. I also tap into this hyperfocus at times of pressure. I’ve always found it difficult to focus on an assignment until the very last minute, at which point I sit down for eight hours and bang it out. I would love to not be able to do this. I’d love to be able to tap into hyperfocus right now to work on my assignment due in three weeks (ironically, I’m doing it on a study about dietary interventions in children with ADHD…) but instead my brain is like HEY! LET’S NOT DO THAT! LET’S JUST PLAY GAMES ON OUR PHONE!!! Maybe I need to work on strategies to balance the hyperfocus and the scatterbrain, so I can do what needs to be done when I’d like to do it, and I can stop doing less productive things instead of waking up and realising I’ve spent 167 hours so far this year playing Stardew Valley…

 

 

Autism

Passing Privilege

I came of age during the beginnings of internet feminism, starting on blogs and LiveJournal and then moving to more social-media based sites such as Twitter and Tumblr. I was fairly active for awhile, and saw the rise of acknowledging ‘privilege’. One aspect of this is passing privilege, where you can benefit from the privilege of something when you aren’t really a part of it. Examples are ‘straight’-acting gay men or lighter-skinned people of a non-white race. (These are all conversations I have witnessed but not participated in as I have absolutely no connection to anything of these situations, and have no qualification to speak with authority on them).

When considering how I benefitted from privilege, I never considered that I might benefit from passing privilege. Sure I had some depression and anxiety issues, but that was the extent of my mental health stuff – otherwise I was white, well-educated, conventionally attractive, straight(ish), cis, etc. But as with most of the rest of my life, my autism diagnosis has caused me to re-examine privilege.

I’ve had issues at work recently, and had an appointment with my diagnosing psychologist to discuss them. She said something that really struck me, and I think is at the heart of my problems at work – “Even when you tell people that you are autistic, because you present so well and are so intelligent, they expect you to be ‘normal’ and are confused when you don’t act ‘normally’, and they don’t understand why you don’t ‘get’ it.”

What she meant by presentation was at first glance, I appear neuronormative. Because I don’t look different, people expect me to be the same as them, and then get a bit confused when I sit with my feet tucked under me on a chair, or if I get tired at work and have to lie on the floor. I am gregarious and outgoing, talkative and funny and not the stereotype of the socially awkward Aspie. (not that there’s anything wrong with being socially awkward!) Because I appear socially intelligent, when I say something that hurts someone’s feelings or is inappropriate, there is more of a blame put on me that I “should have known better”.

What she meant by intelligence, is that when it comes to work I am very good at my job. I am a capacious learner, work quickly and efficiently, and have a good work ethic. Because I am intelligent when it comes to work, there is this expectation that I am not really that disabled – when talking about how disabled I am at times, I have had people tell me that I’m “not that bad”. Which completely disregards how difficult basic life functions can be for me. When I had a meltdown at work recently, it was a completely baffling experience for my managers. I felt that I handled it as well as I could in the circumstances, and afterwards tried to explain it to them, but I still have the feeling that I am being blamed in some way for not just getting over the problem (which they didn’t see as much of a problem) and getting on with work instead of freaking out.

Passing privilege is often framed as a positive thing. Yes, I gain a lot from passing privilege. I can go to a job interview and not have to disclose that I am autistic. I can date people and go to university and do any number of things without telling people I am autistic. Hiding who I am is exhausting, however. And when I disclose that I am autistic, I then have to work twice as hard to “prove” that I am disabled and that I deserve alternate accommodations. I feel external pressure to be a good conforming Aspie and to not make people too uncomfortable with my autism, just because most of the time I don’t. And the crux is, at the moments when I am most autistic and most need special assistance, they are the moments when I am least able to communicate this effectively in a way neuronormative people can understand, and they are the moments when people are most likely to blame me for supposedly knowing better than to act the way I do.

Autism

Concentration

At the beginning of this, I made a goal to post a blog post at least once a week. In my mind, it didn’t matter what I posted, as long as I did.

I didn’t even make it two months, and I have to keep reminding myself that this doesn’t mean I’m a failure.

The past few weeks have been a complete morass. I’ve had plenty more bigger, more life-effecting things to beat myself up about than the fact that I didn’t manage to string a few words together and throw them into the abyss of the internet once a week. Being formally diagnosed with ADHD (a good thing) kind of got loss in all the horrid, horrid things that have been happening. I just have this absolute hopelessness about my ability to function as an adult. A hopelessness about ever having a “career”, or something more than a base-level job that does nothing for me intellectually and fills me with boredom and despair. A hopelessness about ever ‘getting it’, whatever ‘it’ is, that means that I’m considered professional and mature. I wonder if it’s worth sticking it out where I am to the bitter end. I’ve never been fired before, and I feel sick with certainty that that is going to happen.

I need to congratulate myself on two points, however. One, is that as terribly bad as things have been (and it is the lowest I have been in a long time) I did not contact my ex for comfort. We’ve had this weird co-dependent relationship for two years, and this year I finally had the strength to step away from it. I desperately, desperately, wanted to contact him for a hug and kind words, and even when he messaged me I did not reply. After I was in a more stable zone, I emailed him telling him I really can’t talk to him for awhile, not until I manage to stand on my own two feet.

Two, is that I made the realisation that I have this ridic thing where I “feel” that there is some tension between me and someone else, and then I shut down and freeze them out because I don’t know how to deal with it (especially since that tension is likely transient or imagined). So last week I mended relationships with two people at work, and previous slightly tense relationships are now a-ok. I have another person I want to talk to next week when I get the chance, as well. So that’s an autism social awkwardness plus tick for me. But the feeling that there’s a million minus points to counteract that, at the moment…

Sensory Sensitivity

Panda Eyes

I was forever getting sunburnt as a child. I despised the feeling of sunscreen on my skin, and even worse, a favourite in the sweltering summers of the antipodes, zinc on my face. I would cry and struggle and refuse to wear it. I’d rather not go to the beach than have to put on sunscreen (and honestly, the beach is a terrible place anyway. Sand!) I also hated having my face painted. The feeling was claustrophobic, and I would scratch and itch at my skin until I rubbed it all off.

As a teenager, the adult manifestation of facepaint was not much better. When my teenage friends were experimenting with makeup, foundation was making my face itch, mascara was making my eyes sting, and lipstick was making my lips dry out. I could never understand how people could wear eyeliner and eyeshadow without it ending up halfway down their face within the hour (I’m such a panda eyes). Maybe this was also why I never had a skincare routine – I hated the feeling of things on my face, and my skin was sensitive to texture and sensation.

Last year I looked in the mirror and realised I was getting these fine wrinkles from having dry skin. I had a panic and then went overboard (as usual) buying products and lotions to finally have a “proper” skincare routine. I spent a ridiculous amount of money, because from the cleanse/tone/moisturise ritual of my teens there is now serums and targeted creams and etc. I did have to become accustomed to the feeling of having something foreign on my skin, but as I now had a purpose for it I adapted, and I am glad I persevered. My skin looks so much better now, and since, as an adult, I still can’t stand foundation or heavy makeup, I don’t have the option of covering up blemishes, having my skin look halfway decent au naturel is wonderful.

Now that I have been diagnosed with autism, my freak-outs over things on my skin make so much sense. I was taking my dog for a long walk at the beginning of summer, and put on communal sunscreen. It was greasy and awful but I tolerated it for the length of the walk because I knew it was necessary, and then showered as soon as I got home and scrubbed it off. I went to the pharmacy to purchase a less-greasy one. Luckily there were testers, because ones that guaranteed to be non-greasy made my skin crawl. Yesterday I finally had the chance to use the ones I bought, a body lotion and a lighter, face lotion. While it wasn’t pleasant putting it on, I didn’t want to rub it all off straightaway, and even after I got out of the sun I didn’t have the urge to shower immediately. I wonder if getting into a skincare habit has assisted with that – putting on lotions and moisturisers twice a day has helped desensitise me a little. I still can’t do heavy lotion, but the lighter one is tolerable where once it wouldn’t have been.

I wonder if some form of desensitisation would help with other sensory issues I have. Certain colours hurt my eyes, as do intensities and shades of light. I get overwhelmed by too much noise, or loudness of noise. But even thinking about exposing myself to things that overwhelming is upsetting, leaving me at a loss for where to start. My psychologist keeps telling me I should practice mindfulness, and while I acknowledge that I really should trying is horrific. I’ve tried doing it during daily activities, but I can’t split my attention enough to do the paradoxical thing of focusing on mindfulness. (cue a half-hour rabbithole journey into googling adult autism and mindfulness.) I also find it itchingly unbearable to sit for ten minutes and focus on my thoughts or breath.

I feel like this post has the potential to become a meandering journey of blather. I started this this morning and have only just come back to it after a couple of hours of sleeping and not doing much. I’m incredibly low-energy this weekend after a stressful week at work, among other things. It’s Sunday, which is supposed to be my chore day, but I’ve spent much of today lying on my rug thinking “I should really get up and do something.” Dishes don’t get washed and beds don’t get changed by themselves, and sometimes (most of the time) it’s really quite irritating being a grown-up who is expected to take care of yourself. Particularly when disability exhaustion precludes you from doing so.

Intimacy

Sexy Fun Times

**TW: brief, non-detailed mention of sexual assault**

I’ve always had an ambivalent attitude to sex. While I would consider myself as having a higher sex-drive than average, I also go for long periods without having sex (and then, sometimes, go overboard in a short period of time…)

I am often very tense when I am touched, even in a non-sexual manner. When I am being massaged (by a professional), they invariably make some comment about how tense I am, or are concerned that they are hurting me. While mentally I enjoy it, physically my body cringes as soon as someone touches me. I’m often not even aware of this, and it takes someone specifically mentioning it for me to recognise it. This, of course, carries over to sex. In my first sexual relationship at nineteen, my boyfriend raped me, and I thought for a long time that my tenseness was related to this. However, I have completely recovered from that event, and I still get tense (side note: I was also raped in my mid-twenties, but that is a whole other story and really had no impact on my sexuality, rather, it deeply affected my self-worth and ability to make friends and trust people and my own judgement).

I get incredibly stressed at being the “centre of attention”. I just can’t relax and enjoy having someone go down on me, because I feel all sorts of pressure to stay in the moment, to lie back and not do anything while someone else does all the work, and to ultimately orgasm, because for many men, that seems to be their “ultimate turn-on”. Having a man tell me at the outset of sex “I’m not going to be happy until you cum” 10000% guarantees I am going to be stressed and have performance anxiety for the whole experience.

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I also have attention issues (still going through that ADHD assessment process). I will zone out during sex, my brain will dart to a million different other things, and I just can’t bring my focus back to what I’m supposed to be doing. Over the years I have become very practiced at hiding this so my partner doesn’t realise. My last boyfriend was very sweet in this regard, however, and would almost always recognise when I’d tuned out. He’d say to me, “You’re not with me anymore, are you?” and when I said yes, he’d say it was ok and to just relax while he finished himself off. I hate giving men a round of applause when they’re simply being a decent human being, but I always think of this reaction fondly, the care and consideration he displayed even when he was probably a bit sexually frustrated.

In saying all this, I’m really not anti-sex. I’m really pro-sex. I read and write erotica. I fantasise about other people. I really crave human touch, while at the same time finding it difficult to relax while being touched. I’ve had a spotty sex life for the past two years. This is partly due to aforementioned ex and our weird post-break up not-relationship-relationship (and even before the break-up, when our relationship was beginning to deteriorate). Partly due to stress from working full-time and studying part-time. Partly due to just being disabled (and not knowing it) and being weirdly exhausted constantly and not being able to figure out why. Semi-celibacy is really frustrating for me. I also haven’t had sex post-autism-diagnosis, and all these things have been playing on my mind recently as I have started up a heavy flirtation with someone that may potentially (hopefully) lead to sex.

In light of my diagnosis, I’ve been thinking about my inability to relax, my attention issues, my dislike of doing nothing while someone does everything… I’m curious as to how this new knowledge will assist me in what I view as things that are preventing me from enjoying sex as fully as I want to be able to. The person I am flirting with is aware I am autistic, although we haven’t had a discussion about how that may be affecting my relationship with sex (too busy sexting the filthy things we’re going to do to each other, somuchfun). At the same time, I am confident that he will have the patience to work with me through my anxieties, which is probably one of the reasons why I am really lusty to bone him in the first place.

Also, it’s just really nice to have someone be so expressive in wanting you. I feel very unwanted in a lot of ways – my parents are being terrible, I have anxieties about work and friendships – and I am also insecure at the moment because a recent period of depression has lead to some over-eating of takeaway food and I’m feeling pudgy and unattractive. On top of that, romantically, I’ve had this fucked-up co-dependent not-relationship for the past two years with my ex (as mentioned previously) who is emotionally ‘there’ for me in all ways but romantically, but – that story is just so long and convoluted and still a little close to my heart I can’t tease it apart coherently at the moment. But that relationship has contributed to feeling unwantable sexually and romantically.

That recently-ended debacle, combined with a heavy study work-load coming up, means I don’t have the energy to be emotionally available to someone. I have already discussed the parameters of a potential relationship with current flirtation, basically, let’s touch each other’s genitals and not date. Which is what I need right now, just that feeling of being utterly desired by someone, having them send me messages telling me how pretty I’m looking and how much he wants to see what I’m wearing under my cute dress… I know that self-esteem should come from within, but sometimes external validation does wonders to help regain that confidence to feel ok about yourself. And I am so looking forward to experiencing sex in a new light, post-diagnosis, and exploring with a willing partner all the things that this may mean to me.