About me

About me

Welcome to my blog – Pawprintlaur.

If you’ve stumbled across this page, you may well be wondering who I am (past being an avid tea drinker) and what my story is.

Four years ago I gained a triple distinction star (D*D*D*) qualification in my Level 3 Extended BTEC Diploma in Animal Care and Management. I spent two years studying before working as an Animal Technician for a year.

And following this, after 2 years out of education, I began my studies at Bangor University. I’m heading into my third year in September, and I study Zoology with Animal Behaviour (BSc Hons). My interests lie in the fields of animal behaviour, animal ethics and animal welfare, and I have a known soft spot for mammals. Goats And Giraffes in particular. Although, in addition to this, I believe that all animals are unique, fascinating and worthy of love, care and affection. Which partially explains why I am Vegan.

I plan to expand on my Veganism posts. So stay tuned!

I’ve been Vegan for 3.5 years. I transitioned in April 2016 after educating myself into the realities of the dairy industry, and because I wanted to do more for animal rights and ethics. It’s cliché, but I believe Veganism has always been embedded within me.

In my spare time, I enjoy dedicating both my love and commitment to animals. This summer, I spent a week in Spain volunteering at a Vegan Animal Sanctuary – Jacobs Ridge, which is located in Southern Spain.

I also regularly volunteer at a farm (Little Owl Farm) where I’ve been involved for 2.5 years. The farm quickly became my happy place and I’m proud to be the resident goat girl.

I also love to Dance. I began dancing at the age of four at my local dance studio, where I remained an enthusiastic member for 17 years. I have been involved in a collection of styles. Including: Ballroom, Latin, Ballet, Jazz and Contemporary.

I also love to raise awareness of Mental Health, following my past and present battles with Anorexia Nervosa, Anxiety and Depression. I regularly share my experiences and delve into my situations with the hopes of inspiring others to speak up too!

And, in addition to this, I raise awareness of Autism too. Which came about after receiving my diagnosis aged 19.

Thank you for visiting my blog and happy scrolling!

Lots of love, Laur xx

Autism spectrum – First solo travel experience & tips!

Autism

On the 18th July 2019, I travelled abroad alone for the first time to partake in more overseas work experience at an Animal Sanctuary in Murcia, Spain. And I plan to return home on Thursday 25th July.

Being Autistic, this can be challenging – Dissimilar surroundings, new people, loudness. Nightmare.

I used to be unable to use public transport alone. I walked miles to and back from college every day to save myself the unnecessary distress of stepping foot on a bus. I can now use buses easily, given lots of additional planning, and I have grown to love peaceful, delay-free train journeys!

Still, being on the spectrum shouldn’t be a barrier between our fears and what we wish to achieve. I simply refuse to be restricted by my Autism. My diagnosis has encouraged me to believe in myself more and to push myself beyond my comfort zone. (It’s worth it!) I believe it should push us even further, given lots of self care is followed too, as it’s all about finding a balance and recognising when we’ve reached our personal limits.

My Experience:

Overall, I loved my first experience as a solo flier and I cannot wait to plan future adventures. The staff at the airport were incredibly supportive and alert, and measures were put in place to help those in need. I was very anxious, but that’s understandable. The most important thing is that I managed to keep things under control and I made it to my destination. I believe informing the airport about my Autism made a significant difference, especially with regards to the risen anxiety levels I feel through airport security.

TIPS:

Understandably, the coping mechanisms I applied are personal to me and may be subject between those on the spectrum. Ie: What works for me may not work for others, and vice versa.

Don’t be afraid to approach the disability services available to you. Their purpose is to help and to assist you should you require it. There’s no shame in needing support, or a quiet place away from all the airport chaos.

Take note of what makes you anxious. I notice changes in myself, my thoughts and my actions when I’m anxious. I become quiet and withdrawn and will tend to feel as though I’m not “there” in the situation. Understanding your anxiety triggers is useful to enable you to put precautions in place to relieve the symptoms you experience. 

Lots of planning. Don’t be afraid to use a diary, or the notes app on your phone. Try to estimate where you expect yourself to be at given times. Ie: “I plan to be on the plane at 6pm, and I should land at approximately 8:15pm”. This helps with the fear of the unknown, and reduces anxiety levels. Try to make the estimates flexible, as it can cause distress if plans don’t go accordingly – Ie: unexpected delays, and luggage hold ups.

Take a familiar person to the airport with you. For me, this was extremely comforting and reassuring as I had somebody to confide in when I felt anxious/overwhelmed. My Mum got me through check in and then I was again a Lone Ranger, sailing through security.

Check in online. This helps to speed up the initial process slightly, and it helped to reduce anxiety for me, as you then have the barcode scanned and wait patiently for your luggage to enter the conveyer behind the desk. I checked in via the Jet2 app by filling in my details.

Inform the airline/airport staff of your Autism. Again, this is optional, and I understand that some people prefer to keep their Autism private. I opted to tell the staff about my condition to allow others to realise the reasons behind me appearing anxious, because I usually get stopped through security as I probably look “suspicious” when in reality I’m just extremely anxious about the process. I was handed with a lanyard which staff are trained to recognise, and it enables extra assistance if it’s required. I also had my pocket sized “Autism Alert” card.

Take plenty of distractions on the plane. If you’re alone, this gives you more time to dwell on your anxiety, and distractions can help to keep you occupied and give you an alternative focus. I like to take books, magazines and something digital (such as music or my Nintendo DS). Playing animal crossing thousands of miles in the air? Yes please.

If it’s possible, arrange for somebody familiar to meet you in the country you’re travelling to. The animal sanctuary owners kindly collected me, and dropped me off at the airport. This helped to reduce my anxiety, as I knew who to expect. This meant I could also avoid using an unfamiliar public transport service.

Keep in touch with family/friends. If you start to feel anxious, speak to somebody you know and trust. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed or that you’re weak, it simply means that you’ve recognised that you’re in need of support/a distraction and that takes a considerate level of strength. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone (or to text) somebody if you feel the need to.

Remember to breathe and to be patient with yourself. If things don’t work out, or you need a little extra time to get yourself together, that’s perfectly okay too!

Jacobs Ridge Animal Sanctuary (18.07.2019)

Jacobs Ridge, Work experience/volunteering

I’m going to Spain!

In just over 2 weeks time, on the 18th July, I will be flying to Murcia (JMU) Airport. And I will be staying in Murcia for the duration of 1 week. 

I’m embarking on my first solo venture, and I’m excited. I’ve never flown alone, and being Autistic this can be challenging: Busy airports, new people and dissimilar surroundings. The task isn’t impossible, though. Over the years, I’ve developed coping techniques and an abundance of strength to assist me in my journeys. And with a new mindset, “My Autism doesn’t define me, I define Autism”, I refuse to be restricted in life. I’m determined to achieve and to exceed my own expectations.

Jacobs Ridge is a Vegan Animal Sanctuary located in Murcia, Spain. It houses hundreds of animals rescued from slaughter, individuals branded as unwanted pets and those otherwise destined for short lived and torturous lives. Species including: Goats, sheep, donkeys and cats.

An essential component of the mission statement placed by the team at Jacobs:

We believe that every being has a right to live and to live life without fear. Thus, it is our mission to create a safe environment to last as a forever home to animals who need it, one where they don’t have to work or provide for us. One where they can just be what they are and do as they please. 

I stumbled upon the sanctuary following a Google search. The reviews were outstanding, the animals were the heart of the sanctuary and a clear compassionate side was viewed. After the completion of my Florida field course earlier on in the year, I quickly became encouraged to participate in more overseas work. I was eager to expand on my knowledge and experience within the animal care industry, yet, I wanted to work alongside people who share my beliefs – Veganism and compassion to ALL beings. Jacobs Ridge seemed perfect, and becoming involved in such an incredible cause issued me with happiness, fulfilment and joy.

I eagerly contacted the ridge and secured a place, ready to tackle my anxiety hands on. I’m excited for what the week will bring, to meet new animals and to broaden my horizons.

Here I will be documenting my time at Jacobs Ridge Animal Sanctuary and sharing my first experience as a solo flier. Stay tuned! 

Autism – Late diagnosis, the process and my reaction

Autism

I was diagnosed with high-functioning Autism in 2016, aged 19. Originally referred to as Aspergers Syndrome.

Laura… I think you might be Autistic.

I had no knowledge surrounding Autism. I believed my Therapist had confused me with another patient. 

I succeeded through two nurseries, two mainstream schools (Primary and Secondary), and had recently finished my College life. And not once had the word Autism been mentioned to myself or anybody in my family. A Teacher said to me (after informing her about my referral), “I don’t think you seem Autistic, Laura”.

Sigh.

Increasing numbers of people are beginning to receive an Autism diagnosis later on in life as traits are better recognised and detected. Autism doesn’t end after Childhood. It’s a lifetime diagnosis, where we learn to manage our struggles whilst learning more about ourselves as individuals on the spectrum. I’m amazed that I managed to mask my symptoms for such a long time, considering the inability I had to act in School Drama lessons.

The mutual assumption seemed to be that I was shy, I would “probably” grow out of it with age. I became a favoured student as I just got on with things, paid close attention to minor details in my assignments and didn’t kick up a fuss. I rarely displayed meltdowns in education, but I would (and still do) run away from stressful situations. I held other “typically Autistic” attributes. Such as high sensitivity levels, routine favourability and difficulties maintaining friendships. I particularly despised having supply Teachers taking over due to sickness (for example), as this issued a change in routine and structure.

I’d been working weekly with my Eating Disorder Therapist for a long duration of time. We hit a brick wall in terms of treatment, following the difficulties I had with expressing my feelings and emotions (an essential component in taking therapies!) We tried a collection of techniques together, some of which worked better than others. At one point, we resorted to an “emotions wheel” where I had to point to the word in which I was feeling.

The process

My Therapist contacted Trafford Extended Services (Manchester), following a discussion with myself, my Mum and my Psychiatrist. My Therapist had detected “possibly Autistic” traits in me. Ie: The difficulties I have understanding sarcasm and taking everything literally, the struggles I have with maintaining eye contact and the ways in which I would use laughter to cope. I also found it impossible to tolerate change as it leads to distress and discomfort, which is why my Anorexia remains so complex and difficult to treat. It was then a waiting game.

The waiting game

I ran home every day waiting for the greatly anticipated referral letter to be pushed through the door. And, to my dismay, the wait lasted for 6 months. We attempted to speed up the referral process, but services are stretched and limited, which made this difficult. I became distressed, the wait was agonising and my mental state began quickly deteriorating as I spiralled further into my Depression. I tried to remain humble as I understood others had lengthier waiting periods than I had. I struggled to tolerate with “not knowing”. I had so many questions, and I evolved many unhelpful assumptions about myself and my abilities throughout the waiting process.

The assessment process

I then received an appointment, which involved 2 assessors from the team coming to my home. This simply involved an introduction about the service, the process and a general chat about my life, past and present. There were queries about friendships, family life, my interests and so on.

The assessors (one named Mike, the other… I forget) returned to my house 2 weeks later for an individual discussion with my Mum. I believe this was again, about my personal life, characteristics and such, but I chose not to delve too much into this for Mum’s privacy reasons.

Finally, I was invited to take part in a practical assessment away from home, with a mere 15 minute drive to Barnett House. I engaged in a test called an ADOS test (The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule). This took place in a small room under the observation of Mike and a lady I hadn’t previously met before, named Cath. I was given a brief explanation regarding the process and had to take part in various tasks to gain an insight into the understanding I have regarding different scenarios and situations.

Further information on ADOS can be reached, here:

I was tasked with reading from two different Children’s books, both containing no words, which heightened the confusion I had surrounding the task at hand. Later on, I understood that the aim of the task was to test my ability to understand and read facial expressions/emotions. To which I completely ignored, as I focused more on the objects and animals on the diagram.

Other tasks included basic demonstrations. I particularly enjoyed choosing random objects from an enclosed bag to proceed with telling my own short story. Of course, my story involved animals (my “special” interest). 

2 weeks later, I was diagnosed with Autism. Mike and Cath came to my house to reveal the findings of the assessments, where I sat anxiously with my Mum waiting for the unknown to become the known. Information of my diagnosis was issued to us extremely casually, almost like “Yes. You have Autism”.

My reaction

I was asked numerous times how I felt after receiving the news. I still struggle to pinpoint this as I felt multiple things all at once.

Relief? So…many…questions. 

Mainly, it was confusion. Numbness.

How exactly do you react to finding out you have a diagnosis you’d been oblivious about up until adulthood?

I struggled for weeks, months and years to accept my Autism diagnosis. I attempted to sugarcoat this in the beginning in a bid to hide my true feelings and thoughts. But I spent a lengthy period focusing on the negatives, using my “new” diagnosis to define myself and coming to terms with what this meant for me.

I learned to come to terms with my Autism diagnosis with the help of weekly appointments with my Autism support worker (Cath, who I mentioned previously) which lasted for approximately 16-months. And with the assistance of attending weekly group sessions (for ten weeks) amongst other newly-diagnosed adults, which covered a range of topics each week and also allowed me to learn more about other people, their experiences and their struggles.

University – Student life on the spectrum

Autism

I very recently finished my second university year, yay!

As an Autistic Student, I feel that my experiences and abilities to handle given situations naturally vary from those of “neurotypicals”, and whilst that’s okay, it’s a matter I’ve been aiming to shed a little light on. I am diagnosed with high-functioning Autism (previously described as Aspergers), the spectrum is vast, filled with people of all ages, races and abilities. And whilst we remain similar in various ways, we also possess our own personal differences and struggles. It certainly isn’t a “one word fits all” criteria. 

Shortly after receiving my Autism diagnosis, I maintained the idea that I would prevented be from going to University. I envisioned myself being unable to work with animals due to my Autism. My Therapist ensured me otherwise and reminded me that my kindness and compassion would guide me far. I failed to acknowledge that I was the same person and I hadn’t changed, I was just gaining a widened understanding into why I found aspects of life so difficult at times. But I believe I’m doing considerably well and may have advantageous traits. Such as an inability to lose focus of my special interest (animals!) time management and organisation.

I often receive messages, words of encouragement and praise congratulating me on my efforts and achievements. And my capacity to overcome the obstacles often lumbered in my direction, which I appreciate wholeheartedly. It’s overwhelming to reminisce on my previous years in education, where I remained unaware of my Autism, unaware of why I regularly faced challenging situations. And I guess, unaware of who I really was. Looking back, I understand why I struggled to fit in, why maintaining friendships proved difficult and why I followed perfectionist standards. The two years I’ve spent engaging in university student life have been the best. I’ve truly begun flourishing and finding myself, whilst slowly learning the art of self acceptance.

Admittedly, I believe that my Autism can never affect my abilities or be a hindrance on my pathway to success, as long as I persevere and reach out for support as required. I believe my Autism is another personal characteristic in which I choose to embrace, it isn’t a disease, I don’t need curing, but I do appreciate acceptance. To begin with, my Autism diagnosis proved to be difficult to accept and it constantly played on my mind like a fault. But over time, I’ve started to feel proud to be on the spectrum and the concept of being Autistic no longer equated to my whole world crashing down. My diagnosis encouraged me to take on new and exhilarating challenges – using public transport alone, moving to a brand new town alone and meeting new people (students and teachers). And 3 months ago, I flew over 4,000 miles away from home to spend 10 days in Florida for University. This once seemed impossible, but perhaps, things aren’t impossible once they’re done.

I refuse to jump into new situations and tasks with the “I can’t do this because I’m Autistic” mindset. I prefer to access support to address my worries surrounding the situation, while preferring to use “Why shouldn’t I be able to do this? My Autism cannot stop me”.

I understand and acknowledge the fact that I’m more sensitive in comparison to other Students. I often dwell on feedback on my work, focusing primarily on the areas of weakness, I constantly worry over slight changes in tone or behaviours and discredit myself for being in the wrong, or for unintentionally causing upset, because it has been noted that I have a tendency to be quite “matter of fact”. I easily become caught up in the feelings and actions of others, holding the beliefs that I should be the problem solver, the peace bringer.

I often struggle with fitting in, although I’ve been pushing myself very much out of my comfort zone this year, with facing communication barriers and meeting new people. I love chatting sometimes, especially with my Tutors, where an insightful conversation can always be guaranteed. Whilst I love having a wide selection of friends, I am 100% more comfortable within a small group. However, my Tutor recently reminded me that barely anybody fits in, but I believe we can all find ourselves surrounded with people who share our common interests. Ie: passions for animals. It’s also okay to embrace our individualities and our uniqueness.

My Autism often leads to uncontrollable and unpredictable meltdowns, usually when I’m alone, or faced with a challenging and anxiety provoking situation, such as tackling practical sessions/workshops as part of my Degree, encountering sudden changes or landing myself in a crowded, loud environment. I often run away, begin pacing or shaking and find myself in a panic. The room can feel as though it’s spinning and I’ve found that stressful situations can contribute to lightheadedness. I can become tearful and stressed and engage in hurtful coping mechanisms because I allow my anxiety to build up as I struggle to express myself verbally. However, I’ve thankfully been blessed with the most supportive Tutors who I feel comfortable confiding in about, well, everything! There’s no judgement, just understanding and the issuing of advice.

I find timings difficult and often stressful. I arrive to lectures considerably earlier than necessary because I have a fear of being late, but also stick routinely to the same seat in the lecture theatre. For instance, if I have plans to meet another person at 11am and they arrive later than planned, it’ll really throw me off guard. This’ll also lead to me blaming myself, sitting back and wondering if I did anything wrong, as I cannot think rationally in the situation and fail to recognise that a problem may have occurred. My Therapist and I recognised that I often need to find fault in a situation in order to cope, I typically find fault in myself as opposed to others and frequently say “it must be my fault if it’s nobody else’s”. And, as you can imagine, I find the late arrival of public transport and cancelled trains demanding.

My mindset can be unpredictable, leading to a wide variability in my moods. I understand that anxiety and depression often go coincide with Autism, but it’s not a one word fits all genera. Finding happiness is still a factor I am currently dedicated to and I often face more bad days than good. I find that I require more alone time in comparison to my peers. I love collecting my thoughts and devoting my time to healing. But usually, I can become exhausted from communication and need lots of time to rest and recover, following the physical and mental exhaustion I endure frequently.

I wonderfully share my diagnosis with Temple Grandin, a well-known (and extremely intelligent) Animal Behaviourist, who inspired me to take pride in my diagnosis. I remain fixated in my interest of animals. Goats in particular. I talk about them alot, to anybody who’ll listen. Meaning I often become engrossed within the topic and find it difficult to focus my concentration elsewhere. This is improving as I take other modules and widen my interests, but I’m perfectly happy being the well-known goat lover and I wouldn’t change my interest for the world. 

Being Autistic does issue me with my fair share of challenges and obstacles, but ones I am determined to conquer. Because I can, I will, and I am not defined by my diagnosis.

For further information on Autism, please visit the following source: 

https://www.autism.org.uk

Autism and me – An insight into my characteristics

Autism

To my knowledge, everybody on the Autistic spectrum struggles with different aspects. Whether that’s beginning a conversation, using public transport alone or becoming comfortable with wearing only a specific brand/item of clothing.

For example, I’m obsessed with (vegan) Doc Martens and no longer feel comfortable wearing other footwear types. My friends Etta and Ava (also on the spectrum) love vintage clothing and have a preference for Lindy Bop in particular.

Our struggles can often result in sensory overloads and feelings of discomfort whilst we struggle to process bundles of information from the world around us.

I prefer not to relate to my struggles as “symptoms”. My Autism isn’t a disease, it doesn’t require a cure.

Feelings and emotions.

People on the spectrum are often misunderstood as being unable to feel. Though, in fact, the emotions we feel can be more complex than those without Autism. I personally find it hard to find a comfortable and maintainable balance with my moods, therefore either being extremely happy or worryingly low.

I believe that people with Autism are increasingly more sensitive than those without, or at least that’s the way it’s been established in my case.

I personally struggle with understanding and expressing my emotions. I quickly become distressed and go into meltdown following the anguish I hold to be able to release my thoughts, as opposed to managing them alone. I cannot always express the times I feel down, but it’s made easier in the form of emailing.

Busy places.

People with Autism often become distressed in situations filled with lots of people, due to the sensory overloads we face. The noise can become daunting, we can quickly feel trapped, the crowds can seem overwhelming and as though there is no escape, and the anxiety levels start to run high.

I prefer quite, solitary places. So the supermarkets offering Autistic friendly quiet hours definitely have my approval!

Loud noises.

It’s often commented upon that I have sensitive hearing, as I regularly comment on noises I have the ability to hear whereas those around me don’t. Ie: background noise on a tv programme or the sound of my cat from a far distance. This also means that I struggle with loud noises, I dislike the sounds of hoovers and the sirens of emergency services passing by, which I know cannot be avoided.

I view this as a positive attribute. I’ll hear animals in danger and I’ll very rarely miss out on important information.

Special interests.

I become particularly engrossed in my passion and admiration for animals, which has become my area of high education study. I talk about goats (alot) to anybody who’ll listen, really and I wish to become an animal behaviourist. I absolutely adore animals, we share a special bond and and I wish for them to be involved in my every day thoughts and routine.

I love that my Autism has expanded my interest of animals and that I’ve had the ability to maintain such a special interest throughout the duration of my life.

Understanding sarcasm.

In light of recent weeks, I’ve discovered that I can only understand sarcasm if I’m the one issuing the sarcastic comment. However, if another person makes a sarcastic statement, I cannot always interpret it, meaning I quite often take things literally and become confused about the situation.

Autism and me – Autism Awareness Month

Autism

It’s Autism Awareness Month throughout the whole duration of April and the second one I’ve proudly celebrated. (Yay!) I’ll regularly be updating my blog throughout the duration of April to share more in relation to Autism Awareness.

I first began blogging about my Autism in 2017, a year after receiving my diagnosis.

Just yesterday, my Tutor told me to take it easy after undergoing Autistic meltdowns and subjecting to my tendencies to give myself too many tasks to handle (oops!) I’m making it my mission to find a balance in life, between working and avoiding falling into a rut of overdoing things.

However I struggle to rest, but I love to write, so here I am!

Prior to receiving my diagnosis, I lacked knowledge on all things Autism, and I certainly had no understanding of an Autism Awareness Month. Heck, I thought I knew what Autism looked like… (I’ll see myself out).

I’m proud of my Autism, I embrace my differences and I’m proud of my passions. I wish for everybody to feel pride in themselves, their accomplishments and the strength of overcoming a bad day. The World needs more love and less judgement, to accept differences instead of attempting to cure them.

Despite everything, and the constant battles I face to accept myself for who I am, I wouldn’t change my animal-loving self, and I most definitely wouldn’t change my Autism. Autism isn’t a disease, why should we wish to cure it?

Everyone has a mountain to climb and autism has not been my mountain, it has been my opportunity for victory.

Throughout the years, my knowledge and understanding on Autism has expanded significantly. I’m aware of not only the difficulties I face on a personal day-to-day basis, but I made it my upmost aim to gain a wider understanding into mutual struggles shared by those on the vast spectrum, because I wanted to help. I found that it’s not only important to accept ourselves, but to accept others, too. Be kind to others, be kind to ourselves.

Though having said that, it’s apparent that no two people on the Autistic spectrum are the same, as often misjudged, and it’s vital that we establish that. The spectrum is large, filled with people of all ages, genders and races. We hold unique interests that hold high levels of importance to us, we communicate and understand things to a different degree and develop at different paces.

None of that is wrong, it’s diverse.

I find that I easily become engrossed in a subject area and devote my energies to that, I love sharing my interests with others, which is why I constantly talk about goats and the reason I’ve been super engaged with my Behavioural Ecology module. I believe that my Autism and my strong passion for animals alongside the bonds I continue to form with them as companions lead to me opting to go down an animal related career path.

Autism awareness is crucial, always. Our conditions don’t magically erase after reaching adulthood. I was diagnosed in my late teens and others have been diagnosed in their 50’s. Aspies face our fair share of challenges and are often misunderstood following the lack of knowledge in specific areas. Ie: sensory overloads and autistic burnouts. Our behaviours have a tendency to be recognised oppositely, our quietness can be seen as rudeness, our politeness can be viewed as evolving attachment issues. We can often become confused by small talk and sarcasm efforts, distressed in busy places and caught up in our favourite activity, but that doesn’t mean we should be overlooked.

It’s hard to adapt in an ever-changing society when change is one of your largest fears.

My Autism diagnosis changed my life, quite literally, for the better. I’ve evolved to an acceptance stage after periods of shame and embarrassment. I love opening up about my Autism, after recognising that I have no reason to be ashamed, looking up to fellow animal lovers including Temple Grandin and the wonderful people I met in my support groups. I’ve learned more about myself and my struggles, and have used them as stepping stones to achieve wonderful milestones. I’ve made friends, I’ve made memories. But most importantly, I’ve grown.

For more information about Autism, please visit The National Autistic Society here:

https://www.autism.org.uk

Autism and me: Suffering or growing?

Autism

It’s vastly approaching the 3-year bracket in which I received my Autism diagnosis back in 2016.

Time has truly flown by!

I often hear the term “suffering from Autism” which I felt encouraged to shed some light on, as somebody on the complex Autistic spectrum.

I understand that the spectrum is large and people enlisted upon it face their share of physical and mental difficulties. Everybody, of course, is entitled to their own opinion.

This is a reflection upon my story so far.

Autism for me has been a challenge, a continuous one beginning with acceptance and understanding, to growing the strength to challenge myself daily and to overcome any hurdles lingering in my direction.

Autism is a way of being. It is pervasive; it colours every experience, every sensation, perception, thought, emotion, and encounter every aspect of existence.

Some days I can wholeheartedly conquer The World and my intrusive thoughts. I can surprise myself with my strength and determination to tackle scary situations. Other days I simply cannot hinder the complexity of my thoughts, I cannot leave the house or tackle a conversation.

Balance is the key to life and that is okay.

I no longer devote time to questioning my struggles and areas of weakness. Instead, I accept them and the stage I am at. I use them as stepping stones for overcoming future hurdles and as indicators of the times I’ve refused to be beaten.

I’ve not once considered myself to suffer with Autism. Although, initially, I struggled to associate myself with my condition and would easily become distressed when the subject was mentioned. I remained ridden with questions until I attended support groups and met other like-minded people like myself.

Adults on the spectrum with inspiring stories to tell, achieving amazing milestones and overcoming the biggest obstacles in life.

I once believed receiving an Autism diagnosis would be the end of The World. It seemed catastrophic and daunting and it certainly does frustrate me at times. But I began to realise that my Autism wasn’t the issue, the way I viewed myself was.

I have so much to thank my diagnosis for.

My Autism diagnosis wasn’t the end of The World, but the beginning of a new one.

I face my fair share of mental problems stemming from anxiety and fears of the unknown. But I’ve slowly (but surely!) transitioned as somebody embarrassed of my diagnosis to somebody sharing my story willingly with The World.

And that is such a beautiful concept. Acceptance is wonderful and massively freeing.

I started to acknowledge that Autism is a profound strength of mine. With the likes of a well-known animal loving Scientist Temple Grandin and Broadcaster Chris Packham, I feel overjoyed to share a diagnosis with such intelligent people.

During one stage, where I began struggling with my lowest bouts of Depression, I narrowly avoided talking about my Autism. Over the years, I received multiple diagnosis’ and it felt like another label to add to the pile, I felt ashamed and every inch of me wanted to be normal.

I’m not suffering. Even throughout the days I struggle to leave the comfort of my home, the days I simply cannot maintain a meaningful conversation or on the days I cry following an Autistic meltdown or from a sensory overload.

I’m not suffering. I’m learning and I’m growing. And although the journey may be painful at times, often leaving me ridden with masses of questions with regards to myself, my worth and my abilities, I can acknowledge the progress I’ve made so far, which only encourages me to keep going.

To find strength, to seek happiness and to be brave.

I look back at my past self with pride and admiration for enabling myself to thrive in places I never imagined myself to. I’m learning the art of speaking to new people without assistance, the task of creating long lasting friendships and visiting new places.

My Autism isn’t making me suffer, it’s making me resilient.

I’m not suffering, I’m growing. Every day I am finding myself and transitioning into the person I’ve always longed to be.

Mental Health Monday – Working on myself, healing and finding happiness!

Mental Health

Hi everybody!

Today, I wanted to welcome a new component to my blog:

MENTAL HEALTH MONDAY

I’ve noticed recently that I overwork myself and take very little time to focus on myself, my happiness and the art of recuperating after the stresses of every day life. I allow my anxieties to build up, with the tendencies to dwell on my Depressive thoughts. In short, it’s been leaving me very tearful and increasingly more anxious.

Being busy is a fabulous way of keeping myself distracted from my (often hard to manage) mentality. But, life is about balance and this is my journey to finding that, taking time to heal and to rest my mind and my body – after years of neglect. It isn’t okay to work myself to a constant state of exhaustion, which is my current stage.

This means taking time to rest and recharge. No longer piling masses of amounts of pressure on myself, relaxing and practicing the art of self care. My Nurse and I are working on acknowledging the reasons behind my negative coping mechanisms and, instead, incorporating them for new, healthier ones.

I’ll also be using Mental Health Monday to write weekly blogs in honour of mental health awareness, delving into my experiences (past and present) with battling my mental illnesses, whilst continuing to issue support and advice to those in need of love, encouraging words and kindness. I’ll also be sharing my journey to finding happiness and balance upon my recovery pathway!

Every week, I’m going to challenge myself in a collection of ways. Whether that’s challenging a fear food, wearing clothing out of my comfort zone (like leggings or jeans!) or tackling anxiety by making a phone call. I’ll be taking a little time out for myself to clear my foggy mindset. Whether that’s going to a coffee shop, journaling, reading a new book or taking myself for a scenic walk. It’s important not to get too caught up in our own minds (easier said than done, I know) and I personally believe that this can only be done if we work on positive and distractive techniques to free ourselves and our thoughts.

After all, we all deserve happiness, contentment and good health.

I want 2019 to be a year of healing. I want to practice mindfulness, yoga and to work on using my compassionate side towards myself and my recovery.

We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea. And you don’t believe in miracles?

I know this transformation is painful, but you’re not falling apart. You’re just falling into something different, with a new capacity to be beautiful.

I know it’s been hard and draining and almost unbearable, believe me, I know. But I also know you are stronger than you will ever admit. You are only met with obstacles you have the capability of conquering. That is one thing I know for sure.

I hope you can join me in my journey and find the courage to find something that truly makes your souls shine! Let 2019 be the year of evolving and positivity ‪♡‬

Lots of love and hugs,

Laur xx

Autism and me – an acceptance journey

Autism

That’s the thing. I never anticipated being a 19-year-old sitting face to face with my Therapist discussing the possibilities of an Autism diagnosis.

It seems, my wonderful Therapist had picked up on possible Autistic traits in me during our sessions together (for my Anorexia Nervosa) which had mutually been a struggle for a while. My inability to express my feelings, thoughts and emotions without great difficulty and high intensities of distress and agitation. I could willingly speak endlessly about animals, but every other subject seemed to be a chore. I also struggled to maintain eye contact and would often stare at the floor or at the wall during our chats together, when I could actually form a sentence instead of nervously giggling. Alongside an inability to cope with changes in appointments (I adored sticking rigidly to Thursdays at 12!) and my inability to understand sarcasm.

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with Autism. (ASD). My condition unknowingly present from birth, but not picked up on until later in my teenage years after a lengthy assessment process where I became increasingly distressed and impatient. I always remained aware that something about me was different, but I could never quite pinpoint what that was. The wait was gruelling and torturous and each day I would hurry home excitedly hoping to be met with an appointment letter, with my disappointment only growing as I waited longer and longer.

An Autism diagnosis is life-changing, but not defining.

With increasing numbers of adults diagnosed with the condition, mostly due to the ability to mask and imitate those around us as a means of fitting in and seeming less “odd”. Though, the thing is, I never purposely intended to be the same as those around me. So, personally, Autism has been a real journey of self discovery, finding out who I really am beyond the copying and uncomfortable habits I forced myself into.

And no. Autism isn’t solely a “Children’s condition” and it most certainly doesn’t disappear magically whilst growing up. Autistic children become Autistic adults – it’s a lifelong, developmental condition.

Unfortunately, I was prone to the stigma attached to Autism and (alongside my lack of knowledge) due to minimal awareness I thought I knew what Autism “looked like” in an individual, a huge part in the reason I like to raise awareness of my condition. So people understand, and accept, people for their uniqueness and their quirks. And so people stop putting a “face” to Autism, the condition affecting one in a hundred of us.

Autism isn’t a label that fits all.

To begin with, I viewed my diagnosis as a bad thing and became upset for a short period of time, until I grew to learn more about my new diagnosis and what it meant for myself and others.

Over two years along the line and I have finally found, not only comfort, but also acceptance in myself which may not have met without my diagnosis. Something I never imagined myself to need until it became present in my life. Fitting in the “missing puzzle” that had previously been vacant from my life and filling it with knowledge, happiness and self-worth. The acceptance of learning to love myself for the crazy goat lady I am. Animals being my interest, whilst others on the spectrum may have other areas of passion and happiness!

I grew determined to ensure my Autism didn’t restrict, or define, me in any way possible. Meaning I have overcome anxiety-ridden fears and have tackled many obstacles over the years. Including, my ability to use public transport alone (giving Ive planned the journey strictly!) my transition to university life in Wales, a completely new setting, being introduced to people I hadn’t previously met. And my recently new found ability to vocalise when I am finding a situation stressful – particularly busy places or loud noises.

Whilst challenging myself is exhilarating, it is also exhausting and I usually require days to rest after fighting my anxiety.

Autism doesn’t have a cure, though I wouldn’t choose to cure mine for The World. It remains as a lifelong condition with each day being a learning curve and a milestone in each individuals journey!