life

Am I Autistic?

This is the question I have been pondering for quite some time now. I wouldn’t be surprised if I am found to be on the Autistic Spectrum – not surprised one little bit.

You see, I’ve always been ‘different’ – at school, I marched to the beat of my own drum, was known for being an outspoken and opinionated person and my nicknames were ‘Witchcraft’ and ‘greebo’. From around the age of 13 I found my dark side and fell in love of Black Sabbath, Wicca and purple lipstick. I had an altar and I cast spells. All of this, of course, meant that I was constantly bullied.

However, none of that made any difference to who I am inside. I’m me. I’m different and always will be. I’m 31 now, and apart from having grown into my looks (and lost 3 stone in the process) I’m as weird or as ‘eccentric’ as I was when I was a young teenager. I’m normally found wearing black from head to toe, which I gather isn’t exactly ‘normal’.

I’ve dabbled in the vintage world, and for a good few years I was obsessed with the 1940s and 1950s and even started my own business selling vintage clothing and modelled as a pinup.Β Then, I got bored of everyone looking the same and I put my vintage wardrobe into boxes in the loft, where it’ll stay until I fancy a change again.

My biggest obsession now is my Victorian home that I share with my incredibly patient and laid back partner. I honestly don’t know how he copes with me and my quirks but 3 years on, we’re still deeply in love. He reckons everyone’s on the spectrum a little bit – when he said that, I kinda fell in love with him a little bit more! Everything in our home is Victorian, because I like integrity.

Apart from my obsessions, I also struggle to empathise with people. I often put my foot in it and offend people – though with age, I’m definitely learning how to soften it a little. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still doing it, just not as often.

I also don’t like people, generally. I don’t know if this is because I’m a natural introvert, or because I’m autistic, but people annoy me. The herd mentality of most people irritates me and I just want to shake people and say ‘wake the fuck up’ or ‘shut the fuck up’ when you hear them talk about inane things like football or X Factor. I don’t want to talk small talk – I absolutely hate it. It makes me uncomfortable, so I tend to avoid people I know if I see them. It’s not personal, it’s just my own issue I’ve always had.

Facebook has been an interesting journey – especially when you look up people from school to find that they’re all still friends with each other, and most of them married each other too. I think to myself how odd that is – that they all left, went to university (I tried that twice, it wasn’t for me!) and then came back ‘home’ and married their school friends. I find that odd, and frightening. I am only friends with 2-3 people from school and they’re all guys. Most of the girls were complete bitches. I don’t like women very much, men are easier.

A few things about me:

I don’t like authority. I don’t like uniforms. I don’t like being stuck in an office from 9-5 every day and living for the weekend. I don’t like loud music playing in shops. I don’t like busy shopping centres. I like being indoors, I like being quiet. I like the company of animals. I like to read. I like routine. I don’t like busy pubs – I won’t walk in first. I don’t like plans to change, unless they’re being cancelled altogether. I don’t like big groups of people. Festivals are full of sheeple. I like the vikings. I like strong, independent women. I like feminism. I’m a conservative because I like money, but a socialist because I don’t have any. I’m a walking contradiction. I’m confident, but shy. I’m egotistical. I’m a grammar nazi. I’m a super-recogniser. I have watched the same movies over and over and know all their scripts. My best friends are Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda, Rory and Lorelai Gilmore and Lagartha Lothbrook. Fictional people are more interesting and relatable.

So, I’ve decided that I want to know, for sure, if all this (and plenty more besides) makes me autistic. There is ADHD in my family and my Dad is incredibly ‘quirky’ himself. I’ll eat my hat if I don’t end up diagnosed with something unusual.

I’ll be writing about my experience of the Autism Diagnostic Assessment as/when it comes around – it’s booked for 8th December, so it won’t be too long. If you’re interested in following my home renovation journey or my autism journey, please hit the ‘follow’ button and you’ll be emailed whenever I publish a blog post ❀

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The things no one tells you about being a first time buyer…

In May 2017 my partner and I set about looking for our first home together after 3 years of hard saving and scrimping and some help from a very wonderful Aunt.
We finally moved into our first home on Friday 13th October 2017 – yes, we are aware that we are nuts to choose to move house on Friday 13th but if you knew us as a couple, you probably wouldn’t be surprised!

Here are a few tips we picked up along the way – some obvious (now, in hindsight!) and some not so obvious…

ONE

Know thyself.Β 

When I say this, I mean know exactly what you want in a property before you set out – it really helps to have a firm idea of what you need vs what you want. We agreed very early on that we would never consider purchasing either a flat or a new build – a period property (Victorian, or Edwardian at a push) was the ONLY option for us and we stuck to that – even when offered to view affordable 1930s properties, we stuck to our guns because we knew in our heart of hearts what was right for us.

TWO

Know the Compromises

We knew we’d never be able to afford a ‘liveable-inable’ house straight off. We viewed some real shit holes to begin with then as we viewed more properties we learned what certain things mean in property listing on sites like Zoopla and Rightmove; such as a ‘manageable, low maintenance garden’ usually means a concreted or paved courtyard that you couldn’t swing a dick round.

There was one thing we were not prepared to compromise on, and that was the garden. We did however, fall in love with a property that had quite a tiny garden but we put an offer in anyway as the house itself was almost perfectly formed. Thankfully, we didn’t get that house – we found a house that was even better with a BIGGER garden in the end – so, perhaps ignore that bit of advice πŸ˜‰

THREE

Know your limits

If you’re confident at haggling then this will definitely stand you in good stead for the ‘making an offer’ part. Be prepared to hear the ‘big sell’ – things like exaggerating how much interest they’ve had in the house, exaggerating how many offers they’ve had and even being asked after you’ve made an offer, if you can offer more. If you have trouble saying no, then try and get some help from friends or family to give you support while you make your negotiations. Don’t be fooled into thinking the estate agent is working on your behalf – they are not, they are working for the SELLER to sell the house at a price they want (and the estate agents really want to sell houses and get their commission!)

FOUR

Know your budget – and stick to it.

When we agreed on our budget, we decided on what we could afford to offer and we stuck to it. We stuckΒ to our guns so that we didn’t break into our ‘renovation fund’ that we had running alongside our deposit fund. We sat down and agreed on the mortgage we could afford – we did not go for a huge mortgage, we saved for a bigger deposit instead. We agreed that being mortgaged up to the hilt is not for us and we want to have a good quality of life while we pay off our mortgage; so we worked out how much per month we could live comfortably on while paying the mortgage.

FIVE

Know your geography or at least learn it!Β 

We moved to a relatively new town – I’d been a frequent visitor to the town for years but have never really paid any attention to anything other than its shopping centre. We learned very very quickly from many many viewings which areas to avoid! There were around 6 areas of the town and we very quickly shaved 3 areas off the list simply by viewing houses in the area. The best piece of advice I can give you is ‘buy a not so great house in a great area, not the other way round’ because after all, LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. It’s a cliché  but it’s true.

SIX

NEVER Scrimp on a survey

I spent months reading and researching Victorian properties and quickly learned a few important differences between new builds and period properties. I phoned up innumerable surveyors and asked how they measure for damp – old houses are usually damp and I found a wonderful gentleman called Peter Ward (look him up on Youtube) who knows everything about period properties – from his site I learned that a decent surveyor won’t use damp meters. They will know that victorian properties need to breathe and will point out things that a not-so-knowledgeable surveyor may not notice. I can personally recommend 1st Associated surveyors – we had a full survey done and the report was over 100 pages in length and was incredibly detailed. Even our estate agent was impressed with it – it helped us to re-submit a lower offer taking into account the structural issues with the house that we wouldn’t have known about without the survey. It wasn’t cheap, but it was absolutely worth every penny (or pound!)

SEVEN

KNOW YOUR PROPERTY

LIME EVERY TIME

The most frustrating thing I found when viewing properties was how much damage people have inadvertently caused when ‘modernising’ period properties. Seemingly simple things like re-pointing brickwork with cement mortar instead of lime mortar can severely impact the level of damp in a house. Cement mortar creates a barrier that means that moisture in the house cannot escape the way it was designed to – through the bricks and mortar.

Another death to period properties is double glazing windows (and in lots of privately rent homes, we noticed very few extractor fans were in use) and no ventilation – and hence, damp and mould.

PERIOD PROPERTIES NEED TO BREATHE – That is the difference between new builds and period properties.

Also look out for modern plastered walls – always try to replaster period houses using lime based plaster, not gypsum plaster, so that the house can BREATHE.

A Final Word

For us, the biggest hurdle when buying a house, was the deposit. It took us years and years of living separately and saving. We lived within our means (and continue to do so) and saved as much as we could get away with, without leaving ourselves ridiculously poor. We went without – I didn’t fritter my money on clothes or shoes and when we did buy things, we bought things ‘for the house’ – like furniture (thank you to my Mum and Dad for allowing us the use of their loft as storage for the past 3 years!)

The hard save is worth it – that pair of shoes or latest games console, is not.

Your deposit is what gives you freedom – freedom to choose a decent mortgage, a decent property and gives you freedom to own more of your house from the outset. In my opinion, there is no point putting down a 5% deposit and paying a huge mortgage for 35 years and living hand to mouth. Live within your means. Good Luck!!!

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The Great Unease

One thing I have learnt over the past 10 years since being diagnosed with a life-altering illness, is that I am yet to feel at ease with my life. There comes a time in your life, when you hit the big THREE-O and you’re supposed to have your shit together.Β Well, I thought I had my shit together; turns out, I haven’t.

You see, I’ve always been an old soul. I’ve always known I wanted to settle down, get married and have pets (never children) and while it seems I am on track with my life goals, I am still feeling the great unease surrounding who I am and what I bring to the world.

Since I was a young teenager, I’ve always wanted to be famous somehow. I wanted to sing, but stagefright put paid to that dream – likewise with acting (for which I was awarded an ‘exceptional’ from my year 8 Drama teacher) and performance anxiety has shrouded my life in many ways.

I’ve always had the fear of being like everyone else. When I was at school I made it my plan to stick out like a sore thumb – and was bullied because of it. But I was stoic in that I didn’t want to fit in and be like everyone else, so I took it and it made me strong.

Yet here I am at the age of thirty, wanting, in part, to be like everyone else. Not, in the sense of I want to be in a job I dislike, pay rent to a greedy landlord and have children drive me round the bend, but in the sense that I want to be a productive member of society. (You have no idea how much I hate myself for saying that!)

Living with an incurable, oftentimes debilitating illness means I am not a ‘productive’ member of society. I am unable to follow my career goals (of which I have had many, shot down in a blaze of smoke) and now I’m left with a sense of ‘now what?’

I felt so compelled by these feelings of unease that last year I enrolled onto a distance learning Degree in History and surprisingly to me, I’m doing very well on my first module (If I was studying at a brick uni, I would be at distinction level!) and I’m really enjoying spending time wisely, studying. I no longer felt like I was wasting away in my bedroom waiting for the weekend when I get to spend time with my partner of nearly 3 years.

However, I’m now nearing the end of my first module (of which there are 6 – one per year) and I’m finding myself twiddling my thumbs again. I’ve started the audiobook of the set book for my next module yet it doesn’t start until October.

People think being at home and ‘off work’ is a dream lifestyle. I won’t argue that it has its benefits – I can stay up as late as I want and wake up as late as I want, for example, but I’m also trapped inside 4 walls for 90% of my day and two thirds of the week. As an unworking woman, I do not have the funds to be galavanting around in a car (I can’t drive manual and cannot afford an automatic car) nor do I have the energy to do so.

I spend my days lying on my bed in various positions (shifting when the pain becomes too much to bear) and it’s demoralising. Seeing all those people on Instagram going places in life makes me feel uneasy. In the pit of my stomach I feel the longing to have a ‘normal life’ like all these people I watch every day.

But then, I have to remind myself, yet again, that I’m not normal. I do have an incurable illness and I will have it for the rest of my life. It’s really really hard to balance this unending feeling of disquiet in my soul, with the knowledge that I’m doing the best I can. I have an enquiring mind and I want to see the world – this is in complete competition with the fact that my body was not built the same way as my mind. My body is broken, but my mind is sharp.

How does one reconcile a life wanted, with the life given? How does one overcome the odds when they are all stacked against you? This is something my mind continues to wonder, while I lie here, in pain, day after day.

Just say YES

When I first decided I wanted to start a blog, I didn’t really know which direction to take as to what I wanted to blog about; there are so many facets to my life, I couldn’t narrow it down. I had written a blog a few years ago when I started running a vintage business and had some compliments on my writing style. I don’t know if they were just being polite but nevertheless, it brought about a confidence in me.

I guess most things in adult life are about having the guts to do something you’ve never done before. As Einstein said, the definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results’ I’m probably paraphrasing but you get what I mean.

I know too many people who do the same thing, day in, day out and complain that their life is unfulfilled. But, they haven’t actually taken the time to really sit and think about WHY their life isn’t what they had imagined it would be. They don’t consider that it is the choices they’ve made that have led them to the place they are now and another few scary but brave decisions may change their life for the better.

I’m not saying I’m perfect by any means. But, I do like to think having spent a fair amount of time in an introspective space, I have come out with a clearer knowledge of who I am as a person. As I was going through this period of ‘enlightenment’ (cue the sick noises!) I became much more of a yes person.

Crippled with Social Anxiety throughout my teens and early twenties my natural state was to avoid anything that may cause me embarrassment or even a small amount of attention. It stopped me doing a lot of things and it got so bad I spent 2 years hiding in my house rarely leaving it. I finally had had enough and decided I wanted more for myself, so I tracked down a few self help books on how to overcome social anxiety and even spent time (and a lot of money) having hypnotherapy sessions.

It took a while but I built up more and more confidence. I enrolled in some small adult learning courses and tried my hand at dressmaking and silver smithing. Slowly I came out of my shell and life started to feel a little less daunting.

A good few years have gone by now and while I still have mild social anxiety, it doesn’t rule my life. I took chances, I took risks, I thought ‘what the hell’ and did things I never thought I could do. I’ve walked down a catwalk wearing latex in a fetish club, I’ve talked about myself on the local radio, I’ve been in a tv commercial, I’ve run my own business, I’ve been published as a model, I’ve been immortalised as a comic book character.

All these things happened because I simply said YES.

What have you done lately?