November Tiger Haul

Well, I nearly went through the whole month without visiting my local Tiger/FlyingTiger store. But, we ran out of their tasty Pretzels, and… I don’t really need an excuse, do I? So, here’s a tiny post showing my tiny shopping trip. 

[from top to bottom: Three bags of yummy Pretzels, a DIY Gingerbread House kit – this is an annual tradition in our house, I use to make from scratch but not enough energy these days and so these kits are great. Net bag of Chocolate coins – to go in Christmas stockings eventually. ]
[clockwise from top: a red lockable notebook with dark red heart on front, a black lockable notebook with pattern of white hearts on cover. Two labyrinth maze puzzles. These and the notebooks will be stocking fillers, or perhaps for advent calendar if Tiger ever get those back in stock. Battery operated night lights. For putting in windows at Christmas, safer than real candles! A three-minute timer with green sand – hopefully will help with daily ordeal of brushing teeth. White self-hardening clay – for making Christmas tree decorations. Pack of straws – we go through a lot of these as they help with drinking medications that are diluted in drinks. ]

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Me too!

For as long as I remember, I have felt lonely and alone. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, I never felt like I fit in anywhere, that I belonged. I’ve always been on the outside, looking in. After a while, I gave up trying to find others on my wavelength. 

Recently, in the last few years, I made renewed effort in finding others I could connect with. I found a welcoming bunch over at Your Eatopia, a forum for those trying to recover from eating disorders. But although there were a few others more in the ARFID camp, I did feel in the minority compared to those with more ‘traditional’ eating disorders. So, a good start, and I did connect with some incredible people, but it wasn’t enough. They ‘got’ some of my issues, and lots of times I was able to proclaim ‘me too!’ but I still felt like a bit of an intruder. 

When I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, I joined a few support groups and forums, such as the one connected to Irish EDS & HMS. Some of these folk had similar eating issues to me, but they also shared so much other stuff, all the pain, exhaustion and body weirdness stuff. Again, I was welcomed with open arms and connected with some amazing people. It felt incredible that there were others who had almost identical experiences growing up to ones I had. Lots of ‘aha’ moments and cries of ‘me too!’.

And then I discovered the autistic community. A lot of the people there have co-morbid eating disorders, and/or co-morbid EDS. So I connected with those instantly. But there was also so much more. Never have I come across so many people who have had almost identical experiences growing up, in school, at work, in relationships. Hyperlexia, thought processes, executive functioning issues…. so many similarities I can’t list them. And every single day contains a string of ‘aha’ moments, of ‘me too’. I am continually blown away by the similarities. For the first time in my life, I feel a sense of belonging. And even though, obviously, I don’t always agree with every single autistic person I encounter, for the first time in my life I feel that those I ‘get’ outnumber those I don’t. 

And so, I wish to thank all my newly-discovered neurosiblings for being so welcoming and supportive. For just being yourselves. For being unapologeticly autistic. And I can join you and shout out loud ‘Me too!’
[image of a blue background, containing a white thought bubble, inside of which are the words ‘Me too!’ in purple.]

I want to limit the number of abortions… [CN: rape, ableism, DV]

I don’t like abortion. I hate the thought that so many people who can get pregnant (remember trans men and some non-binary people can and do get pregnant) are put in a position where they have to have one. I’d love a world where abortions were very uncommon. (Whatever your view on abortion, please keep reading before you get too mad at me!)

I am firmly of the opinion that the way to limit the number of abortions is not through legislation. Legislation simply doesn’t work. In Ireland, for example, people will save up and travel to England to access an abortion. Or buy abortion pills over the Internet. Or other, unsafe, ways to have an abortion. (Would the words ‘coat hanger’ be too graphic?)

No. Legislation doesn’t work. It only causes hardship and trauma. 

So, how do I propose to limit the number of abortions? Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list:

Contraception:

I believe contraception should be free, and freely available. So, no need for parental consent. No worrying about whether you can afford it. I believe this about all forms of contraception, as contraceptive pills don’t suit everyone, so other forms like IUDs should be free as well. And also condoms, which have the added bonus of protecting against STDs, which are on the rise in many parts of the world. Free hormonal contraception would also benefit those people who need it to treat medical conditions e.g. dysmenorrhea, PCOS, excessive menstrual bleeding etc. If contraception were free and easy to access, the number of unplanned pregnancies would reduce, and so would the number of abortions. 

Rape: 

There’s a debate in Ireland on whether the right to abortion should be extended to those pregnancies resulting from rape. My belief is that the best way to prevent these types of abortions is to prevent rapes. No, I’m not talking about policing what people wear, how much they drink, where they go alone at night. I’m talking about taking rape victims seriously. Actually prosecuting those accused of rape. And imposing much harsher penalties on those found guilty of rape. In addition to this, the impact of ‘rape culture’ needs to be taken seriously, and all steps possible should be taken to stamp it out. 

Disabilities: 

It’s a fact that ante-natal testing can lead to the abortion of those who test positive for various disabilities. The one that springs to mind is the test for Down Syndrome. I do not judge any parent that decides they don’t want all that comes with a disabled child. I do judge society as a whole though, and the ableism and lack of support from governments and other people, that leads parents to envisage a bleak future should they go ahead with the pregnancy. These types of abortions are best prevented by creating societies that cherish and support all people, no matter their level of ability. 

Domestic violence:

It’s a fact that it’s harder to leave an abusive relationship if you have children. I’ve heard of cases where an abusive partner ‘tricked’ their victim into getting pregnant, often by tampering with their contraceptive pills or putting a tiny hole in a condom. Or maybe no trickery was involved, and the victim became pregnant either through coercion or plain bad luck. Many of these victims have abortions because it makes it a little easier to leave their terrible circumstances. Again, the way to limit the number of these abortions is by helping the victim, taking them seriously, providing he means for them to leave their abusive partner. 

Economic reasons:

Many people simply can’t afford to have another child. They may not necessarily be living in poverty, although many are. But they may be stretched beyond their liking and cannot imagine how they would cope with another “mouth to feed”. Again, the way to lessen the number of these abortions, is to support the families involved. Generously paid maternity and paternity leave, children’s allowance payments, family friendly work practices, could all play a part in making sure families can support the number of children they find themselves with. 

Health: 

Some people suffer terribly during pregnancy. In Ireland, abortion is legal if the life of the mother is threatened. And rightly so. But often pregnancies can have terrible health implications even if they are not life-threatening. Personally, I have a terrible time while pregnant, being sick and losing weight for example. While my health while pregnant might not get bad enough that I’d consider an abortion, it might. I simply don’t know. And if a pregnant person doesn’t want to go through with their pregnancy due to bad health, it should be their choice. Again, free and easy access to contraception may prevent a few of these types of abortions. 

Again, the examples I’ve given above are only a few ways we could work to limit the number of abortions. And even if my dreams came true and society changes the way I want, there will still be a number of people who will chose to have abortions. We dont need to know why, they are entitled to make their own decisions and be supported. 

And so, even though I don’t like abortions and would like to see the numbers of them decrease, I totally and utterly support the scrapping of conservative and backward legislation that aims to coerce people into continuing with unwanted pregnancies. All they do is lead to suffering. 

[image of a dark blue background, with the words “I want to limit the number of abortions…” in light pink.]

Food Avoidance Emotional Disorder: too sad or worried to eat. 

I want to write today about a lesser-discussed eating disorder. Food Avoidance Emotional Disorder is no longer a stand-alone diagnosis, as far as I can tell, but has been incorporated under the general ARFID umbrella, as discussed here. It seems to be a very large component of my own issues with food, so maybe I might be able to provide insight into what it’s like. 

Imagine you have a major exam coming up. You wake up that morning, very anxious, your stomach in knots. You just can’t face your breakfast. I’m sure you’ve all experienced something like this. It is natural to experience this with any anxiety-inducing event. I remember clearly teasing a groom-to-be when he couldn’t face breakfast on his wedding day. We all had a good laugh, and nobody took it seriously. Sure enough, I later saw him tucking into a large steak during the reception meal. 

A more extreme case can be when somebody is experiencing grief, perhaps after the death of a loved one. They are overcome with sadness, and eating is the last thing on their minds. Again, after a day, a week or maybe even a month, and maybe some coaxing with friends, they regain their appetites and things go back to a form of normality. 

The above examples are obviously normal human reactions to anxiety or depression. They are temporary and certainly not classified as eating disorders. The disorder occurs when the avoidance of food, the lack of appetite, becomes long term. You lose weight, and in extreme cases you may be hospitalised. Like all the other eating disorders in the ARFID camp, you have absolutely no desire to lose weight, you are not afraid of becoming fat. You are simply too anxious or too depressed to eat. Usually the anxiety or depression are too subtle to gain a diagnosis in their own right. They are there in the background though, effecting your appetite and desire to eat. 

This type of eating disorder seems to run in my family. As a young adult, my mother experienced an episode of extreme trauma. As a result, her weight plummeted. She describes it simply as her “stomach closing up”. And when my daughter was being bullied in school, she claimed she was simply “too sad to eat”. In both these cases, their appetites returned when the underlying conditions eased. Which took several long months. But both are still “trigger happy” when it comes to losing their appetites. For example, I’ve seen my mother not being able to continue eating simply because my father said the wrong thing to her during the meal. 

Similarly, I find it impossible to eat when stressed. The worst example is when I am travelling, especially if I have to take a flight. I have often gone the whole journey unable to eat, which can be a problem if the journey takes a whole day. These days I pack milkshakes and smoothies as liquids seem to go down better. But I also suffer a more subtle form of this nearly every day, as I’m stressed and anxious at some point every day. It’s like having “butterflies in my stomach” for hours on end. This has been going on for my whole life, as far back as I can remember. 

And so, FAED, while not being the sole cause of my problems with eating, plays a big role. And another reason I really need to work on the stress and anxiety in my everyday life. 
[image shows a hand holding a fork, in the foreground. The hand itself is blurry so that the fork, which is in focus, stands out by contrast. In the background is a blurry image of what looks like a very fancy meal.]

I hate the sound of helicopters. (TW suicide)

When I was young, I loved the sound of helicopters. They were a rare occurrence and reminded me of far-flung places and adventure. The same way airplanes do, but more so as I could hear them coming so noticed them more. And I loved the loud noise and how the house would vibrate. 

When we moved to Dublin, they became a much more regular occurrence. They’d regularly fly over the house, en route to the National Rehabilitation Hospital down the road. So, they made me think of hope, of folks learning to walk again after motorcycle accidents. 

When I was in university, I used to get a lift to field trips from a classmate who had a car and lived down the road, closer to that hospital. One day, as we headed off, a helicopter flew past. “I hate the sound of helicopters” he said suddenly. I was surprised and asked him why. That was when I learnt the meaning of helicopters to a Catholic growing up in Belfast during “The Troubles”. That was when I learnt that helicopters weren’t always good news. 

And now, I myself hate the sound of helicopters. You see, our house happens to be close to the river Corrib, the river that flows through the heart of Galway City. And year after year, especially at this time of year, during the bleak winter months, and especially during the “Festive Season” that can be so lonely for so many people, we are woken up in the dead of night by the sound of a helicopter. This helicopter is not flying overhead, transporting someone from one place to another. No. It’s hovering. Hovering over the river, its searchlights visible through our curtains. 

Hovering. 

I don’t think I need to spell out what it’s searching for. Or rather, who. 

Daytime helicopter flights don’t bother me. Our house is also close the the main hospital, so there are often flights to take patients there. And also those who are rescued, from mountains, off boats, and indeed the river. Those helicopters don’t bother me at all. 

But, late at night, especially at this time of year, especially if it sounds like hovering, then I hate the sound of helicopters. 

And I have a feeling I’m going to be hearing that sound a lot more this year. 

[image of a simple drawing in black of a helicopter, on a blue background]

The Resistance 

A dark cloud has descended on the world. 

A dark cloud of fascism and hatred. 

And I can feel it growing, taking over, suffocating all in its path. 

And I look into the faces of my beautiful, innocent, perfect children and my heart fills with a despair greater than any I ever imagined were possible. 

And I look for something I can hold onto, something that gives even a glimmer of hope. 

A hashtag. #TheResistance

And it reminds me of the ‘good guys’ from the movies. From Terminator, The Matrix, Star Wars, Mad Max, The Hunger Games. The list goes on and on. 

And the echoes too of those who went underground and fought the fascists we have had before. 

Although most of us cannot take up arms, cannot physically fight any battles, we can take part in our own ways. Whether from behind a screen, cheering folks on, marching with placards, donating what we can, or reaching out to our friends and family who are suffering. 

And turning our backs on those who vote in hate. 

Autistic people often have hyper-empathy. In these dark times, it can be too much, overwhelming. So resistance can also mean just surviving. Not giving in to despair. 

And like all those movies, the good guys win in the end,right? 

Although never without a huge number of casualties. I’ve no doubt that many many good people will die in this battle too. 

And I don’t want their deaths to be in vain. I have to believe that this is not the end. 

And that The Resistance will prevail. I have to believe. 
[image of a red background with the words “THE RESISTANCE” in black.]

School Daze

School. A place I thought I’d left behind forever, a long time ago. A word that I thought I could avoid thinking about. A feeling that I’d give anything to erase. 

But you can never really erase the memories, can you?

Especially when you have children going through the same thing. History repeating itself. 

And when you read blog posts by others, who had so many experiences that echoed your own. 

And the memories come crashing back. 

I have never felt so alone as I did in school. Especially primary school. The feeling of exclusion, of isolation. Of being laughed at and whispered about. The thoughts I tried to dismiss as paranoia, but that proved to be true. The wanting so desperately to fit in. The finding out that bullying can be a very subtle thing when done by girls, with no physical evidence to prove it happened. The only scars are mental. 

The crushing boredom. The horror when I realised I knew more than my teachers, that they got basic facts about other cultures and religions very wrong. I learnt to keep my mouth shut and never correct them, ever. Being punished for things I couldn’t control, like being tone deaf and ‘ruining’ the teachers chance of winning the annual choral contest. Or having terrible handwriting, not because I was sloppy and lazy as the teachers assumed, but from weak grip and crushing hand pain. For not doing homework when all I could do when I got home was collapse in exhaustion. And the annual message at the parent-teacher meetings: She’s not living up to her potential. 

And, because this is Ireland, the inability to escape religion. Saying grace before every meal. Or at least mouthing the words while cringing. But it could have been worse, I could have been visibly excluded like the Baha’i girl in the class. So we played along. 

So much of the details are blurred out. I zoned out a lot. Physically there, mentally ‘away with the fairies’. I tried to secure a seat by the window. A breathing space. All I wanted was to be left alone, to do my work, in peace. 

There’s so much more I want to write about school, but right now it’s too painful. 

And I look at my daughter and it breaks my heart. And I try to convince myself things will be different for her. And I whisper ‘homeschool’ and try to plant seeds. Homeschool. A ray of hope. Light at the end of the tunnel. Fingers crossed my seeds will grow. 

I thought once I ‘grew up’, I’d never have to think about school again. I was so wrong. 

I’ve a feeling this will be a subject I’ll come back to again and again. 
[image of a schoolgirl, who looks about nine or ten, with shoulder length light-brown hair, which is partially obscuring her face, and wearing a light blue and white striped blouse, rolled up to the elbows. She is looking down on an empty page of a notebook, with a blue pen in her right hand as if about to write sometime. She looks absorbed with what she is doing, looking down at the page, with a slight smile on her face.]