On Surviving Rape

I nearly wasn’t a rape *survivor*.

After years of bullying, and *minor* sexual assaults, or what might be considered minor in comparison: I was already starving myself, binging and purging in a dangerous circle; I was already cutting my arms, my stomach, my legs; I was already smoking when actually I couldn’t stand the taste, I just liked the hit because it made me feel *good*; I was already drinking a bit too much when I had the opportunity to drink; I was already depressed.
I was 14 by the time Callum Thomas Pepper (2.5 years older) had finished wrapping me round his manipulative finger, by preying on my naivety and my *need* to feel loved, and by the end I was a thousand times worse. It started with  groping me in private while I closed my eyes and reminded myself this was just what boys do, and this was just what girls were meant for, and eventually he raped me when I wasn’t strong enough to push him away, when my voice wasn’t strong enough to scream or to shout. They teach you that you have a flight or fight response, but in reality, there’s a third response: freeze. I pushed him, I protested feebly, and I froze, shaking and crying. I was so dependent on the lies he fed me about his love for me, that I went back for two more months, including a second round of violent abuse.
After that day, it took eight months for me to finally crack. I lied to myself that it wasn’t really rape, that rape was something that happened in dark alleyways with strangers, not people you trusted. I lied to myself that maybe I wanted it, maybe I led him on. I lied to myself that I deserved to hurt. When I tried to tell people about it, they confirmed all these lies. I was the problem – a slut, a tease, or simply a liar. 
I literally tried to peel the skin from my arms, but I couldn’t, so I crisscrossed every inch of my forearms with little cuts. I ate even less, threw up even more and cycled into the worst state of depression I’ve ever been in. I took a tester overdose at school – just 8 paracetamol. I felt sick but nothing else happened. I just wanted to see if I could do it, if I could swallow the pills.
A few weeks later, I swallowed four times that, and I would have died painfully over several days as my organs shut down, if my mother hadn’t come to check on me and called an ambulance. I’m grateful today that I’m alive, but I nearly wasn’t a survivor.
Some people believe you should keep your rape experiences to yourself – that other people don’t need to hear them, that other people don’t want to hear them. I disagree. We need to shout our stories far and wide until the world starts to listen. These stories need to be told for every victim out there struggling to become a survivor. You can do this. These stories need to be told for everyone who doesn’t take this seriously. The aftermath of rape stays with you your whole life. I don’t remember how I got to his house that day, or why I agreed to go, but I will remember every second of what he did til the day I die. Rape culture needs to change, and rapists need to be held accountable for their actions NOW.

On Born Naughty, Damaging Misconceptions, and Katie Fucking Hopkins

You might be aware that the first episode of Born Naughty aired tonight, and it featured a sweet girl named Honey, who becomes a little less sweet when her anxiety triggers a meltdown. This is because Honey has a rare form of autism called Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome, something I share with the 9 year old girl.

Honey can’t help these behaviours, she can’t control them, and it doesn’t make her badly behaved. In fact, she seems completely at ease with animals and with a little guidance, I think she’ll grow up to be a very smart, funny, caring young woman. However, her anxiety triggers a fight or flight reaction when she is asked to do something that makes her feel scared or unsure, which is natural for everyone. Unfortunately for Honey (and myself!), this reaction is amplified and becomes a meltdown, which is not to be confused with a tantrum. For me, having a meltdown can feel like an out of body experience; I can see myself being aggressive, screaming, swearing, even being violent on the rare occasion, but I can’t do anything about it. I can’t stop myself. I can’t calm down.

‘Born Naughty’ really wasn’t the best title for the show, considering children like Honey aren’t naughty. They have a disorder, a condition, a disability that makes them act the way they do. It isn’t a choice, and it isn’t the fault of the parents. Certainly in Britain, there is a damaging misconception that behavioural problems are always caused by the parents and that conditions like ADHD and autism are over diagnosed. Perhaps they are mis-diagnosed in SOME children who simply just need more support to overcome their difficulties, but for the most part, parents and their children struggle for years to get a diagnosis… and what a difference that diagnosis makes!

It took until I was eighteen for anyone to take my family seriously. My parents had been told throughout my childhood that I wouldn’t get any support finding a diagnosis because there was a lack of funding, because I was too bright to be special needs, because I was simply rude, arrogant and lazy, because “there is nothing wrong with your daughter”. When I was nineteen and a half, almost exactly a year ago, I finally received my diagnosis and my parents finally received their answers. I finally knew why I was so different to everyone else, and my parents finally had the comfort that they hadn’t gone terribly wrong somewhere. It’s a common misconception that parents are to blame for disorders like ADHD and autism, but this is a damaging misconception. It’s damaging to society, to children with SEN and children without, and it’s damaging to the poor parents who have tried every piece of advice under the sun.

There is even light at the end of the tunnel. Because I have a diagnosis, I have been able to access adult cognitive behavioural therapy to help me with emotion regulation (although I did have some of this as a teenager too due to depression), reducing my anxiety (or at least, dealing with it), dealing with past trauma that arose from not having the understanding as a child and therefore falling prey to bullies and abusers, and controlling my outbursts (although it’s not always possible).

I have a rare form of autism, and in some ways that has held me back, but in others it has helped me excel, and having a diagnosis has only aided me further. I have a full time job which I do very well at, and I am aided by an understanding, supportive, disability-friendly management team. It is a misconception that people with autism can’t work or won’t ever make anything of themselves. Not everyone with autism will be able to work, but a large proportion of us can as long as we have some support and encouragement along the way.

Our society is sadly littered with ignorant people who enjoy nothing more than to step onto their soapbox and tell the world how terrible parenting is to blame, and that conditions like ADHD and PDA don’t even exist. The Daily Mail refers to Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome as a “misbehaviour” and suggests, no, outright claims, that this is the product of terrible parenting by calling the idea that children may be born this way is a “dangerous myth”.

Not surprisingly, one of those ignorant morons is the ever opinionated, vile ‘woman’ Katie Hopkins. When the election debate was on television, she tweeted this:

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Hopkins here suggests that those on the autism spectrum are ‘weird’ and shouldn’t be in politics. Since then, she has triggered an outcry from the public, demanding an apology towards the autistic community. She has, on the other hand, refused to comply.

Tonight, Hopkins outdid herself on Twitter with rude, ignorant tweets like:

“Ruth is going to hand out tips on how to support Pathological Demand Avoidance. Essentially never asking Honey to do anything

“Honey’s mum is thrilled her daughter has pathological demand avoidance. Now a whole world of funding has opened up to her

“Honey can’t complete the autism assessment as she is too busy being a complete twat. But the shit mum assessment is complete

However:

1) Supporting children with PDA is NOT about having NO demands. It’s about creating LESS demands which creates less anxiety until the child can deal with more demands. It’s about ‘picking your battles’. It’s about helping your child cope with demands. It’s about negotiation and being inventive.

2) Having PDA doesn’t automatically allow you any extra funding. I happen to get PIP and Working Tax Credits because I’m disabled, but that isn’t based on what condition I have, it’s based on what help I need to have the same quality of life as someone who doesn’t have a disability. Having PDA doesn’t automatically mean that you qualify for benefits, or that you can get specialist educational help. If it did, parents would be clambering over each other to get a diagnosis, whereas many prefer to deny that there is anything different about their child in order to avoid a label.

3) I don’t believe for a second that Stella is a shit mum. Neither would anyone else who understands what she goes through every day with Honey. She’s done the right thing by seeking a diagnosis and support, and clearly her family are her first priority. Moreover, calling a nine year old a twat is abhorrent. Katie Hopkins clearly needs to take a long hard look at herself in the mirror and grow up. Maybe she should take an autism awareness course while she’s at it.

Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome is real and serious, and treating it as any less is insulting and anything but helpful.

On Schoolkids, Sluts and Self-Respect

As I walked back past the supermarket entrance, on my way to the self-service checkouts, a gaggle of schoolkids stampeded in, not three metres from me. It wasn’t a total surprise – it was lunchtime – but I was in panic mode within seconds. Dry mouth, heart racing, stomach churning, I tried not to look any of them in the eye. My pace quickened, but alas, one of the group turned his head, quite meaningfully and hissed in my direction.
“Slut.” The others laughed, like hyenas in their pack. I didn’t rise to it, I didn’t acknowledged them, I didn’t bite the bait. It wasn’t the first time.
I had it from the other schoolkids when I was the victim of sexual abuse at thirteen years old. I had it when I was raped at fourteen years old. Then I had it when I was seventeen, when I exploded out of my shell, colours flying, confidence oozing, my quest for hedonism the talk of my sixth form (and no, I’m not joking).
For the first time in my life, I was having sex with multiple men with no strings attached. I was as sexually safe as I could be, and I was proud of my actions. This time, sex was on my terms. It was for my enjoyment, my gratification, my pleasure. It wasn’t because I was pressured, because I was vulnerable, like before. It wasn’t because there was something wrong with me. It wasn’t because I was autistic or damaged. It was because this sex was all mine and I decided I would never allow someone to take from me the right to control my own body again. Not without a blood drawing fight, a police investigation and the revengeful pleasure of seeing whoever dared to control me put behind bars.
I was proud of my body. I AM proud of my body. It has endured sexual assault, rape, beatings from bullies, self harm, attempted suicide, alcohol abuse, bulimia, even smoking when I thought that might cure the negativity in my life (ha, ha). My body deserved something back: pleasure. I deserved something back.
For this, I was branded a slut. I was a slut because I willingly showcased my body, because I willingly accepted advances from my male friends, because I took pleasure from sex (especially the kinky kind) and I told the world. I started a blog, I shared stories, hints and tips with my friends, I took pictures of my naked body in all its eczema clad, stretch mark adorned and scarred glory. I was free of the self hatred, the low self-esteem, the guilt and shame that being abused had brought me. I was free and this made me a slut.
I was frequently told that I had no self-respect, but let me tell you a thing or two about self-respect. It doesn’t have anything to do with nudity or sex; it’s about making choices that make you happy. My promiscuity made me happy and I don’t regret one sexual act from that age onwards. I felt empowered, I felt free, and I felt in control. I still do.
In the end, I left that sixth form, not out of shame for being branded a slut, but because my mental health was suffering. I’d take being myself and enjoying my life, over miserably passing my A levels. In all honesty, my mental health had suffered so much that I might not have made it through my A levels without a second suicide attempt. After I left, the jokes, the snide comments, and the slutshaming continued, but this time I wasn’t around to hear it – all except the incident where the Assistant Head of Sixth Form recited the line “along came Fifty Shades of Bex” in a poem for the end of year assembly. I found out about that from my loving boyfriend (whom I found when I was eighteen) who was present and bore the brunt of the bullying after I left. For some reason, the teachers at the school had no qualms with ridiculing me either, but that’s a whole other story.
The kids who called me a slut in the supermarket today did not know me. They were about five years younger. They did not go to the same school as me, and I was actually in the next town along from my own today. Those kids knew OF me, from the bullies who’ve followed me throughout my whole life so far, only ever seeing what they want to see, not who I really am.
I had to fight back an anxiety attack today because of them, but I’ll never stop embracing my low cut top and short skirt wearing, story sharing, exhibitionist, promiscuous side. I love this body. Don’t you dare think you can tell me how to use it.

On Parks and Perks

As somebody who is disabled in a way that is not immediately obvious, I receive a lot of negative attention for sometimes being treated differently to how somebody who is not disabled might be treated. I have an autism spectrum disorder and chronic generalised anxiety, but these disabling aspects of my life are not written on my forehead for all to see. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you might not notice anything different about me compared to your average, typical young woman. I look the same, I usually sound the same, and I try as much as possible to act the same (or that is, ‘appropriately for my surroundings’). I have a job; I am studying for a degree with the OU; I can maintain a handful of meaningful relationships. I’m high functioning. My disability does mean though that I get what some people might term “special treatment” here and there, and other people appear to see this as having ‘perks’ for being disabled.

One thing that really grates on my nerves is when people seem to see all these ‘perks’ of having a disability without seeing the fact that having the disability in the first place has actual, real life, serious effects on my quality of life. Perhaps not as much as others, and I am very lucky for that reason, but to give you an example, I have such bad anxiety that most of the time, unless it is part of my daily routine or an extremely familiar activity, I cannot go anywhere alone. Whilst my boyfriend is at uni, I literally am confined to the four walls of my house because I cannot go anywhere on my own. If you need another example, my parents cannot leave me in the house alone for more than a few hours because I might even be a danger to myself out of sheer clumsiness or anxiety. I cannot cook unchaperoned because I tend to miss steps out of recipes, miss ingredients, hurt myself, set fire to things, leave the gas on etc. My disability is lots and lots of little things racking up to needing care in the same way that a young child might. So, let me explain my so called perks:

Extensions on my assignments: I obsessively, pathologically resist demands, because they cause me an inordinate amount of stress. It isn’t what kind of demand I am facing which affects me as much as it is the expectations of meeting that demand. My anxiety is so high that facing some demands causes me more harm than good. It’s better to pick my battles. If it’s a bad day I can meet smaller demands. On a good day, I can conquer the world. Deadlines are hard, like really hard for me. That is one hell of a demand, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. On top of the whole demand thing, there’s actually getting to the point of being able to write the assignment. I have a fairly short attention span. Sometimes I have to go over information a second time. I need longer breaks between studying. Certain stimulus or study materials just don’t sink in because of the way they are presented. Another issue is that I struggle with ambiguous language. You cannot imagine the stress of not understanding something and being unable to communicate what it is that I do not understand. I probably don’t understand something that everyone else understands instinctively, and I have communication issues in the sense that ‘wires get crossed’ so how am I supposed to communicate clearly what it is that I don’t understand? If I need an extension because of my disability, I’m not using my disability as an excuse but because I genuinely need extra time.

Benefits: I get benefits even though I work. Not a ridiculous amount, but something called Personal INDEPENDENCE Payment. I’m not being paid to be disabled, as some people have put it. I am given a little extra money a month to achieve some independence. That means being able to afford taxis with my trusted taxi company so that I don’t have to walk somewhere unfamiliar alone and either get lost or have an anxiety attack or both. I have very little sense of direction. It means being able to afford to redo my theory test however many thousands of times I have to do it in order to pass and be able to drive, because the questions are really ambiguous and being autistic doesn’t qualify for extra help from the DVLA. It means being able to pay for someone to accompany me on public transport if I am going somewhere unfamiliar. If I need to go on a course or something for work, now I can pay for a friend to travel with me. It means that I can buy my own food instead of either going without or forcing my parents to go without meals they like but I don’t. I’m not just fussy; I have genuine food issues like certain things touching and not being able to cope with certain textures. Shepherds Pie. Apricots. Baked beans on toast. The thought makes me feel sick. I get benefits so that I can have the independence that someone without a disability is already able to have.

Discounted Days Out and Free Carer’s Tickets: My boyfriend can get in free to a lot of attractions if he is with me. Why? Because even though he is my boyfriend, if we are not accompanied by anyone else then he is my carer. He does things for me that other boyfriends of non-disabled girls would never be expected to do. He looks after my wellbeing when I am not able to. I wouldn’t be able to go to any attractions, or anywhere, without accompaniment. He has to be with me, so he gets in free to a lot of places. I need someone with me to help me cope with my anxiety. I need someone with me to make sure I don’t get hurt. I need someone with me so that I don’t have a meltdown and do something destructive. Meltdowns don’t happen in public often, but I lose control of what I am doing if it does, and I can’t always explain this to people. “Sorry I smashed your window, the butterflies kept landing on me and I couldn’t cope.” That sounds ridiculous, but my boyfriend can help a) stop the situation from arising and b) explain what has happened if a meltdown did occur. I get discounts because a lot of the time my experience may not be as full as the experience of someone who is not disabled. The entire time I am hampered by my anxiety which is heightened by the fact that I am likely to be in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar sounds and smells. I might suffer with sensory overload issues. There might be too much going on for me to process: too many smells, too many sounds, too many colours, too many people, too many things happening and I can’t cope. It’s too much. It might cause me to have a meltdown, shut down or not enjoy the experience as well as others. Sometimes, I might not even understand everything to the full extent. I’m intelligent, but I don’t ‘get’ things other people do. I don’t ‘get’ things that I have not been regularly exposed to.

No queues at big attractions: At Disney, I can get a disabled pass which means that instead of having to wait in a physical line, I can get told a time to come back (when I would be able to get on the ride after waiting in line for this amount of time) and I can go on straight away. I don’t get on the rides any faster, but I don’t have to physically wait in line, thus reducing my anxiety. I only like the kiddie rides anyway, as I feel safer and my anxiety is lower whilst still being able to enjoy the thrill. If I were to wait in line, my anxiety will only rocket. By the time I’ve waited ten minutes, I’m fed up, wired and on the way to a downward spiral. If I need to wait half an hour it is much better to walk away and look at something else or find somewhere to get a drink and sit down, where I can occupy myself with something other than the concept that I am waiting for this ride. This might be the hardest ‘perk’ to understand if you don’t have anxiety or autism or don’t know anyone with anxiety or autism very well, but please believe me when I say that queues can produce extreme anxiety.

If I think of any more, I’ll be sure to update this and document my justifications for deserving these said ‘perks’ even though I shouldn’t have to.

On Questions We Can’t Answer

Screaming inwards so loud I can’t breathe
Crying these tears so hard I can’t see
You couldn’t understand how I feel:
This emptiness growing inside of me.

At various points in life I have traveled to Hell and back. Sometimes I have danced around the edges of the cliff-tops, and sometimes I have fallen from them, and buried myself in the burning sand for days, even months. I’ve not only suffered a great deal from other people, from the lack of understanding about where I sit on the NT/ASD scale, and from circumstances beyond anyone’s control, but also from the effects of depression, which some might argue are worse than the causes.

I was bullied in many forms, through different media, and by different but overwhelmingly similar groups of people, from the age of seven to a year after I dropped out of Sixth Form. I grew up not trusting those in authority as they let me down over and over again: one teacher hit me as a young child; subsequent teachers denied my bullying, my depression and my learning difficulties; therapists in my mid-teens refused to understand my issues; people I was supposed to be able to turn to called me a liar and a drama queen throughout my life.  I have been sexually assaulted by several different boys / men at several different times in my late childhood / early teens. I was emotionally, psychologically, mildly physically, and severely sexually abused by one guy for eight months, and in the later months he assaulted me horrifically on two occasions, and raped me on another. I lost my unborn brother late in my mother’s pregnancy a few years ago, and had my heart completely broken and stomped on a year before that, after meeting who I truly believe was my soul mate. I have been through years of self harm, two different periods of eating disorders, alcohol abuse, and a suicide attempt, amongst other effects my depression brought about. These are probably the worst things on the list of what I’ve been through – the major events – and they are all stories I have yet to tell fully.

Of everything that has happened to me, despite how horrific and terrible they were at the time and even now as I reflect, I am not sure that anything is as numbingly painful as what I am going through now.

Last Monday night, I discovered to my complete shock and delight that I was pregnant. I was told by my GP two years previously that I would find it difficult to conceive while I still had hormonal issues; my partner and I were not trying for a baby. Once I was past the initial shock, I was overjoyed and excited. I wanted this baby. My partner and I made plans; my parents and I made plans. We were even going to switch the rooms around, which would cramp my seven year old sister into a room too small for her toys, let alone her furniture, but would allow my partner (when he is not at university), myself and our baby the room to be a family together at home until we could afford a place of our own, where my needs (autistic and anxiety related) could still be met.

We had started to look at names. I had fallen in love with a girl’s name and not yet settled on a boy’s. We had looked at sleepsuits and family cars. We were ecstatic.

I tried not to panic when I first started to bleed on Saturday. This was normal, it happened to lots of women in pregnancy. Even the slight cramps in my abdomen were common. Everything was going to be okay. Sunday was worse. The tiny clots in the blood scared me, but still, if I panicked the situation would only get worse. I rang the Maternity helpline, who tried their best to reassure me, but told me to go to A&E “just in case”. Then, I panicked. I packed an overnight bag just in case, a book and my darling Marscapone, a cuddly panda bear who has kept me calm at the worst times for the last five years. There isn’t a night I don’t still sleep with him.

A&E was quite routine. My mother drove me and stayed with me the entire time. They took my blood pressure. They kept us waiting. They asked me for the details over and over, and then they kept us waiting. They took my blood, after four hours, and then kept us waiting. A gynecologist felt my womb, did a quick internal and told me everything looked fine; some women just bled in pregnancy and there was no reason to tell why. They would book me in for an emergency scan anyway, “just in case”. I was allowed to go home.

When we drove to the scan this morning, I was apprehensive but excited. I wanted to see my baby, to hear its heartbeat, to know it was safe in my tummy. In reality, the monitor was faced away from me and I couldn’t see a thing – not that there was much to see. The sonographer kept fiddling with the keyboard and saying “let me just try this”. She wouldn’t tell me anything, and even my mum was squinting at the screen. I knew at once that something was wrong. They stopped and the lady started in her grave voice.

“What I can see here is a pregnancy. I’m sorry, but there is no heartbeat. The pregnancy has stopped at 8 weeks, 1 day. I’m so sorry.”

I broke, with them in the room. Cuddled into my mother, I wept. Great racking sobs, loud moans, floods of tears. The more I cried, the more real it was, the worse I felt, and yet we cry anyway. When I was calmer, I wanted to know. Why? When? Could they be wrong? Could there be a chance?

They couldn’t tell me why, and they couldn’t tell me when it happened. They could offer me a second scan next week, for a second opinion, and, more likely, to check how my body was progressing with naturally passing the miscarriage. They told me not to beat myself up and they told me what support they could offer. They told me the statistics, and that it didn’t mean I couldn’t have any more. But nothing, nothing in the world can offer me any comfort. Of course I feel responsible. I didn’t find out until quite late; what if I had done something? I drank and ate all the things I shouldn’t have done, including large quantities of alcohol and in the last few weeks, green tea. I didn’t start taking folic acid until it was too late. It’s not healthy to think I’m responsible for what happened, and I know that, but it doesn’t stop me thinking, in the empty silences, that I did something wrong.

It hurts more than anything in the world, but it isn’t even over for me yet. There is a dead baby inside me still, and a grieving process which has barely begun. I haven’t just lost a baby; all the hopes and plans and dreams I had for it too are gone. I want to try again, to have a planned, healthy pregnancy this time but it can’t be for months, until my body, my partner and my mental health are all in a healthier state.

I can’t explain how this loss feels. I am numb and yet I am in so much pain my chest feels like it is holding together despite a thousand tonne weight pressing down on me. My stomach keeps turning, as though I might be sick any moment, but I can’t tell if from emotional stress or the stress my body is currently under. It feels like a huge chunk of my life is missing, despite the fact that I never held this baby in my arms. I feel empty, emotionally, inside as though nothing could ever fill the hole in my life except another baby. I ache in every way, and I can’t understand why we cry these torrential tears when they do not ease our pain.

I am thankful for all the support my friends, family and acquaintances have shown me today, but I am too overwhelmed with pain and despair right now that I find it hard to concentrate on the meaning of their words. I want to know why me, after everything I’ve been through. I want to know why I cannot be allowed any longevity in my happiness? Have I not been through enough? Have I not hurt enough already in my twenty years? I want to know why my baby didn’t survive, what caused it and when. Sadly, I know that some questions can never be answered. For those of us who believe in God, we grasp on to the idea that He has a plan for all of us – that there is a reason for our pain. For those who do not, I do not know what you hold on to, but I do know whatever it is does not ease the pain as faith does not ease mine. They say time heals all ailments, but I question that, too.

I am lost right now, so unsure where this latest tragedy is taking me, and all I can hope is that my pain does not engulf me in the way that it threatens to. I can feel depression tugging on my heart, pulling me back to a place I don’t want to be, and so far I can see no light shining on me to show me the way. I can only hope, and pray, that this time, it really will get better, and the happiness I’ve been yearning for my whole life is right around the corner.

Race For Life

I’ve never been a sporty person, or particularly motivated to do anything remotely excercise related, but I would consider myself a very charitable person. I like to get behind good causes, and one of the most important is Cancer. Unfortunately it affects almost everyone in some way, whether it’s watching your friends or relatives suffer with it or suffer losing someone to it, or suffering from the illness itself. This year I’ve decided to do the Race For Life in Stamford on the 1st June, just three weeks away, with my mother, and we’d really like YOU to be there with us too, even if that just means sponsoring us for the day.

Why sponsor us in particular?

By sponsoring us through our respective JustGiving pages, the money does go straight to Cancer Research UK; we don’t get to keep any of it, and if you Gift Aid it they get 25% extra even though it hasn’t come out of your pocket. The work they are doing is tremendous and really important. We need to find a cure for cancer, and fast. By sponsoring us you would be helping to develop a cure, and spurring us both on to achieve something significant on a personal level.

As part of my disorder, I have chronic anxiety. I rarely leave the house except to go to work and I have certainly never had the confidence before to don jogging bottoms and run (or probably walk) around outside for a cause, and I imagine it’s going to be a good feeling. I want to push through my anxiety, one act at a time, and this might help me do it, especially since I’m not even doing it all for me! If you think I’m worth sponsoring, please please donate because every amount counts. Here’s my page:

http://www.justgiving.com/ladyjadeite94

My mother too has something to prove in taking part in the Race For Life. She has a whole host of medical problems, one of which is fibromyalgia. She’s almost constantly in pain, and always tired. Some days just driving round the corner to pick my sister up from school is too much for her to manage. For her to take part in the Race for Life wouldn’t just be something to tick off her bucket list, it would be an amazing achievement given the condition she has, and a huge confidence booster. Help me prove that her illness doesn’t have to prevent her from doing the things she sets her mind to. Please help fill her with the confidence to take part and sponsor her today:

http://www.justgiving.com/sandrakitchen

It means the world to us, and to those Cancer Research UK can help in the future. Thank you.

On the Wonders of an Over-Active Imagination (and Demon Bugs)

As I understand it, for those diagnosed with “typical” Autism, the imagination is often nothing but a far off, nonsensical dream. I, on the other hand, was not diagnosed with “typical Autism”, and live with the pleasure (and perils) of an over-active imagination. At the age of three I began to withdraw into an imaginary world, and to this day I can’t honestly say I spend a lot of time in the “real world”. If an unsuspecting, neurotypical member of society were to step inside my mind they probably wouldn’t be able to make any more sense out of it than I can.

Having a creative imagination is of course a blessing when it comes to writing; I took a lot of joy in making up stories as a child, and now spinning stories into readable works I someday intend to finalise and publish. It has however been a burden for those who have cared for me over the years. My imagination is so well developed that I will irrationally convince myself of things that, on a conscious level, are entirely impossible. I will believe them nonetheless; currently my dear boyfriend has to shroud me in light wherever we go after dark just in case the zombies catch me. I literally will not budge out of the car unless he gets out first, turns on the flashlight on his phone and then guides me wherever I need to be. And no, I’m not joking.

Since I believe in zombies during waking moments (we’ve already been through vampires, werewolves, evil pixies, faceless demons, weeping angels – thanks Doctor Who – and green long fingered aliens to name a few), it is only natural that I have incredibly realistic, absurd, terrifying nightmares. I have woken up screaming the entire house down, punched the poor people in bed with me (best friends, boyfriends, my bear…) and when I was younger wet myself due to the monsters under my bed. I can almost hear parents reading this and tutting “too many scary movies” at the screen. If you are one of those people, I’d just like to let you know that I’ve never watched a horror movie rated more than a 12, never usually watch anything that isn’t lighthearted and fluffy past about 8pm and stay away from zombie movies full stop (okay, except for I Am Legend because Will Smith mmmm). I have the bedtime routine of a ten year old: milk and biscuits, read a chapter of a nice story full of rainbows and ice creams, turn out the light, and if my boyfriend is home he tucks me in with a kiss on the forehead. The latter is optional unless I am ill.

So if your nineteen year old daughter is still scared of everything that goes bump in the night, what is the best way to spend quality time with her? According to my mother, it’s to put Constantine on just before bed… pause it half way through and proceed to mention how she forgot to bring the washing in off the line earlier. I might just add here also for those who haven’t seen it that I am petrified of any type of insect, and these feature quite heavily in the film. Being the responsible and independent woman I am (ha, ha, ha) I offer to go outside, in the dark and bring the washing in. I slip my shoes on, grab the nearest torch, open the back door… Before promptly shutting it again. “Muuuuum,” I cry, “you’ll have to do it, the demon bugs might get me!”

I tried, honestly I did.