WillowHope - Asperger Syndrome Blogger

Drawing

It’s been a mixed couple of days. I haven’t been able to achieve as much as I’d have liked to, but it’s a slow process, and I understand that – it’s just sometimes hard to feel motivated enough to fight the fight. A good friend of mine took me for a cinema day over the weekend, we saw Rogue One and Split. Split is a film I’ve been eagerly waiting for, for some months now, and I wasn’t disappointed. Though there was a confusing twist at the end, and now I need to consider watching another film, but even so, it was good. Some incredible acting from James McAvoy! I tend to enjoy most films in general, but some of my favourites usually end up focussing around mental illness or disorder – this one being Dissociative Identity Order (Multiple Personality Disorder).

So anyway, that was a good day, but very tiring. I’m still not very well, so being out overwhelms me faster than it normally does and I get super tired, super quickly. Whilst I was out I popped into Hobbycraft because I’ve really been feeling like getting back into drawing – and I have been gradually purchasing some new pencils and markers etc, but in Hobbycraft I found some Copic markers! I was super happy cause I’ve never seen them in a store in the UK haha, so I grabbed a wide ish variety of colours, with a couple of projects in mind and merrily went on my way. When I got home that evening I made a quick sketch of Pikachu, which, to say I haven’t really drawn in a good year or two, wasn’t half bad.

Today has been much more of a fail though, as I was supposed to be going into town to the post office and to pick up some more drinks which I’ve found, that I’m really enjoying at the moment. After debating with myself all morning whether I felt well enough to get up and go out, I had to give my parcels to my Mum and tell her which drink it was so she could bring some back. As a result, I ended up asleep almost all of the day; but like, really, really asleep. Couldn’t have woken up properly if I’d tried. It was really bizarre, and I really don’t like days where I feel like this because it’s such an immediate waste.

To try and feel a little better with today I made another sketch with my awesome markers. I was going to leave it but then when I was looking at my fish I realised that my biggest one, Finneon (Derpy is his nickname because he swims upside down a lot), doesn’t look very well. He’s a lot less active than he normally is and there’s a couple of marks on him that aren’t part of his usual markings. Anyway, it kind of got me worried and I was a bit upset at the thought of potentially losing him, so I decided to draw a picture of him. I’ve not had him a year yet – my other two, Magikarp II and Goldeen have just had their 1st birthdays, but I got Finneon much later.

Moo Moo, my kitten, was really cuddly today, which was nice cause I was feeling pretty awful all day. My friend recently bought me a fidget toy – a spinner thing – and Moo is fascinated by it so he was just laid on bed with me watching it spin. My hamster, Marshmallow, is also doing well – he’s had a new cage for a couple of weeks now and he’s settled in nicely. He’s so cute, and so organised; he takes food from his bowls or from the hanging snack bars and puts it all in a neat pile at the bottom of his cage. But he’s also an anxious ball of fat, bless him, and he cries sometimes when he’s unsettled. He’s adorable. I love my pets a lot, they cheer me up when I’m having bad days. My Mum will bring Moo upstairs to see me if I’m stuck in bed. <3

Written by Willow Marsden — January 31, 2017

Dullness and Decluttering

Today was a particularly dull day. I think the weather was dull – I’m not entirely sure because by the time I paid it any attention it was already dark. But my mind was dull. This was one of my cloudy days – I have a lot of those lately. So this stupid sinus infection thingy that I’m currently stuck with is really starting to get to me now. I can’t breathe properly and I can’t eat properly. I’ve mostly been eating noodles, or other thin, squashy foods. And don’t get me wrong, I love noodles. All about the noodles. But when it’s not by choice and my only other option is soup…yeah, it’s a bit dull.

My kitten was being extra cuddly today, which was nice, cause I really needed the cuddles. He’s so damn cute. All of the love. I tried to organise my room a little today, because I’ve just had boxes of things laying around for days now and it makes my head feel messy. So I managed to make it a bit less cluttered, so I’m at least pleased with that. But the rest of today was kinda pointless as I ended up sleeping for almost all of it due to various aches and pains and complete exhaustion.

On a more positive, but not entirely useful, note – my Pokemon card collection is coming along nicely. It’s something I’ve been focussing on whilst I’ve not being doing so well, and it’s something I can do without much effort that I really enjoy. I’ve been both buying and selling, and as tedious as it may seem, I find it fun. I won’t bore you with the details of my collection, don’t panic!

So on reflection, today was a bit of a waste, but I’m not going to get annoyed about it, because that’s not going to magically make it not a waste, and it will just upset me further. Instead I’m going to focus on the fact that I managed to eat food despite being ill, decluttered my room a little, listed some Pokemon cards for sale and sorted a few of my own cards out and I managed to have a bath and wash my hair. Simple things, but things that I struggle with when I’m not doing so well. So eating and bathing are actually really big achievements, as lame as that sounds.

Moo Moo, my kitten.

Written by Willow Marsden — January 28, 2017

I'm Gonna Blog Again!

Okay so here’s a novel idea…I’m thinking about getting into blogging again. Possibly daily, I dunno yet. Reason being – well, there’re two reasons – my psychiatrist wanted me to start keeping a diary, and also, I’ve been really struggling lately and I purchased a laptop to try and help me still be productive even on my bad days when I can’t get out of bed. So, let me start by quickly running through a few things to bring you up to speed.

When I say struggling, I mean that being a human has become really difficult lately, for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’ve been on medication for depression for over a year now, and a few months ago it was increased to the maximum dose – it’s still not really working, per se. Also, after an initial assessment from a psychiatric nurse (that I see almost every other week), and my psychiatrist agrees, I’ve found out that I probably have post traumatic stress disorder, in part as a result of a mentally abusive relationship that I was in for several years, but mostly as a result of mental abuse from my real Dad – from the day I was born really, until recently when I stopped all contact with him. There have been a few other issues along the way, and really it’s all just gotten on top of me and I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to sift through all the crap and just get on with positive things.

I’ve actually felt a lot better since I got this laptop, which sound stupid, but it means that I’m not totally disconnected anymore. There are so many days that I spend almost entirely in bed feeling absolutely hopeless and incapable of doing things. I really want to get up and go on my PC, every day, and yet most days pass by and I still haven’t turned it on. So having a laptop means that I can eliminate feeling upset and annoyed about that, cause I can just grab the laptop and work on whatever I want. I’ve got Photoshop, so I can edit my photos and work on my web design, I’ve got Premiere and Audition so I can edit videos and record stuff, I’ve got Word so I can write my book. Then if I’m not feeling quite so productive I’ve got Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, as well as various games (I bought a kickass laptop haha, it can handle whatever I throw at it).

So anyway, I wanna just kind of write down my thoughts and feelings here and just…get stuff off my chest and if it helps people along the way then that’s super.

Today I woke up with what is probably a sinus infection, and it’s affected my jaw so I can’t open it properly, so eating is really difficult. I’m not even surprised when I wake up ill anymore. It happens so often nowadays, I just think…meh, whatever, course I’m ill. I ended up spending most of today asleep, which I really don’t like – but I’ve been making a conscious effort not to feel so annoyed with myself when I don’t manage to do something, because it won’t help, it just makes me feel even worse. I did get up in the evening and spend some time with my parents and my kitten. We watched TV for a while. I also managed to clean out my hamster’s cage, Marshmallow, so now he’s all happy again. I’d been needing to do it for a few days and I felt really bad for leaving it. So I’m pleased that’s done. I’ve come to bed feeling really ill again, and I plan to sit on my laptop for a while, maybe do some work on my book and then watch A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix.

Written by Willow Marsden — January 27, 2017

Big Changes

*whispers hello and waves*

Many things have happened.

Honestly, I've been falling apart in slow motion for about 2 years. And I think you know that!

Part of falling apart has included wanting to be more private about my life, for a change. I shared a heck of a lot with you guys over the past 6 years, and I just got to a point where I didn't want all of that to be out there anymore. So, whilst I will bring back some of the videos, a huge, huge portion of them will remain private, and I hope you can respect that. I in turn, will respect that some of them have been and continue to be very helpful for our community and will endeavour to either keep those ones public, put them back up, or remake them. 

Anyway, for those who don't know, I left Chris a few weeks ago and I now live with my Mum again. I was deeply unhappy, and really, it's only now that I realise just how bad I felt. But I'm not going into it more than that.

I will try and keep my sites running, but they didn't tend to have a habit of making enough money to support themselves, and I don't have an income, so it might turn out to be a struggle.

I have a bunch of things I was working on, one off things like keyrings and necklaces etc., which you might not be bothered about, but I enjoyed making them and so I will list them for sale soon. Now I'm all set up here, I can try and focus on this again. I'm not promising anything spectacular because I really do need to have some time for myself and to figure out who I am now. And I honestly don't know if that can include being so dedicated to the Autism community, because I'm just so drained from it all. But at the very least, I want to make this into something that I'm happy to leave it at if I was to stop. Because currently, it's a bit of a mess.

I have branched out, socially, lately and have more 'normal' interests and hobbies and stuff, and it's nice. I'm really enjoying it. But I don't want this world to collide with my actual life, I can't explain why but it's just not a conversation I want to have, because for the first time ever, it's not painfully obvious that I have Asperger's and I love not having to explain why I'm weird!

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Written by Willow Marsden — August 06, 2015

Yumbox Review - A Lunchbox for Autistic Children?

 

When I got an email from Yumbox asking me to take a look at their product because they thought it might be useful for Autistic children, I was more than happy to put it to use and do a review. I loved the idea of a lunchbox which keeps food separated without any fuss and knew it would be useful to the people who watch my videos and read my blogs, so I wanted to share with you what I thought of it.

Yumbox are based in the USA but they have UK and Australian distributors. There are several designs and colour choices so there should be something to suit everyone. Personally, I went for the Framboise Pink Classic Yumbox, simply because I like to have a variety of foods and I like compartments, so it was the most appealing to me – in pink, which is, of course, my favourite colour.

The design itself is very clever, utilising most of the space very well – the compartments are very deep and the tray insert is handy to take out and wash and interchange with other styles etc. The materials feel really solid and high quality – the lid doesn’t open and slam shut, it just kind of stays where you put it, which is nice as it doesn’t make any sudden loud noises. Plus, the rubber feel inlay of the lid doesn’t attract the dust from your tea towel, so that stays nice and clean, which is a bonus, as I was expecting it to look all fluffy after I’d dried it!

It’s a simple design, which means there’s the option to put stickers on of your own to personalize it with your latest obsession, rather than buying a new lunchbox to suit each time you like something new! Also, the flat top lends itself very well as something to lean on whilst writing, maybe on the bus home or at break time.

Anyway, onwards to the testing! I set about packing my Yumbox with a range of foods which I usually snack on around lunch time, slightly ignoring the advice to avoid juicy/watery types of food, purely to put it through its paces! I used ham, coleslaw, grated cheese, potato (with some kind of dressing), chilli sauce and jelly – things that do not want to be mixed!

I had a little trouble putting the foods into the relatively narrow compartments, without it all falling into the others, but it’s not the end of the world, and it wouldn’t be an issue with a lot of foods, just the mushy ones I was using! I found that I had enough space for most of what I wanted, but it is aimed at children so the portion sizes are fine for that purpose, and good enough for an adult who just wants some snacks for throughout the day.

After I’d packed it all up and stuffed it into a cool bag, I left it for a while and then gave it a good shake around – like, a lot more than you would expect it to move around before lunchtime! I was wary of opening it up, to be honest, but to my surprise it was as I left it, no seepage or spillages into other compartments. My jelly was still the correct flavour, and not chilli infused!

There was some residue on the lid, as you would expect, but the issue I found was that when you leave it open at a vertical angle, the juices run down onto the other compartment lid sections, which means they mix if you close it again. No big deal really since, I figured it’s not often that you open, close and then open again.

As for washing it, I found hand washing to be a bit of a pain, since the intricate design of the tray means all the bubbles cling on for dear life and you have to rinse it for a while to get them to let go – and then you need to leave it to air dry since the tea towel can’t get in to dry it – once again, no big deal; you can pop it in the dishwasher on the top rack, and you can always buy more than one tray insert for added ease and speed.

The single bad thing which I would point out purely from an Autistic point of view, is that, since there aren’t separate lids for each compartment (which is, of course, the point of this), the smells of all the different foods do mix together when you open it, which I personally found a bit overwhelming. However, it’s not something that affects everyone on the spectrum, and it’s not always going to be an issue if the smells of the food aren’t pungent like mine were.

Obviously, the best thing about it from an Autistic point of view, is that you can separate things. I like that for several reasons; firstly, because nothing touches or mixes so I can eat things separately in the order I want to, secondly because it means I could arrange the food by colours, but also because it just looks nice to have it all arranged and orderly. Knowing that the food will be in a set place is a nice feeling, rather than it all shaking around in a box and being all mixed up, even if it was all individually wrapped.

Overall I was very happy with my Yumbox – it’s a fair price considering what’s gone into it, it’s lovely to hold; both the materials, and because it’s compact. And, it’s a great product for kids (fun colours on the outside, education pictures on the inside to help them learn about food groups), but also elegant enough for adults (plus, it helps with portion sizes, so it could be useful for dieters), both on and off the spectrum – but in this instance, it really does seem to suit those on the spectrum (for a change)!

Watch the video review:


And visit their (UK) sites here:
  • http://www.yumbox-uk.co.uk/shop/

  • http://www.pinterest.com/yumboxuk/

  • https://www.facebook.com/yumboxuk

  • http://instagram.com/yumboxuk


The Yumbox shown in the video, and used for the review is a 'Framboise Pink Classic - Yumbox': http://www.yumbox-uk.co.uk/products/framboise-pink-yumbox (£24.95)

For more about Asperger’s, click here.

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Written by Willow Marsden — October 07, 2014

How To Tell Someone You've Got Asperger Syndrome

A lot of people have asked me lots of things regarding telling a person without and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (a neurotypical, or ‘NT’), that you have Asperger Syndrome (AS), and so I recently did a video on the topic, but I will write it all up here for you also.

Do I tell people? Do I tell work? Do I tell school? Do I tell my friends and family? How do I tell someone? When do I tell them?

Unfortunately, there is no clean cut answer because everyone is different and it’s all entirely up to you what you do. It’s especially difficult for me to tell you what to do because I don’t know you, and I don’t know your family, so I can’t know how they are going to react.

An Unknown Level of Understanding

This issue with telling an NT is that you have no idea what their level of understanding is, before you get to them to tell them about it. They may have seen a film or a TV show where someone was portrayed as having AS – and there seems to be a lot more of that going on recently, which can actually be unhelpful. It’s unhelpful for several reasons, but mostly because the character with AS has usually been written in one of two ways; the first is very casual, light hearted, and their friends find them to be funny and quirky – but they haven’t really given them enough symptoms to portray it as something that is actually a struggle, which means you end up with people thinking that it’s just a pointless diagnosis that years ago would have just been categorized as ‘geeky’ or a bit ‘odd and that it’s just been blown out of proportion.

You also get characters at the other end of the scale, who have been given every single symptom to the worst degree, taking the ones that people most associate with AS and blowing those up completely. So, for example, they will talk completely monotone, about their obsessions, at a person and not to them, and they, rather than looking at a person’s mouth or nose, as a lot of Aspies have learnt to do, will dart their eyes anywhere but the person’s face.

Bearing both of those scenarios in mind, you end up with people thinking that you can’t possibly have AS because you don’t fit the version of it that they’ve seen portrayed in the media, and that you must just be making it up for attention/for benefits/to get out of work etc., you get the idea/[insert accusation here].

And that’s why it’s so hard to approach them, because as I said, you have no clue where they sit with it based on what they’ve seen or heard: an unknown level of understanding.

Knowing How to Tell Someone

The issue I’ve found in the past is that telling someone can feel very much like another appointment with a psychiatrist/psychologist/counsellor/therapist etc. When you meet one of those people for the first time, you have to tell them everything, from scratch, about yourself, despite having probably done that several other times at other appointments – and because you’ve done it so much before, it starts to feel boring and scripted, which in turn starts to make you sound monotonous. So when confronted with having to tell an NT, it can be easy to slip into doing this, thinking that you need to tell them everything about yourself and the AS so that they can have a clear picture in their mind, but what actually happens is that you word vomit in a monotone voice, which doesn’t help the situation at all.

The only people I’ve really told are my family and my school, when I was in the last couple of years. With school, you really hope that they have some, however brief, knowledge of Autism or Asperger’s already, and so I just told them that I’d been diagnosed and then paused to see what their reaction was going to be. But, in that environment it is more acceptable to just hand over the diagnosis report and then they can go through that in their own time.

Telling Teachers or Bosses

If I was personally telling school or work, in a non-social way – so, not my friends and not my co-workers, but the teachers or the people that I work for, I would only do it if I was sure that it was going to be an issue, so; if I knew I was going to need some kind of help or support because of my AS, or if I was going to be acting strangely and it had no other explanation, etc.

If I’d decided that I needed to tell them then I would just saying something like: “I’ve been diagnosed with this thing called Asperger’s – I don’t know how much you know about it, but this is my personal report, so this is how it specifically affects me, and this is a leaflet about it in general, in case you’ve never heard of it before at all. If you have any questions, it would be great if you could ask me, rather than me trying to explain a bunch of things that you might already know.”, and hand over my report and a leaflet that I felt did a good job of explaining AS.

The great thing about that is that you’re never not going to be able to answer a question that’s about you. The worry otherwise, is that you’re going to word vomit everything that you can think of, onto this person who really can’t process it all.

Telling a Friend

When it comes to friends, I tried to do it in a very casual way when I told people at school, and it worked really well, so it’s how I’ll explain it here. I started off by just simply saying: “I have something called Asperger’s.” and then going on from that to say: “It just means that I’m a little different to you and there’re a couple of things that I struggle with that you might not struggle with, but there are also things which you struggle with, it’s just that I struggle with them a lot more than you, so you might feel like you understand, but it’s difficult for you to understand just how much I struggle with it.”

After that, you could go through a couple of the things which you do struggle with. For me, a big one was being really clumsy (because of the dyspraxia), so I just said: “You know, I trip up and fall down a lot and that’s because I’ve got dyspraxia, which is something that it quite a common diagnosis alongside AS. I’m really awkward and quite shy, so you’ll just have to excuse me because sometimes I don’t get jokes, sometimes I’m the last one to cotton on to what you’re all talking about – and that’s okay, I don’t mind, as long as you don’t mind, but if you do see that I’m struggling with something, if you could just ask me what’s wrong or what I need, that would be really helpful, otherwise, just leave me to it.”

At the end of the day, I don’t care if people don’t want to help me, or if they think that I don’t have AS – they can leave me to get on with it and I will leave them to get on with it, it really doesn’t matter. Just going about it super casually worked really well for me and everyone was very nice about it, and even if they didn’t like me or what I’d said, no one ever said anything to my face about it. I just wanted to be really light hearted about it, and just be very blasé in that – “I struggle with this, it’s fine, I try my hardest and I will try to get along with everybody but sometimes I’m just not going to understand something and sometimes I might feel a little overwhelmed because I’m not very good with lots of loud noises and crowded spaces or being touched unexpectedly.” And again, asking them to ask you questions is always the easiest thing to do once you’ve covered it in a light, cut down way because you want them to understand but you don’t want to annoy them by talking about yourself without any input from them.

Telling Your Family

In my opinion, this is the hardest one to tackle. Largely, they’ve known you, quite well, for your whole life and it’s usually going to be hard for them to accept that there’s something ‘wrong’ with you (unless they had an inkling of it beforehand). I don’t like to think of something being ‘wrong’ with me, but it will mostly be how they look at it since you’ve been diagnosed with something, and usually when that happens it’s something bad, and it’s fine for them to assume there’s something ‘wrong’, they’re bound to. They’re going to be used to everything that you do already, and it’ll be so difficult for them to all of a sudden have to think about any of it as being a negative. However, they might be able to accept that those things add up to something called Asperger Syndrome, and since they know that you do/have all of those things, then that’s fair enough.

The most important thing to realise is that nothing has changed. If anything, it’s a positive thing because you now understand yourself more and actually, you would like them to be happy for you now that you have that clarification. Initially, telling them can be really laid back as I explained before, and it can get as heavy and deep as they want it to depending on how they take it, what they already know and how many questions they want to ask, and how much effort they make to understand you better. Whilst skimming over things to begin with, pick out the things that you really struggle with (which might be different for everyone), so that they have a place to start understanding, rather than just a generic description of AS, but like I said, how in depth you go will depend on a lot of things.

You need to try and understand that they might not be aware that there’s anything wrong with you (whereas you might have known for a long time) – you’re their person; their son, daughter, sister, brother, grandchild etc., and it must be really difficult to be suddenly told that there’s something ‘wrong’ with you, in the same kind of way that it’s really hard to be told that someone has a broken leg, had a stroke etc. – there’s always a huge amount of worry because of the unknown elements. You’ve been through assessments and seen professionals and at the end of all of that you’ve been given a diagnosis, and that will be hard for them to hear, especially when you say that it’s been there forever, it will be there forever and there’s no ‘cure’ – but, there are things that you can do to help.

In their mind it will be hard to process the fact that nothing has actually changed, and they may think that you must have changed, which would force them to look at you differently. But you need to try and get them to understand: it has always been there, it will always be there, which won’t be easy, since they’re just finding out in this single moment of time that there’s something ‘wrong’ with you, and it’s always been wrong, because they didn’t know before, and didn’t think anything was ‘wrong’ then, so how can it be now?

After everything, you do need to try and move past things and say: “It’s fine, I’m happy that I’ve been diagnosed because it means that I can finally understand myself and I now have methods of helping the things that I’ve always really struggled with – I can talk to other people with AS, there’s things like cognitive behavioural therapy; there’s all kinds of things that I can now access, if I want t, that will be really helpful for me, so I don’t want you to be upset: I’m still the same person that I always was.”

Asperger Brain vs. Non Asperger Brain

It tends to only get really, really difficult when the person that you’re telling thinks that you will just be able to ‘work on your problems’, in the way that people without AS do. If somebody is uncomfortable or not very good at/with something, the ‘normal’ thing to do is to repeat doing it more and more until they get better at it – and it’s very difficult for them to understand that it doesn’t really work like that for someone with AS. For some things that we struggle with, the more we do it, the worse it can get – for me, if I think that logically, the more I do something, the easier it will become, and I go out and do it, I end up closing into myself more each time I do it and get more scared and more anxious and I get more and more burnt out, and it takes longer and longer to recover, until it’s just not possible to try anymore. And that’s not an easy thing for them to comprehend, because for them, the more they do something, the better and easier it becomes, so they can’t get out of the habit of assuming that it must be the same for us.

I understand that it must be hard; however, it would be nice for someone without AS to have an open mind and to just believe the words that we say – so when we explain something to them, about how difficult something is, for them to take it at face value. But what seems to happen over and over again, is that we tell them something and they think about it and process it in their NT brain; so we’re giving them an issue from our AS brain, and they’re solving it in their non-AS brain, without realising that their solution cannot translate back into our AS brain. Hence why we’re however far into our lives and we’re still not anywhere close to being super social or figured out how to solve our issue with x, y or z etc. – yes, we know that we should, and we know that you can; we’ve tried to do it your way and every other way and it’s just not working.

Being Offended and Losing Friends

If you just go up to a person and say that you’ve got AS and you expect that they will understand and be understanding and accepting, then it’s going to be very difficult, very quickly because they probably are going to have questions, they’re probably going to be quite offensive because they don’t know about it and they think they know about it or they think that because they’ve seen a character on TV or read about and you don’t fit with that, that you can’t possibly have it – and so they’ll probably offend you, but you can’t get offended – I’m sure that there’s things that we’ve thought about NT’s that just aren’t the case and they would be offended, but we don’t have an understanding of each other so we can’t make these assumptions when they’re not based on experience.

We can’t know what each other feels, just like you can’t with anyone, however with things working differently in our brains to theirs, it’s completely impossible. And that’s something that you both need to understand and explain.

I’ve always felt that if you don’t need to tell somebody because it’s not obvious and you don’t need any help and it’s not really going to change anything for them, if they know, then why do it? It’s so difficult, so why bother? And whilst it shouldn’t ruin a friendship or a relationship, it can do, because we don’t understand each other, because of stereotypes, because of perceptions and misunderstandings, because they think you can just work on your problems etc., and for them to suddenly look at you knowing that you have AS, it can change things, which is really, really awful and it shouldn’t happen, but it does.

If it does happen, then they just weren’t a good enough friend/person for you, because regardless of everything, if you have a friend and you’ve been friends for a while, or are just good friends, then it shouldn’t change that and if it does then you really are better off without such a closed minded person, which is of course no consolation when you no longer have them, but it’s true and you’ll see that long term.

Summary

Whilst it is difficult and different for everyone, the things I’ve listed above a at the very least, a good place to start. Getting hold of a good leaflet about AS is useful for the person you’re telling, but you do need to give them some specifics with regards to how it affects you personally, otherwise they will assume that you’re exactly like the leaflet suggests. If you are worried about verbally doing this, then write it out as you would have said it, and give them that instead – this is probably more acceptable for work/school and for close friends and family. Just remember that everyone will be at a different level when you get to them to explain what AS is, so it’s easier to start off very light and basic, and have them ask questions, rather than going in with too much information and burying them with things that they can’t comprehend and don’t understand.

Thank you for reading; I hope you have found this to be helpful.

For more about Asperger’s, click here.

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Written by Willow Marsden — August 15, 2014

The Lifespan of an Obsession

I was thinking recently that I could probably plot the lifespan of an obsession; from the point that it becomes all-consuming to the point that I think it’s stupid that I was ever obsessed with it. I came up with three main points within the life of an obsession/idea/goal/interest: inception, crossover and reality. This isn’t necessarily true for everyone with Autism or Aspergers, but I feel that it is very accurate for me and a few other people I know. 

Inception is obviously when the obsession takes hold and it’s the only thing you can think about and nothing else matters anymore. 

Crossover is a phase in the middle where you start to doubt whether you’re bothered about it anymore, or if it’s a life goal, you start to think it will never work out, and also at this stage, other potential or previous obsessions begin to creep in and take up some of your time. 

Finally, there’s reality - the point where you’re probably closest to being in control of that particular obsession, or the closest you’ll be to viewing it like everyone else did whilst you were in the ‘inception’ phase. You realise that it was never worth all the time you spent, or that it would never have worked out the way you had honestly believed it would. 

The entire lifespan can take place over a day, a week, a month, a year, or even longer – it’s just not easy to figure out how long it will take hold for! I think that it’s possible in the crossover phase, to begin to get interesting in other things, but then end up cycling back into the original obsession rather than taking a new one on. 

Here are more details about the characteristics of each phase: 

Inception

#1 Constantly thinking about obsession and spending as much time as possible on it.

#2 Able to justify ANYTHING to yourself and anyone around you so you can feed the hunger of the obsession.

#3 Acting irrationally and completely unrealistic about the obsession and it’s potential benefits etc. 

Crossover

#1 Starting to realise that it’s not that practical or interesting. Happy to acknowledge that it won’t work out or that there are better things.

#2 Beginning to be overly critical of it on some days, but still obsessed on others.

#3 Time is starting to be spent on other things - maybe previous obsessions and potential new ones, until you finally settle on something new. 

Reality

#1 Completely disinterested with previous obsession.

#2 Happy to obsess over how ridiculous previous obsession was and how the next obsession is clearly a better option or use of time.

#3 Has now perfected justifying why previous obsession was a bad idea and would never have worked, and why new one is better and will work. 

Here’s the chart I drew up to explain it visually: 

Let me know what you think!

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More About Asperger Syndrome

Written by Willow Marsden — February 20, 2014

Difficulties With Eye Contact

I don’t know why I struggle with eye contact. It just feels like when I look into their eyes, they can see everything about me, and it just feels so overwhelming. I know they’re not psychic, but that’s the kind of power I feel they have if they look into my eyes. If I do manage to look, I feel like it gets more ‘painful’/overwhelming the longer I maintain it, and then I start to get really hot and I have to look away, but then I don’t know where to look instead and it just becomes even more awkward.

I try instead to just look between their eyes or at their nose, which sort of looks mostly like I’m looking at them, but is less difficult. At least it’s only one point to focus on – if you look at their eyes, which one are you supposed to look at? The more I think about that, the more I sort of, nervously switch between their eyes; it’s a subtle movement but they can probably tell.

Photographs are fine, I can look at eyes, I just can’t look at someone in front of me’s eyes! Eyes are pretty and I appreciate that you can tell things about a person from looking at their eyes. Not so much an emotion, because I’m kind of useless at that – but more, just whether they look friendly or kind etc.

As for cameras and looking into the lens, I cope fine with that. I didn’t used to be able to, it used to make me nervous in the same way that looking into eyes did, but over time, I learned to look into the lens and it doesn’t bother me at all. Which, I suppose, might suggest that over time, with practice, I could look people in the eye; I just don’t see it going down as well!

I think with the camera, it was more a case of being unconfident about doing a video blog, not necessarily being nervous about the lens – because I never had an issue with looking at it for a photo.

I hope that I would get more comfortable with eye contact. It’s just so scary!

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Written by Willow Marsden — January 29, 2014

Buying Two of 'Obsession Related' Things?

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I have an obsession with Starbucks mugs. But, like with all of my previous ‘collection’ obsessions, I tend to hide them away for fear that they will get broken. I think I have about eight mugs now (I lose count because they’re all packed away) and I love them, and I wish I could use them,  but like I said, I’m scared they’ll get broken.

So, in a perfect world, I’d love to buy two of each, one to pack away and cherish and one to use and enjoy. I kind of feel like that about a lot of things; I love having something that’s in perfect condition (still wrapped if possible) and having one that I can use, otherwise, what’s the point? I used to do it with CD’s, but these mugs are kind of pricey so I can’t really buy two of each. And it annoys the hell out of me! It’s only going to get more expensive to buy duplicates though, seeing as they fly off the shelves never to be seen again except for on eBay, where they’re over-priced!

I hate obsessions! Mine are usually based around material things that cost money. Makeup, mugs, coffee in general, but then it’s mostly always been the case; pencils, postcards etc. Long gone are the days where I was happy to sit down and obsess over the same book for hours on end!

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Written by Willow Marsden — January 28, 2014

Top 10 Calming Websites For Autism/Aspergers

I struggle to stay focussed on things when the whole internet is at my fingertips, but instead of literally wasting my time, I decided to try and build up a list of websites which I think would be useful for people on the Autistic Spectrum. Not because they’re full of information, but because I think if you’re stressed out, these would be calming. I find them to be very relaxing, anyway!

In no particular order (because I think they're all good in their own way) -

Silk | Interactive Generative Art http://weavesilk.com/

So you mess around with the controls on the left and draw stuffs in the middle. It’s pretty and the music is calming. It reminds me of this toy I used to have as a child, some kind of…spirograph(?!), where you put a pen in and then it held it in place and you drew in circles and it created a picture.

Ball Droppings http://balldroppings.com/js/

Okay, so this can get a bit shrill, but I like the concept. The balls drop at whichever rate you set it to, and you can alter the gravity. Then you just draw lines to allow the balls to bounce off and when they do they make a noise. Don’t try and box them in, it’ll crash pretty fast!

Plink http://labs.dinahmoe.com/plink/

One of my personal favourites! Click play and then either type a nickname in or just go with the set one, and click play again. So, you can pick a colour from the right hand side, each one makes a different sound, and then you hold down the mouse in the grey area to make the noise. You can either hold it down and just randomly move up and down, or you can click individually and be a bit more specific with it. Either way, it always sounds really nice. Other people will be in there too and they can do whatever they want.

Calm http://www.calm.com/

The controls are at the bottom right and you can change the sounds and pictures until you feel it’s right for you. Nice to have as background noise, or just through headphones if you’ve had a panic attack or something and you just feel ‘blah’; dark room + headphones + weighted blanket = calm!

Rainy Mood | Rain Makes Everything Better http://www.rainymood.com/

Very similar to the previous site but it only plays the sound of a storm. I find rain/thunder to be very calming, but I know it bothers some people.

Gravity http://www.nowykurier.com/toys/gravity/gravity.html

Controls are all in the bottom left corner. You can choose the size of your particle and where you want to see its path as it moves. You can also start off with a ‘proto disk’. Basically, you put down a particle by clicking and you set its path by dragging whilst you’ve still got your mouse held down. When you have lots of particles zooming around they start to react with each other depending on which ones bigger etc. No noise, but kind of addicting all the same.

Audiotool | Tone Matrix http://tonematrix.audiotool.com/

Click on a square and it makes a noise and sends out a wave. When you click more than one, the waves reach the other squares and they make a noise. You very quickly end up with a tune, which sounds catchy. Re-click a square to deactivate it, or just refresh the page to quickly clear it. I like it; it seems to be stress relieving.

Imagination http://neave.com/imagination/

Constant streams of colours that follow your mouse around, that alter in intensity when you hold down your mouse. Very mesmerizing, if not a little pointless; you can’t make a picture like you can with Silk, but it’s still a nice site to waste some time on if you are feeling a bit hectic.

Happiness Islands http://www.happinessislands.com/

This is kind of random, but it’s still oddly mesmerizing. You can click on several ‘islands’ and they take you to a site which has a ‘mini-game’ on it. Some are stupid, some are annoying I guess, but they’re all pointless, which for some reason, makes them nice to spend time on when you want to just de-stress. ‘A Beach Bonfire’ is quite nice – it’s just a bonfire and some cola bottles, and you can hear the fire crackling, and if you hover over the bottles, they clink. I haven’t yet been on all of the islands, so have fun deciding which ones are worth it!

Incredibox http://www.incredibox.com/v2/#

A bit of an oddball for my final site; it’s not as pretty or engaging as the others but it’s still fun. You are given a guy and you have to give him a noise to make, when he’s making the noise, you get another guy and you give him a noise to make…etc., until they’re making a song. You get seven guys, and when they’re all singing together it does sound pretty cool!

Enjoy!

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Written by Willow Marsden — January 27, 2014

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