Tuesday 20 October 2015

Now you know ♥

Hello dearhearts!

This post might come across as a bit unusual to some of you, and I aplogise in advance but there's something i've been wanting to write about for quite some time and i'm going to do it right now. So to lighten the mood, i'm filling this post with some of my own illustrations from the past few years! So if you can't be bothered to read, at least you'll have some pretty pictures to look at.

'Sugar Skull'
Now then, as i've mentioned many, MANY times over the years, I happen to live on a lovely little island in the middle of the Irish Sea, called the Isle of Man.

I know that quite a few of my readers are local, in which case... some of you may have heard me on Manx Radio yesterday afternoon!

You might have been a little surprised to hear me sounding so chipper and bright, you might have been even more surprised to hear what I had to say during my time on air...

A few weeks ago I was invited onto the Women Today show to talk about my art, how I create, what motivates me etc. Obviously I was super excited about this opportunity, Manx Radio is on 24/7 in our house (seriously!) and i've been interviewed maybe 4 or 5 times over the years, usually for craft fairs and art exhibitions. So I was thrilled at the thought of getting to take part in an hour long show, especially one geared toward female opinions and women's issues. GIRL POWER or what?!

'Selfie Queen'
Anyway, the show was live and on air yesterday from 2-3pm and I had A LOT of fun chatting with Beth, Jo and Kate, the three lovely presenters. If you know me in real life (lucky YOU if you do) then you'd probably think i'd just go on the show and ramble on about drawings and pastel colours and books and netflix... which I did do. But I also went on and talked mostly about art and Aspergers.

Because if you DID hear the show (if you didn't, you can give it a listen right HERE the show kicks in properly around the 6 minute mark if you want to skip ahead) then you will now know that I was recently diagnosed with Aspergers myself.


'Do Not Disturb'
Those of you that are regular readers of the blog may or may not know that since February 2014 I have been receiving treatment and medication for ongoing depression and anxiety. It's been a big help getting some proper treatment after so many years of trying to deal with things myself. I've been to all sorts of group sessions and have filled in lots of questionnaires and quotients to try and find out what exactly I 'have'. Well now I know.

Initially, my psychiatrist speculated that I might have Borderline Personality Disorder but this was a diagnosis I disagreed with, I didn't feel that I ticked enough of the boxes to warrant having BPD. But then one day my CBT therapist turned around and said 'what do you know about Aspergers?'. I didn't know very much and when I asked him why he said 'because I think you have it'.And it turns out that he was right.

'Pretty in Pink'
It has all been a bit of a revelation to be honest. Since then i've read several books on Aspergers + dozens of articles and publications sourced online, and before my diagnosis, the more I read about it the more positive I was that it all pertained to me. I've briefly touched on my battles with mental illness in the past, but never in any real depth. I try to keep this blog a happy place full of bright colours and nice things; but it's true that the reason my intrepid blogging ambitions have waned in recent years is because i've been dealing with depression, anxiety and self-harm.

'Just Can't Get Enough'
I'm not ashamed to talk about this now. It used to bother me quite a lot, I felt like everyone could either see what was wrong with me and would judge me for it, or that no-one could see it at all, so that when I did eventually speak up and say 'I need help', nobody would believe me because I looked 'fine'. But then isn't one of the worst things about mental illness the fact that it is often an invisible illness?! If you told someone you had a broken arm they'd never tell you to 'pull yourself together' or 'stop feeling sorry for yourself', so why should comments like that be an acceptable reply when someone admits that they're depressed or dealing with anxiety. They're not, obviously, but some people still seem to think it's okay to say things like that when confronted with mental illness.

Fortunately i've not had to deal with too much of that sort of thing, my friends and family have all been incredibly supportive throughout everything. And I find that usually when you do tell someone that you're receiving treatment, they often surprise you by admitting that they (or someone close to them) has dealt with similar issues. Early on there were of course those who refused to accept that anything was really 'wrong', emphatically pushing various self-help CDs and apps on me each time I confessed to feeling low. But after a while as I was prescribed more and more meds and as the visible scars became more numerous, people seemed to realise that maybe this wasn't the 'it will go away by itself' kind of problem.

Since my Aspergers diagnosis in August, i've only told a few people, friends and family close to me. Which begs the question, WHY did I decide to talk about it live on the radio. All I can say is that I guess there's no better way to 'come out' (as it were) as an Aspie, than on national radio on a Monday afternoon!

'Candy Queen'
Since the show aired, i've had people messaging me telling me how 'brave' I was to talk so openly about my troubles on the air. But I don't feel particularly brave, i'm just being honest after all. There's still such a stigma attached to mental illness that we're simply not always used to hearing or reading about it so candidly, so when someone does turn round and say 'this is what's wrong with me, but I embrace it' people aren't quite sure what to do or say.

Now some people might have heard the show yesterday and thought, 'gosh Aspergers, how terrible for her' or something along the lines of 'wow, she must be REALLY weird' in which case, no it's not terrible and yes of course i'm weird! Who on earth wants to be normal?! But then I went on to talk about how positive I think it is, how I see it as a 'gift' and that it's absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Because it isn't!

'Love is the Drug'
I mean it's not like I can help it, any of it. I didn't wake up one morning aged thirteen and think 'oh i'll be depressed or anxious today' or decide as a child that being 'normal' wasn't for me. Until I started high school I didn't even realise there was really anything 'wrong' with me, and i'm still not sure that there actually is. I'm the way I am and that's that. I can't switch it off even if I can sometimes hide it away, but however much I feel the need to pretend or 'fit in', i'm always going to be this way, regardless of what people think or say.

I'm fortunate as well that a few of the more typical Aspergers traits, mainly concerning social skills and recognizing emotions in others, aren't things I really have difficulties with. It seems that a lifetime of observing and imitating others' behaviour has helped me to adapt better and 'blend in'. That makes me sound like some sort of hideous alien infiltrating humanity! But it's a good thing, I think, it means that although I might sometimes come across a bit blunt or unsympathetic, I can ultimately hold a normal conversation with someone and recognize when someone else is sad/happy/annoyed etc.
'Pretty as a Picture'
If any of that sounds odd to you, and you're wondering how someone could possibly NOT recognize basic social skills or emotions in others, then that probably means you don't have Aspergers! I don't have a problem with talking to people or 'putting myself in their shoes' as it were, however other traits of Aspergers syndrome can be frustrating and difficult to overcome.

I'm very sensitive to sounds, for example, I often have to carry earbud headphones with me when i'm out in a busy place as the overstimulation of sounds can spark off a sort of panic attack where i'm likely to end up crying hysterically. Fortunately it doesn't happen very often but when it does it is, to put it bluntly, 'a pain in the arse'. Especially when it happens in a busy shop/cafe/swimming pool. But it's something I can and do work on, luckily it's quite a minor inconvenience compared to some other typical Aspie issues.

'Buzz Buzz'
Ironically as well, despite the fact that I can often pick up on delicate emotional imbalances in others, i'm almost completely clueless when it comes to my own emotional states. I can tell you what a stranger across the room is feeling (and get it spot on) but if you ask me how I really 'feel' i'll probably stare at you blankly while trying to come up with an answer. It's massively frustrating to be stymied by your own brain when you're trying to make things better!

It's funny as well because these are things i've dealt with all my life but i've only just been given a reason for them. I know that some people don't want any labels but finding out about the whole Aspergers thing has made it so much easier to understand why some things are so easy and others are so incredibly daunting. Public speaking, going on the radio, teaching a class... that's fine, i'll do it with a smile on my face; but ask me to make a phone-call or catch a bus and i'll probably fall to pieces.

'Go Away'
As I only received my diagnosis a few months ago, i'm still learning about it and coming to terms with it + what it really means to be an Aspie. But it many ways i'm relieved to finally have an answer to so many of the questions i've had all my life.

So I want to thank the lovely ladies at Women Today for inviting me on the show and giving me the opportunity to talk not only about my art, but about some of the struggles i've had and to open up a bit about Aspergers. So THANK you!!!

oh and if you did listen to the show and you heard the description of my outfit and you're wondering what the mermaid skirt looks like...

there you go! (and yes, I know that the mirror is in desperate need of a clean!!!)

so on that note, i'll say goodbye for now.

naturally you can expect more Aspie themed posts in the future! Well now that the cat is out of the bag it would be rude not to keep going on about it...

by the way, if any of you have any questions about anything I talked about on the radio yesterday or touched upon in this post, you can leave a comment below, send me an email or private message me on facebook, twitter or instagram if you don't want a public chat, and I will of course reply.

so until next time, thanks for visiting, come back soon.


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  2. Ah this is really cool!!!!! Your illustrations are really beautiful too!!x

    1. thank you so much, that's really kind of you to say :)