Life and Blog Update – August 2019

(Image description of featured image above: Image is a drawing of a woman with shoulder length curly brown hair and glasses holding her hand up to do a peace sign. She is wearing purple headphones, a pink blouse and a badge with the neurodiversity symbol on it. Towards the top of the image are black flowers. In the background is the trans flag. Credit: made with @SangledHere on Twitter’s Picrew)

Hi all,  

The second post in under two weeks? This is probably a record for 2019. Anyway, I’ve decided to write a blog post giving a bit of a life update as a lot has happened as well as some notes on plans for my blog.  

So, first off, some good news. Over the last several months, I’ve come out as a woman and have taken steps to live full time. This includes changing my name legally, updating as many documents as I can as well as socially transitioning so that I am now living as Milla full time. I also completed my final year of university and graduated. This is all before I turn 22 tomorrow – or as I like to call it – my first birthday as me.  

Unfortunately, this is also a stressful time for me as my home environment has become toxic and I need social care support for independent living put in place. Hence, I’m in an awkward position as I need support transitioning into work and independent living but I am unable to relocate for the best jobs. Dealing with this has taken up a lot of my time since I came home from uni. Hopefully this time next year this support will all be in place and I’ll soon be starting a graduate scheme.  

So, where does that leave my blog? Well, firstly, because of everything going on I have struggled to devote time to my blog and helping it to grow through writing and promoting stuff. I’ve also had doubts over the direction I’d like to take the blog mainly due to imposter syndrome and the fact I didn’t feel I had much original content to add to the conversation.  

On a more positive note (and partially as a result of the above), I have decided to shift the focus of my blog towards discussing both autism and transgender issues – most notably, how these identities intersect with each other. Information about this is very difficult to find hence being trans and autistic is very poorly understood. I did experiment with this earlier in the year by blogging about this subject and found that I enjoyed writing about it. This also included my recent review of Uncomfortable Labels of which I did note that more resources of its kind need to be produced. Hence, I plan to do more on this.  

I am not sure what else I should write about aside from those two topics. I still really miss my former days in games journalism hence part of me yearns to do more gaming-related content on this blog on the lines of what I’ve done already. However, I am unsure if this is something that people would be interested in (this is also a factor as to why I haven’t written another Subtly Subjective for about a year).  

Finally, I have also been working on a vastly longer extended writing project however I wish to wait until I am further along before I discuss any details. I am currently taking a break from writing it due to my living situation however I hope to be able to get back on it soon.

So, despite the rough edges in my life right now, I’ve never felt better about myself or the life I live. Transitioning at this time was 100% the right decision for me and I can now fully apply myself towards living my life. That includes dedicating more time to my blog which I will aim to do. If anybody has any feedback or other comments about what they’d like to see on my blog, feel free to let me know in the comments. Otherwise, hope you all have a nice day. 

Milla xx  

Learning Your Limitations As An Autistic Person

(cn: discussion of ableism)

Hi all,
Today’s post will talk a bit about learning limitations in relation to autism as this is something that I had come to realise quite recently and would like to share some thoughts. One of the things that I was hoping to achieve this year was to possibly travel solo as a tourist in a foreign country for a few days as traveling is something that I have been really wanting to do for years. I had thought this was possible for me to do however I later realised that it was not something I am ready to handle yet. It had disappointed me however it was something that I needed to come to terms with as traveling is quite common for young people today and there is the expectation that young people like me will do quite a lot of it.

Life experience is often the best way to find out things for yourself. For an autistic person, this can include attempting unfamiliar situations or experiences new or with other people. The more life experience you have, the wiser you are and more self-aware you are of your own strengths and weaknesses (as I have previously talked about here). Knowing your limitations helps you assess what situations that you’d be able to handle and what would be best avoided. This helps avoid unnecessary meltdowns, drama and other possible serious incidents.

For example, many autistic people have sensory sensitivity meaning certain places like pubs, clubs and crowded cityscapes are best avoided otherwise a sensory overload could happen. For others, certain forms of communication may not be possible for them to do due to anxiety. For example, many autistic people cannot use the phone or hold unstructured face to face conversations so may seek to avoid them as much as possible. For those that require additional support, this knowledge is essential.

It’s okay if you cannot do certain things on your own. It’s okay if you cannot do it at all without help. It is not easy to ask for help as there is a stigma surrounding asking for help as society (in the West at least) places emphasis on individuality and autonomy. Society can be very ableist and quite hostile towards disabled people due to misunderstandings and stigma hence it is even harder for them to speak out. However, asking for help is also a form of strength as it shows acknowledgement of your own limitations and may be able to help you improve your overall quality of life. In the case of an autistic person, pushing yourself too hard risks leading to burnout or meltdowns afterwards often due to having to mask in order to be accepted by the NTs around you.

The right people will understand if you aren’t always able to do everything on your own and will support you. You may have to change your life goals so that they better align with what you are able to do. There is no shame in admitting that either. In my case I’ve had to re-evaluate what I would like to do with regards to traveling. There is no time limit for travelling or experiencing anything new aside from when your life ends and keeping that in mind helps me look at it from a new perspective. That in itself may prove useful for helping people come to terms with limitations.

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,
Subtle

(@subtle_writes)

Stimming – The Key Points

Hi all,

Firstly, sorry for the inactivity lately – I have had a lot on adjusting to returning to university, and with that comes of course the increased workload! That often leads to stress that needs to be offloaded somehow, hence what has inspired today’s topic – stimming.

As human beings, we all have ways of coping with the world around. Some people vent to people, others cry alone or scream into a pillow. Then there are people like me on the spectrum, and one of the ways that some of us destress is through stimming. This post will be primarily written from my own viewpoint; however, it is worth noting that other ASD people stim as well and this shows differently from person to person. Hence why it is also written in a way that states other ASD people may exhibit similar stimming behaviour.

Before we continue, I am going to define stimming as best as I can. It is a coping mechanism and can show in many ways. One example is flapping where somebody moves their arms up and down. Another is rocking, which is where you move the upper half of your body back and forth. Other examples include spinning, repetitively feeling fabric and other similar materials, jumping up and down (whether sitting down or standing up prior) groaning, blinking repetitively, snapping fingers and screeching.

A lot of the time when an autistic person stims, it is usually for one of a few reasons:

It is a way of destressing after a day of socialising or “acting NT” in a world that can be hostile to anything that deviates from the norm.

Think of it from the perspective of an introvert’s social battery. An introvert has a long day at work/school/socialising and needs to recharge their batteries, doing something by themselves to recharge their social battery. Well it is the same here. Stimming is another way of recharging their social batteries. I am not 100% sure if it applies to extroverted autistics as well however I would imagine if the situations were very demanding on the ASD person it likely wouldn’t matter (if anyone would like to chime in the comments section, please do). Often this is done in their own home or private space (ie. bedroom) where they are unlikely to be disturbed. The length and loudness may vary especially after a whole day at work/socialising.

The autistic person’s social battery is starting to wear down from interaction.

This refers to stimming that happens during social interaction. The longer the ASD person is exposed to the social environment, the more the social exhaustion increases. The stimming can be channelled or delayed through distractions (ie. by using a screen-based device, listening to music, fiddling with items to provide stimulation like fidget cubes) but it cannot be halted. This is where subtle stimming can show, for example rocking.

The autistic person is stressed about something.

Stress can be intense on somebody that feels too much empathy or is overwhelmed by the situation at hand. So much so that it starts to affect other areas of their lives. One effect of this is stimming and often the only way to help reduce this kind of stimming is to deal with the source of the stress. This is easier said than done in many cases especially those outside the immediate family’s control. Some examples that come to mind of sources include peers, the healthcare system and the workplace.

It helpes ease the impact of sensory overload and anxiety.

Sensory overload is common with autistic people. The feeling of a familiar surface (ie. soft textures, the outside of a fidget cube) can provide comfort against the onslaught of unfamiliar stimuli or overwhelming sounds, smells etc. This also applies to anxiety. Soft textures can greatly help with anxiety. To add some personal experience, soft textures including soft toys have helped me manage overload and anxiety over the years. I still have many of the plushies/fabrics I have built up over time.

If it is none of the above and/or there is something positive in the environment, it may mean that they feel comfortable around you, whether it is shown explicitly or not.

Trust is something that is earned, not given. Respect works the same way. Stimming is a very intimate aspect of an autistic person which has often been forcibly suppressed due to external negativity. Over time the message that “you can’t act like that in public (referring to stimming behaviour)” is often internalised and, combined with social isolation and peer rejection, the urge to stim can be repressed until they are in what they see a safe place, such as their own home.

Often only close family or family friends will ever see an ASD person stimming so if you are given an audience to an ASD person stimming, it may suggest that they feel comfortable around you and that they trust you. That is a very special position to be in, so don’t break the trust. You don’t know how much energy it took for them to trust you, even if they aren’t consciously aware of it yet. This is definitely the case if somebody breaks the trust and bullies/ridicules the ASD person for stimming – being themselves.

Some extra points:

It can be voluntary or involuntary.

The ASD individual may not even be aware they are doing it at times. However sometimes it may be a conscious choice to do it or urged by their mind/body, such as after a mentally exhausting event. It may also be something that needs to be done to help with executive functioning as not doing so risks the stress showing in other ways (ie. involuntary aggression).

Accommodations may be required.

These may be required to help with stimming. One example that comes to mind from my experience is having to put a bit of money aside to accommodate for any breakages that occur. I have broken multiple chairs and toilet seats over the years from stimming on them and weakening the structure without knowing it. Other examples of accommodations include using a music player with earbuds to block out unwanted stimuli, clearing some space in a room to minimise obstructions as well as buying more durable furniture that can withstand forces outside neurotypical use (like stimming while sitting down on a wooden chair).

It’s part of an ASD person’s identity.

This is much like other neurological conditions, physical appearance, personality traits etc. Therefore to truly accept an autistic individual you will need to accept that they may also stim too. Some autistic people may not stim at all – it depends on the person. Not everyone will be able to accept stimming, but those that do may be very special people indeed. Family/friends that don’t accept an autistic person’s stimming are not worth being around, as it is likely that that they haven’t accepted other aspects of them too.

Self-acceptance on the part of the ASD individual is also important.

This is much easier said than done especially if the environment around the ASD person isn’t supportive. To those ASD people whom are struggling with this I have a few words to say – it’s okay to be different from what society sees as “normal”. It is part of who you are. It is something that takes time to accept and when you have accepted it, that aspect of your life is at peace. One of many parts of your life you have been given to live.

That’s all for today – take care everyone!

Best wishes,

Subtle

(@subtle_writes)

What’s in a Name?

name

Hi all,

This is the first post I am making here on my blog “Subtle Writes” therefore it needs to be an important one. So, I thought that I would discuss my thinking behind the name of this blog. After all, a name is after all an important aspect of a site and is critical to the first impressions of my site.

The name essentially is a combination of my ideas behind “Subtle” and “Writes.” “Subtle” was hard to come up with, as I wanted an internet username that I felt matched my life experience to some extent. One word eventually spoke to me metaphorically speaking – that word was “subtle.”

The dictionary definition of “subtle” (via The Free Dictionary) consists of the following.

sub·tle

(sŭt′l)

adj. sub·tler, sub·tlest

  1. So slight as to be difficult to detect or describe; elusive: a subtle smile.
  2. Difficult to understand; abstruse: an argument whose subtle point was lost on her opponent.
  3. Able to make fine distinctions: a subtle mind.
  4. Operating in a hidden, usually injurious way; insidious: a subtle poison.
  5. Archaic – Characterized by skill or ingenuity; clever. Crafty or sly; devious.

I feel that the majority of these definitions matches my life experience. I find some things very difficult to describe sometimes, especially if it is a feeling or another abstract concept that I have not felt before or feels overwhelming. My mind can be very sharp towards the little details sometimes and quite clever though I can also be difficult to understand too.

Continuing on with regards to cleverness this can also lean into the territory of “special interests.” To understand my thinking here, ask yourself this. If you know an autistic person in real life, what are they really passionate/skilled/knowledgeable about to the extent that others know about it and it forms a large part of their identity? For me it’d be something along the lines of “Oh, [Subtle’s] the one who plays those obscure anime games.”

As for the injurious and crafty definitions, I do not feel these apply to my choice behind the name “Subtle” at all. Firstly, I do not believe they match my personality. Secondly, while there are autistic people whom are sly, devious and like to cause injury to others, autism itself is not responsible for that. This is because there are other factors at play that can cause those behaviours to surface such as the way someone is raised and what traits, if any, are inherited from the parents. This also applies to neurotypicals as many of them are sly and devious too.

On the other hand, “Writes” was fairly easy to come up with. My online name is Subtle and I write stuff. Hence “Subtle Writes.” I did consider “Subtle Writing” but then “Subtle” would have a different meaning and it wouldn’t flow as well. I preferred “Subtle Writes” at the end of the day.

Remember as autism is a spectrum it is important to note that no one person’s experience of autism will be the same as another. Everyone is different and this blog’s purpose is to convey one person’s knowledge and experience of living as an autistic person with ADHD to help spread awareness of those conditions. Therefore the name “Subtle Writes” is personal to me and brands my story. Being an actual autistic person means the best perspective I can offer on autism is my own and it has value. That applies to anyone who discusses any physical/mental conditions they have. Hopefully this blog itself will help others to understand autism in general with another case study to help relate it to.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back soon with more content.

Best wishes,

-Subtle (@subtle_writes)