Really tricky week.

I’m in my ‘second term’ of my first year, punctuated by the Christmas break. In my mind that means I’m halfway through my first year and, whilst this is not strictly true, I look at all the things on my broad plan that I need to do this year and I feel lost.

I am feeling extraordinarily anxious.


My brain shuts down. Fight, flight or freeze engages. I can’t think clearly. I can’t think.

My difficulties with sensory processing are exacerbated.  I can’t filter sounds. I’m meeting a colleague for lunch and we wander around the pub trying to find a spot that I can bear to sit in. In the end I pretend. I can’t bear to be touched. I can’t stand artificial lights. The instinct to shutdown is immense.

My capacity to be with other people, even people I know care about me, is impaired. I can’t process the words; I can’t interpret the intentions. It is exhausting.

I am jangly. I need to stim, to soothe. I rock discreetly. I roll the edges of my scarf, over and back, over and back. My fingers move through their routine, the synchronised pattern of movements they’ve followed since childhood, cycle after cycle.


I’m supposed to be starting my literature review but I can’t seem to read. The words don’t go in. The amount I have to read is overwhelming. The words don’t go in.

I can’t seem to string a sentence together, which is tricky since my Supervisors are wanting a draft of a section of my review. I have no words.


I feel like a failure, an imposter. I believe people must think I’m lazy, or not putting in the hours. Not working hard enough. Procrastinating. I believe.

I can’t do nothing so I just do something. I decide to spend a day learning how to use Scrivener properly. I go to the library and find a framework I can use to help me read critically, rather than word-by-word. I find a template that allows me to input the aims of my research, and chart my progress in answering my substantive aims through the literature.

I revisit my plan. I haven’t done any writing. Am I a failure? Am I procrastinating?

I am doing. I am creating structure. I am finding order. I am managing my anxiety. I am doing.



Why help doesn’t always mean support

It’s been over two months since my last blog.

I don’t think it’s supposed to work like this?!

So I’m going to change. I’m going to commit to write a blog every week. Not long. Not clever. Just a log of what I’ve been doing. Just a blog.

And to give me some focus I’m going to write as though I’m speaking to my Dad. Who is also probably autistic, certainly super-bright. And who has dementia. These are the words I wish I could share with him. A conversation with my Dad.

I’m going to start by backtracking to my first week back at University after Christmas, so I’ll have a record of the year. Bear with me, I’ll catch up.

My task this week was to put together a plan for my PhD. Specifically, a Gantt chart. Yes, I had already written a schedule of work, detailing things to do term by term, and subdivided into three areas: research, writing and development. And I had no idea what a Gantt chart was, or how to do one.

Well, I googled it. In essence it’s a spreadsheet to schedule activities. Sounds fine, but have you ever tried to schedule all your tasks for the next three years? Where do you start? I had so many questions I wanted to answer before I could start this task. It’s interesting that I feel the task doesn’t start until the thinking is done, which may explain why the thinking stage is so filled with panic and anxiety for me (think quicker, must think quicker, must finish thinking and get started!)

Questions like how do I compile a comprehensive task list? How do I know I’ve not missed anything out? How do you work out how long each task will take before you’ve done it? My brain was overwhelmed before I began, it felt like the top of my head was literally frying.

It hadn’t helped that a professional assigned to support me told me the trouble with my ‘all tabs open’ brain was basically because I lacked discipline. Yes, that was the same meeting when he asked me if I was going to have a meltdown, because ‘people with autism do that’. When he told me I had so many issues he didn’t know where to start – seriously!!It was actually the only meeting I had with him, as I refused to see him again. I came out feeling like I’d had one of my worst days at school, all over again. I came out feeling stung and angry and inadequate and less-than. Not better than before, but damaged.

It was a striking reminder of how tough it can be every day for some autistic girls, struggling to manage in mainstream schools.

Fortunately, I am now in a different place.  I know my rights. I know how to take action. I now have a brilliant Professional Mentor from the University supporting me instead. Who talked me through the Gantt chart nightmare. Who gave me strategies. Who didn’t make me feel stupid. Who made me feel I belonged.

It leaves me wondering, how do our girls respond when they are struggling to see school, the whole of school, as a safe place to be? What are their options? What do they do?