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Today’s random digression was into the psychological response of ‘defensive weight’, where survivors of sexual trauma subconsciously put on weight in an attempt to make themselves unattractive to potential abusers. Which then let me on to reading about executive function in autism.

As a survivor, my response was to want to be physically strong and able to fight. It fitted neatly into my prepping and food hoarding as a psychological security blanket (there was a time in my life when I was literally starving and foraging in order to eat). So I thought, no, defensive weight gain; this isn’t me.

I’ve always assumed my inability to lose weight easily, aside from it being genetic (obesity is a family trait), is because I lack impulse-control, amongst other executive function issues.

While not all people with autism suffer from problems with executive function, many do, including myself. ‘Executive function’ covers organisation, inhibiting impulses, selective attention, sequencing, self-regulation, and completing goal-oriented activities. There is also apparently a link between poor executive function and dyspraxia, which I need to look into.

One assumption people make is that poor executive function (EF) means low intelligence, but this is really not the case. I fall foul of this assumption all the time; for example ordering food at an unfamiliar food bar – my problems with EF mean I often have problems ordering my thoughts and actions in a timeous manner, so I appear to freeze, or dither, or not know what I want, or get lost in the middle. I have all of the tools to order food, I simply can’t get them to work coherently. As a result, I’m often assumed to be mentally impeded, and treated as though I lack intelligence. Of course if I get angry or frustrated or ashamed, things just get worse.

There is an article by Steven Wertz (citation below) which I found quite good; although it is discussing children in particular, the range of EF difficulties they can face, and how EF difficulties can be understood, accommodated and treated (I hate that word, but I can’t think of a better one right now), these are issues that can and do continue on into adulthood to some degree or another.

Wertz highlights a few EF that are still an issue for me:
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Then I made a cuppa and began to wonder; could I be using ‘defensive weight’ to protect myself from sexual interest? Could the reason that I always self-sabotage myself when it comes to exercise and losing weight be not just an impulse control thing, but because I am not comfortable with people seeing me in sexual terms? Any time I meet someone new, I am always concerned that if they begin to show a real interest in me, they may become sexually attracted to me, and I can’t handle that. I know first-hand that since I put on weight, I get a lot less sexual interest. Most of the time now, it’s just from men thinking that they can sympathy f**k me; the kind that when I tell them no, tell me I should be grateful because I’m fat.

So the question becomes, if it isn’t just a failure in impulse control, if I am using defensive weight as armour for my asexuality, how can I feel secure in myself, secure against sexual advances, without needing to be/feel fat an unattractive?

This might be an interesting question for a head-doctor, when I next get to see one…


S. Wertz 2012 “Improving Executive Function In Children with Autism Spectrum” reproduced here: Disorder http://www.autism-programs.com/articles-on-autism/improving-executive-function.htm (last accessed 10/04/2016)

I was thinking about beginning a blog

And am still swithering about it. Can I write well? will it make sense?, will it be useful? will it open me up to backlash; being told 'that's not my experience of things, so you're wrong'?

Why do I want to do it?
- To keep track of what I learn and review, because frankly, my memory is awful.
- Because I have spent 18 months trying to explain to a friend why I don't function like other people he knows, and failing miserably, in part because there are a lot of things that I didn't actually know I did/thought/experienced differently. I lost a very close friendship as a result of my inability to behave enough like a neurotypical person, and it cuts deep.
- While I know I've always struggled, I've learned that I don't know a whole lot about my condition and how it affects my life. I read a simple intro book just recently, and that it highlighted a number of difficulties I experience that I didn't realised were a part of my condition.
- It might make my life easier, it might not, but it might help other people understand me a bit better at those times where, whether like it or not, I can't bridge the gap and fully understand them.


So what am I, and how did I get here?

I have an autism spectrum disorder. I also have depression, fatigue, and top top it all, I'm asexual.
I don't remember much about my childhood other than not having many friends, preferring my own company, bullying, and constant clashes with my parents, whom pretty much seem like an alien species (the feeling is mutual).

In my first year at university, it was by complete chance that a couple of Phd students took an interest in me. Volunteering for psych experiments was mandatory if you were a science student (and sometimes even gained you pocket money). A few exhausting months down the line, I had a university-led referral for assessment, and came out of it with a medical report identifying me as having higher-functioning autism.
I had a few months of official sessions (which had the horrible side effect of also being treated for what then was considered to be a sexual disorder, rather than a valid sexual orientation), and 6-9 months of support from the university that was designed to give me a mental toolkit to help me behave and function as close to neurotypical as possible.

Back then, if you could pretty much look after yourself, doctors weren't much interested. I was naive at first and relatively open about my diagnosis. Sadly, when you mention autism to a lot of people, they think of low-functioning autism. I found some people suddenly treated me as though I were of low intelligence, and not capable of knowing my own mind. I also found that I started my second year of uni with none of the friends I'd managed to make in my first year!

What I learned through my time at university, and for a long time after, was that although it's acceptable to have a physical disability, autism was something to be ashamed of, to be kept quiet and hidden. There was, and still is, an immense pressure for me to pass as neurotypical. I also learned that people treat you as abnormal if you aren't interested in sex. My asexuality was treated by professionals as a dysfunction. I was analysed for childhood experiences that had made me that way, encouraged to go out and experiment, almost as if it was a case that I just hadn't been doing it right so far. I ended up in a lot of messed up and harmful situations as a result of my combined ASD/ACE.

Three years ago I joined twitter, and very quietly finally came out as being on the autism spectrum. I tentatively mentioned it in passing to friends, with mixed results. There's a lot more awareness of autism now, and the fact that it is a spectrum. Even though people didn't understand how it affects me, they were aware of the label, and the stereotypes. I recall one person being very disappointed that I don't have some secret savant skill. The more I'm open about it, the more I find that people's reactions are polarised; while some are accepting, other's see it as giant warning sign to stay away.

Last summer I came out as asexual. Wow. I thought being open about my ASD was hard. If you think having an ASD lets people view you as a substandard human being, wait until you try explaining that you don't experience sexual desire. I was always aware that being open about my ASD would deter potential romantic interests. Coming out as asexual as well has pretty much shot my chances for good.

So yeah, life is pretty hard, at the moment. I need to educate people about what asexuality means for me, and what my autism means for them.

research has come a long way since i was at university, so I have a long journey of self-discovery coming up; one I didn't even know I needed to make until my ASD/ACE lost me a beloved friend.

When I started typing this, I thought any blog I write should focus only on autism as I experience it. But then I realised that coming out as asexual and the challenges that poses are, in a way tied into this. So yeah, any blog I wrote will mostly be about autism, but with some ACE awareness from time to time.

Names

So far today dealt with a lass called Pepper, and a family of proudfeet proudfoots
Is amused

Posted via LiveJournal.app.

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Awesome stuff of the day

An application form completed entirely in hand-written gothic script
A black cab whose roof was completely covered in bright red balloons
Watching mother starling teaching baby starling how to pull up worms

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I love this country

It's April tomorrow, it snowed last night, and it hasn't stopped snowing all morning :)

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Hotmail

If you've been spammed from my hotmail account I'm really sorry, but it's been hacked :(

'Albino' Elder plant?

Ok, there are one or two green fingered people on my f-list who know a bit about wild plants.

This morning I was out collecting elder-berries. There were two elder bushes together, one with the usual heavy bracts of purple berries, and one with heavy bracts of translucent green ones that looked like miniature gooseberries. On examination these were ripe and juicy, nothing like the hard unripe green elderberries on the sister tree.
The bark of the two bushes were the same, the leaves have the same form and structure, as do the fruiting heads. The only difference between the two were that the unusual one had leaves that were a shade or two darker, the fruit stalks were green instead of red, and the berries, obviously, were translucent green, instead of purple. To all intents and purposes it looks like elder, even the shape and number of seeds within the berries was the same.

Has any one heard of an elder that produces ripe green berries? Or a shrub that mimics elder that closely? I know unripe berries contain a cyanide compound, but would ripe berries contain the same if they were green instead of purple?
(the thought of a 'white' elderberry cordial is quite appealing).

I've brought some leaf and berry samples home which I will photograph once my camera is charged, and I'm going to use the water test to make sure they are definitely ripe (but the squashiness suggests they are).

Also, is there anywhere I could go (locally) to get the leaves and berries identified?

The cat Piano

An amazing short I just had to pass on (Via andrewducker and theweaselking)