Saturday, April 20, 2019

Q: what originally made you think you might be autistic? A: Last year I suddenly snapped out of a phase of severe depression that had lasted for 18 months. It made me realise that I suffer from bipolar disorder, and I got in touch with a mental health advocate who helped me with getting a correct assessment for both BP and PTSD. In the past I had repeatedly been told that I am "just a bit depressed". I was prescribed medication which has helped me with feeling calmer so that I am able to think more clearly, as well as being more authentically myself. As a result, friends who are autistic told me that they thought they could see similiar characteristics to the ones that they exhibit in me, and after talking to a number of people as well as joining an autism support group on Facebook, it became clear to me that I am on the autistic spectrum myself. This also made me realise that the vast number of mental health problems that I have been facing are a direct result of not being diagnosed as a child, which would have helped me with understanding my individual sensitivities, accessing support, and developing effective coping mechanisms. I was attending regular appointments with a psychologist after the mental health assessment, and she was very keen on referring me for an ASD assessment as quickly as possible.. Q: why do you think you werent diagnosed as a child? A: Despite being hailed as a child prodigy at the time, I was already exhibiting behavioural issues during primary school, which became considerably worse when I started attending grammar school, and even more so once puberty kicked in. At this point, I was also no longer able to focus on certain subjects, and these factors ultimately led to my expulsion, and to being forced to start an apprenticeship in a job which didn't suit me. At some point, a friend of my parents came up to me, and told me that my parents thought there was "something wrong with my head", and that there were "doctors who could sort these things out." I am still perplexed how anyone could expect a child to react positively to that kind of insensitivity and condescension. Q: What do you do for a living? Do you like it? A: I have had a number of jobs in the past. During the first half of the nineties, I was getting drunk every single day, and I would occasionally complement my benefit payments, which I was receiving due to to a car crash that had caused some serious injuries, through occasional warehouse work which lasted between one and several months at a time. Despite having left school without even passing 'O' levels, I was later employed by a large computer manufacturer, where I quickly worked my way up until I was given the role of Database Marketing Specialist after half a year. But after a few years in this position, I found myself too unwell to carry on working. Since then I have occasionally accepted design jobs, and more recently I have translated documents for Chinese startups that were planning to enter the German market. I grew up bilingual, and will soon be starting work as a professional translator, while I am also looking at possibilities of receiving funding for a degree in translation studies. Q: What’s something someone might be surprised to know about you? A: I already noticed as a child that I enjoy the feeling of tightness around my neck, when I once wore a shirt with a bowtie. Meanwhile I know that it is a form of autistic stimming which keeps me grounded and focussed on my own needs, instead of being distracted and overwhelmed by external cirumstances. But for a long time, I thought it made me a "freak", "crazy" and "uncool", and that I needed to keep my individual preferences hidden. It became even more difficult when I realised that I'm transgender, and I was worried that people would think I'm "not a real trans woman". I have discovered that I can't afford to care about gender stereotypes and other people's opinions, and I have made the decision to wear a shirt with matching tie, bow tie or jabot every single day of my life, at least until I also find the right kind of chokers and neck corsets that suit me. I have never felt comfortable with the gender binary and its restrictive norms, and my other clothes come from both the so-called "women's" and "men's" sections. I always wear make-up, and I also enjoy wearing unusual materials such as PVC, latex, velvet and satin outside the kind of environments that they are usually found in. While many people associate these materials with merely being connected to sexual fetishes, they have functionalities which extend way beyond this kind of simplistic thinking. Transcending these boundaries instead of feeling the need to hide who I am, as well as the overwhelmingly positive reactions that I have been receiving, has helped me significantly with my self-confidence, and with acquiring a positive outlook of the future. Q: How do you want to change the world or yourself? A: I am heavily involved in working towards social justice. Despite the problems that I have faced, I am very aware that there are people who are significantly worse off, and who have to fight for survival and a dignified life every single day. I co-moderate several Facebook groups in which I post on a regular basis, in order to make people aware of these issues, and I have created a large number of memes for these groups. I would like to further my artistic endeavours, in order to make those messages accessible to a wider audience. In order to do so, I will need to focus on my own individual needs first, while still helping others whenever I feel that I am able to do so. Q: What obstacles have you faced in life? How have you gotten through them? A: For a long time I felt the constant need to be around other people, in order to distract myself from my own issues. I was only able to do so by drinking heavily to mask the discomfort that social interactions in a group of people cause me, and after detoxing and finding a job in another town, I turned to smoking hash instead. Except for a few breaks lasting between five and nine months, this was a daily occurrence for me, until last summer when I finally started receiving the right kind of support. Since then I have become considerably more outgoing, and I am no longer scared or ashamed to show my authentic self. I still experience the occasional meltdown, and will have to find solutions in order to avoid situations that act as triggers. But most of the time I have been feeling very positive, and I am convinced that a better life awaits me than the one that I have had to endure in the past.

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