I’m borderline, bipolar, and autistic.
You’d think that between those three, there wouldn’t be any common ground. There is, oddly enough, a lot of shared symptoms and triggers- but that’s not my point. The commonality I want to talk about today isn’t what happens in my brain, it’s what happens in other people’s brains.
The most common phrase I hear is, “But you don’t look…”
But you don’t look autistic.
But you don’t look bipolar.
But you don’t look borderline.
The question I always want to ask in return is, “Well, what did you expect me to look like?”
I’ve had people think that I’m too smart to be autistic, too kind to be borderline, and altogether too human (I know, right?) to be bipolar. I’m expected to be completely socially inept, or emotionally manipulative, or downright violent.
These are signs of social stigma, not of who or what I am.
Autism is a spectrum. It varies wildly from person to person, and even then, from situation to situation. Personally, I feel like an alien much of the time, because unspoken rules go right over my head. I’ve had to learn most of them, and I’m still finding many that I don’t know about.
Moving house with another human? How the hell do you navigate that?
Most of my noticeable autistic traits are more to do with sensory differences. I find great pleasure in simple things like fur and water. I struggle immensely with loud crowds, because I can’t differentiate between noises. Sometimes it hurts, and I’ll cry.
I have never been violent.
Borderline personality disorder is a tougher one.
I’ve had many, many people- too many, really- tell me that when they first met me, they kept their distance. Apparently I surprised them by not being a cruel, aggressive, emotional wreck of a person.
Borderline has a terrible reputation for extreme and vicious mood swings, irrational overreaction, and manipulation taken to sociopathic levels.
What it actually is, is a rawness of emotion. We feel everything very intensely, and yes, there are a few of us who explode and take this pain straight to the perceived source: you. The main aspects of BPD are intense fears of abandonment, problems with self-identity, and suicidal ideation.
NOT, as most people have come to think of it, bunny-boiling serial killer women or sad-eyed Winona Ryder having adventures with a psychopath.
I am not an external borderline. I used to be, long before medication and therapy, but much of my borderline traits are and have always been internalised. Rather than hurt other people, I am more inclined to hurt myself- and I haven’t self harmed in a very long time.
I have never been violent.
Extended periods of mania and depression.
Why does bipolar have such a negative reputation?
You know what I do when I have manic episodes? I spend a lot of money, and then I clean the house at five am. Really, manic me is amazing. Last time I was manic, I studied basic chemistry for three days straight. The only thing I harm when I’m manic is my bank account.
When depressed, I’m just… Well, depressed. Everyone knows the basics of depression.
I’m running out of steam here, but that’s because my brain has been playing with words all day and needs a break. I’ll cut to the chase in a moment.
The point I’m trying to make is maybe I don’t look mental because you don’t know what that looks like. We are just people. We aren’t more dangerous, more hurtful, more self-involved than any other person. If anything, we’re more likely to hurt ourselves.
Apparently yesterday was Bipolar Day, and I figure that something needs to be said. Maybe the reason I don’t look the way you expect is because you’re looking for something that’s not there.
I’m tired of being told I don’t look autistic/borderline/bipolar.
Because I do. This is what it looks like.
Just a person, just like you.
Somehow we clash, we come together. The violence of our selves fuses us and forms a functional machine.
You with your lethargy, the clarity of your sharp blue eyes, the smooth movements of your hands, and me with my frenetic energy, the uncertainty in all things that makes up all of what I am. I fluctuate and flex around your sharp edges. You maintain your rigidity, your walls give me form.
I find myself falling asleep in your arms, your lap, your embrace. My eyes flutter closed even as I press my lips to yours. You flush pink. You flush pink.
I sleep. I don’t dream. The sounds of the world filter in and convince me that I am awake, truly awake.
I sleep. You flush pink.
Days passed, locked in that grand room. Liessa slept through much of it, waking only to eat or to bathe- a comfort she hadn’t realised how much she missed- or to ask the only servant for any information. The boy was small, quite young, with soft brown eyes and mousy blonde hair. The overall effect was a little disconcerting, giving him an intense, alien kind of appearance, although his expression always remained respectfully blank even in the face of Liessa’s interrogation. He would tell her nothing, politely informing her that any questions she had could be directed toward the lady of the house. She fluctuated between bribing and fury, at one point throwing a plate full of fresh vegetables and dried fish at the poor boy’s head. He hadn’t flinched, only ducked with practiced efficiency and then set about cleaning up the mess. His calmness was infuriating and frustration drove Liessa to tears. He came and went at the same times every day, regardless of her behaviour, though eventually he ceased to speak entirely.
No one else visited the room. Guards came and went outside, the two posted at the door checking the lock whenever they changed shift. Liessa re-fractured her left shin attempting to kick it off its hinges and her short screams of pain brought no one to her aid. The guards ignored her. Her struggles were to no avail, and eventually she fell resigned to the bedroom, sleeping through the daylight hours and wasting away the night.
She had no idea what Zax-Sia did while she slept. Little had changed in the room when she woke, although the bath was often left full of chilly soapy water.
Her healing was slow but steady, and though she ached the pain was rapidly easing, her scars fading to the faintest silver. When time moved slowly she would trace each of them, trying to remember where they all came from. Many of them she couldn’t, and she supposed they were from Jaraen’s attempts to interrogate Zax-Sia, and there were a couple on her arms from the battle for Aeskeir. The wound from her sacrifice remained open, though not gaping and foul-smelling as it had been during the early days. Every now and then she’d test how much pain she could take, reaching inside and exploring her own cool, wet organs.
It occurred to her that perhaps this was not a thing that sane people did, but she didn’t particularly care, either. She was dead. Sanity had no place in the world of corpses.
Time passed and eventually she lost count of the days. She noted interesting things that happened in the silence- once, something exploded nearby, and she watched smoke trailing around the city for what felt like hours. Someone was being chased. She heard the city guards yelling in the oddly mathematical languages of Shinkara.
I am a witch who does not work magic.
That isn’t to say I don’t believe in such things- I think magic is what’s unknown. Magic is that thing you don’t understand. If you’ve seen that video of someone crying out at the colours in the rainbow created by sprinkler mist, you’ll understand what I mean. That’s magic. I don’t practice it, but I don’t look down on those who do.
To each their own.
I am a witch who crafts.
I have no use for symbolism and prayer, at least, not by themselves. They have no service in my world. Things that are tangible, that have meaning… That’s where I work.
And it is work.
Make no mistake, so much energy (if energy is your thing, energy is… Hmm, a state of being? It heats and cools and moves the universe, a post for another time) goes into knitting, or cooking, or tending a garden. I think that’s where it takes root, this idea of magic, this metaphorical thing neo-wiccans look for in their little Llewellyn books. Where the history fits. Back when living meant working the lands and storing for winter, where keeping rats from the larder and cold from your joints determined who lived and who died. There wasn’t enough space then for useless things. Don’t get me wrong: back then, faith was far from a useless thing. Many people lived and died for faith.
That’s not the point I’m trying to make.
My craft is the tangible.
My craft is in nutrition, the chemistry that goes into the theobromine in chocolate making you feel good and the dehydration from a night of raucous drinking making you feel bad. A teaspoon of peppermint and some boiled water will settle your stomach, and rosemary will add lustre to your hair if it’s dark, or lemon to brighten the blonde.
I knit. I believe in weaving fibre to provide protection. A good scarf will keep a chill away, and after so many hours have gone into the creation of such a thing, the warmth of love will silence a Black Dog. Surely you’ve had a dark night or two where a soft blanket, made by your grandmother, eases your broken heart. A long journey in a biting winter can be gentled by threadbare gloves, gifted to you by your lover, your sibling, handed down through generations, or simply included as thanks for a far grander purchase. These things hold in them goodness as well as function, and that is where I work, that is why I work. Overlooking these things that are so substantial and intrinsic to my being is why it took me so long to understand. I put the weight in faith, and as a result I slipped and slid into the beliefs of those around me: here Wicca, there Asatru, short brief bursts of Buddhism and Catholicism and Vodoun and Thelema. They didn’t work, and I didn’t understand why.
I think I had to finally be alone to find my own way, and come to peace in myself.
I am a witch, but I don’t work magic.
I am a witch. I work my craft.
I am the girl who would offer her throat to the wolf with the red roses.
As it is, I have offered my throat to rats and dogs,
and gentle men,
and all have done with it as they willed.
None of them were wolves.
I would like to think now that I am not so foolish as to confuse beasts with men,
or hounds with their greater kin;
But I was foolish then,
and foolish now,
and perhaps foolish will I ever be.
I think it wise to play the fool,
and so I’ll offer my throat
to the next wolf to offer me
pretty red roses.
I spoke to a friend about what it’s like to be autistic yesterday. We were discussing what it’s like to have circumstances change and how that throws things off for us.
I think of being autistic as being like one of those sculptures that looks like a misshapen mess unless you look at it from a certain angle. An optical illusion. Our sense of self is perceived from all possible angles- we are whole and complete, but sometimes we see ourselves from the messy angles, where all the wires and bits that stick out don’t make a coherent form. When our world is at peace and undisturbed, we are looking at life from the angle where it makes sense, where the objects and lines pull together to make something whole. When we are disrupted, that perception shifts, and what was once clear form becomes mere noise.
People entering our space, touching us without our consent, making painful noises, having confusing facial expressions… This can shift our fragile sense of stability. While yes, we are the whole sculpture, messy angles and sensible angles, our world only makes sense when it’s pulled together. When we come at it from the wrong angle, it’s just… Wrong. Upsetting. Confusing.
If we spend a long enough time in this space, it becomes distressing. Someone entering our home for an extended stay, uncomfortable clothing, loud places… These things can turn our world and leave us feeling misshapen and full of holes. We aren’t, though. We’re a whole being… Sometimes we just aren’t standing in the right spot to feel it.
I thought I’d share some of my time-management stuff. I have a blog about Chittering Acres Studio in the making but it’s not ready yet, and I felt like writing a thing. I don’t know whether it’ll be helpful for anyone else, but my last post (not here) with the simple cross-off-when-done task list was quite unexpectedly popular. So, here’s how I function now that my life has changed considerably. I’m now living at home with family again, and my routine has merged with their routine. Along with that comes my uni work and a need to exert more control over my money and spending habits, since I don’t have the nice cushion of a partner to fall back on.
The first image is my budget. Right now it’s a bit tight because I had to have my beloved cat put down, and vet bills are a pain in the arse. I keep it simple- things I need, things I need to pay off, and things that happen every fortnight like board and putting money aside for food if I’m out of the house. I get paid every two weeks, so I make sure to keep that in mind when working out the numbers- I don’t work out the whole month unless I have something that needs to be worked out specifically, in which case I put that in a sheet to the side. An example of something that spreads out over more than one pay period is the assorted debts. I have their general info in the main section, and then I work out how long it will take me to pay off, and in what increments. If I pay one off before the others (as you can see with the bag) the money I’d have otherwise put towards it goes towards the others instead of slipping back into my spare money pile.
The other two pictures are of the word documents I use to organise my weekly routine and my uni assignments. The weekly routine one is old because I’m neurotic about strangers knowing my movements. Never upload to the internet the times you plan to be out of the house or otherwise vulnerable, predators will take advantage of it.
My weekly routine is full of things I might not necessarily do in green. As you can see, all of my gym and exercise stuff is in green. I was never sure how many spoons I would have on any given day, so I wrote down all the possible things I might like to do should I have the ability. Other necessary tasks that I couldn’t miss out on are highlighted in purple. If I’d had other non-uni-related weekly happenings, they’d be there in blue, but as it is I’m a bit of a shut in, so the only weekly necessity I have is… Well, uni. I worked out what time of day would be best for these by tracking what times of day I spent alert and on the computer most, and what times left me the least disturbed by other people in the house. As you can see, it’s the same time every day thanks to the weekly routines of my family.
The third picture is how I keep track of assignments. When they’re due, what parts to work on when, and when different sections of the semester start and end. I didn’t manage to capture it but I also have “Results Released” elsewhere in the document. Assignments that are yet to be done are in plain text while assignments I’ve completed are scratched out. I also change the colour of the days to grey to show which dates have passed- making it really easy to see any assignments I’ve missed or which are late. I have… More of those than I’d like.
All of these were created in either Microsoft Word or Outlook and are simple enough. I don’t have a great grasp of Outlook and I only use the default settings when making tables in Word.
Try it for yourself, and see how you find it! Good luck.🙂
The following is simply a comment I posted in response to this video, posted by a friend of mine on Facebook. I say a few things I feel very strongly about and I figure I should probably keep this blog alive, so in the spirit of trying to start living again, here you go.
Small hints of truth wrapped up in a lot of needless sensationalism.
I can see where you are and how you think, sweets, but this video is not something you want to say sums up your view, because then your view is heavily biased, selective of information, and incapable of change or adaptation.
The thing is, most people do understand the great machine we’re a part of. Most people do grasp these things. The problem is that people don’t like change, and they don’t like a lack of security, and they don’t know how to manage without a world that has been hundreds of years in the making.
Also no, a world without pharmacology would not be better. A world without global trade would not be better. A world without global communication and technology would not be better.
Instead of eradication, you must think in terms of adaptation and gentle change. The aggression in this video, the patronising voice of so many of the people who believe in it… It will get you, and them, nowhere.
You’ll find that if you educate people in how to survive outside of ‘the system’ they will tend to move towards doing so. People don’t like being trapped but they do love the safety provided. If you want change, educate. Teach. Teach skills as hobbies. Teach advanced skills for those who want to take it further. Don’t yell about how broken the system is, everyone already knows that and the people who don’t are the people who don’t want it to change.
So teach. Instead of this video, share TED talks about survivalism. Share pop culture like Naked and Afraid. Show people what cool things you can do with a pocket knife, or how you can make ink from mushrooms, or how to make their own soap. Educate them in how penicillin is made, and what plants work best in their climate. SHOW them the world they could be living in and they’ll do all the work themselves….
All you have to do is provide the start for an autodidact and ask them to teach what they know to others.
Change is happening. It’s just slow, and you can’t push hard. A little information, a little hope, and that’s all you need.
I plan to write more on this.
Maybe I’ll explain soap making, or how my gardening is going. Perhaps I’ll post my plans for my ideal home, or what new things I’ve learned. No doubt, mental illness and autism will show up from time to time. I talk a lot about these things, why not here?
I still write. I’m still writing. I just want to add a little variation to this blog, make it more… blog-like.
SO there you go.
So after having a particularly bad rage day, complete with a meltdown, my friend Jason decided to ask me about it. I found the conversation good to have, and maybe a good run down for anyone who doesn’t experience these horrible emotional occurrences. What follows is the log of the conversation, in case anyone is interested.
Jason: As a person that doesn’t crazy rage. Is it something you are aware of or is it more like a panic attack? It just picks you up and dumps you somewhere else?
Me: Ummm…. I’m not aware of it when it’s happening. I feel.. Simultaneously in control, and not in control. I feel like the rage is valid, but if I try to back off or drop the argument it just sort of goes crazy, like it did today.
Jason: Like you are sort of aware but you don’t really have control… So there is no “I’m just raging” moment until it’s completely over?
Me: Sort of. I could start off as reasonably angry at a thing that’s worth getting angry at, but the moment I try to turn my attention away from it, my emotions and self-control go completely out of whack and start clinging to anything that requires processing, and my rage transfers there.
And because the rage doesn’t make sense, especially if it’s at a person, any kind of attempt to reason with me just makes me worse and tends to trigger other emotions like panic or intense sadness and then it becomes a meltdown and won’t stop until I self harm, sleep, or Liam sings to me. Which doesn’t happen anymore. So today I fell asleep.
Jason: Can you sit with the feelings with out focusing on the thing?
Me: No. Noooo.
It’s a really uncontrollable experience. I have no control over what I’m doing. Even if I realise I’m raging, I literally can’t stop. I can’t go sit somewhere quietly or I’ll have a sort of really angry panic attack where I feel like I’m going to literally claw myself to shreds.
Jason: Maybe channeling? Like punching bag?
Me: I get urges to tear off my flesh with my nails.
Jason: Ok that’s a little like channeling. Just not positive.
Me: I haven’t tried a punching bag, but walking helps sometimes. I walk around in circles for hours. I used to scare Liam because I’d just get up and leave the house and walk to the park or the beach or Lyn’s place.
Jason: Those are good things
Me: Rages and meltdowns are probably where I look the craziest to other people.
Jason: Yeah, because they’re terrifying. Lucky they can’t see what’s actually happening in your head.
Me: Eh… Maybe if they could they would see I’m no actual threat.
Or would understand.
To them it just looks like I suddenly turn on angry bitch mode and tear them a new one for no reason.
Jason: People have trouble processing stuff. Very few even attempt to do it. No warning? For these rages?
Me: No warning at all. It just happens.
Me: With meltdowns there’s a warning, because that feels like reaching a limit. It can happen really fast, but I show signs of stress and upset before having a meltdown. Rages just turn on like a switch.
Jason: What about general frequency?
Me: Depends. Sometimes I can go months without either. Sometimes they happen less than an hour apart.
Jason: Are you angry first? Or could you be happy patting Hannibal…?
Me: Sometimes. Usually. Usually rages are just anger that lost its anchor. Sometimes they’re a trigger I don’t know about, or a random thought I don’t notice. They’re definitely triggered when I’m trying to talk to someone and my processing gets all mixed up and I can’t think straight. It’s like an immediate reaction to things being out of place, like my brain has glitched and self control fell through the floor.
Jason: Ah ok I get it now. It’s the anchor. Could you have a backup anchor?
Me: Not really. If I can, I don’t know how yet. I used to run anger past Liam or Lyn, but that usually requires they be there in person. When I’m by myself or if I’m non-verbal at the time, it’s a bit of a lost cause.
Jason: What about an object. Like a stress toy or your chewy thing. Or a photo of xena in your wallet?
Yeah, they help with meltdowns. Meltdowns will turn into shutdowns if I have my stimming things with me.
They don’t help with rages. Most of the time they make rages worse, because I’ll get angry that they’re not helping. Although, chewing things helps with the clawing urges.
Jason: Packet of gum? Cold shower. That pretty much turns your brain off! But needs to be proper cold.
Me: I haven’t tried that, but I will next time. Hopefully I’ll think of it.
Not with meltdowns though. Meltdowns would be horrible in a cold shower.
Meltdowns require curling up somewhere totally removed from stimulation.
Jason: You seem to have meltdowns covered. At least strategy wise.
Me: Yeah. Just need to work on the rages.😛