Poetry

Hermit crab

The day is warm on my face, so I emerge from my home

to track down supplies. It shouldn’t be too bad, I can enjoy the breeze

and how the sun trickles on my limbs.

Scuttling along, intending to be content.

Do I really need my shell?

There’s nothing to bruise my soft body here–

whoosh.

Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.

What is that? Those startling things

all herded in groups or alone with noses in black mirrors?

They don’t even see me.

Feet stomping, arms swinging, brows furrowed.

Blind to a little crab trying to find food and appreciate the air.

Better be getting home, before they extinguish me with their ignorance.

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My first author visit at a school

This may be a brief post as I’m so worn out I can barely stay awake, as my energy was taken up entirely by the day – and by the absurd levels of anxiety I’ve had for the past few weeks leading up to today – but it was a great experience and so I wanted to share a bit about it.

So, in partnership with the Isle of Wight Literary Festival Story Festival, which will take place in February 2020, I was invited to go into two schools and visit years 4-6. Lots of other children’s authors were invited to do the same, both local and from the mainland, and everyone I spoke to about it was very excited.

I was too, but as my anxiety runs riot with anything new that’s going on, and knowing my energy often gets spent very quickly when around people, I was terrified. To help ease some of that terror, I ended up scripting out what I wanted to do (even my introduction of who I am) and rehearsing it in my living room a few times until I was fairly confident that I wouldn’t forget any of the major points I wanted to make. I also made sure I had a copy of said script with me in case I lost my train of thought or my words decided to cease up.

I was very pleased with myself when neither of those actually happened, and I didn’t have to refer to my script once. And though I was nervous at the start of every class (I met with a total of five classes), as I got into what I was saying and my reading, my confidence came back. I also taught a mini workshop on where to get story ideas and how to progress them, and I was blown away by the level of creativity the students had, along with their enthusiasm.

I had a lot of fun, and the day really enforced the reason for why I write –  to share my stories and inspire people as other authors have inspired me.

Now, I may not be able to leave the house for a few days while I recover, but I have to say that all that anxiety and uncertainty was worth it, and I hope I get the chance to do it again next year.

Poetry

Lesson

I crave it. The knowledge

you have, the hours of practice you’ve put it.

I want to gain it for myself, I’m not afraid of putting in the work

but how can I train, how can I improve

when being observed

freezes up every thought I have?

The frustration at myself builds.

The explanations are clear, so why do I misunderstand?

There must be a way around it. Trust that I won’t be judged

when my work needs correcting.

Trust

that I don’t have to be perfect

from the start.

Poetry

Little ol’ stimtastic me

I want to search for myself in the grain,

stills can only tell so much

and I need more.

So back I roll past white noise

to the start of my fingers

tapping out the sheet music on invisible keys

while my eyes put up their barrier against the hum

and I go off into space.

There it is. The movement

I’m playing right now, recorded in the background

twenty-one years ago.

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Processing my autism diagnosis – watching home videos

So, as I mentioned in previous posts, I was diagnosed as autistic in January this year. So far I feel I’ve done a pretty good job of processing it and letting myself recover from all the strains of masking throughout my teenage years and well into adulthood. (For those who don’t know, masking is a way for neurodiverse people to act so as to fit in with society, but it’s intensely draining and goes against all our natural instincts, causing anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Think pretending to be a movie character for your whole life without ever getting chance to be yourself for fear that you won’t be accepted/judged/bullied etc – I’ve pretty much made a vow that I’ll only mask if it’s absolutely necessary to preserve my future mental health.)

However, one of the things I wanted to do was to watch old videos my family took of me as I was growing up to see if I could see any autistic traits, mainly because I’ve seen lots of vlogs by families with autistic kids and wondered if I acted the same as they did. I knew my nan said I flapped my hands and made other stimming/self soothing gestures when I was less than a year old and that she suspected I was autistic (sadly, not much was known about girls on the spectrum in the 90s, so I was dismissed by the doctor, a story I know is only too familiar for women my age who are only now being diagnosed), and I remember feeling on the outside of a lot of social stuff like birthday parties and playgroups.

After speaking with my awesome mother, she dug around and found some tapes of past Christmases, birthdays and holidays for me to watch. When I put the first one on, within minutes of watching myself and noting my body language, where my focus was, how I spoke and interacted with people around me, I knew that the signs I’m autistic have always been painfully obvious, the only problem back then was that no-one knew what they were looking for.

And it hurts that something so obvious was missed. But seeing myself so natural was also liberating, because I’ve spent all these months post-diagnosis trying to relax myself and not worry about being judged enough to drop my mask, especially regarding stimming – knowing that how I stim now is the same as back then makes me feel that I’ve found myself again. I didn’t lose myself in the masks I’ve had to wear.

I cried because of this, and rocked and flapped and did all the things that help me express my emotions.

Of course there will still be times when I don’t feel my difficulties are valid, because there’s always going to be people who don’t understand, don’t have patience and some who just don’t care, not to mention my own thoughts of feeling completely fine until I have to be social, but this has definitely helped me to realise that though I might have hidden things well as a teen and adult, I have always had these difficulties.

And if I need more time to think when I’m asked a ‘simple’ question, need help doing everyday tasks, or if I need my ear defenders just to walk down the street because the world is so loud, it’s perfectly okay.

(Side note: along with my difficulties, there are many cool things about being autistic, and I’d never want to change how my brain comes up with all the crazy ideas I have.)

Anyway, that’s my ramble for today. Time for dinner.

Poetry

Time jump

The pink carpet glares up

as I sit at the u-shaped set of tables

with the rest of the class.

The teacher stands in front of the blackboard,

but there’s silence.

It drags out, thick and dark

becoming a void that eats up the whole room.

It’s coming from me,

as I try and fail to figure out the equation I’ve been asked to solve.

As the void reaches me, I blink,

jumping forward.

The assessor is waiting just like my teacher,

but her fear is clear

as the sea coming from my eyes

threatens to drown the room.

Poetry

I wear sky blue ear defenders to dull the threatening hum of the world.

They’re not perfect. They might cork the sharpness,

but they cannot smooth it.

And the times when I need their comfort most,

when the weight of voices, bodies, auras

tries to crush me and all I want is silence,

they become invisible. Strangers direct questions my way

as if they’re not even there. Comments

that need responses I’m too weary,

too flattened, to give.

I can still hear every word, and each one ties me with the cord of obligation

to reach for my social mask,

the one I thought I’d shed months ago.

I wear sky blue ear defenders to dull the threatening hum of the world.

They’re armour to protect me, but even armour

cannot save me from arrows.