Double standards – neurotypicals and autistic people

After nearly a year of being in a pandemic, I have spent most weekdays and some weekends writing extensively about autism. This has had two effects. 1) Sapping my ability to continue doing so as if it is not getting stale for me. If my attempts at sounding conversational feel forced, please bear with me! 2) Forcing me to reflect on some uncomfortable realities about being outnumbered by neurotypicals. Namely, the double standards by which people are judged depending on how their brains work.

We’ve established that being in a minority is hard. When your communication style is different from the majority, it can feel like you have to push yourself twice as hard just to achieve the same things. When your experiences and struggles fall outside of the so-called norm, you have to fight to make yourself heard and hope that some people will listen.

There are constant misunderstandings between neurotypicals and the autistic community. I have heard it said that these things work both ways, which makes it even. I disagree. Misunderstandings do work both ways, but when one neurotype heavily outnumbers the other, and is therefore deemed “normal” and “right”, that does not make it even. Let me explain.

When neurotypicals don’t understand autistic people, it is because autistic people are complex and confusing. When autistic people misunderstand neurotypicals, it is because we are bad at understanding people.

When neurotypicals struggle to show empathy towards autistic people, it is because autistic people are unemotional and robotic. When autistic people struggle to show empathy in a neurotypical way, it is because we lack empathy altogether. NTs have spread so many stereotypes, described autism purely based on how autistic people come across, and shamed autistic people for not behaving in a neurotypical way. Those of us on the spectrum often feel our own and other’s emotions profoundly, and spend much of our time trying to learn how to connect with neurotypicals, yet we are the ones who apparently lack empathy.

When neurotypicals can’t read autistic body language, it is because autistic people are bad at displaying body language. When autistic people can’t read NT body language, it is because we are bad at reading body language.

When neurotypicals are unable to predict how autistic people will behave or react, it is because autistic people are unpredictable. When autistic people are unable to predict how NTs will behave or react, it is because we are bad at predicting people’s behaviour.

Many neurotypicals are only willing to bend so far to understand autistic people better, and are quick to alienate anyone who is different to them. Meanwhile, most of us on the spectrum have experienced constant pressure to adapt to and make sense of other people’s social expectations, yet we are the ones who are deemed bad at communicating.

I hope it goes without saying that these are criticisms about attitudes towards autism, not an attack on neurotypicals. I will always be grateful for people who listen and try to understand. Meanwhile, fellow autistic people, if there are any crucial points that I have missed, please let me know!

Nurture, not nature: the impact of being autistic in a neurotypical world

Through writing regularly about autism, I have noticed that there are many resources that describe inherent autistic traits. Many of these resources are by and for neurotypicals. Some of them are by autistic people explaining from the inside. What I haven’t seen so much of is something I have reflected on a lot lately: what traits might someone develop as a result of being outnumbered by non-autistic people? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for me. Before I do, let me say: I am not making excuses for myself, because I know my flaws need to be kept in check. I am simply reflecting on how some of them came to be.

One of my main flaws is oversensitivity to criticism and judgement – real and perceived. If someone comments on, say, what a big portion of food I have at a meal, I immediately get self conscious. Am I greedy? Have I broken some implicit social rule? Similarly, if I behave in a noticeably “autistic” way and someone asks me why, I feel unreasonably frustrated. I know how important it is to understand each other’s differences, but sometimes it feels like I can’t just “be” without having to explain myself or face people’s judgement. 

I have realised that this is largely down to years of being monitored and corrected by teachers, and being teased and isolated by some of my peers. The latter in particular has led to another unhealthy tendency of mine: always feeling like an outsider. I resent feeling like an outsider in any situation, yet I am aware that that is my comfort zone because I know how to be that person. Once the excitement of making friends with an individual or a group has worn off, I am quick to assume they will get bored of me. If a friend grows close to another person, whether platonically or romantically, I sadly accept that they prefer that person now, when it might not even be true! I haven’t completely fought the “outsider” mindset yet, but I’m getting better at keeping it in perspective.

Then there’s my inability to trust my own judgement. What with all the mistakes I’ve actually made and the number of times I’ve been told “you’ll take longer to learn x” or “autistic people are always bad at y”, I expect to be wrong. At work, I was often told I needed to voice my opinions more and speak up about any changes I wanted to see. If I asked a question that was supposed to be obvious, it was sometimes met with annoyance. Very often, I had an idea of what the answer was, but was constantly worried that it had changed or that I had misunderstood.

Lastly, there is masking – that is, constantly trying to behave in a neurotypical way. It’s unavoidable, and in some situations, even necessary. I have often reached the point, however, where I have tried to mask my autism for so long, that I can’t keep it up. I have reached a better understanding now of when masking is and isn’t necessary. However I have been doing it out of shame for so long that I don’t know how to voluntarily unmask. I am not alone in this. Those of us on the spectrum put so much energy into being what people expect us to be, that we easily lose sight of who we really are.

‘Tis the lead up to Christmas

Recently there have been at least a couple of Christmas themed poems on Facebook about the trials and tribulations of living with an autistic person. Here’s my sort-of-heartfelt, sort-of-satirical, spoof about the trials and tribulations of living with neurotypicals. Yes, it’s even tackier than I intended. Enjoy!

 

‘Tis the lead up to Christmas, and all through the day,

Festive preparations are well on the way.

We’re all in the kitchen surrounded by mess.

There’s work to be done, no time to de-stress!

 

Cake decorating here, mince pies baking there

And us walking into each other everywhere.

Can’t judge where to step – wait, am I in the way?

Too much talking and mess jumbled up in the fray.

 

So I’ll step away from the chaos and cake.

With too much going on, I could do with a break.

I like Christmas, yes, but it can get too mad

With all of the prep and social calls to be had.

 

A crowded kitchen today, a video call last night

With the chat breaking up and the wrong level of light.

No clear turn to talk, no idea what to say

And having to put up with the sound delay.

 

For there are challenges that come with being autistic

In a neurotypical world where you’re always missing a trick

With odd social rules about conversation

That you have to learn out of pure obligation.

 

After a tough few weeks in a difficult year

Full of change and uncertainty, losses and fear,

We all need a holiday, and time to have fun

But a break from the NT world? Easier said than done!

 

Refusal to change, unclear communication,

Confusing demands that just lead to frustration,

And times when they leave me feeling stupid and small

And so burned out, I can’t function at all.

 

I’ve fretted and agonised, worried and moped,

Over all recent things that haven’t gone as I’d hoped,

And wished there were more people who understand

That I’m constantly trying as hard as I can!

 

But amid all the struggles, I like to remember

Everything to be thankful for this December.

So I’ll start with the obvious: my friends and family

Who know and support me and have always stuck by me.

 

For each neurotypical is different, I’d say,

And very unique “in their own special way”

Though some are illogical, strange and confusing,

Some are supportive, kind and amazing.

 

Now, as I rejoin all the family madness

With a much clearer head, I’ll do it with gladness.

At times I’ve felt lonely. At times I’ve felt stuck.

But with such a strong base, I know I’m in luck.

 

So Merry Christmas to all, and to all one last thing,

Whether you’re doing well or simply surviving,

Amid all the chaos at this crazy time,

With all the right people, you’ll pull through just fine.

 

Image may contain: christmas tree, table, tree and indoor

Am I autistic or do I have autism? Part 2

A while ago, I wrote a blog post about identity first vs person first language. Or “autistic person” vs “person with autism”. Back then, the controversy over this was new to me, and it hadn’t occurred to me to have a preference. Because they both mean the same thing. Right?

If both preferences are at opposite ends of a scale of which I was in the middle to begin with, then I wouldn’t say my opinion here has done a complete 90 degree turn in either direction. I still think it’s important to ask about and respect an autistic individual’s preference. And I don’t mind if someone uses both in casual conversation. I still do myself! But if I had to pick only one, I would choose “autistic person”. Let me explain.

“Person first” language was a concept coined by neurotypical parents and professionals talking about autism, many of whom still prefer it to this day. Their logic is that someone shouldn’t be defined by their condition and they liken it to calling someone with cancer a “cancer patient”. They very often have the best of intentions here, I do understand that, but there are several flaws to this logic.

Firstly, cancer is a life-threatening disease. It is something that people develop, it is destructive to a person’s health, it can kill, and it can also be treated. With all that in mind, of course it’s not part of who someone is. Autism, on the other hand, is just a difference in the brain. It is present from birth, it is not an illness, it cannot kill, it cannot be treated (contrary to popular belief and wishful thinking), and comparing it to something as scary and debilitating as cancer is actually rather insulting. I am not a neurotypical person with a disease or medical problem. I am autistic, and that means I think and learn differently in some ways.

Also insisting on only using person first language implies a negative bias against being autistic, as if it is something shameful. And being ashamed of it is an attitude I am determined to leave in the past.

And finally, one simple but important point: I don’t like neurotypical people dictating how we can and can’t talk about autism. It is a step in the right direction to ask someone on the spectrum what they prefer, but continuing to insist on person first language except around certain individuals is still portraying neurotypicals’ opinions on this as the default. Studies have shown that around 90% of autistic adults prefer identity first language. Someone can say “autistic person” around me all they want, but if they still try to set the standard for how most people talk about autism, they are still talking over the autistic community.

I have read about people saying that the autistic community have “unorthodox” or “controversial” opinions here. What they mean is that these opinions are not held by many neurotypicals. I am not saying that they shouldn’t have an opinion. It just feels like they are forgetting that these opinions in favour of identity first language are coming from people who are talking about their reality and their identity. What’s so unorthodox or controversial about that?

Tea or coffee? Answering questions in an autism friendly way

For me, one of the hardest things about getting by in a neurotypical dominant workplace is making sense of what people are trying to explain to me. And whenever I struggle with this, it often leaves me feeling small, stupid, or even humiliated. So I recently came up with the following analogy to help my colleagues understand a bit better:

If I ask someone “should I do x or y?” and they answer “x”, that is like me asking “would you like tea or coffee?” and them answering “tea, please”.

If I ask “do I need to do x?” and they answer “yes” or “no, you need to do y” that is like me asking “is it tea you want?” and them answering “yes please” or “no, coffee please”.

Sometimes I’ll ask “should I do x or y?” and they’ll ask me to do something else. That is like me asking “would you like tea or coffee?” and them answering “just water, please”. Ok, it wasn’t one of the answers I was offering but it’s something I understand and can do.

Other times I’ll ask “should I do x or y?” or “do I need to do x?” and they’ll give a lengthy explanation. That is like me asking “would you like tea or coffee?” or “is it tea you want?” and them saying “You need to brew it so that it’s not too strong, leave it for exactly 3 minutes, add 2 sugars, and some milk, as I don’t like it too dark. This is my favourite drink because it’s what my family always make.”

This is too confusing. When they say “you need to…” are they confirming that I have the right idea or correcting me? “Brew” makes it sound like they are talking about tea, but “dark” makes it sound more like coffee. Yes, I can count how many minutes to leave it for and how many sugars to add, but these don’t tell me which drink the person wants. How much is “some” milk? My idea of “some” might be too much or not enough. As for this being their favourite drink, that tells me why it’s important that I get this right, but it still doesn’t answer my question!

What I need is for the other person to answer my question directly, with no information that is not immediately required, i.e.: “Tea, please (or “yes that’s correct”). 2 sugars and a splash of milk. Leave it for 3 minutes.” Other details may be important and/or easy to understand on their own, but these need to wait, rather than be jumbled up with the information I’m asking for. Otherwise I will struggle to discern the most important points and not retain anything.

If I ask “should I do x or y?” and they ask me to use my own judgement but then don’t like what I have done and think I should have anticipated that, that is like me asking “would you like tea or coffee?” and them asking me to choose. Then when I make tea, they say “I thought you knew I prefer coffee.”

Similarly, if I ask “should I do x?” and they say no but later get annoyed because they were expecting me to do a similar thing instead, that is like me asking “would you like tea?” and them saying “no thanks”, but later getting annoyed because they were hoping I would make coffee.

If I ask “how should I do x?” and they say there is no right or wrong answer, but then I make a mistake because I wasn’t aware of a certain rule, that is like me asking “how do you like your tea?” and the other person saying “I’m not fussy” only for me to make tea and them to say “It’s too weak and you put in too much sugar.”

If it really doesn’t matter how I do something, then great, but I need them to explicitly differentiate between that, and when there are several ok ways of doing it and some not-ok ways.

So to summarise for neurotypicals:

  • Say exactly what you mean
  • Be concise and literal
  • Prioritise giving the information that was asked for – try and keep other stuff separate
  • Be aware of how frustrating, draining, and isolating struggling to communicate with neurotypicals can be, especially when I can sense people are judging me or getting impatient

Disclaimer: I don’t like tea or coffee and therefore know sod all about how to make them. That aside, autistic and neurotypical people alike, I hope this is helpful!

Autism ableist language alternatives

Recently, I came across an online article about avoiding ableist language when talking about autism, which I thought I would write my own take on. One thing I liked about it was that it offered alternative things to say, as well as simply listing phrases and implications to avoid. I’m aware this post could make me look like another millennial “snowflake” who gets offended by everything. But I don’t have a fit whenever anyone says something careless. If it’s minor, I’ll ignore it. If it’s major, or if they ask, I’ll politely explain. Besides, pushing through low self worth due to my autism has taught me the importance of helping people understand.

  1. Ableist language: “families affected by autism”. Implication: autism is a disease and people on the spectrum are a burden on their families. Alternative: “autistic people and their families”
  2. Ableist language: “symptoms”. Implication: autism is a disease. Alternative: “signs”, “traits”, “features”, “characteristics”
  3. Ableist language: insisting on using person first language. Implication: neurotypicals dictating how autistic people should talk about themselves. Alternative: if in doubt use identity first language, use both without insisting on either, or just say “people on the autistic spectrum”. Most importantly ask about, and respect, an individual’s preferences
  4. Ableist language: “healthy vs autistic”. Implication: again, makes autism sound like a disease. Alternative: neurotypical vs autistic”
  5. Ableist language: talking of treating or curing autism. Implication: autism is a disease (in case I haven’t said this enough) and autistic people have to become neurotypical in order to have a good life. Alternative: talking of supporting autistic people, respecting the needs and opinions of individuals who do want to lose their autistic traits, while striving to make the world a more comfortable place for autistic people to be themselves
  6. Ableist language: complimenting someone on how their autism isn’t obvious, or pitying them when they mention they are autistic. Implication: being autistic is lesser. Alternative: asking someone what autism means for them
  7. Ableist language: prioritising someone passing as neurotypical i.e. something they’re not. Implication: autism is shameful. Alternative: prioritising emotional wellbeing and learning how to manage difficult situations
  8. Ableist language: amplifying autism stereotypes. Implication: autistic people are all the same. Alternative: amplifying what autistic people say about their experiences
  9. Ableist language: “epidemic”. Implication: autism is a disease (notice a pattern here?). Alternative: increase in awareness and diagnosis
  10. Ableist language: “risk of autism”. Implication: yep, you got it – autism is a disease. Alternative: “increased likelihood”
  11. Ableist language: functioning/severity labels. Implication: how “neurotypical” an autistic person comes across, without taking into account specific strengths, struggles, and needs. Alternative: describing specific strengths, struggles, and needs
  12. Ableist language: resources that only talk as if an autistic person might be someone’s child, friend, etc. (with the exception of those specifically talking about parenting/befriending someone on the spectrum). Implication: forgetting that an autistic person might also be the “someone” they are addressing. Alternative: resources that educate neurotypicals AND acknowledge autistic people
  13. Ableist language: describing autism as a disease. Implication: honestly, do I even need to say it at this point? Alternative: describing autism as a neurological condition/difference

Original article: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/aut.2020.0014?fbclid=IwAR1FyM1cVwRebaISLJ-2GhEJZoQ_HzJm16VvpXC3hK7OiW7H4ySIfDa2wkQ&

Summer sensory sensitivities

Being on the autistic spectrum means that sensory sensitivities are a part of life for me, and therefore a recurring topic on my blog. It’s not always a case of being overwhelmed by noise, people, and general confusion in a busy airport or during a long day at uni, however. Sometimes it’s the little things that are impossible to ignore. So while my brain recovers from heat-induced insomnia, let me summarise the sensory issues of these past few days and weeks.

If there’s one time of year when sensory sensitivities are rife, it’s during the summer. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things I like about summer. I like being outside in the sun surrounded by nature. I like more hours of sunlight. But when I’m so hot I can barely move, I’m always a teeny bit relieved when things cool down.

The biggest issue for me is sleep. During a heatwave, I know how to keep cool during the day, but night is a whole other story. Having a fan helps. Unless it rattles, then I can’t ignore it. Opening the window also helps. Except when there’s traffic outside, or people staying out late and talking. Good earplugs block out any sound. But until I get used to them, I’m constantly aware of them. As for covering, summer duvet? Too hot. No covering? Can’t get comfortable. Get up, get bedsheet. But what do I wear? Pyjamas feel too hot. Vest is fine except when it gets twisted. Underwear only may work or I may get too cold by morning. And…now I’m too awake to settle.

And if I don’t have enough to keep me awake, there will always be insect bites. I have been a walking snack bar for insects ever since I can remember, and have managed about 100 bites in the space of a two week holiday in the past. Insect repellent is smelly, sticky, and not always effective. But if I don’t use it when abroad, all the itchiness and scratching make me look and feel like I’m experiencing a flea infestation.

Then there’s the topical issue of not touching your face and eyes too much right now. As someone with chronically dry eyes (yes, that is an actual diagnosis I have had) and hayfever, not touching my eyes has been impossible. Unless someone invents a cone collar for humans, I am going to have to keep myself dosed up on eyedrops and antihistamines. And even then, I can’t make any promises.

And finally, hair. Dark hair soaks up heat. Thick hair traps heat. If your hair is as thick and dark as mine, you might as well be wearing a permanently heated woolly hat. Tying it up lets my neck feel the breeze. But then I will inevitably be aware of the hair elastic pulling and hair clips pinching until I take it down again.

So to combat the disappointment of days getting shorter and weather getting bleaker, I comfort myself with the anticipation of comfortable sleeping and less itching. Because each season has its pros and cons, and we might as well take them as they come!

My recent endeavors: Aspie Cat, National Autistic Society interview, and the Thoughty Auti podcast

Over the past few months, I have taken my autism themed work beyond my blog, and I thought I would share my experiences with my latest endeavors on here. Starting with:

Aspie Cat

I have often compared my autistic struggles with certain cat traits. Things like touch sensitivity, stereotypes about being unfeeling, etc. Then last summer, the idea suddenly came to me: why not portray this in a series of comic style drawings? I drafted a cover page during autumn, and started drawing in earnest in November. Before I knew it, these cartoon shorts became part of a story. Which I am hoping to turn into a graphic novel.

As a child, I loved making up animal stories and spending hours drawing them. You could say I’ve fallen back on an old hobby. The scenes I portray are based on real life issues that I want people to understand better. At the same time, I like to inject a bit of humour into them, because there are some situations you have to laugh at.

National Autistic Society interview

Over the years, my family and I have been following the National Autistic Society. A few months ago, my stepdad contacted them to promote my blog. Long story short, he put them in touch with me, and in February I was interviewed via email for Stories from the Spectrum!

Stories from the Spectrum is a section on the NAS website that features interviews with autistic people from all walks of life. I’m pretty sure that had it been a face-to-face interview, my brain would have frozen and I would have forgotten every relevant part of my life story. As it was, I spent over an hour rapidly handwriting notes until my hand ached. Four journal pages and a long email later, I was satisfied.

The publication date in April initially seemed like ages away. Given that the pandemic, lockdown, and my hasty move back into my parents’ house happened shortly afterwards, in hindsight it felt like another lifetime away. But hey, I’m proud to have made it on there! I talked about my childhood, my experiences at church, and the assumptions I have dealt with about my race and my autism. Go to the link below and have a read!

Meanwhile, if you want to learn more about real life autistic experiences, then browsing through other interviews is a must!

My interview: https://www.autism.org.uk/about/stories/grace-liu.aspx

Thoughty Auti podcast

And finally, I had the honour of featuring on the Thoughty Auti podcast. It is a podcast that covers topics relating to autism and mental health, and is run by Thomas Henley, YouTuber at Aspergers Growth. And my episode was released yesterday!

Back in May, we planned to talk about the impact of early life changes (e.g. moving countries) and my struggles with being biracial and autistic. At first I was so nervous I was digging my nails into my arms without noticing, but Thomas was super easy to talk to, and we actually had a fair few laughs! I did have a classic autistic moment at the end where he said goodbye to the audience and I had no idea he was expecting me to do the same, but that got removed.

So if you want to know about racist schoolboys, being outnumbered by white neurotypicals, and how Thomas and I went off on a tangent about cheese, here it is (you can also find it on YouTube and Apple):

NB: to anyone who’s listened to it, I didn’t think to ask Mum if I’ve ever counted as an immigrant until too late (I haven’t).

Oversharing: the autistic way

When I interact with new people, nine times out of ten, my natural inclination is to metaphorically hold my cards close to my chest. I’ll be polite. Sometimes conversational. On a good day I might even put them at ease with my sense of humour. I might just take a while to really feel comfortable with them.

Occasionally, however, I’ll meet someone who I connect with quickly and naturally, and suddenly I’m at risk of talking too much if I’m not careful. I’ll be rambling about the good and bad things in my life, what sort of day/week I’m having, whatever entertaining anecdote I can think of etc., feeling pretty good. And then my anxiety will resurface and leave me thinking: why did I talk so much?! What the HECK did I just say?!

Some autistic people have been known to be prone to oversharing. Sometimes known as info dumping. That is, talking for way too long and/or in too much detail. Which sounds ironic when you think about how one of the main struggles of autism is social interaction. But because we struggle with social etiquette, we are caught between that need for emotional intimacy and not knowing how to achieve it. So we either clam up and look antisocial, or boycott all the bog standard small talk and rattle off everything we are thinking or feeling.

Or we might talk at length about our special interests. It’s our way of trying to connect with people. We’d far rather talk about something close to our hearts than make aimless chit-chat. I think I’m less prone to that than I used to be. When I was a child, I considered my encyclopaedic knowledge of cat breeds to be a core part of my identity. What was so weird about giving a 1< hour lecture on the subject to everyone I met?

It gets awkward when it comes to sharing more private things. My mum was persistent in getting it into my head that it’s ok to talk about such things discreetly with close female friends, but not loudly, publicly, or to boys. Which is a principle I’m thankful for. Without it, I would have spent my teenage and uni years baffled by how some girls talked loudly about periods, toilet details, or sex in a room full of people, while others avoided such topics like the plague.

What I’m less clear on is how much I’m expected to say when someone I don’t know closely asks how I am. Saying “fine thanks” might sound boring or antisocial if the other person wants a proper conversation. And if I’m not fine, I’m not good at lying, even if I don’t feel like talking about it. But then I’ve embarrassed myself in the past by talking about something specific that was bothering me, only to realise afterwards that it was more than the other person was expecting. I might be my own worst critic, but I sometimes feel like I can’t win!

So to anyone who has been subjected to autistic oversharing, please bear with us! We are trying to connect in the way we know best. If you need to change or end the conversation, a firm but gentle pointer will go much further than unspoken expectations.

Autistic meltdowns vs shutdowns

A few years ago, I wrote about autistic meltdowns. Back then, I just thought the word “meltdown” was a catch-all term for any behavioural signs of mental, emotional, or sensory overload. But meltdowns are typically characterised by physical and emotional outbursts and an obvious struggle to deal with one’s immediate situation. And very often I find it hard to express when I’m feeling overwhelmed, because it’s just not in my nature to openly explode.

My main lockdown project comprises writing a non-fiction book about autism, something I have had very little time for in a normal working life. This has required a lot of research, and in reading about the ins and outs of autistic meltdowns, I stumbled across a related, but less commonly used term: autistic shutdown.

Shutdowns and meltdowns are two sides of the same coin. They are both primitive coping mechanisms for dealing with a crisis. The difference is how they present themselves. Someone having a meltdown might lash out. They might shout or scream. They might display repetitive behaviours. A shutdown, on the other hand, is usually far less obvious.

When I have a shutdown, my brain and emotions have reached breaking point. For me, it means being desperate to hide from the outside world. It means being too bewildered and unfocused to function. It might mean having to leave the room because I can’t handle the situation. It might mean crying because of some small trigger that has unleashed festering negativity (though I hate crying in front of people, and will either fight the urge or shut myself away if possible first). Most of all, it means being stuck in a daze with my mind in turmoil and my social skills gone.

But because my instinct is to internalise and withdraw, I can’t always communicate my struggles. So to other people, I might just seem really flustered. I might be uncharacteristically irritable. I might be even more socially awkward than usual. I might come across as confused, or even downright stupid. I might seem moody and anti-social. Or I might be keeping quiet and looking like nothing’s wrong.

As with meltdowns, no two autistic people will experience shutdowns in the same way. Or in the same situations. Airports and the London Underground network always leave me exhausted. When the stresses of 3rd year uni assessments reached a boiling point, with deadlines looming and my coursemates hating each other, I had to shut myself in the bathroom at one point when it got too much. My graduation day was so draining, my mum had to find an empty room for me to just sit quietly. And now we’ve all had to say an unceremonious goodbye to life as we know it, while learning some uncomfortable truths about how the world works. Which makes this a fitting time to be talking about crisis coping mechanisms.

To conclude, I will re-iterate what I said in my meltdowns post about managing these situations. Be aware of what a shutdown means for you, and what might trigger one. When anticipating a high-stress situation, learn what to expect from it, and plan where, when, and how you can recharge. Stick with someone who understands you, and if no-one does, explain to them what you might struggle with while you still feel able. Because you deserve to be heard.