Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl

It’s 10:46pm on Tuesday 26th July 2016 and I’m in my last few hours of being 17 years old. I’ve recently gotten home from swimming with my sister and her friend, and we swam just about 50 laps in 45 minutes – a record for me. I’m trying to get that 18 year old’s body that’s all the rage… I thought I’d take this time to reflect on my last moments of official childhood. That’s a good thought – when does childhood end? I guess when it’s midnight and I’m deemed officially an adult all across England, which is crazy because I won’t be any different to how I was a few days ago when I was 17.

I’ve learnt a lot in my past almost 18 years. I can’t recite it all now, but can you blame me? I’ve just swam 50 laps, I’m knackered. My brother and I were reflecting on primary school life a few days ago, and how much simpler things were when we were 7. Sure, I didn’t know a heck of a lot, but I did know that I enjoyed playing with a dolls house, writing stories, reading and playing with my friends. I didn’t know that I was different to anyone else which I don’t know if that was a good or bad thing, but probably good that I was oblivious. I didn’t want to know about anything. It’s crazy that I can remember things from 10 years ago like they happened yesterday. It’s kind of scary.

I don’t want to become an adult. I know that I’m still at the beginning of my life, and this is basically the beginning of me being independent, and I don’t feel old, but I also don’t feel quite ready. I mean, yes I am ready to get out there and go to uni, but if I had the chance to go back to the early 2000s, I think I’d take it. But probably only if I could return again too… I’m not sure what this reflection is supposed to be – I was planning to look back at some things from my life but when I try to come up with things on the spot I just don’t know what to talk about. I guess I’m just a little scared of getting that little bit older, because this is a big deal for me. I’m going to be 18 and sometimes I do get anxious if I’m away from my mum, but I’m also ready to deal with that and go and start living my life. I have plans that I’m not going to give up.

I remember when I was 8 and my best friend said that she’d heard on the news that the world would end in 10 years because of global warming… the world hasn’t ended, but then again, 2016 hasn’t been the greatest year so far with ISIS, Donald Trump and Brexit. I swear Pokemon Go has been the only good thing to come out of this year… something that 8 year old me would have absolutely loved.

This blog post is basically a ramble for me to remember my last moments of official childhood and then I can look back at it in 10 years and laugh, or probably cringe. I don’t even need something to remember me from when I was 17 because I’ve got plenty of other blog posts. My two previous blog posts are probably a more accurate representation of me when I was 17. I think this is more of just a countdown until I turn 18, which is in 31 minutes. I was just thinking of deleting all of what I just posted, but then I thought, no. It’s my thought process, it’s a bunch of random stuff but this is just how I am at 17, almost 18 years old.. And I’m going to turn this into a letter to my 27 year old self, who’s going to turn 28.

Dear 27, almost 28 year old me…
I hope that you’re doing well. I hope that you’re alive. Oh I really hope that you’re alive. I hope that you’re not still ruminating on what happens once you die, and the fact that everyone is going to die, and the fact that because you can’t process that then you’ve made yourself half believe that none of this is even real anyway. I hope you’ve gotten some help for that, it would probably be a good thing.

Did you get into uni? Was Hertfordshire your first choice in the end, or was it Bath Spa like you loved since you were 15? Did you study Philosophy and Creative Writing? How difficult was it? Did you study abroad for a year like you really wanted to, or did Brexit/money/your anxiety become a problem? I hope that you’ve managed to calm down your anxiety and that you can handle your Asperger’s. I’m just about getting the hang of handling my Asperger’s. I don’t really think about the fact that I’ve got it now. Yeah, it controls every aspect of my life but working on not making it an excuse for everything has helped me to just sort of get on with life.

Have you published a book yet? Or have you got your own movie or TV show out? I suppose that you probably haven’t since you’re only 27 and that’s still relatively young, but keep working on it if you haven’t. And if you have I bet that you can’t even believe that it’s your life. Am I being really naive here in thinking that you have a job in screenwriting at all? It’s the only thing I’m good at right now – I’m not cut out for a shop job. I’m volunteering at the library over this summer so that I can add it to a uni application, but other than that I’m not really good at anything but writing.

Are you still fascinated by space, ancient Egypt and dinosaurs? Did you ever get that hieroglyphic tattoo that you wanted? I got money from dad for my birthday so it’s kind of tempting to go out and get it done just to see how I react to tattoos before I get the watercolour flower that our niece drew. She’ll be 13 as you’re reading this won’t she? That’s crazy. She’ll be almost all grown up. She’ll think that she’ll be grown up but she won’t really be grown up, she’s 13! Right now she’s so cute and innocent and loves everything. She’s so happy and I hope she stays that way. I’ve just realised it’ll be 2026 when you’re reading this. That kind of freaks me out because it seems like the future! Even though I bet nothing would have changed, it’s just so weird. What number iPhone are they on now? Has Nintendo brought out any new consoles? Please don’t tell me a celebrity that I love has died. Our dog would have died by then too… I hope he didn’t suffer. He’s 11 right now so I’m kind of expecting it to happen when I’m in uni at some point. I don’t really want to think about it though.

Once I’ve finished writing this I’m going to watch a YouTube video showing me proof of evolution that I can find on my body. I hope that your curiosity about weird little things like this never stops. I hope that you’ve got your own house and filled it with bookshelves and little knickknacks of animals that our brother is probably complaining about, and I hope that you have lots of flowers and candles and artwork. Is the MCU still going by the way? What phase are they on?

Okay, I’m asking a lot of questions and I know that I get overwhelmed when people ask me a lot of questions so I’m assuming you still do. I’m going to end this here, because it’s kind of blowing my mind that I’m getting older and yet I’m still so young. It’s blowing my mind having memories from 14 years ago that I can seem to remember as clear as day, so I bet it’s blowing your mind if you even remember writing this blog post.

Sincerely,
17, almost 18 year old me.

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Midnight Hours

The hours after midnight are my favourite. When the lampposts turn off simultaneously with people’s kitchens and living rooms, but never bathrooms. The world around me is asleep, and this is when I am most awake. Time slows down and speeds up. There is no pressure to do anything between the hours of midnight and 4am, it’s just me, looking out on the world through my bedroom window. Both fearless and terrified.

Sometimes I put my head out my bedroom window as far as I can and look down, just for the hell of it. I like to think and I don’t like to think about how this is my life and my home, and other people have got their own lives and their own homes. Or how they might not do. They have their own thoughts, and opinions, and hobbies, and repressed memories, and goals, and achievements, and fears. I’m fearless because nothing is stopping me from jumping out my window except the doubt in my mind reminding me of what would happen if I did. Night air cleanses my lungs and my worries and it eases me. I’m terrified because it reminds me amidst all the chaos that is a human life that there is a universe out there that doesn’t care. We don’t need to care about any of the crazy domestic worries that we have created for ourselves, we’re just specs in the universe, and none of what we have created matters. So what’s the point?

And I’m here, on this Earth, drinking in everything that I see whether I like it or not. When bad things happen I remind myself that they’re not real and when good things happen I remind myself that I’m not alone in the universe that is so not real that it somehow is real. I tell myself that all the good things in the universe, the things that separate me from reality, are real. I don’t know why I stay up until past midnight to think about these things. I think about them in the daytime too, but, surprisingly, they’re just a lot more coherent thoughts in the night – maybe it’s because I get time to think about it since the world has been put on hold. But I probably shouldn’t be staying up until silly hours because I used to do this for a good few years and it was pretty difficult to eventually go to sleep at 10 and wake up at 8. Old habits die hard, right?

Maybe I’m just going a bit mad, especially at night. But that’s okay, it’s both thrilling and scary. But maybe that’s life.

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This Side of Paradise

TW: Thoughts of existentialism, life and death.

I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. Probably more than what is considered “normal” or “healthy”. I should probably go and see someone, but the last time I went to the GP about my anxiety, I was referred to a group which was no help whatsoever. So here I am, thinking about death. Well, more specifically, the fact that I am alive, existing right now, at midnight on Monday 18th July 2016, writing this blog post topless with Hayley Kiyoko blasting through my headphones (don’t judge me, I don’t control the muse) and won’t be in 100 years. I’m not even kidding, when I’m on my deathbed I will probably be having a panic attack because I’ll be dying, and just because I’ll probably be the only one dying and all the attention will be on me. I’ll probably have a panic attack at my own funeral by the looks of it too. Anyway, my point is that I most likely won’t be alive in 100 years, so I’m pretty bummed out about that and refuse to accept the fact that I won’t see the future.

I try and occupy my mind with everything that I can do to stop thinking about this, because it is Not Fun. When I was 14 I was simultaneously petrified and fearless of death. I got over this by having a counsellor explain to me that if I live until I’m 80, I’m still at the very beginning of my life. And then last year my dumb brain came to the realisation that I could die tomorrow and everything would just carry on. That’s probably what terrifies me the most, that once I die everything will just carry on and I won’t be there to witness it. That will probably give me a panic attack in my grave. I’m scared about the idea that I just won’t be here, and I know I shouldn’t be because when I’m dead I’m dead I literally will not care. But that’s also scary.

I’ve been dealing with this by convincing myself that nothing is real. Yep. I learnt about solipsism in a philosophy class in school a few years ago – not the best thing to teach a teenager having an existential crisis. The only thing that I know to be real is my own thoughts, and for all I know everything else could just be made up by my subconscious. I choose to believe this because I don’t like the thought that there’s things that have happened in the world before I was born, and it also eases the fact that I won’t be alive to see other parts of history in the making. It kind of relaxes me to think that when I die everything will just stop. Because they will… for me at least. If I can’t exist, no one and nothing else can. Should I thank Descartes for putting all these thoughts in my head? Don’t worry, I know they’re kind of crazy and irrational… (Or are they?)

I haven’t blogged a lot recently. At the end of May I finished my first year of college which I will write about separately (spoiler alert: I got a distinction!!!!!) – it was a whirlwind of stress that I don’t care to repeat but I have to if I want to go to uni and study my crazy and way too self-aware thoughts in detail. Bring on the 3 year existential crisis. I am ready. I just haven’t been in the right head space to blog. I say that, but I’ve been doing a lot of fictional writing to project my thoughts into that instead, because I’m better at writing through someone than just writing about myself like this. This is weird, no one cares about me that much to read all of these blog entries. And if you do, why? No, seriously, why? I need some validation.

It’s now half past 1 in the morning so I should probably sleep. I woke up at 1pm yesterday for the first time in like a year so my sleeping pattern is pretty disorientated. Plus if I don’t sleep now I can guarantee that I will stay up for another 2 hours researching particular philosophical phrases on Wikipedia. Now I’ve just got to figure out what I’m going to categorise this post as.

Cogito ergo sum.

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Pulse

I have no words to describe how numb I feel over the Orlando gay club shooting. My first thought was actually “shit, that could have been me”. I don’t know how it could have been me, I live in England where guns are illegal and everyone around me is accepting of my sexuality. But if I come across the wrong person, come out to someone who has an issue with it, I’m putting myself in danger. This is the reality of anyone who is a part of the LGBT community.

The people in Pulse nightclub shouldn’t have had to go through what they did, because from what I’ve heard Pulse was a safe place for members of the LGBT community to go and meet others who are like them, perhaps to help them not feel as alone as the world can seem when you are in the community or to just have a good night in a safe, loving environment where you can be yourself. I mean, no one from our community should have to be victims of homophobia, biphobia or transphobia, but especially not in a place that allows us to be free of it when we still live in such a disgusting world.

It angers me how people are so quick to say that it ultimately doesn’t matter what these people’s sexualities are, no human should be murdered. The people who say this are a part of the problem and are erasing the identities of the innocent people who were victims of a hate crime. This was a gay club and the man who committed the crime, Omar Mateen, acted on his homophobia. We cannot forget the fact that America’s biggest shooting happened on a Latin night in a gay club.

Why are there still guns allowed in the US? I can’t get my head around the fact that from what I am aware of, President Obama hasn’t seemed to do anything to get gun control enforced, despite the fact that if he was not a member of the government he would be in just as much danger because of police brutality than any other black man in America.

The community that I am a part of has shown me countless times that we are strong and we will stand up for what we believe in. It has shown me this through people standing up against the bathroom bill, through the Lexa Pledge in trying to annihilate the bury your gays TV trope and it has shown me that despite what has happened over the last few days, love wins.

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Little H (Hyperactivity & Impulsivity)

In the summer of 2009, when I had just turned 11 years old, I thought it was a brilliant idea to climb up on the side of an underpass and stand on the edge. I was pretty high up, with the only thing separating me and the road being a rail, and nothing stopping me from falling off the extremely small foot space that I had to stand on. I was right in the middle of it and jumped on the spot, pretending to jump off of it for a video that my friend and I decided to film for her a YouTube video we thought would be funny to make. I didn’t fall, of course. But I had virtually no sense of danger. I knew to look when I cross the road and to not take sweets off of strangers (which I still done when I was about 8 or 9 because I didn’t know how to say no to him), but other than that I was pretty much go, go, go with anything.

I was an impulsive and hyperactive child. I was always distracting and had outbursts of random annoying child behaviour, such as making weird noises and pretending to punch things. In hindsight, I’m really surprised that my primary school didn’t diagnose me with ADD because there was already a boy with it in my class and he and I weren’t that different. Now I’m older, my ADD has mostly subdued into daydreams and fidgeting, rather than hyperactivity. If I was diagnosed in my childhood, I’m pretty sure that I would have been diagnosed with ADHD rather than ADD, but because now I can just about manage my hyperactiveness to make it show itself in subtle things like leg shaking and I tend to daydream and lack concentration and organisational skills, I was diagnosed without the H. I still get the odd days when it will come out and show itself in its true form, and this is usually in a classroom environment. With the hyperactivity comes the impulsivity, and this now shows itself mostly in the form of talking. I agree to do things on impulse because I think it’s a good idea and don’t think it through, usually when I’m having a good day social energy-wise. But a lot of the time it will come out in the form of me buying things. I try to save my money for university which I hope to go to next year, but if you put Amazon in front of me, I will search for everything I want, and everything I want I think I need. So I buy it. I spent almost all my savings on the original Sims game expansion packs. Why? I don’t know, but I do know that I barely ever play the original Sims anymore. I don’t even have a laptop where it works, but I liked the idea of having the collection so I done it. Or I’ll do things like getting piercings or dyeing my hair. I’ve had my nose pierced twice – the 1st time was in November 2014 and my friend was going to get hers done and I was with her so I thought “why not” and got mine done. I was sort of considering it anyway. Then I had to take it out for my job in a supermarket last summer, but I missed it and when I quit the job I got it back again.

ADD can hinder a lot of things in my life. Sometimes I have a good day and got a lot of things done with good focus, but if I’m having a bad day, nothing can be done about it. I have to wait for it to pass, I will have no concentration and sometimes a lot of energy that has to come out in either the form of leg shaking, singing, making noises or going for a walk (which is usually the best option). I am unmedicated though, and chose to be because the kind of creative path that I want to follow – ADD allows my mind to wander easily which can have its perks. It also allows me to be able to have intense focus on things that I enjoy, such as writing.

I like to think of my ADD as ADHD but with a little H, like the little 2 in H2O. It may be a little, but it’s still there.

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Autism in the NT School

Has anyone stopped to think about how damaging the NT education system is to autistic people? More specifically “high functioning” autistic people. 

When it was first suspected that I have ADHD and Asperger’s when I was 13, the learning support at my secondary school was all ears about how they could help me, and allowed me to use things to fiddle and doodle with to help me focus and do well in a classroom environment. That changed when I got my diagnosis roughly 7 months later at the beginning of GCSEs. All of a sudden teachers seemed to forget that I had needs that had to be accommodated to and instead I was a burden to their classroom. I was always told I was disruptive but this was like a whole other level of being clearly hated by my teachers.

The school system began to move too fast for me and I struggled incredibly with my GCSEs. I got mainly C grades which, although I know is a pass, the school system plants it into your brain that you’re failure if you get a C or below. Everybody deems you a failure, and everybody laughs. This is so true even to the extent of when I went into my local comic book shop with my friends at the time when I had recently gotten my GCSE results, the man at the till asked us what we got, and whilst my friends were proudly listing off the A*’s, A’s and B’s, I was embarrassingly listing off my C’s, D’s and E’s and was dubbed “the numpty of the group” by the man. You can imagine the awkward laughter.

I knew I was good at things. I was good at philosophy and English especially but didn’t get to prove this through a letter on a piece of paper that remains shunned away on the shelf above my desk. During a meeting with a speech therapist to get my diagnosis of autism, she told my mum that I would most likely need extra time in exams. Which I did – I can’t time keep at all and just don’t know how long to spend on questions as well as it taking long for it to process in my brain. But I wasn’t allowed this extra time by my school, just a prompter who was ridiculously annoying. If you’re unsure what a promoter does, they basically just prompt you to get back to your exam if it seemed like to you were getting distracted. Not helpful when I’m trying to think.

Anyway, I’m writing this blog post now because I’m nearing the end of my first year of college. And I hate it. I simply need more time. My life right now is stress and meltdown and stress and meltdown. I have 3 weeks left to create a short film, but for some reason my concentration is gone. Just like that. Perfect concentration pretty much through the whole year, a lot of enthusiasm, and now it’s gone. But if I try and explain this to college or try to ask for more time, I know they won’t understand. And I believe simply that it is because I am not autistic enough. Yes, I am autistic, I have a lot of struggles that only those that I live with mainly get the joy of helping me deal with them. I’m very good at covering these traits up when out and about, and especially in college. If there was an Academy Award in “masking” as I like to call it, I’d win. Because I don’t present as autistic, no one seems to understand that I have these struggles that need to be dealt with. I was actually told that people like me get no help in 6th form/level 3 college courses. That’s ridiculous. Is there something in people’s brains that tells them that after the age of 16 people’s problems just go away if they are more “high functioning”? If anything they just get worse because everything starts to move too fast and stresses me out to all degrees. Right now I actually feel physically sick because I’m so stressed. 

Sometimes I wish the severity of my autism was worse so that I don’t have to put up with living in the NT world the way I do. Or maybe people could validate my autism and accommodate my needs. That would be cool too.

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The Anxiety Workshop

A couple of months ago I went to my local GP because of my frequent unpredictable and quite severe mood swings and anxiety surrounding unrealistic scary things that I think could happen to my family. The referred me to a local mental health service that done a kind of counselling session with me to work out what help I needed. I mentioned the anxiety surrounding unrealistic scary things, and we went into a fair bit of detail, and was offered support out of 3 options: CBT (but be put on a waiting list), an anxiety workshop/lecture, or over the phone sessions. I have anxiety when speaking on the phone and didn’t want to be put on a waiting list so I chose the workshop and the first session was last night.

It was the most boring thing I’ve ever been to. 2 hours of sitting in an uncomfortable chair (5:30pm-7:30pm, during my dinner time) is not good for someone with ADD and very bad joints. They basically rambled on about what anxiety and depression are, saying things that I already know about the physical signs of it (they seemed to talk about this more than how anxiety and depression actually makes a person feel) and what you can do to try and reduce anxiety and depression, such as having a balanced diet (which I have), exercising (which I do) and having a healthy sleep pattern (which I do). I knew that I didn’t want to go to it and that it would be pointless, but I realised this as soon as I walked in and had to fill out a questionnaire of how I’ve been feeling for the past 2 weeks. You know, one of those ones where it’s like “I have been uninterested in things that usually enjoy me” and then you tick whether you haven’t felt that at all for the past 2 weeks, you have on some days, you have half the days or you have every day. This is so they can monitor your progress throughout the workshops to see if it’s helped you, and then once the workshops are over (after 5 weeks) they give you a call to see if you need anymore help. But the thing that bugged me about the questionnaire was that my mood has fluctuated so much within the last 2 weeks that it’s impossible for me to actually work out. My mood works in cycles – for about a week I’ll be really depressed, sometimes for no reason, or sometimes something would have brought it on, but there’s really no need for it to last a week. I’ll not want to go to school, I won’t want to talk to anyone, I won’t really find any interest in things that I am usually interested in. Then the next week I’ll be so happy, excited and confident in everything that I want to achieve throughout my life. This sometimes leads to impulsive decisions such as buying an £80 skateboard or getting my nose pierced. I love these moods, I feel like I can achieve anything. But I dread when I can feel the mood beginning to shift over the weekend into that week long depression. So I guess the mood swings are a little stable in that they seem to have a pattern, but it still bothers me. I ended up barely filling out the questionnaire and my mum had to write a little note at the top saying that my mood swings are so bad that I cannot tell how I feel for so long. Yeah sure there’s a little structure to my mood swings, but there are still in between stages usually where the happy and sad stages coexist. This is the scariest and most confusing.

I was a little surprised to see that I was the youngest person in the room though. There were some young people there, but they were probably in their early 20s, whereas I’m only 17. Most of the people must have been in their 30s and 40s, but there was an elderly couple there that I was the most surprised about. I know old people suffer from depression for all kinds of reasons, just as people my age do, but this old lady was so anxious that she brought her husband along. I just didn’t know old people try and get the same help that people my age do and go along to anxiety workshops. I guess that’s another one of my ignorances tackled.

A lot of the workshop was audience participation (ironic, I know). There was no pressure to shout out how anxiety can make someone feel or how depression can affect someone’s eating habits. It was more like a lecture with the lecturers writing down lists consisting of what the audience had said. I doubt that this workshop helped anyone in that room if I’m honest. I’m only 17 and I knew everything that they spoke about, so everyone else must have known too, unless it was the first time they were experiencing a mental health issue.

I probably won’t go back to the next session as they stated that they were trying to focus on ways to reduce anxiety rather than cope with it. They did say that there would be no way to make it completely go away though, how reassuring. But anxiety for me is never going to be reduced. I have autism, high anxiety is part of the package. Plus I already know how to deal with a lot of that anxiety. I either go out and face what’s causing the anxiety, or I stay by myself doing something that I know is safe, like watching a film in my room. I like it, it works for me. I don’t need to go out and meet a friend when I’m feeling anxious – other people are half of the reason why I’m anxious all the time. Again, I have autism. If I do go back to the next session, it’ll be just to double check that I know it’s definitely not for me. I just don’t know how I’m going to be able to sit still for another 2 hours.

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