Spoon Theory

So, it’s been a couple of months since I went back to work and, I’ll be honest, it’s a struggle. I’m definitely in the ‘not waving but drowning’ phase.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the work. It’s frustrating and bitty and annoying, but it feels so good to be using my brain again. I feel like a part of the world; I feel useful.

But, oh my days, am I out of spoons. If ever I wanted to explain spoon theory, now’s the time. So, here goes.

Spoon theory was coined by Christine Miserandinoas a way to describe units of mental or physical energy. For Christine, who had lupus, it was physical energy, but I have always heard it in context of mental energy associated with neurodivergence. And that’s what I’ll describe here. This is purely from my own experience of my neurodivergent family.

When I say that a spoon is a unit of physical or mental energy, I mean it’s what’s required to do those tasks that aren’t done automatically. You probably don’t need a spoon to go for a wee, unless of course you do. It’s hard to define because it’s different for everyone. I see it as any task that needs that extra push. Think of it like a car using fuel – you use more at 20mph than you do idling, and you use a lot more at 80mph. But it varies by car. And some cars have bigger fuel tanks. 

Each of my family members has an invisible illness – anxiety, ADHD, ASD, depression. They’re not all diagnosed, but they’re all there, especially for me. My job for the last decade or so has been to dish out spoons to keep the family functioning. When the children were little, it wasn’t so obvious that that was what I was doing. Nurturing, providing for their needs, is natural when they’re five. It isn’t until they’re ten or more and you’re still doing it that you realise there might be something more.

Let’s take a normal school day morning. My son can get up without prompting, he makes his own breakfast. But there it gets tricky. He needs reminding to get dressed on time, he needs a nudge to brush his teeth. He needs help finding the right clothes for whether it’s PE or not, or if I haven’t put the laundry away. He’ll need to be told to pack his homework – several times – and to fill his water bottle. I’ll pack his lunch and make sure his shoes are clean and where he can find them. We’ll find his coat and make sure he has his phone. Now, let’s list that:

  • Find right clothes
  • Get dressed
  • Brush teeth
  • Pack homework
  • Fill water bottle
  • Get lunch
  • Find shoes
  • Find coat
  • Find phone 
  • Track the time

These are all tasks that require a bit of extra mental energy to make sure they happen, especially to make sure they happen in time to leave the house at 8.15am. So, each one of these is a spoon. Ten spoons, and we haven’t even started the day.

Then I make sure my daughter is awake, is mentally able to go to school, has breakfast if she wants it (three spoons), I make sure my husband has eaten breakfast, because he won’t without a nudge, and then his day is harder (spoon). Then I need to make sure I’m fed, dressed, brushed my teeth, fed the dogs, fed the hamster, walked the dogs, (six spoons) maybe put the dishwasher on because none of us managed it the night before. Sign my daughter’s diary, or check school emails, maybe it’s World Book Day or my daughter needs a new notebook or can’t find a glue stick. All spoons.

Before I went back to work, that would be it for the morning, more or less. After the school run (which my husband now does, so that’s a couple of spoons gone for him), I would have until 3pm to get my mind straight. Catch up on tasks that hadn’t been done. Rest. Do something creative. Often sleep. Basically, top up my dopamine levels (ADHD), although I didn’t realise that’s what I was doing.

Then I would do the afternoon school run (also now my husband’s responsibility), which would require working out where my son wanted picking up from. Then home. To another few hours of dishing out spoons. Different meals for each neurodivergent person. Different after school activities. Mental exhaustion to soothe from the three who had been out in the world. More dog feeding and walking, more chores. Asleep by 9pm at the latest. 

And now? Now I do most of that still, but between 9am and 5pm I have a job. A complex one, with lots of stakeholders, lots of deadlines and remembering things and keeping track of things. I have three different to-do lists on my desk. And still, I carry a lot around in my head, to make sure I don’t miss anything important. So. Many. Spoons. And because I need extra support to make sure I remember all the steps in a process, I have process-mapped a lot of my tasks. I had a call from the Project team yesterday, saying my process maps were great, and could I add them as a project. It’s easy, here are a couple of forms. Another task, another stakeholder. More spoons.

There’s this view that I’m organised. It makes me laugh. I’ve heard it before, and I used to let people believe it, and then work oh so hard to keep up the pretence. I’m not organised. I have ADHD. My brain is like someone emptied out the scrabble bag and now I’m trying to read it like a book. I have process maps and to-do lists and printed out plans because I’m NOT organised. It’s scaffolding. The same scaffolding that I put around my children so that they can seem ‘fine’ in school (hint: they’re not). I’m lucky that I work somewhere that I can say ‘I have ADHD’ and their response is ‘how can I help?’ Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to that question.

The scary part? I’m only doing about half of the work I will need to be doing in a few months. If I’m still there in a few months. I am so tired. I’m asleep by 7pm. But it’s not restful sleep, because my braining is still trying to create order out of the chaos. I’m eating non-stop, constantly searching for dopamine because I’m too tired to exercise. And exercise takes spoons to start, even if it replenishes once it’s done.

This is not a whinge. I am so lucky. My husband and children have really stepped up to fill the gaps in what I used to be able to do. But I’m tired of eating takeaway. I’m tired of an even more chaotic house. I’m tired of once more having a constantly full laundry basket and a constantly messy kitchen. 

I used to wonder if there was something wrong with me, that I couldn’t work and run a house. I didn’t have the skills, maybe, or I was lazy, or I just needed to try harder, or make my family do more, or hire a cleaner. (We’ve been through three cleaners. Too many spoons.)

It turns out there is something, not wrong, but different about me. And now I must decide what’s more important – having a job, an identity, a chance to use my skills, feeling alive and part of the world, but having my home life a stressful chaotic mess. Or having enough spoons to have a happy home, but not use my brain. It appears I may not be able to do both.

Music and Meditation

By 8am this morning I had cleaned the kitchen, searched out some knitting patterns, researched three potential new career ideas, and made breakfast. My brain was like scrambled egg. I don’t know if it’s new extra self-awareness, or the menopause, or a lack of exercise, but these days I feel like a toad in a blender (Cubs song lyric).

I try to meditate. It’s hard. Deep breathing exercises make me panic and forget how to breathe at all. I used to hyperventilate during antenatal classes when they did breathing exercises, even though I found concentrating on my breathing really powerful during labour. Similarly if I approach anything like an out of body sensation, which does occasionally happen when I meditate, it completely freaks me out. But meditation is meant to be good for things like ADHD so I persist. I guess you have to develop your own style.

I had a mini breakthrough today. I really like metaphors to help me grasp concepts. This morning I imagined my brain was a pond that I was chucking stone after stone into, until it was muddy and turbulent. That helped me imagine that I needed to let the pond water become still, so I could throw in one pebble at a time and actually see the effect of the ripples. As an image it really worked, especially because I find water very relaxing. I used to sit up to my chin in my mum’s pool and let the water go mirror smooth before swimming slowly through.

I’ve missed the pool this year, after it was damaged in a garage fire. Being in water allows me to be restless in a restful way. In the summer, I spent an hour every morning in the hot tub, just feeling the water on my skin and letting my brain wander. With no dogs chucking tennis balls at me, which was an added bonus. If only it wasn’t so expensive to run, I’d have it up all year round.

Having the right music to meditate to is important for me as well. A lot of tracks that are called ‘calming’ on streaming sites like Spotify actually make me very agitated. I need music that is not too tinkly or repetitive. I also need to make sure the music is completely familiar, to the point where I don’t actually hear it but it is still filling up the gaps in my brain.

In fact, I use Spotify playlists a lot to help me structure my day. I have a playlist for doing physio exercises (when I actually do them) and a playlist for cleaning the kitchen. I also have a playlist that I have on constantly, especially at night, which acts like white noise. The only time I enjoy silence is when out walking. I guess all the sensations of weather and nature keep me distracted.

I saw a meme once that said fidget toys keep the cat in the mind busy so it doesn’t push your executive functioning off the table. Music and water stop my cat lashing out and scratching everyone.

Most of the time.

Where’s the Conductor?

So, I’m pretty certain I have ADHD. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before, and if I go off to look, I’ll forget what I’m doing and the idea I’ve had for this post will vanish. Although the forgetfulness might be peri-menopausal, so there’s that too. Or it could be depression. Aint it grand to be alive?

Anyway, I started investigating when I suspected my children of being neuro-divergent. Ironically, thanks to a call to my GP, it appears I might get an assessment before they do, which is just wrong. But the broken NHS, broken mental health systems, broken school system, broken government, they’re all distractions, other posts I won’t write here. But they lead me nicely into what I wanted to write about.

There are lots of ADHD Facebook pages, YouTube Channels, memes. Too many, in a way, as I feel I shouldn’t be adding to that noise, especially as an undiagnosed person. Still. The pages are wonderful, nevertheless. Helpful, supportive, affirming. I’m not lazy, I’m not crazy, I’m not broken or stupid or worthless. I’m just (potentially) wired differently. (I feel like a journalist writing ‘allegedly’ when it was quite clear who the murderer was, but there you go.)

However, enlightening as they are, the various analogies weren’t working for me. Yes, my head feels like a washing machine on spin; yes I’m exhausted; yes I’m out of spoons (a wonderful phrase to describe the depletion caused by neurodiversity), but none helped me explain me to my husband, or gave me a way to help myself or my daughter. After all, if you switch the washing machine off mid-spin, you just get a soggy mess and your clothes are trapped.

The analogy I’ve come up with to describe the feeling is that of an orchestra. I played in the orchestra at school, it was quite a big part of my life then. I was fortunate to have hobbies that kept the manic cats in my head occupied. I wish my daughter did. So, an orchestra is a useful metaphor. Sometimes, the orchestra is tuning up. It’s just noise. A cacophony of nonsense that I block my ears from and run away. Sleep is my friend.

Then, at other times, the different instruments all start playing. This is most common at 5 a.m. They’re playing, but they’re all playing something different. The lead violinist is nailing the twiddly section that opens the second movement of Vivaldi’s Winter, whilst the violinist in the next chair is playing Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee, which is basically a musical panic attack. The cellist is lost in the dramatic opening to Elgar’s concerto in E Minor; it’s so beautiful that I want to listen all day. But the guy on the timpani is crashing out the first bars of Fanfare for the Common Man like he’s auditioning for the ghost scene in Moana. Briefly the brass section joins in, and it sounds like Star Trek, which takes my mind off on a tangent, thinking about why the red shirts didn’t see danger coming. They all pause to listen to the clarinet playing Mozart, and then they’re off again with their solos. Together. Loudly. Each trying to be heard over everyone else.

And it isn’t just noise. I sit in the audience and listen to each beautiful musician and each is worthy of attention. I sit and think, oh I’ll listen to the Four Seasons today, or I haven’t heard Jacqueline du Pre’s rendition of Elgar for ages, or what is it the viola is playing, I must look that up. I might even settle on one thing to do with my day, but by the time I’ve got up, fed kids, made lunches, done the school run, walked the dogs and stacked the dishwasher, I’ve forgotten. Or I realise that I should, metaphorically, be practicing scales, and that’s boring, so I do nothing.

Every. Single. Day.

I’m a crafter, so the house is full of half-finished knitting or crochet or painting or drawing or watercolours. I’m supposed to be doing physio for a bad back so I can start running again. The house is a crazy mess in constant state of flux. I have EHA meetings with the school about the children’s issues, and I want to solve my daughter’s loneliness. I need to lose weight, and eat well, and fix my brain and calm my hormones. It’s suddenly so damn hot, do I have Covid or a hot flush? I need to find a job or a way to earn money, since I quit my invigilator job because the training was so awful. The dog is scratching her ear again and probably should go back to the vet. The car insurance is due. The fridge is empty. The ironing basket is over-flowing. The floors are crusty and there’s dog hair in the bath. The lawn needs mowing if it ever dries out, and I must pick up the dog shit and clean out the hamster. And feed the locusts to feed the gecko. And find the lost shin pad and make sure the football kit is clean. Find the old milk glass stinking up the boy’s bedroom and read the book the girl is studying so I can understand her homework. Oh, look, it’s time for the school run again and all I did was play Alphabetty or sleep. I’ll try again tomorrow.

It’s exhausting. ADHD may be about hyperactivity, but when it’s brain activity, it is draining. Running and karate helped because they created energy and gave focus and a moment of calm. I haven’t done either for a year and it’s awful. But physio exercises? Something boring and difficult that I have to do every day? Not a chance. I need an app to remind me to brush my teeth and then it’s once a day at best. Don’t even ask me how many times I’ve lost my car keys in public. I terrified a woman in the Co-op yesterday because I rang my Tile (best. gift. ever) and the keys were below her till.

Where is the upside? Because there is an upside to (possibly having) ADHD. Occasionally a conductor shows up. Sometimes he’s called ‘Crisis’ or she’s called ‘Urgent Deadline’ or maybe ‘Hyperfocus’ makes an appearance. They tap their baton, clear their throat, and all those little thoughts hush and pay attention. Suddenly there’s a purpose, someone is in charge. The conductor says, ‘Today we’re playing Paint the Kitchen before the Parents come to tea.’ The lead violinist opens with, I’ve got a plan, and the second violinist joins in with make a list. Then the brass section weave in, move the furniture, take down the paintings, don’t forget to put something in the slow cooker for dinner. The percussionist taps out cut in the ceiling, roller the walls, walk the dogs, repeat. And before you know it, it’s all come together into something beautiful, something that can move mountains. Or paint a whole kitchen in two days.

But, I tell you what, those players are EXHAUSTED at the end. They’ve given everything to stay in sync. The conductor disappears off, possibly before the piece is actually finished and, in the audience, I sob at the beauty of it, knowing I won’t see the like for a long time. We all sleep for a week. And then, slowly, one by one, the players start practicing their solos and we’re back at the beginning.

And I’m left, trying to sort my Copland from my Smetana and wandering off on a tangent wondering what happened to my awesome music teacher, and wishing we’d done musical theatre in our GCSE like they do today. And did you see Strictly on Saturday? That Paso?


Not Fine In School

Twas the night before school, and all through the place

Neither child was sleeping, both anxious, awake.

New shoes and school bags sit neat on the floor

In hopes that they’ll make it outside the front door.

The children are restless, jumping up from their beds

At spiders, and itches, and pains in their heads.

And Mamma holds on to her patience with care,

As sounds of dad’s snoring rip through the air.

The two dogs are eager to gambol and play

Convinced by the children that it’s actually day.

Warm milk is offered, spiders are sought.

Calm words are murmured from one equally fraught.

Morning will come, our safe summer gone.

Back now to school, where it all feels so wrong.

Snuggle down, babies, and lie here with mum.

Only six long more years until we are done.

Not Waving, Still Drowning

Note: this post was from a few months ago but hadn’t published. I think it’s still relevant so have hit Publish.

I’ve been thinking about the phrase ‘not waving but drowning’ recently, realising that so many of the funny posts shared on social media at the moment are really a frantic wave.

Then I recalled the course on water safety I did as part of homeschooling my son last year, particularly the fact that drowning is actually a swift, silent killer. The drowning person is too busy using their arms to stay above water to be able to wave. Too busy struggling for breath to shout for help. Before anyone notices, they slide beneath the surface and are gone.

We learned, too, that walkers and runners are most at risk of drowning in the UK. Not the surfers and swimmers who might be prepared for danger and equipped to deal with it, but people going about their day, not considered by themselves or others to be at risk.

So, my message is, watch your loved ones. Be a lifeguard. As someone who knows all the signs of slowly slipping beneath the surface, and is still desperately looking around for a lifeboat right now, I assure you, people you know are struggling to breathe. Maybe even people like me, who ‘have it easy’; who aren’t trying to hold down a job and teach five kids and care for aged parents, but are still wondering how to get the next breath.

We worry about out kids’ mental health right now, but their minds are elastic, they will bounce back. An adult who already found life hard might not be so lucky. Check on your friends and loved ones, make sure they’re not too exhausted to wave or shout for help.

Finding Your Tribe

I’m ready to start writing again. Or trying to, at least. The last two years of Covid Crazy have been more than tough, particularly on my children. We’re all discovering neurodiversity we didn’t realise we had (ADHD for me) and time away from systems (like school and karate) have shown how broken and toxic those places can be.

I’ve had to accept that my full-time job is filling in the gaps for the family between who they are and who society thinks they should be. That actually involves taking a lot of naps to restore depleted spoons (that’s another post if you haven’t heard the term).

But I want to write. Reading has kept me going all my life, but never more so than now. I’ve been trying to think what to write about that’s authenticity me, though. I can’t write about ADHD – I’m not diagnosed, and I’m only just understanding what it means. Besides, I like Middle Grade magical fiction.

So, I’ve tried to understand the common theme across the wide range of books I do (and, more importantly, don’t) read. Then it came to me as I swam in the hot tub this morning (which is possible, as long as you don’t mind not getting anywhere!) The books I love are always optimistic, at least in the end. And they’re all about finding your tribe. The wizards, the people in Nevermoor, the elves of the Lost Cities. Finding people who understand your weirdness and explain why you didn’t fit in where you were before. A sense of belonging.

It turns out I’ve spent my life reading about neurodivergent people without ever realising it. Even a book called Divergent didn’t give a hint. All the stories I’ve written have been about not fitting in, in a way that can’t be fixed by taking a bath and learning to relax (the advice my ADHD daughter keeps getting from Counsellors).

So, that’s my genre. And it is a genre. Finding Your Tribe. That’s the easy bit. Now I just have to sit down and write. I should probably get out the hot tub…


81598009_3296375277044185_5649797549654016000_nNew Year’s Greetings to you all. I won’t say Happy New Year, because I find it often isn’t. This year is probably the worst for most of us. A new decade, Australia is burning and Trump is trying to start World War III. The parallels to the 1920s don’t really bear thinking about. So, for the most part, I’m trying not to. I will donate to the wildlife charities, sign the ‘no war’ petitions, and keep my fingers crossed. What else can we do?

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do resolutions, certainly not New Year’s Resolutions. This picture from my favourite Facebook blog, Hurrah for Gin, sums it up perfectly. New Year’s Resolutions suggest that the old you wasn’t up to scratch. While that may be true, it’s not good for your mental health to reinvent yourself because some magazine or TV show told you to, and certainly not because of a date in the calendar. Don’t even get me started on Dry January (but visit Hurrah for Gin to see my opinion!) However, I have resolved to try and write more this year.

I miss writing. I have started several books since I finished my last, adult, novel. All with little success. The children fill my head in a way now that they never did when they were little. Their schedules; their worries; my worries about them; trying to work out what rules to implement; it’s all mentally exhausting. And my job is filled with words too, so when I’m still, my head is empty. When I was invigilating, I had time and my head was full of ideas, but they were gone when I stopped. Now when I stop there’s nothing.

But writing, like any hobby, takes practice. I haven’t been blogging because I feel like I’ve said it all before. I guess when you’ve written more than 750 posts over seven years, you become aware of repeating yourself. I forget that many people reading my blog now don’t go back and read all the old stuff. And anyway, according to my kids, I repeat myself all the time! So my non-resolution but sort of suggestion to myself is to blog more. Hopefully if I get back into the habit of writing, and just letting the words flow without over-analysing them, I will be able to do the same with fiction.

I wanted to enter the Times Chicken House Children’s Fiction competition this year, as I generally do. But nothing I’ve written has ever even been long-listed. I read a lot of books published by Chicken House, and they are always my favourites. When I told my daughter that I didn’t have a chance of winning she said, ‘Write a better book.’ Kids, eh? But unfortunately I seem to have taken the words into my head. Every time I start, I want to come up with a prize-winning idea. Something dazzling. Something even my children might read. That is not the way to start writing a novel. I believe it was Ernest Hemingway who said, ‘The first draft of anything is shit’. The point is you can’t edit a blank page, but these days I get too bogged down in the world building, or the research, or the opening page to get to grips with a gripping story.

I can’t tell you how many books I’ve bought on Japanese culture (I want to write a book about karate) or Greek Gods (I wanted to write a book about wind gods, because of my son’s phobia, until I read the awesome Who Let the Gods Out series). I haven’t read any of them. It’s like I think I’ll absorb the information through osmosis. Or, by having the books, I’m one step closer to writing that masterpiece. The problem is, research leads me into academia and, as my History Professor told me when he handed back my First Class Dissertation, my academic writing is, quote, ‘Rather dull.’ Hmmm.

Besides, that level of detail isn’t really necessary. You need good world building – I’ve read a series with my son about a world of witches, and the world building is fun, but there are no boys. It drives my son nuts. Not because it’s sexist (although that too) but ‘how do they have babies?’ Good point. So, some world building is necessary. But so many brilliant books I’ve read don’t go too far into the ‘how’. Even Moon Pony manages to have a magical horse without going too much into where he comes from.

So, more writing, less thinking, if that’s possible. Sorry. It means more rambling blog posts from me, as I try to find my writing flow again. You don’t have to read them! My irresolute resolution doesn’t need to be yours.

Oh, and I’m going to pass my black belt this year, but that’s another conversation all together.



I finally broke today. Again. There’s a lot of breaking at the moment, with a hormonal tween in the house and short days and a constant to-do list I’ll never get to the end of.

Mostly, though, what’s destroying me is guilt.

Guilt that I’m using plastic, guilt that I have enough to eat when so very many people don’t. Guilt that I get free healthcare, when people where my sister lives go bankrupt for having a baby. Guilt when I throw food away, guilt for not buying organic. Guilt for flying. Guilt for shopping in a supermarket and not buying local. Guilt for eating meat. Guilt for not making the kids eat vegetables. Guilt that the kids are always unhappy. Guilt that I have zero sex-drive. Guilt that the dogs haven’t been out because I can’t stand one more muddy bath. Guilt that the house is a shit-heap and I’m in bed playing Alphabetty.

Guilt that the kids don’t want anything for Christmas because they basically get whatever they want all the time. Guilt that I’m too tired to put them to bed and instead let them fall asleep watching YouTube. Guilt I don’t get outside more or take the kids to the park. Guilt that I haven’t put the lights up because I have zero Christmas spirit. Guilt that I’m sick of school and homework and yet dread them being home for the holidays. Guilt at the sheer waste of the gifts I’ve bought and the modern-day slaves in China that made it for peanuts and who live terrible lives. Guilt I didn’t buy the school photos, or get to the kids’ assembly. Guilt that I watch TV when I should be working and spend more than I earn.

Guilt that the planet is going to hell in a handcart and I’ve turned my heating up to 20C and loaded the tumble dryer. Guilt that I haven’t planted enough trees or joined Extinction Rebellion or been on a protest march. Guilt that I’m voting tactically in the next election because another day of the poverty caused by the current government makes my heart weep, but really I want to vote Green and save the world, not just the people in my country.

Mostly just guilt that I’m not doing enough, recycling enough, reusing enough, saving enough, being enough.

I’m working as a transcriber for a charity at the moment, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), focusing very heavily on the climate crisis and the importance of eating less and better meat. It’s very rewarding work, but listening to days and days of audio about the climate crisis is not helping. Then I hang out on Facebook, the only place I have friends, and am bombarded with food banks and politics and say no to plastic. So I turn off the gadgets and stare at my house, full of needless crap I’m too exhausted to sell and too guilty to chuck, and the only thing left is sleep. Until the dogs wake me up, wanting a walk, and it starts all over again.

I’d love to end this diatribe with something cheerful. The CEO of CIWF always ends his interviews with, ‘What gives you hope?’

Right now? Not a lot.


Let’s talk about things …

I’ve been absent for a long time, as parenting tweens slowly destroys my sanity and patience. This post from my lovely fellow writer MTN struck a chord today, so I wanted to share it with anyone still hanging around to see if I make it back to writermummy from the land of just ‘mum’.

M T McGuire Authorholic

Wow, I have a whole gamut of stuff washing around to talk about this week. I’m not sure if I’ll get through it all or do it justice but off we go.

First of all, last week, you’ll have noticed there was a break in transmission. Yep. No blog post. I meant to do one but then it was time for the Christmas Fayre I was getting all my shizz ready and … er hem … I forgot.

In my defence, my father’s memorial service took it out of me. It was wonderful but blimey I was knackered afterwards. Lots of emotional stamina required. Which reminds me, I should write and thank a lot of people. Yet more stuff to add to the gargantuan, War And Peace-length list of Shit MTM Hasn’t Done. Gulp.

The fayre was kind of a mix. It was the first time in a new venue…

View original post 2,150 more words

Checking In

It’s been a while since my last post. It feels like forty years. Given the nature of Invisible Illness, I thought I’d better check in and say I’m still here, just about.

You see, after my last post, a follower and friend messaged me to ask if I’d ever considered I might be autistic. Strangely enough, about a year ago another friend shared this image on Facebook on autism in girls, and I commented how that was me as a child. But I couldn’t go 42 years without knowing something like that about myself, surely?

Erm, yes. Turns out I could. I’m still awaiting an official diagnosis (not a priority for the NHS) but my GP concurs that I show all the traits of high-functioning autism, what once would have been called Aspergers.

It was like being given glasses for the first time, or maybe a tiny bit like finding out you’re adopted. Suddenly life made sense. Turns out 42 is the answer to life, if not the universe and everything.

I’ve spent the last six weeks reading everything I can and replaying my life through this new filter. Exhausting but incredibly enlightening. All the parts of me, of my life, that I thought were broken were actually a result of me being ‘neuro-divergent’. The phrase ‘normal, not normal’ springs to mind. Mostly, for the first time in forever I don’t feel alone. (Go on, who now has a Frozen song playing in their head)

There’s a whole post to write on female autism and why it goes unrecognised. A second on high-functioning autism and why that’s a misnomer. A third on realising other family members also show traits, and the stress that’s put on our family unit, while at the same time bringing hope. Another on having a (suspected) autistic child and helping the world understand them without making them a victim.

I don’t have the energy to write any of them right now. If you’ve ever had therapy, or even a soul-bearing heart-to-heart, you’ll know how draining that is. Re-playing my whole life, all the complicated lonely anxious mess of it, and picking out new patterns has left me with an exhaustion I haven’t felt since having two babies under 2. (And realising some of those horror years of acrimonious self-doubt might have been avoided if I’d realised two out of the three of us were not neuro-typical is heartbreaking).

Anyway, it’s all good. It can only get better. We can only get stronger. There might not be a lot of NHS support, but there is plenty from friends living the same life.

And it turns out that most of the girl protagonists in my children’s books could be considered on the spectrum, so I can thank them for helping me make sense of my differences, even if I didn’t know it at the time.

More than anything, I am grateful beyond words to the very good friend who messaged with her suspicions about my place on the spectrum. There is a strong chance she literally saved my life.