Happy birthday to me | Hux Tales

This week was my birthday.

Not my real birthday as in the day I emerged into the world, twenty three days late and pretty mardy about it; that’s back in September.

But this day is my real birthday in another way. On Monday was one year since I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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I’m sure it probably seems weird to celebrate a diagnosis, but hear me out.

I have spent my whole life knowing I was different, but not being able to put my finger on it. There were certainly parts of my personality and interests that were different from many of the other kids – nerdy, book obsessed, awkward, not remotely interested in fashion – and a regular target for bullying. I managed to get through school and university by surrounding myself with like-interested people, good kind people who didn’t mind that I was a bit odd, or even better, cherished it.

It wasn’t until I was 27 that a friend of mine was diagnosed with Asperger’s that I started realising this was probably the missing keystone. This friend and I have long joked that actually we must have the same genetics, as we both have non-epileptic seizures, wonky joints, an insensitivity to gluten, anxiety in all the same places… and it was only when I looked into Asperger’s* that I realised it was me.

That realisation was really freeing. I had a name for my differences, for how I saw the world, how I experienced it. And I immediately stopped beating myself up about it. Once I got the final stamp of approval pictured at the top, the last vestiges of attempting to remodel myself as a neurotypical person flew out the window. I’m autistic, I’m different, and that’s actually really cool.

I also looked extremely cute this week tbh

It is not a panacea, of course. Being autistic isn’t all super awesome, as it comes along with a bunch of comorbid conditions, both mental and physical health. I still have the hang ups, the trauma, but I genuinely care less.

I used to celebrate November because (and this is going to sound weird) it was when my seizures came back after my last trip to the Philippines. This marked a seriously dark time in my life where I realised I had to give up diving, but being the person I am, I refused to let myself slip into that place, got a job at a marine focused charity in London and carved out a new life. That is what I used to celebrate, the refusal to let my body get the best of me, remembering that each change to my life is an opportunity for something new.

I’ve now switched it over to my Autism Diagnosis, but essentially the reasoning is the same. I found something new out about myself. My life changed. But I still have control of it. It is still very much my life and I’m in the immensely privileged position to be able to live as I do.

What has changed in the last year?

I got Nerys! She’s my little daemon and also my emotional support dog. In the UK, this type of service dog has no legal recognition but they are a big deal in America, so I hope one day in the future they’ll be recognised. Basically, she goes everywhere with me, she helps me feel less anxious, she reminds me to look after myself by looking after her too. She’s helped me knock a big chunk of my anxiety about going outside out of the park (not literally) and means I go outside much more.

At 5 weeks old on the day we met and at 9 months old

I stopped being a booksellerMy health was making working in a bookshop very difficult and so it became unsustainable to continue working such a physically demanding job. I miss aspects of it every single day, which is why my social media has become so book intense.

I came out as nonbinary! This is something I have sort of known about myself forever, living in the space of not-girl and not-boy, but only having the word “tomboy” to describe it. In terms of the “I always knew” narratives of LGTBQ lives, while I didn’t know I was queer for a very long time, I have had what I now recognise as gender dysphoria for much of my life. But, it wasn’t until I started reading about autism, and how many of us are trans, the intersection of those two identities, that I realised that I was two for two.

I’ve been out-ish to some people in the past few years as I felt it out (admittedly, mostly only to other non binary people and Tim), but this year I started using the phrase more, talking about it more, told my sister and my parents. I’ve been thinking a lot about pronouns, and whether I ever want to masculinise my appearance to be a bit more in line with how I see myself. At the moment, I’m sticking as I am, feeling out my happiness in open about it. I’m considering buying a binder, though I’ve found that throwing out some clothes that would trigger my dysphoria has really helped. For now, sports bras do the trick and aren’t incredibly uncomfortable to wear.

I moved in with my inlaws! Tim and I realised that our rental situation was financially precarious and moved to the West London suburbs to live with his parents. We are incredibly lucky to be able to do this, and they’ve been really caring and kind to us. We both miss our old flat a lot, but I was waking up overstimulated every single day due three building sites semi adjacent to our building. It was the right decision, not least because now I get to see fields from my window.

I helped start a independent publishing press! Literally I’m never going to stop mentioning 3 of Cups Press, go admire our website and preorder our first book On Anxiety which publishes in January!! We are launching our second book on Kickstarter in early 2018 and submissions for our future books shortly after that, so follow us on Twitter, sign up for our newsletter and get ready for a 2018 of amazing new authors. I’ve got a bundle of other creative things that I can’t announce right now so I’m positively vibrating with secrets.

Writing it down… wow. A lot has happened. And you know what? I feel great about it. I’m feeling pretty proud of myself lately, so I say happy birthday to me.

 

* A little aside: in the UK, people who fit the Asperger’s criteria are now more likely to get an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis, but my report made it clear that I also fit the Asperger’s profile. Asperger’s has been integrated into ASD along with a couple of other conditions.

Got any questions? Ask them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them there or in a larger Q&A type post.

To All the Weird Jobs I’ve Done Before | Hux Tales

I have realised, my dear friends, that on this blog I have a habit of not oversharing. Which is weird, because I’m a habitual oversharer in real life. Being autistic is not great for understanding social niceties and so I am extremely likely to tell you too much. Though to be honest with you, I think that’s partly who i am as a person.

Anyway, it’s weird for me and I have a bundle of book posts in drafts as I’m trying to move my habit of 5 books on X topic over from YouTube to here. In order to fill the time, I asked on Twitter which of a few more personal posts people wanted to read and a story-time about my weird career path was the winner.

I haven’t always been a book person. I say book person, because I have several bookish hats – blogger, publicity and editorial at 3 of Cups Press, and also a writer, working on my first novel (aren’t we all?) As a child, I took refuge in our local library down the road and our tiny little former classroom library that I was in charge of – a fairly poor attempt at keeping me vaguely interested in primary school, as we had nothing that resembled a gifted and talented programme.

But somewhere along the road, books and I went our separate ways. Growing up in a working class area meant that I literally didn’t know that people could work in books, thinking that accessing that particular sector was only possible through some ceremony equivalent to deification. I can think of a particular moment in time that solidified this – as a teenager something incredibly traumatic happened to me that I then tried to work out through thinly veiled fiction on the internet that was discovered and I was forced to destroy. This is why getting back into writing has been such a slog, though this is a story for another time.

And so began my life of weird jobs that eventually brought me back to working in books after some pretty weird diversions. Here’s a few of them.

1. Measuring snails… yes seriously

My love of books has always been rivalled by my love of the natural world, and habitual reading of Lucy Daniels had set me on being a veterinary surgeon, though trickaloo turns out you have to do a lot of work experience before you can start a degree, and as someone working at least 16 hours a week alongside school that was not going to happen. So, I decided that I’d study Zoology, picking the University of Liverpool as my future home, where I specialised in marine biology. Fast forward a few years, and your boi was a research diver.

In between my degrees I lived on an island in Honduras helping re-set up a conservation association that had regained its funding, while learning to dive, which I carried on doing in the Philippines the following summer, where I studied the dive industry, monitored coral, and saw a lot of cute sharks.

My experience in the Philippines then landed me an amazing, once in a lifetime job travelling around the centre of the country over four months studying aquatic snails. I’m being 100% serious here, that’s what I was doing.

Why were you doing this?, you ask. We were looking into how damaged coral reefs affected mollusc populations, both snails and beautiful bright coloured sea slugs called nudibranchs. This meant I got to dive in some of the most pristine reefs in the Philippines… and some of the worst I’ve ever seen. I mean you could barely call some of them a reef anymore, as they had been so degraded by dynamite fishing in particular. It was the most immense, wonderful and tough time of my life and I do not regret a minute of it.

2. Being put in charge of teenagers’ futures

Okay, I wasn’t ~in charge~ thank goodness, but I have had a number of slightly odd jobs in schools. When I was studying in Liverpool, I began working with AimHigher who were a wonderful and extremely important group that helped students from underprivileged backgrounds think about their future careers and access university if they want to. However, due to desperate need at a school in Birkenhead, I became a regular teaching assistant for GCSE Maths, top and bottom set only. I carried on working for them when I moved to York, where I ended up teaching debate skills to a cohort of year 8 students in a middle school in Northallerton. Both of these times worked out well because the kids were generally pretty well behaved, and any time they were talking out of turn about Call of Duty, I’d slide in and correct their incorrect opinions about which was best in the series then tell them to be quiet. They’d be so baffled that a girl who was also kind of a teacher knew things about games that they would actually get back to work.

3. Now, if you’d like to apply this vibrator to your nose

For a short time, I worked for Ann Summers as a party planner. Generally, I do not recommend working for multi-level marketing companies, but on this occasion it did genuinely work out pretty well for me, as I had a regular group of students who’d organise free parties with me every time loans came through. It was a pretty great job – I’d turn up at someone’s dilapidated and damp Smithdown road house, be handed several glasses of wine and proceed to tell my willing audience about sex toys, with a little bit of sex ed thrown in for good measure. We’d all get fairly drunk, they’d fill out their order forms, and a week later everyone would show up to meet me at the student union to pick up their order of fairly made vibrators and poorly made underwear.

After this, I made some more traditional ventures into sales by working for Gamestation, which then became Game, and Waterstones.

So what now? Do you even work?

Well, now I don’t work. Or rather, I don’t work in a way that looks like work to many people, no 9-5 in sight and a lot of it from bed. When I worked it was a vicious cycle – I’d have a few seizures, I’d be put on “sick leave watch”, my mental health would plummet and take all my other health problems down with it. My quality of life ended up being really quite terrible, never seeing my friends and falling asleep the minute I got through the door. It was no life for me, or Tim, who as my carer had to support me through all those ups and downs.

My prerogative is 3 of Cups Press, eventually finishing my first novel and living a good life with Tim and my dog, Nerys, but I also have all these ridiculous memories I can look back upon, and many more to make.

Got any questions for me? I’m going to start doing more Q&A bloggy posts on here, so ask them in the comments and I’ll get round to them! 

3 of Cups Press, or how to avoid writing your book by setting up a publishing press

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I’ve been talking a lot about 3 of Cups Press, and asking people to pitch me pieces.

This is because, somehow, myself and the most wonderful comrades have set up an independent publishing press. That’s right. After saying I was going to focus on my book and get into Write Now Live, I’ve completely gone against that plan and set up something very exciting and off plan. But there we go.

I’m really lucky to be part of such a wonderful team and have such amazing artists send us pieces to include in the first book, which will be launching on Kickstarter VERY SOON. Our ethos is all about uplifting marginalised voices, and giving artists platform to share their stories, through our anthologies and individual books as well.

So please, check out our lovely website and sign up to our mailing list on the Contact page and even follow us on Twitter. We’re creating something magical and I want you to be a part of it.

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I’m Finally Doing It (and like 3 other projects, stop me)

Since Nerys came, things have been a little less regular on the blog and especially my YouTube where dust bunnies are gathering in the corners. Being a puppy mom takes up a lot of time, as you’d expect, and my plans for some articles and videos are sitting on the side lines.

And they’re getting sidelined even more because of a couple of things. The one I’m going to tell you about is….. *deep breath* I’m going to enter Write Now Live.

Write Now Live is a scheme by Penguin Random House specifically for BAME, LGBTQ+ and disabled authors, whereby ten are chosen to be mentored with the intention of PRH publishing their book.

Now, I’m fully expecting not to get to the final 10. I’d like to get to the big day in London, but I’m using the deadlines for WNL as deadlines to get my book done. This last week I’ve done 3 days in a row of 3 hours a day of solid editing and rewriting. While not much, this is a lot more than I have been doing in the last few months, so I’m counting it as a win. I’ve currently got 30,000 words drafted of manuscript, expecting to edit, chop and add stuff into this to bring it up to ~45000, or half way through the first book… because I’m writing a trilogy.

So yeah, things are going to be quiet on here for the next month potentially, but I’m hoping that needing distractions from my own terrible writing will drive me to book reviewing. I have a stack of 10-12 that need addressing already.

So yeh, wish me luck guys. I don’t think WNL are looking for gay fantasy YA right now, but I’m serving it them anyway.

Sorry I’ve been away; there’s been a lot of puppy poop

Hello chums,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? It’s been rather quiet over here because, in case you don’t have me on any of your social media, I got a puppy this month!

“Her name is Nerys, she’s a Border Terrier and she’s 12 weeks old.” I’ve gotten used to repeating this script over and over this week as walking with her in arms anywhere means a lot of people come over to coo at her.

This is a big deal as I’ve wanted a dog for years to be my pal and help keep me company through seizures and meltdowns, and it’s happened! We’ve had a good fortnight of bonding and now I have to get up and do some work, while also keeping one eye open to spot for rogue indoor wees.

I’ve managed to finish a few things recently so the blog will be getting updated fairly regularly this week, and I’m also still backdating reviews from various online retailers onto here, because I’d never kept them all in one space… like some kind of silly person.

Anyway here she is.

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More soon. x

A new chapter

Those close to me will know that the last few years have been rather choppy for me. I’ve done a lot of finding myself, and realising things I hid inside me, understanding that things that happened to me have shaped me in more ways than I realised. My mental health has declined and improved and settled into a steady sort of motion with the help of modern medicine – thanks NHS!

In the last few months I felt a rumbling, that bubbling feeling inside yourself when you know change is coming. Your inner air pressure changes, you can feel it in your waters.

It started really with trying to kiss the pavement. Not in a literal sense, mind you. I was leaving my flat to go speak at a conference in Grimsby and instead my brain decided enough was enough, and cut out suddenly. I woke up in my partners’ arms on the pavement, with our Nepalese security guards crowding around me, and a man in a fedora slowly backing up his car to ask if we were okay. Some Jack Russell dogs came to investigate the situation further. We got up, realised I’d hit my head, and took an exciting trip in the ambulance to A&E, to be signed off from working life for a few weeks – again, thanks NHS, really.

I spent a couple of weeks in hazy (if a little frustrated) bliss. I was unable to do most of the things that life requires of me, namely work. I couldn’t really look at a computer screen, which meant little writing as well, other than some half thoughts scribbled down in a notebook. My mental health suddenly felt so good. Darling friends were worried about me, and I was too of course, but I assured them that I was feeling really well.

That’s when I realised that, yes, something needed to stop. And it wasn’t me, and it wasn’t my precious minimal social life. It was my job.

For a little context, I was a research diver a few years ago, travelling the Philippines and measuring sea snails to work out if marine protected areas influenced them at all. I was planning to do a PhD on a local lobster fishery. Then my seizures, which I thought I’d nailed a few years ago, came back in full force and so that life-plan went out the window – turns out brains prone to short circuiting and being 30m underwater tends not to be a match made in heaven. So as I got better I decided to give science another shot, having just studied for a BSc and a masters and feeling some element of postgraduate guilt. I moved to London and took a number of jobs over the last 3 years in the realm of digital communications, and I was beginning to realise that maybe this wasn’t a career that worked for me.

A few months ago, after conversations with a dear friend of mine, I realised that I have a lot of autistic traits and a lovely psychologist is currently deciding if I have Asperger’s or not (my money is on yes, but we will see in the next month, place your bets). Realising that you’ve potentially been trying to live your life in a neurotypical world when you are anything but is a biggie. I’ve been trying to force myself into this mould of what I think I need to do and the right way of doing things for the last 27 years, though I suppose you could arguably discount the first one when I was mostly just pooping.

On a Saturday morning in late September, swirling my teaspoon in my coffee, I told Tim I was going to leave my job. There were some tears from me, but he understood and has wholeheartedly supported me in this endeavour. Our sets of parents and siblings have also taken to the news well. I told my boss and she was sad but also pleased for me. In fact, everyone I told has thought it was a good idea, which assured me that yes, it probably was.

And here we are. I have a few days left in my job. I have picked up a bookseller job on weekends at Waterstones – my childhood dream job. I have signed up for NaNoWriMo because a story has been drifting around in my head for months, and at midnight a few days ago the plot and the characters suddenly burst into being and I had to write everything down as quick as I could. I’m going to go volunteer at a community gardens, and feel soil between my fingers. I’m hoping that I will be able to write more on here, as well as on NaNoWriMo and in notebooks.

The point is I chose this. I chose this future of uncertainty for myself, rather than continuing to battle through another. It is very empowering to stand up for yourself, and I think this is the first time I’ve ever done that. I’m impulsive and have picked up and moved across the country and the world for adventure, but my new adventure – without being too fucking trite – is here, its me.

Rewriting memories

Every year, June is a difficult month. I’m not particularly sure how this has come about, but every year I find that the sixth month of the year brings with it emotional challenges I have to face head on. And it’s not only me; I have a few friends who also seem to have a bundle badness along with the start of summer.

This year, it has been returning to my hometown in Wales. My beloved uncle Quentin passed away some weeks ago, and this last week I went home for the funeral. He was a true eccentric; a man who wore monogrammed clothing, a man who had a bowtie for every occasion and then some. He would tell me stories of adventures on the Queen Elizabeth 2 or, as I got older, stories of his naughty escapades as a rep. He would insist that “standards are not being maintained” if something wasn’t quite right, and would refer to my sister and myself as his “professional nieces”. She and I told the congregation of the funeral all these stories, as we celebrated his life while all wearing one of his signature bow ties. It felt right to celebrate him; he was not a person for sadness – he brought joy and silliness to all occasions throughout my life.

Going home for a funeral is hard, but as the time to leave drew closer, I realised how afraid I was. I had built up my homeland as a place where terrible things happened to me. I mean, they did happen but so did many good things. I had lost sight of those. But this trip was about good memories and it was about making new good memories.

Once we arrived in my village, I took my boyfriend and my sister’s dog out for a walk to my favourite spot, overlooking our valley, breathing in the sea-salt-tainted air. It felt good to be here. I started to remember how much I liked wandering off alone, a habit that got squashed by the combination of depression and London. He and I also walked along the beachfront, and my small family drove to my favourite riverside walk in North Wales. Revisiting these places with a new me who felt much more whole made a huge difference. I could appreciate them. I could feel happiness to be in these physical places again, and happiness in reliving good memories.

My favourite spot in the whole world. If anyone can guess it I will be very impressed.

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A perfect place to sit.

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It’s an odd thing to realise that you’ve been frightened of a past long gone being embodied by a whole half a country. But I suppose that’s the thought process I’ve been occupied with. I feel like this journey home helped me let go of some of that fear. I feel lighter now that I’m not holding onto that painful fright, which weighed me down and kept me away.

I will go back again soon.