Where I’ve Been

A selfie of Morgan, resting xir face on xir hand and looking into the camera with a neutral, if exasperated, expression. Morgan is a white nonbinary person with a blueish fringe and multiple piercings, the uniform of mental illness

Content warning: This post alludes to the general misery of mental illness, as well as suicidal ideation and self-harm. Give it a miss if you need to – you matter more than my analytics! 


So, I accidentally became a company director.

When I say this, people ask, “How do you accidentally become a company director?” Their confusion is understandable, but honestly, I’ve been in a haze of mental illness for such a long time that most of what I do feels accidental. Like, oh, look at that, I wrote a press release. Oops, I tripped and fell and submitted a PhD funding application. Oh, fuck, it looks like I’ve submitted coursework for my MA. 

But also: oh, fuck, I accidentally didn’t speak to my girlfriend for literal weeks. Oh, look at that, I forgot to eat today. Oops, I don’t have enough of my meds to get me through the weekend. And, of course, ah, shit, I forgot to be a sex blogger for a month or two. 

This post is two things. It’s an explanation as to why I’ve been away from my blog for a hot minute, and a celebration of all the insane things I’ve been up to during said hot minute.

We’ll start with the company director thing. My mum is my co-director, and initially, I was sort of a placeholder company director, a name to write on the paperwork until we got someone else on board. But, you know, it’s a community interest company, and it’s one I believe in very strongly. So, slowly and accidentally, I’ve started actually doing things as a company director. I made us Ko-Fi and Patreon pages. I put together the Facebook fundraiser for this weekend, when my mum will be shaving her head. I wrote a press release and contacted local news outlets to ask where I should send it. You know, real casual-like. 

Christmas makes my brain very weird, so I didn’t celebrate it. I hung wallpaper instead, mostly on my own. My mum acted as a second pair of hands on occasion, but I get weird when I’m doing DIY, so upon my request she mostly entertained the dog and stayed well out of my way. This was also the case when I replaced the toilet seat after losing my battle with the original broken one. And when I unblocked the outdoor drain. And when I rearranged the furniture.

I realised halfway through this whole process that I was using it as self-harm, what with my dodgy joints and all, but at that point it felt too late to stop. I carried on twisting my hips, pulling my ribs out and climbing ladders in my flip-flops, and only noticed bruises and scrapes hours or days after they’d occurred. The haze of mental illness hung heavy around me, so my memories of that whole process are blurred.

I did all of this stuff with deadlines looming in the distance. Four deadlines, to be precise, which required me to write a cumulative total of 11,000 words. The problem was, it was enough of a challenge to be in my mum’s house, where a lot of my trauma happened, without hurting myself any more than I already was. And my focus can never stay on anything at my mum’s house, because I’m waiting for the next Traumatic Thing to happen. So I didn’t touch my coursework.

And then I did, all at once. On Sunday/Monday, I stayed up for 37 hours (with a 90 minute nap in the middle) to write the 8,000-odd words I still had left to write. I had an energy drink at 11pm. I had a shower at 5am. I picked at the recent self-harm wounds on my arms and I cried about statistics. But I submitted the bastards, all four of them, and we’ll see soon enough whether they were actually coherent enough for me to secure a pass. 

I still went to my Monday afternoon seminar, too. I could have skived, what with the exhaustion and the mental illness and it being the first week of term and all, but it was the module I’m the most excited about, taught by an academic I really want to impress. So I turned up, and I babbled near-incomprehensibly about gender and bees, and then I stumbled back to my Daddy’s house. And I accidentally reminded myself why I liked to pull all-nighters all the time in high school: because exhaustion numbs everything, like a nip of booze does, and makes the world easier to cope with, and because I got so much done overnight. I would like to forget this information again, because I used to spend a lot of my time drunk on exhaustion, and I’m sure it wasn’t good for me. 

All of this is to say that I’ve been in a blurry, often-dark place lately. I have had moments of frantically Googling “how to drown yourself”, and moments of dizzying triumph and relief. I can barely recall any of it. I feel like it goes without saying that I haven’t been in a sex-blogging mindset very much as of late, because I’ve been alternating between being busy and foggy and in crisis. 

However! I have had some sex-related triumphs, among all the grown-up uni- and business- and wallpaper-related triumphs. This weekend, I’ll hopefully be posting about my slowly-improving relationship with masturbation, and how that fits in with my sex-related intention-setting for 2020. I’m only a month late, and honestly, with how chaotic things have been, that feels like a triumph in its own right.

Thank you all for your patience with me while I’ve been Going Through It™. I hope that the content I put out in 2020 makes that patience worth it.

Autistic Burnout: What Is It and How Do I Fix It?

A photo of Morgan's notebook, which xe has begun to colour in with an irregular pattern, using biro

Ugh. I don’t know how to start this blog post.

I don’t know how to start anything, actually, at the moment. I have to be prompted to get a drink of water. I have to be bribed into doing work for the Master’s course I am genuinely excited to be on. I have to break down tasks like “get ready for bed” into their smallest parts if I’m gonna have any hope of starting them – steps like: 1. Remove blanket from lap. 2. Stand up. 3. Pick up medication from sofa. 4. Put medication in mouth. 5. Swallow with water. 6. Walk upstairs. 7. Pull down trousers. 8. Pee… and so on.

Sometimes, when I get stuck on a seemingly trivial task, I laugh. I say, “I’m a postgraduate student,” like the juxtaposition is funny. But I’m getting more stuck more often on more trivial things, and it’s getting harder to laugh.

I’d heard of autistic burnout in passing. I knew it happened, and I knew vaguely what it was. Everything is so difficult for autistic people, all the time, and atop all those difficulties we have to place a carefully-constructed neurotypical mask, and naturally, we get exhausted. And we get so exhausted that we burn out, like anyone would, and we struggle more, and we need to recover. It’s sometimes called “autistic regression”, especially in kids, because one of the effects of being chronically exhausted and autistic is losing the ability to do things that you used to be able to do – including sensory processing. People suffering from autistic burnout will often experience heightened sensory sensitivity, as well as a decreased ability to process spoken or written information. I knew all this.

But I didn’t know – really know – how it would feel for me.

One of the reasons I find the terms “high-functioning autistic” and “low-functioning autistic” so infuriating is that I function… selectively. This week, for example, I did the reading I was set for one of my uni modules, made it to my seminar on time and didn’t have a meltdown, but I also had to buy a packet of new underwear from Tesco because I haven’t done any laundry (or even asked anyone else to do it for me) in weeks. I went to the GP and gave an honest report of my recent symptoms, but then had to nap for five hours and have a hearty cry. I sort of shift all of my “functioning” to the places I need it the most, often to the detriment of self-care. (And I don’t mean what Meg-John and Justin have brilliantly termed “neoliberal bubblebath self-care”, the kind where you pamper yourself a bit and eat chocolate. I mean, like, eating meals and showering and shifting positions on the sofa when my hip starts sliding out.)

Unfortunately, it turns out that my functioning is finite. And, sort of like a health bar in a mobile game, it doesn’t recharge as quickly as I need it to. But, unlike a health bar in a mobile game, I can’t watch an ad or make an in-app purchase to refill it instantly. I’ve been bridging the gap between my ability to function and the things that have been required of me with a lot of things – caffeine, nicotine, sometimes adrenaline – but the gap is widening, and I’m falling into it.

The reality is this: I’m suffering with autistic burnout. Right now, in real life, no matter how hard I ignore it. I’m constantly exhausted. 90% of sensory inputs make me want to scream. In the evenings, I literally cannot read. (I’m a sex blogger and a fucking English student, so this is a problem.) I’m irritable and confused most of the time. Like a lot of people with autistic burnout, I’m teetering on the edge of suicidal ideation – not making plans, but often catching myself thinking, “God, I can’t believe I have to be alive tomorrow,” or even, “If that car hits me right now, it’ll all be over.” I’m safe, because my support network is wonderful and I have responsibilities that would make me dying right now really inconsiderate, but I want to be honest about how much this sucks. It sucks so much.

The frustrating thing about autistic burnout is that it doesn’t feel like depression. There are similarities – low mood, low energy, hours of extra sleep that doesn’t leave me feeling rested – but the crucial difference is that depression takes away my motivation to do things. Autistic burnout takes away my ability to do things, but leaves my motivation intact, so I spend hours feeling desperate to get things done but literally unable to do them. And because, from the outside, I look “high-functioning” – talkative! A postgrad! Surrounded by friends! Not visibly stimming! – it feels slightly ridiculous when I can’t figure out how to remove my shoes, or nearly wet myself because I forgot to “ask my body” whether I needed to pee. I have run my metaphorical health bar into the ground, but from the outside, I still look like the model of a “high-functioning” autistic person. This makes it harder to get help, but it’s true for a lot of autistic people, especially the AFAB ones who’ve been under a little extra pressure to mask their autism. Y’know, like me.

I know, in theory, what helps. Less time masking, more time resting. Taking off any unnecessary pressures and allowing myself to recover at my own pace. An enriched “sensory diet” – that is, more sensory inputs that make my autism feel good – and acceptance from those around me. All the advice is there, online, just begging me to take a break.

The problem is that I literally can’t take a break. I can’t defer from my Master’s without sacrificing all of the week-by-week structure it gives me, which is crucial to me actually getting out of bed and eating breakfast sometimes. I can’t take a break from the people around me, because some of them need my support and some of them are the ones making sure I eat, sleep, pee and take my meds. I can’t take a break from worrying about money, because I have rent and tuition fees to pay. I can’t even take a break from blogging, because it’s my outlet, my community and one of the only things that makes me feel useful at the moment.

There are a few things I can do. I’m trying to stim more, which for me involves a lot of knitting, chewing, singing and jiggling. I’m also trying to avoid unnecessary sensory hell, which means I’ve eaten variations on the same dinner for the past seven days and have temporarily given up on underwired bras.

The scariest thing I can do is ask for help – but when I do, I get it in spades. On any given day, multiple people ask me whether I’ve eaten. Strangers and friends on the internet tell me I’m a worthwhile (and cute) person. My Daddy cooks for me, and when they’re not around, my boyfriend offers to order me takeaway despite being in another county. The actual, practical help that I get is incredible, and life-saving, and cannot be overstated – but the encouragement and support I get is invaluable, too. It helps me feel “allowed” to ask for practical help with things, and it helps me feel like I can get through this.

Go and shower the autistic people in your life with love. Love helps.

 

Parts of My Body I Actually Like

Two photos of Morgan's feet, one of xir favourite body parts, taken from underneath

Like a lot of people – especially AFAB people, and double-especially disabled AFAB people – I have a difficult relationship with my body. There are plenty of parts of it that I dislike (like my nose and my midriff), or that I resent (like my easily-scarred skin that results from the fucky connective tissue I’ve got, and my slightly bowed legs, a reminder that I spent most of puberty deliberately malnourishing myself). Then there are parts of my body with which I can only ever form an uneasy and conditional truce, like my boobs, which only look cute (in my opinion) when my nipples are erect, or my butt, which looks good from certain angles (again, in my opinion). Ideally, I’d like to reach a point where I feel neutral or great about all of my body parts, but I’m just not there yet.I am, however, far enough into my body confidence/body not-hating journey that I can write a whole photo-heavy blog post about the parts of my body I’m feeling good about. I hope y’all will enjoy them as much as I do! (I also hope you’ll be forgiving about my photography. I only have a smartphone camera to work with, and I have the spatial awareness of a drunk toddler.)

 

EARS

A photo of Morgan's ear, which has two piercings in it and is very cute

My ears are, I think, dainty and little. Sometimes, when I’m flirting with someone, I’ll invite them to feel how soft the skin on my earlobes is, because it’s just insanely fucking soft (probably because connective tissue science things). They’re also unreasonably erogenous – nibbling on them, kissing around them, breathing into them and so on will reduce me to a puddle in moments. Plus, they’re great places to get piercings in, for those times when I sort of crave a new piercing but don’t want to commit to anything super visible.

 

FEET (Undersides)

Two photos of Morgan's feet, taken from underneath

I have mixed feelings about my feet as a whole, because I think I have weirdly long, skinny toes – but from underneath, you can’t really tell! All you can see is a delicately arched foot! They’re adorable! (Also, I like my feet from a practical perspective – they endure a lot of walking and stomping and being sat on when I cross my legs, and I appreciate their resilience as well as their cuteness.)

 

EYELASHES

Side-by-side closeups of Morgan's eye, one with a closed eye and one open. Xir eyelashes are thick, long and dark

So it turns out that it’s really tricky to photograph one’s own eyelashes, but I did my best. My eyelashes have always been long and dark, meaning that I have probably saved a fortune over the years in mascara (or eyelash extensions, or tinting, or whatever the kids are doing to their eyelashes these days).

 

THESE COOL MOLES THAT MAKE UP ORION’S BELT

An image of the side of Morgan's torso, showing three moles and also some sideboob. A purple line has been drawn to connect the dots and make Orion's Belt

Need I say more? (I will say more: Orion’s Belt is the first constellation I learned to reliably spot, and I think it’s extremely cool that I have it on my body. We’re all made up of stardust, and these moles remind me of that. They also remind me that I am a huge nerd.)

 

MOUTH & TEETH

Two shots of Morgan's mouth - one where xir mouth is closed, and one in which xe is smiling, so you can see xir teeth

I have nice lips. They do nice things to people sometimes. They’re soft and pretty and a good place to put lipstick. I also have cute front teeth, including remarkably sharp canines which help me get into packaging and destroy stim toys.

 

VULVA

Morgan's shaved vulva, with xir hands either side

I posted on Twitter about disliking my asymmetrical labia minora when I was younger, but now I regard the asymmetry as both natural and very cute. (I’m also fascinated by how it’s the left side that’s bigger, and my left boob is also my bigger boob. Is there a connection?) I’ve never seen a vulva I didn’t love, so maybe including mine in this list is something of a cop out, but I like its proportions and colouring and the fact that my clitoral hood is so protective of my clit.


This post feels weirdly vulnerable. As humans, and especially as marginalised humans, we’re taught not to brag about anything, especially not our bodies – but that’s bullshit, because human bodies are beautiful and we should be excited about the ones we live in!