My Views On Ghosts and The Afterlife

I think everyone has different views and these can be because of religion, supernatural experiences, or any other reason. I know that no one truly knows what happens after we die, and that helps me, because I feel less afraid knowing that no one else has any more knowledge than me, aside from dead people of course.

I used to be religious as a child, whilst I was trying to work out my own identity. By the age of twelve, I was no longer religious, as I became a pretty big pessimist. However, I still have some spiritual beliefs which I’ll go into more detail about.

I have always had cats in my life (this is relevant) and I always feel sad when they pass. However, when Gromit (my 2nd cat to die) passed on, something different happened. I could see him in the corner of my eye for months afterwards; I would turn around to look at him and he would be gone. This is my only known experience of spirits or ghosts or whatever it was. I feel he hadn’t quite finished, he had something that he wanted to do. My mum also has told me the same exact thing happened to her. I wasn’t alone in this experience. And no, I did not believe in ghosts before his passing.

However, I believe in reincarnation. I think the idea that there is nothing is too pessimistic and sad. You have to believe something to get on with your life, because the idea of nothingness freaks me out a lot. I think it is such a crazy thing that I happen to exist here and now and am writing this post and living, that I actually exist at all; but reincarnation makes that slightly less crazy. There is the scientific knowledge that you cannot create or destroy energy; it gets recycled and reused. I believe this happens with human energies as well; our souls get reused and placed into different bodies. Sometimes, we live a long life and sometimes we do not.

I personally believe it is a random thing — the body you get put into, based on the time of your death. My mum believes you get put into a body that will teach you a lesson based on how you behaved in the past. Like, maybe I’m autistic because I was previously cruel to disabled people. This is an interesting belief but I don’t think it is true.

I think maybe Gromit lingered a little longer because he loved us so much, but his spirit has been placed in another body and he is living again now.

My reincarnation beliefs are based off of science, as I stated previously, about the reusing of energy. Our souls are a form of energy and they transfer from one body to another.

What are your beliefs? Do you believe in reincarnation?

Thanks for reading,

The Autistic Panda

Too Late

I read your messages
you were bi
I didn’t realise yet but I am too
if we just had a chance to try
you liked me and I liked you
yet somehow we faded
from eachother’s lives
our lives got divided
and here i am reading back
at when a fourteen year-old
was so shy and unbold
she didn’t tell you how she truly felt
she didn’t know it herself
and here we are
too late to make things work
with the most beautiful girl
in the world

The Connection Between Autism and The Gut

As you might have read in my previous post, I have ongoing bowel issues that have yet to be diagnosed. I have had them for years and I suppose I just got used to them. The doctors are probably going to check if it is IBD when I finally get an appointment with a gastroenterologist, and if that isn’t found then I will likely get an IBS diagnosis.

But why do I have these bowel issues? Normal people don’t have this sensitivity. There are actually people who don’t need to go to the toilet all the time? I have been a member of numerous autism groups and have realised that the one thing I have in common with most members is our bowel issues. Autism, a condition which wires your brain differently, is connected to your gut. So what is the connection exactly?

The gut is often referred to as your second brain. This is because how you feel can significantly impact your bowel health. Autistic people are much more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety than neurotypical people. We can also suffer from alexithymia, which means we don’t exactly know what emotion we are experiencing or why we feel that way. Sometimes, our gut is actually a better way to understand our emotions than our brain. When I get anxious, which is most of the time, my gut plays up significantly more than when I’m calm and level-headed.

I wish the brain-gut connection wasn’t as strong with me. Some people are very lucky in that they don’t have a strong connection and this means they never experience bowel problems when they’re feeling down. Imagine this: you already are depressed, hating life, and then your body decides to hate you as well. It literally causes you agonising pain and urgency and lots of horrible symptoms. And I’m autistic as well. Not only do I have to deal with my autistic brain always finding little things to be anxious about, but I also have to deal with my body joining teams with it. It’s really hard.

Autistic people in general seem to have a stronger connection between the brain and the gut. Like I said earlier, this is possibly because we are more likely to experience mental health issues. However, the exact cause isn’t completely definite or set in stone. There is probably some researchers out there analysing the connection but it’s another fact that isn’t complete. We can theorise about why we have a stronger connection but we don’t really know and, until we do, it is hard to treat the autistic gut problems. I mean, you can take medicines, but nothing will cure it until you work out why it is happening. So, I will continue to sit on the toilet, in the hope that someone will work out how to cut off the brain-gut connection so that I only have anxiety in my brain and not in the bowel as well.

What are your thoughts on why autistic people are more likely to experience bowel issues? Let me know!

The Autistic Panda

My Health

I recently went to the doctor regarding some health issues I’ve had for a while. I don’t know why I put off seeing the doctor; I guess I got used to the problems. I’m tired a lot and I have some bad problems re my bowel. My blood test wasn’t great. It showed a lot of inflammation, so they did refer me to a gastroenterologist. However, because I put off seeing the doctor until now, I now have to wait a year to see the specialist. That’s how long the waiting list is now. Covid has caused a lot of issues with backlog and I’m realising just how long I’ll have to wait.

In the meantime, I’m going to try various things to see if it can help. I ordered a low FODMAP vegan cookbook to see if that can help. I don’t know if I have IBS or not; that’s why I’m seeing the gastroenterologist, but it can’t help to try IBS measures to see if I can figure my own body out. It is a very restrictive diet but I won’t be that strict with it, as I don’t have a nutritionist and don’t know how to really do it well. I will just use more low FODMAP foods in my diet and try to see if anything triggers me. My doctor already suggested cutting out dairy, which I found hilarious because I haven’t eaten dairy for seven years, being vegan and all!

It’s a waiting game for a proper diagnosis, but I’m finally fed up of my bowel problems, and hopefully this cookbook can help me get it under control. I am also aware that bowel problems are quite common in autistic people, though I’m not sure exactly why that is.

On another note, my mum’s health is also bad, but in a different way. She has to have a knee replacement surgery as her knee is really messed up. It’s not any one event that led to it getting this bad; it is repeated strain over the years, I think. Hopefully this surgery will help her get her own health under control as well. I’m hoping it will give her a new lease of life. She has a three month wait to see someone about it and will then be given a date.

I just hope the knee surgery helps her to do her job, as she has a new job and they thinks she’s always had this limp, but she hasn’t. She didn’t even have it before she started working there! She blames a slope at the train station for worsening her condition.

Finally, my kitten Sylvia has recently got spayed, and is in a cute red outfit whilst she recovers (which she is doing remarkably well). The featured image is of her! She’s so adorable.

Here’s to better health!

Thanks for reading,

The Autistic Panda

Why I Like Bath Bombs

I don’t really like baths, but I much prefer them to shower. I consider a bath to be a bit of a chore, rather than something to enjoy, but bath bombs do make the experience a lot more enjoyable. They’re a great sensory experience for me. They engage three different senses.

The first sense is obviously the visual element. When bath bombs fizz a lot, you get an explosion in the bath and it is great to watch. The colours are also interesting and sometimes there is even glitter.

The second sense is smell and, unfortunately for me, this can be the reason why I don’t like certain bath bombs. I don’t mind if their fizz isn’t great or whatever, but an overpowering perfume smell really isn’t nice for me. A lot of bath bombs do smell of perfume and I do not like the smell of perfume at all. I can be very fussy about this element but, unfortunately, you don’t really get the true scent until the bath bomb is in the water. I prefer scents like mint or orange, for example.

The third sense is hearing. The fizz of bath bombs makes a really nice sound. However, this isn’t the only sound you might hear. Sometimes, they add popping candy to bath bombs, and the sound of that is amazing.

I just love the overall sensory experience of bath bombs. It really comforts me, but they have to be just right for the experience to be enjoyable. It’s a way for me to enjoy something that I didn’t really enjoy before.

Do you like bath bombs?

The Autistic Panda

My Social Phobias

I have suffered with severe specific fears involving social situations since I was a kid. I have overcome some of them but others are harder to face.

My first social phobia is something I first remember experiencing when I was twelve. It probably started developing before that age but I have a very specific memory that makes me know I had it at twelve. This is the fear of looking at myself in public; for instance, looking into mirrors. I remember we were asked to draw self-portraits in art class and we were all given mirrors. I refused to use mine and did my portrait off of memory, though I was never a good artist so I doubt the mirror would have aided me to a better drawing. I remember a boy noticing I wasn’t using the mirror and he shoved it in my face. Never did I mask more effectively in that moment: I just tried to back away from it, silently, clenching myself as the pounding of my heart became more intense and my temperature rose. I just tried my best to not cry because if I had cried, that would have given him ammo, and I couldn’t do that.

This memory is a sad one, of a girl who wasn’t even a teenager scared to look at herself. I have always hated the way I look and I saw looking in mirrors in public as some sign that I was vain, which is stupid and irrational, but it was how I felt. I struggle to even look at mirrors in private, but manage to just about. I still can’t look at a mirror in public, because I was bullied for years as a child and they told me I was ugly and that doesn’t leave you. This phobia is also low down on my priority list, as there are others which are more important to deal with, I think.

The second phobia is being scared to eat in public. I have had this since I was at school too. I am mostly over it now, but I do sometimes still have it in certain social situations. I remember I would throw my lunch away at school, because I knew I wouldn’t eat it. Even if I was alone, I was scared someone would walk past and see me eating. I realised this was a waste of food so I eventually asked my mum to stop giving me a packed lunch, and she obliged. We came to an agreement that I would make myself lunch when I came home from school, so quite late in the afternoon. This worked for me, even though I still got comments about not eating. One boy, quote, said “she never eats”. Nice way to remind me of my intense social phobia that I was embarrassed about. I figured these were better comments than¬†¬† the scary stuff I was imagining they would say or think when I did eat.

I’m really better at eating in public now; not being in a school environment has helped that. However, I have anxieties about other parts relating to eating now, that I’m still trying to come to terms with. I find it all really tricky to talk about, to be honest. My life certainly hasn’t been easy.

I also struggle with having my picture taken, due to the way I perceive myself physically. If I do have it taken, I will end up crying if it’s posted online because I feel like everyone can see how ugly I am and I hate the way I look. This is a self-esteem thing. I do let people take pictures sometimes to try and fit in and then instantly regret it when the picture is posted. I now usually won’t have my picture taken. It is really difficult for me. This has been the case since I was at school as well. I remember doing everything I could to avoid being a part of group photos. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything about my school photo being taken. It really cemented my anxiety when one of my teachers went through everyone’s school pictures in the middle of class, making jokey comments about them. I really wish she hadn’t done that.

I am hopefully getting a PA soon, who may be able to help with my next issue. This issue is around independence, mainly. I have a real fear of going into shops alone and buying something. This is an issue I did develop later in my school years. Earlier on, for instance when I was eight, I could go into a shop no problem. I think the anxiety just worsened as I got older and now I’m not independent at all.

A fear I have developed since leaving school is that of using public transport alone. This started I think when I was at college. There were numerous train strikes and the constant changing of rules, and being let down by people who I thought would help me with travelling, considering I was a vulnerable autistic girl; it really terrified me. I never wanted to be left like that again… not knowing how I was going to get from A to B or back from B to A. I stopped going to college eventually and managed to get only one a level. I am also scared of talking to people, so buses are even harder as I am scared I will freeze or not say the right thing. I am getting a disabled bus pass soon, which should assist in that as I don’t need to state where I am going with that.

My last social phobia is something I have talked about several times before. It’s the fear of communicating with people in certain situations… I never know what those situations are until I encounter them. It is selective mutism. I can’t control it and it is awful. I am scared of saying the wrong thing or not speaking at all. This makes my other fears worse because I never know if I’ll be able to speak up for myself.

So, yeah, I have a lot of social phobias which I am constantly trying to deal with. It is really tricky for me. They’re related to the fact I am autistic and the fact I have been through a lot in the past. I am getting a PA soon and will be trying an app that can help as well. I just really want to deal with them, but it might take a long time, and I might never deal with some of the issues.

I thought I’d share this post because, although I can outwardly look like someone who doesn’t struggle, I struggle a lot. On a piece of paper, I look fine. It’s once you dig deeper that you realise I have all these issues. I have a really hard time because of it and mental health really isn’t great. I have constant intrusive thoughts. I want to be different… but I have to start from the beginning, like I’m a child learning how to walk. I’ll mess up but maybe one day I’ll do it. Hoping is all I can do, right?

Thanks for reading,

The Autistic Panda

The Problem With Selective Mutism

Selective mutism is one of the hardest things I have to live with. It isn’t selective at all but there really isn’t a very good understanding of it.

Because I can speak, and have spoken before, people assume I am always capable of speaking. This is not true. My selective mutism decides when I’m capable of speaking and it is not a choice. I am not being rude.

I have been told I need to communicate better, I need to speak when spoken to, I need to stop being so rude. I can’t help it and that’s the problem really. The problem is that because I have verbal capabilities, it is assumed that I can choose when to speak.

If I were completely nonverbal, there would not be this same expectation on me to speak, as people would know I cannot speak. But when you can speak… but some block you can’t explain decides you shouldn’t speak, then it gets tricky.

I try my best to speak but sometimes no words come out. I cry over it. I want to speak. My selective mutism decides that I shouldn’t speak. Certain situations, or people, are seen as ‘scary’ to my mind, which makes me unable to navigate them with words. Sometimes this affects typing too, as I want to send them a message — I even write out a full paragraph, but then I delete it before I hit send. It is one of my biggest struggles and it’s really difficult when no one seems to understand it. Unless you have it, it can be seen as refusing to speak. It is not a choice I make.

It is a physical embodiment of years of anxiety. This does not mean I have anxiety at the time of the selective mutism, but selective mutism is caused by anxiety. I have selective mutism most of the time when I meet new people but this does not mean I do not like them or that I am very anxious. I usually am anxious but after a nice interaction with someone, I will open up and begin to speak. It is a physical thing so I cannot choose whether my selective mutism will affect me that day. I just don’t know.

I first got it at school, after years of constantly putting my hand up to answer questions that I didn’t even know the answer to. I just had an urge to answer and to validate myself, though obviously my self esteem was knocked when I was wrong. After years of this, I realised my answering questions had not gained me any friends and often resulted in me getting bullied, so I stopped putting my hand up as much. Eventually, I became quiet, reserved, and became extremely anxious when a teacher would ask me a question. A part of me thought this would result in students not liking me again. I developed selective mutism.

The initial reasons I developed it have nothing to do with why I might not talk now. They just lit the fire, I suppose, they didn’t keep it burning. I still get anxious about people not liking me but I have also realised I have to accept that people might not always like me. It’s okay to not be liked all the time. My selective mutism will be a part of me until it decided not to be, and that may be never. I don’t have a choice in that. I have to accept that too and I hope others accept that I may be silent at times, or I may not be at all. That’s the joy of selective mutism.

Thanks for reading,

The Autistic Panda

New Kitten!

I have always had cats in my life. It was really hard for me when my last cat died as I found myself without any cats. So I knew I had to get a new cat, someone who I could share my life with for years to come.

I got Sylvia a couple of days ago. She’s pretty great, but very naughty. She is your typical kitten who wants to attack anything and everything. She has lots of toys to play with, but that doesn’t stop her from attacking stuff she’s not supposed to attack, like blinds, wires, even her own tail. She’s silly.

She is a bit different to cats I’ve had previously, in that she loves to lie on me. She is a lap cat. Though, to be honest, she prefers my chest to my lap. We already have a brilliant bond and I can’t wait to be her companion for years to come.

Cats are an essential part of my life. They have always been there for me so I have to always have one. Sylvia is another member of the family who will be loved always. Each cat has a completely unique personality. Hers is soppy and loving (and naughty at the moment but I think that’s just because she is a kitten!).

Cats aren’t the unloving creatures some people presume them to be. Sylvia loves me so much that she wants to be on me a lot of the time. She’s beautiful as well and I love her so much already. Welcome to the family, Sylvia.

My Year

My year was pretty awful, not just because of covid. I had to change house in March, which was a really overwhelming change. Luckily, my mum went with the house I chose (the first one we viewed, actually), which I chose because it was the most similar to my old house. I knew I had to change house, but I wanted to keep it as similar as possible to my old one. This change caused about a million meltdowns and I am still having a lot more meltdowns that I did before I moved house. I am also in a new town, a new area, and that is really hard for me, especially considering this town seems to be stuck in the past when it comes to vegan food. My old town was the best for vegan food so it is hard when your local supermarket doesn’t even have vegan cheese.

I have had to deal with two losses; both my cats died this year, which has really upset me. The last one died very recently. I am now on the hunt for a new feline member of our family but it is very hard due to us having a dog. Our first cat, Diego, died very young due to complications of diabetes and I am glad that we have changed vets now because I feel like our old vets didn’t help him as much as they could have. It is very hard when someone dies young. I miss him a lot; his loving people-focused personality was very different to a lot of cats, and I’ll always remember him. My other cat, Smiler, died very recently. He was missing for several days so we put up a post on a local group. For some odd reason, a neighbour of ours had been feeding him rich teas (I did not get an opportunity to ask them why they thought that was a good idea) and Smiler isn’t the most loyal cat. Like a lot of cats, he goes where the food is the tastiest! Rich teas are not nutritious at all though. He was returned to us when the neighbours realised he was sick and (we think) didn’t want to pay the vet bills. He had a chest infection. He was put on antibiotics immediately but did not eat at all. We tried everything to get him to eat. We had to shove pills down his very dry throat. He just did not get better and passed away in his sleep. I miss him a lot too. Yes, he wasn’t as loyal as Diego, but he always came back in the end, and in his last few days, he showed me a lot of love.

Losing my cats and losing my childhood home have been extremely difficult for me. What’s more is that I don’t really feel like I have anyone to talk to these days. I have been very lonely and it has been so hard. I have had all these feelings about stuff and not feeling able to talk to anyone (especially someone unbiased) about them has made me bottle up a lot of stuff. I can’t tell my dad how I really feel about him because I also care about his feelings and I don’t want him to be upset.

I had a pretty good Christmas though, because my mum spent more money on me than usual to get me some amazing gifts, including a typewriter. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet because the ribbon hasn’t arrived but I am very excited. I still have Pablo as well, my dog, so I am not completely without pets. Cats give you a different feeling to dogs so it is nice to have both. I hope I will get another cat soon.

Thanks for reading,

The Autistic Panda

Mainstream vs Specialist Schools

Note that I’ve referred to schools for disabled children as specialist schools in this post. I don’t like calling them special schools, as is their usual name, or special ed schools. These names have bad connotations for me. Therefore, I choose to refer to them as specialist schools, which might not seem that different, but works better for me.

I went to a mainstream school. I know some people that went to specialist schools and also some who went to mainstream schools and the experience is vastly different. In general, lessons were less strict at specialist schools and not focused so much on academic performance. The students did not have to mask as much as students who attended mainstream schools did. We had to mask to survive the harsh judgement of our peers.

I was diagnosed too late for a specialist school to have been an option for me, at 15. I know that I may not have had the chance to get higher grades if I had gone to a specialist school, but I feel like I would have been happier. I would have been able to be myself, around like-minded individuals. I have very negative memories of my time at school; I don’t like thinking about it because it was so awful. Those who went to specialist schools that I have spoken to generally like to talk about their experiences more, and talk about events with a smile. It makes me yearn for those memories… for that feeling.

I understand that this isn’t the case for where child who went to a specialist school but those that I know who avoided mainstream school had a happier time. One person even told me how their cousin was forced into mainstream school and had an awful time. Eventually, he was transferred to a specialist school, but by then, the damage was too late.

I was diagnosed with autism at 15 and I so wish I had an earlier diagnosis, a chance to not have the depression and anxiety caused by years of bullying, and to go to a school where I at least wouldn’t be considered any different to the other kids. I noticed that they mask a lot less, and I don’t know how to do that. I mask all the time and it is so exhausting. It is from years of conditioning that I need to mask in order to fit in. When I drop the mask, people ask me questions. My dad asked me why I was shaking when I dropped the mask for a second. I don’t like being asked questions about why I’m exhibiting certain behaviours. I want to just do them and not be judged.

In my opinion, I think specialist schools are a much better option for autistic children, as long as they do not perform ABA, which is luckily banned in my country (though I am sure there are loopholes). Although you are less likely to succeed academically in these schools, due to their attention to other needs and only having foundation exams, I think it is a happier and safer place to be. Grades aren’t everything and I think I would have sacrificed those for a happier school time. Mainstream education does not understand children with additional needs, hence my lack of diagnosis until I was an older child. Specialist schools have a better understanding, though they only teach children who already have a diagnosis. I wish I had that diagnosis ten years earlier.

What are your thoughts? Do you think mainstream education is better or specialist schools?