Book Review: ‘Odd Girl Out’

 

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‘Odd Girl Out’ is a book by the lovely Laura James. Laura is an author and a journalist (and the owner of a communications agency). She is a mum of four children and lives in North Norfolk, UK. Laura tracks the year of her life in this book after receiving a diagnosis of being autistic from her doctor.

Here is a little synopsis:

What do you do when you wake up in your mid-forties and realise you’ve been living a lie your whole life? Do you tell? Or do you keep it to yourself?

Laura James found out that she was autistic as an adult. Odd Girl Out tracks the year of Laura’s life after she receives a definitive diagnosis from her doctor, as she learns that ‘different’ doesn’t need to mean ‘less’ and how there is a place for all of us, and it’s never too late to find it.

Laura draws on her professional and personal experiences and reflects on her life in the light of her diagnosis, which for her explains some of her differences; why, as a child, she felt happier spinning in circles than standing still and why she has always found it difficult to work in places with a lot of ambient noise.

Although this is a personal story, the book has a wider focus too, exploring reasons for the lower rate of diagnosed autism in women and a wide range of topics including eating disorders and autism, marriage and motherhood.

This memoir gives a timely account from a woman negotiating the autistic spectrum, from a poignant and personal perspective.

Quote from amazon.co.uk

My review:

This book is phenomenal and these are the main reasons why:

  1. Whilst reading it I’ve never felt SO understood.
  2. Laura is very open and forthcoming about her struggles. This is so refreshing.

The book covers Laura’s autism assessment and diagnosis, childhood, teen years and adulthood so far. It’s fascinating to read how Laura was assessed/diagnosed aged 45 and how she has built up so many different coping mechanisms in order to function in a neurotypical world.

Laura’s book also goes into detail about things like relationship struggles and her special interests. This was particularly interesting to read about and it really emphasised how important special interests are to autistic people, and reinforces the point that they should never be denied or taken away from someone.

‘All my life I had tried so hard to be neurotypical, but in that one moment it became utterly clear that I was never going to fit that mould.’ Laura James, The Guardian.

Laura writes about all the daily and mundane things that for some can be such a struggle. Like working in an open plan office. Neurotypical people can deal with this environment okay and sometimes even enjoy being able to talk to people freely around them. For Laura (and me!) it’s nothing short of a bloody nightmare. The sound levels change so frequently that it can be quiet one moment and so loud the next that you can’t think or function properly. Bright strobe office lights can be distracting and too much to bear (and if you haven’t already why not read about my fluorescent jacket troubles in my own office here!). Not to mention the varying smells, people touching you from behind to grab your attention, etc. New experiences really are so overwhelming. This book really will open your eyes to the world around you and make you think twice when you are in these sorts of environments.

The depictions of autism that are mainstream tend to be from things such as: RainmanThe Curious Incident and the Netflix series Atypical. This is all well and good but these films and shows sum up autism to generally be a very male condition when really it’s not at all. Female autism is less documented and understood and I feel that Laura touches on this: a lot of female autistics mimic others around them in things like social situations and are able to get by copying and learning from others behaviours. I think this is why a lot of girls are going undiagnosed for so long. Because we are able to just about manage and put on an act/mimic others to get by okay in life.

A lot of girls are told they ‘don’t seem autistic’. I think this is because we are able to cope on the surface of things and learn behaviours such as keeping good eye contact in order to fit in. It’s all about being able ‘pass’ socially in order to stay under the radar and seem ‘normal’. That’s pretty awful don’t you think? I constantly have to push myself into new situations that I don’t want to do and can’t cope with just to seem like I am normal. Then I can have meltdowns before and after these because it requires so much of my energy and is so hard sensory-wise.

It’s obviously slightly tricky to write a book review as I don’t want to giveaway large sections of what happens because people might want to read it!

I do just want to mention a couple of things. This book was a bit hard to read. I don’t mean this in a bad way at all – it was always going to be difficult to read a book on someone else’s life especially if they struggle with the same things as me (or you). I found that a lot of the autism and sensory parts of the book made me upset / triggered bad thoughts and feelings. This did not put me off and should not put you off either. I think I just resonated with a few of Laura’s struggles so much that I couldn’t help but feel upset but also relieved all at the same time. And yes, I cried through parts of this book. I’ve only admitted that to be honest, because so many things Laura mentioned echoed my own struggles.

The one other thing to mention is that the book can be slightly hard to follow at certain points as Laura jumps back and forth from her childhood memories/life to the present day but this might just be a dyslexic thing I struggle to keep track of!

I’m going to admit to something that you’ve probably already guessed by reading my blog. I have always been the Odd Girl Out. Throughout my life I have constantly struggled with the seemingly normal and mundane things through childhood to my current early adulthood. I hate all the things that neurotypical and young adults seem to love doing like: going to loud places, loud music, meeting up with friends, going to new places, parties in general, restaurants, going on holiday, buying new clothes, drinking alcohol, going to super bright or colourful environments, trying new food, travelling…look the list is actually never-ending. The point I’m getting at is…this book made me feel less alone. I know that sentence is a little bit sad, but it’s true. Because having these struggles all the time is very (very) tiring and nobody else truly seems to understand me (apart from my mum!) or what really goes on in my head. This book gives me just a bit of hope for the future.

I have passed this book onto my mum who is currently reading it. I really think the book gives such an insight into what goes in Laura’s mind and highlights what other autistic people struggle with everyday.

So how would I sum this book up?

Laura learns that ‘different’ doesn’t need to mean ‘less’ and how there is a place for all of us, and it’s never too late to find it.

Conclusion: If you can, you have to read this book (no matter who you are!)

Read an extract of the book here

Read an article Laura wrote for The Guardian (UK) here

Buy the book here: UK / US / Rest of the world

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Hello to you 👋

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Hello to you – I’ve recently had an influx of lovely new followers here on my blog and on my Instagram page! So I thought why not give everyone a little intro (or refresh!) on who I am and why I blog about sensory stuff. To me there is no better way then a good old-fashioned drawing to explain a bit about myself!

Summary of my drawings in text:

  1. I’m Emily, I am 23 years old and I work as a Creative Designer.
  2. I have Sensory Processing Disorder: a neurological disorder that (put simply) makes it hard to receive information to my brain. SPD is a neurological traffic jam and info I receive through my 5 senses doesn’t get organised or detected properly. This means my 5 senses are constantly overwhelmed and overworked so the world is a sensory place for me. SPD creates challenges in my everyday living and performing tasks. I was assessed / diagnosed with SPD aged 8 by an Occupational Therapist (OT).
  3. SPD described in a sentence: It’s like receiving every sense all at once: touch, taste, sight, smell and sound!
  4. I was 21 when I began blogging – hence the name ’21andsensory’. I decided to start documenting my sensory life right here on this very blog. I share tips, tricks, experiences, reviews and much more!
  5. I also experience/have/suffer from: anxiety, dyslexia, mild OCD and hyperhydrosis (excessive sweating and flushing)
  6. I even have my own sensory podcast…! You can have a listen here if you like. Also available through Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

So yup that’s me in a nutshell.

Blogging as a sensory-being in a super-sensory world!

An Insight: The Fluorescent Jacket…

Why on earth am I writing a blog post about a Fluorescent jacket I hear you ask…just bear with me and read on:

Picture the scene: I am working away at my desk and at around 9.05am one of the company directors get into work. All normal and well so far. He then proceeds to hang up his fluorescent bike jacket on the hook by his desk. Now this jacket is visually brighter than the sun to a sensory being like me…(I realise this sounds utterly ridiculous but stick with me).

This jacket is in view just behind my laptop screen and is immediately screaming at me visually. It is so loud almost like a noise to me and is instantly distracting and grates on my mood.

I think back sometimes on how I feel when things like this affect me. They seem so big at the time and engulf me, taking up all my thoughts and feelings. How crazy is that? A bright neon jacket can affect me that much! In hindsight it’s a teeny tiny small insignificant part of my life – it affects me but I learn to cope and move on (through distracting myself and repositioning to face away from the indoor sun…!)

How do you feel about bright coloured objects, clothing and environments? Comment below with any stories and coping mechanisms!

And for more of my ramblings why not check out my podcasts? Links below!

anchor.fm/21andsensory

Apple Podcasts

Google Play Podcasts

The Mystery Blogger Award!

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Firstly I just want to say a big thank you to the lovely Bec for nominating me.  I would definitely recommend popping on over to her blog here. Her blog focuses on anxiety/mental health and she shares some amazing thoughts and ideas on it!

This award was started by Okoto Enigma on her blog, it’s an award “for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts.” Click the link to the blog for details!

Here are the rules of this award:

  • Name the creator of the award and link their blog.
  • Place the award logo or image within your blog post.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog in your post.
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  • Answer your nominator’s questions.
  • Nominate 10-20 people.
  • Ask your nominees 5 original questions of your choice.
  • Share 5 links to your best blog posts.
  • Notify each of your nominees by commenting on their blog.

Okay here goes…3 things about me:

  1. I love apples and blueberries. If I could eat them all day everyday I would.
  2. I love wearing Converses. I wear them 24/7 and luckily can wear them to work too!
  3. I love succulent plants I think they are wonderful.

If you could have the perfect 3 course meal, what would it be?

Ooooh. Okay erm…I’d say dough balls and garlic butter for starter (I love bland meals!) Veggie Spaghetti Bolognese for main meal and then definitely some form of ice cream for pudding!

What’s your biggest fear?

Now this is a tricky one. At the moment my biggest fear is socialising with people and loud noises! I am more then happy with great heights, rollercoasters, bugs, etc!

What would you say is your best characteristic?

Hmm. I love helping people out and problem solving things for people so I would say hopefully my best characteristic is being helpful 🙂

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I love anywhere by the sea so I’d either say maybe somewhere in Devon or Cornwall or even somewhere on the coast in Italy!

How are you today? (Strange question, but I want to know how you’re doing)

I think I’m okay today. I’m also excited because it’s Friday tomorrow which means the weekend and less work stress!

Okay here are my 10 nominations:

  1. highlysensitivelifeblog.wordpress.com
  2. sociallyawkwarrd.wordpress.com
  3. introvertedthinkingblog.wordpress.com/blog/
  4. sensitivegiraffe.wordpress.com
  5. potsitivityy.wordpress.com
  6. anonymouslyautistic.net
  7. myanxietydiariesblog.wordpress.com/about/
  8. sensoryseastar.wordpress.com
  9. inmyaspergersworld.wordpress.com
  10. mariner2mother.wordpress.com

And my 5 questions for the nominees to answer:

  1. What makes you smile?
  2. Where would you most like to go no holiday next?
  3. If you had one day completely alone how would you fill your time?
  4. If you could have any job besides the one you have right now, what would it be?
  5. If you could rewind 5 years and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Lastly my five favourite blog posts I have written:

  1. My Sensory System
  2. Loud Environments
  3. Change and why its difficult
  4. Memes to do with me
  5. DIY Sensory Box

A sensory experience review…

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I was lucky enough to go on a little adventure a few weekends ago to the Isle of Wight (UK). It’s a lovely little island with loads to see and do – so much so I already want to go back and explore more!

Whilst I was there I went to an AWESOME water show called Waltzing Waters which I thought I would do a little review about.

Here is some more information:

“The world’s most elaborate water, light and music production. “It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before”…a triumph of artistry and engineering. Visitors are overwhelmed by thousands of dazzling patterns of moving water synchronised with music in spectacular fashion.”

Anyways: it was SPECTACULAR. So kind of think of it as awesome music throughout the ages coordinated to a water display. There were hundreds of nozzles spraying ridiculously high-powered jets of water so high and then falling and twirling into phenomenal shapes.

I know these sorts of water shows can be quite popular at resorts in America and especially in places like Dubai in shopping centres and public places. Somehow I had never really come across one before and because this show was based on the Isle of Wight only a handful of people turn up to each set time – which was fab as no crowds and lots of seating to choose from!

I just wanted to do a little write up to almost sort of say as a sensory being how lovely I found the whole show and that I really recommend seeing a show whether you have sensory problems or not 😊

One of my next blog posts will be a Q&A on all things sensory! Feel free to comment below with any questions you might have – tweet me or comment on my Instagram!

Awesome Video Resources ✨

So I thought (seeing as I watch a lot of videos and tutorials on Youtube) it might be quite good to put together a list of helpful videos / YouTube channels to share on my blog…

Megan Rhiannon:  Megan is a 19 year old Autistic girl who makes fab Youtube videos and autism talks on her channel. Be sure to follow her for great tips and advice.

Routines can often leave us feeling bored and uninspired. Sonia is a brilliant YouTuber and artist who explores the importance of Escape as part of the creative process. Cheer up after a bad day or week with some of Sonia’s suggestions!

Lucy Moon is a fab YouTuber who openly discusses her battles with anxiety and mental health. She does a lot of chatty videos as well as vlogs and provides some great advice.

Becky (presenting the videos) is the founder of Sensory Spectacle. Sensory Spectacle share lots of information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and also provide experiential learning environments which can be used in workshops, at events, etc. Becky also is invited to speak at conferences about sensory processing difficulties and the experiential work she is doing.

This video is part of a  ‘Homelife’ series is a short video each week sharing information about why we might see some of these characteristics in people with sensory processing difficulties.

Conan Grey is a young creative and Youtuber. In this video he discusses how to deal with mood swings, anxiety and being able to relax (as well as get on with your day) no matter how you are feeling.

Amelia and Grace Mandeville are two sisters who enjoy making Youtube videos about their daily lives, experiences and even film the odd comedy sketch too! This video discusses how to survive school and some top tips.

Charlotte is a lovely YouTuber and also a fashion promotion student and intern, occasional blogger and veggie enthusiast! This is a great video describing her first year at uni. She discusses a range of topics including loneliness, excessive working and anxiety.

ASMR / Relaxation videos: I can’t not mention them! If you search on Youtube for ASMR videos (and google their definition) they are some of the most relaxing videos out there!

So there you have it – 8 brilliant YouTube channels which I have found super helpful – let me know of anyone I should be following and that I can add to my list!

21andsensory Podcasts!

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So I went and bit the bullet as you can probably tell by the title…and my brand new podcast is live! My podcasts are on a site/app called Anchor – it’s a free podcast and audio platform. Feel free to sign up and create an account and you can download the mobile app and listen on the go (you can also listen without signing up!).

The Anchor app will allow me to record on the go (without a computer) so I can create podcasts anytime anywhere and add new content regularly! I’m hoping to use it as almost a form of an audio diary and share my sensory experiences as and when they happen! Tips and advice will definitely feature so watch this space…

You can search for my username on Anchor which is simply: 21andsensory.

Or listen here: Anchor FM: 21andsensory

Update: You can now also listen and subscribe to my podcasts on the Apple Podcast app here and on the Google Play store, just search for 21andsensory.