When I talk about my postpartum recovery, and the struggles I have had - in extreme and graphic detail - I often get told how brave I am. But really, brave doesn't come in to it. I talk about it because I have to. I talk about it because I seemingly cannot not tell people absolutely everything about myself. In fact, it makes me really super uncomfortable when I first meet someone and they know nothing about me.

I've been feeling uncomfortable these last couple of weeks as I have been working through some personal stuff that I haven't yet told you all. That is, in fact, why I am writing this blog post. Because I need to explain to everyone what has been going on with me and I know I won't be able to settle until I do.

Similarly, when I list all of the things I am currently doing, people often ask me how on earth I fit it all in. The activism work, the support work, the PhD, growing two small children, all of it. But again, I don't do all the things because I want to, because I'm extremely driven or even particularly talented (not to do myself too much of a disservice - I do think I am awesome). I do them because I have to. I do them because, when I find something interesting, or I get an idea in my head, I get so excited and passionate and overwhelmed by it that I have to do it - or else I couldn't function. Or sleep. Or look after myself.

I have always struggled with my mental health - in my early 20's it was diagnosed as Generalised Anxiety Disorder. That never really felt like it fit. Because, whilst I was anxious, it wasn't something I struggled with all of the time and it definitely was something I could control, if I tried to (though that in itself is exhausting). Mostly, I've just felt a bit shit at life. A bit like hard work (something I've often been described as). Like I was a bit 'too much'. I'd try really hard to fit in, to build friendships, to be a 'normal' person and I'd always find it just far too hard.

My maternity leave started 6 months into the pandemic, meaning I was at home, with very little social interaction and very little getting fully dressed for a year and a half. When I returned to work in September, I knew it was going to be an adjustment. But, time went on and things just felt harder and harder, not easier. Things that I had just got used to before, felt unbearable.

The train never being on time.

People sitting or standing too close to me.

The busy high-street, lined up with bright, noisy shops.

People everywhere.

Some carrying too many shopping bags, bumping me.

Some getting in my face for change.

Things never being where I left them.

Other people talking whilst I needed to focus.

Wearing shoes for 10 hours straight.

My bra always feeling too tight, too constrictive for too long.

I struggled to focus. To efficiently plan my time. To actually get myself to go in, in the first place - taking many random days off for seemingly no reason.

It was too much.

As part of my doctoral training programme I have to complete a work placement and, thankfully, I found a perfect placement working from home.

And so, since the end of June, I have not had to travel in.

And it feels so nice.

Some time over the last month I've came to realise that this struggle isn't normal.

Through my work with my wonderful friend and mentor, Claire, I realised that I'm not 'just a bit shit' but I'm actually Autistic.

I won't go in to what autism is but will say that it is highly underdiagnosed in women and girls as we often don't present in the same way as boys. Just another case of gender bias in the medical community.

I'm also still not sure what this realisation means for me.

Sometimes it feels overwhelming - realising the huge list of things that bother me, that I struggle with, and knowing that it's not going to go away or get better. (I'm not sure why I held onto the belief that I would one day be a 'functional adult' as I'm 31 now and it still hasn't happened!).

Sometimes it feels sad - thinking of a lifetime spent struggling and internalising my issues instead of getting support.

Mostly, it feels like a relief - like a weight off my shoulders. It means I can actually avoid the meltdowns by taking what I need. It's definitely eased some of the guilt at how much time I need on my own.

I have no big way of ending this post. Just to say, if any of this resonates with you then I'm here to chat. And thank you for listening.

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