Autism, Anxiety and Me: A Diary in Even Numbers is a diary-style book that was written by Emma Louise Bridge, a young woman on the autistic spectrum. As the title suggests each diary entry is listed as an even number in accordance with her preference and in each entry Emma documents how she finds living on the spectrum and having anxiety. Most entries are followed by a commentary written by her mother and a list of key points and advice. My dad very kindly gave me this book when I met him while he attended a meeting with The National Autistic Society in London.
Below are the entries I can relate to the most and how I can relate to them although I might relate to these entries differently from how Emma can relate to them (pp = page reference):
Entry 8 – Overwhelming noise (pp 33 – 36)
In this entry Emma says that everyone in church “was talking at once because the service hadn’t started yet” and mentions the noise kind of overwhelmed her to the point that she had to leave the service and rock back and forth to calm herself down. Somebody in the church obtained chairs for Emma and her mother to sit on and watch the service from the foyer. This reminds me of when I was waiting for a hospital appointment with a member of staff from my previous supported living dwelling and some children were running around the waiting room, jumping on the scales as if they were a piece of playground equipment and making noise that made me feel agitated. The member of staff and I moved to a quieter part of the waiting room and I felt more relaxed. At the end of the entry Emma’s mum orders her some headphones to help reduce the noise at church.
As another woman on the autistic spectrum I get overwhelmed by noise easily whether it is one of my neighbours making sounds that have caused me anxiety or machinery/gardening sounds from outside that prevent me from filming videos for my YouTube channel. One strategy I use to cope with overwhelming noise is by listening to music through my headphones whether I’m in my flat or when I’m out and about.
Entry 10 – Joking or lying? (pp 37 – 40)
Here Emma finds herself in a situation “where everyone laughs” and she has “no idea what is funny.” For the most part it is because she doesn’t understand the joke either due to the fact that she mistakes it for a lie or it makes no sense to her.
Sometimes I find it hard to tell if someone is joking with me or being serious, such as when people in the past have called me names like a plank or a doughnut for example. I also find it hard to get certain jokes and not find them funny at all. There was even a time when I thought someone was lying when they made the same ‘joke’ twice and I somehow linked it to something sad that actually happened hence why I was even more upset by it the second time I heard it.
Entry 18 – They are all the same (pp 52 – 57)
Emma describes reading an online article where the person who wrote it says that all people with autism are exactly the same. She disagrees with this article because she knows that although girls can have autism most people on the spectrum are boys. Emma has a sister who also has autism but they “are nothing alike.” For example while both Emma and her sister like even numbers her sister’s lucky number is 27, which is obviously an odd number.
My brother has autism too and I am very different from him. While I have more independence and can spend time in my flat or my parents’ house alone as well as go out alone my brother is more severely autistic and cannot be left at his care home or my parents’ house alone or go out by himself so he needs constant supervision, especially when my parents take him out when he stays with them.
Entry 22 – The dilemma of timing (pp 63 – 66)
In this entry Emma reveals that she “absolutely hates being late for things” and wanted to know the exact time she was leaving for an appointment. She prefers to “be super-early than even a minute late” but her mum has observed “that some people don’t like (her) being too early for things.”
Like Emma I also don’t like being late for things and have found myself arriving very early for things such as a Job Centre appointment due to the deputy manager of my house getting the time of my appointment wrong (ironically he was late for sessions I had with him in my flat on numerous occasions so I don’t like it when other people are late either because it takes a huge chunk out of my routine and makes me waste precious time that I could spend on something more important) or #BlogConLDN as it was my first time attending the event and I felt that I needed to allow myself plenty of time to travel there. In these situations people didn’t seem to mind me being super-early but the man at the Job Centre said I could be seen early if a job coach was available and Scarlett London, the hostess of #BlogConLDN, advised me to wait outside the venue until 1pm.
Entry 24 – People can be so scary (pp 67 – 72)
Emma recalls going out for a walk and spotting a man walking towards her. When she crossed the road she saw another “man sitting in his van with the door open”. While Emma thought both people were potentially pleasant with no interest in what she was doing she also saw them as people who were potentially not nice because she had no idea what they were doing. On Emma’s way home the man in his van was still present and “there was another man on the other side of the road” but another person ran past Emma and she found it very scary.
Sometimes when I go out and about I find certain people unpredictable, especially if I don’t know them. I even get the illusion that a person is approaching me when they’re really not. Once I was walking down my local high street and someone approached me out of nowhere and said hello. I felt a bit scared at first because I initially thought it was someone I didn’t know but at second glance I saw it was actually another tenant who lives in the same house my flat is in albeit in a different flat so it was nothing for me to be afraid of.
Entry 26 – Crossing the road and sharing a pavement (pp 73 – 76)
Emma describes how she was out in a group and “the others all crossed” the road but she didn’t.
When I participated in group activities with support staff and fellow housemates from dwellings I lived in prior to my flat there were certain times when most of the group would cross the road when the red man was showing and I either had to cross the road with them or wait until the lights changed. I remember raising this issue in a residents’ meeting and the staff member leading the meeting highlighted the importance of following the Green Cross Code. I have also been in similar situations when I was out with only one person.
Entry 30 – In its place (pp 81 – 85)
In this entry Emma gives each of her new birthday presents a place in her bedroom and “once the home has been assigned it cannot be undone.”
I feel that everything in my flat should also have its own special place. For example my washer-dryer is in my kitchen (a lot of people in the U.K. have their washing machines and/or tumble dryers in the kitchen but a few of them have laundry rooms or utility rooms) and beside the cupboards under the sink, therefore I keep my laundry supplies in one of those cupboards because I feel that’s where I need to use them the most.
Entry 40 – Being home alone (pp 103 – 106)
Emma discusses a situation where she had to be left home alone and carry out various safety precautions such as checking if the windows and doors were locked, there weren’t any burglars in the garden and ensuring she had every single emergency contact number she needed.
When I lived with my parents I thought that I couldn’t be left home alone before the age of 14 because I was told that was the minimum legal age in the U.K. for a child to be left home alone. Several years later I browsed the NSPCC website for an article about leaving children home alone but it says that “there are no hard and fast ‘home alone’ rules or laws because every child is different” although it is advised that “babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone,” under 12s “should not be left home alone for a very long period of time,” and “children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight.” When I was 16 I started college and only went one day a week to begin with so I would spend most of the week home alone because my parents were at work and my siblings were at school. I remember my parents telling me not to answer the phone or the front door to anyone I didn’t know as a safety precaution but these situations would sometimes confuse me. For example a few months before I started college I was at Sixth Form at school and I was very unhappy there so I spent one whole week at home. The doorbell rang but I didn’t answer. It turned out that it was a parcel delivery driver who left a card for my dad to collect a parcel so he was annoyed with me for not answering the door when he came back from work but my mum was pleased that I took her advice of not answering the door.
Entry 58 – Using the phone/having a script (pp 143 – 148)
Here Emma describes how she had to use the phone one day and she writes down what she is going to say “but people never say the right thing back.”
One of my biggest anxieties about using the phone is that of the person on the other end not understanding me, especially when I give out simple information such as my postcode, due to my somewhat poor diction. When I was staying at my parents’ house once I phoned an online supermarket company to cancel my delivery pass and when the lady on the phone said she couldn’t understand me when I gave her my postcode twice I got so frustrated that I threw the phone in a rage but when I calmed down I picked the phone up again and gave the lady my postcode using the NATO Phonetic Alphabet (A for Alpha, B for Bravo, etc). My delivery pass was cancelled successfully but it still frustrates me that the only option to cancel it is by phone. I think it would be a good idea for that online supermarket to have an online chat option for cancelling delivery passes because I have found that feature very useful when I reported issues with my laptop on its manufacturer’s website or enquired about my broadband bill on my broadband provider’s website. This would be very beneficial for people with autism who prefer to use written communication to verbal communication.
The only time I can remember using a script to make a phone call is when I was 16 and my dad wrote a little note of what I should say when I phoned a volunteering company to tell them I wanted to do voluntary work in a charity shop over the summer before I started Sixth Form.
Entry 70 – Friendship (pp 173 – 179)
In this entry Emma recalls having friends at infant school but as she moved through school she was bullied and not only did her social anxiety become worse but her ability to make friends became increasingly difficult.
When I was at school, college and university I had a diverse mix of friends but I hardly ever spent time with them outside of these places. I am still in touch with a lot of these friends on Facebook and Instagram today but I hardly spend time with them in person, especially those I went to school and my first college with in Newport, South Wales (I attended three colleges before university) because I prefer to do my own thing or spend time with my family when I visit Newport. Within the past two years I have bumped into three of my friends I knew from secondary school and college in Newport; one when she was working in a newsagent near where my parents live; one at my mum’s church during a Maundy Thursday fish and chips evening; and one with her husband and sons when I nearly finished a walk with my mum. All friends were lovely to speak to on all occasions. Nowadays I tend to spend time with friends who I met outside of college and university.
Entry 72 – Working/volunteering (pp 180 – 185)
Emma is reconsidering volunteering but she has never been able to keep it up, likewise with jobs she had got but she has “been unable to hold onto them.” Her ideal job would be stacking shelves in a supermarket.
As I mentioned in my thoughts on the Using a phone/having a script entry I once volunteered in a charity shop during the school summer holidays. I have also had other volunteering jobs such as at a summer leisure scheme my brother and I attended and at an after-school youth club that took place at his school. While the summer leisure scheme job only ran during the summer holidays the youth club took place during school term time. In the autumn of the year I volunteered at the youth club I began to have personal issues that affected my concentration so it was advised that I no longer attended the club to volunteer. For five years I had my first self employed part time job as an Avon representative that I ran alongside my third college and most of my time at university. I resigned from my Avon representative job due to not earning enough money, not having enough customers and wanting to focus on my MA in Animation at university. My ideal job is animation or graphic design-related. More recently I have applied to work as a motion graphics designer at the Southbank Centre but I was not selected for an interview so my job search continues.
Entry 74 – Romance and relationships (pp 186 – 192)
In this entry Emma describes how she had one boyfriend and they would meet with coffee. Although she has always dreamt of “getting married and settling down with a couple of adorable children,” there are certain factors that affect her “idea of a good relationship,” such as not liking the idea of someone knowing everything about her and not liking physical contact unless she initiates it and it is brief.
Like Emma I have only ever been in a relationship with one person I considered to be my serious boyfriend. I met him at a pub lunch activity run by an organisation called Outsiders that helps shy, isolated and disabled people find friends and partners near St. Paul’s Cathedral in April 2012. He had Asperger syndrome. At first I felt warm inside when he held my hand and when we kissed. I even met up with him at the cinema on another occasion but after that I never saw him in person again. While I was happy when I first met him he soon touched me in a way I didn’t like and although he advised me to inform him if anything he did made me feel uncomfortable I hesitated to tell him because I was worried I’d hurt his feelings. He also asked me questions by instant message that made me feel uncomfortable, asked if I wanted to do things I wasn’t quite ready for and he even found my perception of him as my boyfriend confusing because he had no idea how to show affection. Three months after I met him I sent him an e-mail telling him I no longer wanted to see him but for a little while after that he continued to contact me but I never responded. Nowadays I am no longer in contact with him and I am happy to be single because I have more time for myself.
Entry 82 – Hospitals, doctors and feeling icky (pp 213 – 217)
In this final entry I will comment on Emma has “been feeling icky over the past few days” and when she feels poorly her sleeping problems and anxiety worsen. Feeling sick also affects her routine by making it hard for her to get up at her usual time and not wanting to eat.
For me I also find being ill frustrating because it prevents me from doing more productive things such as filming and editing videos for my YouTube channel. At the beginning of 2018 I had a sore throat that turned into a cold so I decided to take some time out of filming and editing videos by resting. While I recovered I realised that I was glad I was taking a break because illness can affect my concentration and how long I can work for.
Overall Autism, Anxiety and Me: A Diary in Even Numbers is an immersive read. Emma’s diary entries are very true to life and relatable on the whole while the commentaries and advice from her mother are very helpful. I would recommend this book to anyone who is on the autistic spectrum or has anxiety regardless of their gender.
You can purchase Emma’s book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Autism-Anxiety-Emma-Louise-Bridge/dp/1785920774
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored blog post. All opinions expressed are my own.