Aeroplanes, autism, and Fern Brady

It’s 14:17 GMT. I’m sat in the front row of an aeroplane, once again en route to Athens in business class. Albeit a cheeky last minute upgrade bid this time rather than a full priced ticket. I’m traveling alone, off to support my partner as he runs his first marathon in the Greek capital. He has no idea I’m coming; he thinks I’m at Alton Towers running a 10k with my husband.

I feel less alien in business class this time. I can’t be sure if it’s because it’s familiar to me now, or whether it’s because I generally feel more sure of myself when I’m alone. Adrenaline filling in where leaning on a partner or friend would normally do, perhaps.

A large man to my left snores loudly with each intake of breath and an American man behind fidgets constantly, using my chair as leverage to rearrange himself, repeatedly pulling my hair by accident in the process. My nostrils burn with the smell of reheated food, someone’s perfume, and a sickly sweet body lotion. My bum is numb from a day of sitting, my shoulders ache from hunching. The combination of noise, lights, unfamiliar smells, strangers and sheer bloody terror about navigating a foreign country’s public transport system alone when I land is overwhelming, and my heart rate hasn’t seen under 90bpm since I passed through security at 8 o clock this morning.

I’m sharing all this because I’ve just finished Fern Brady‘s book Strong Female Character in one sitting on said plane and I’ve never identified with anything so strongly in my entire life.

I’ve talked a few times about my autism since I got my diagnosis but generally only in reference to the relief of having answers, the joy in knowing I’m not completely broken. Fern, however, openly addresses everything. Trauma, childhood, our mutual proclivity for sex and “promiscuity” (look at me, grouping the two of us like we’ve known each other forever), studying, using exercise and especially weightlifting to ground ourselves, constant searching for ways to reduce meltdowns – because god knows I was having them long before I realised that’s what they were, let alone the big A word came into the picture. Anger, pain, self-medication. Christ, I’ve never misused anything like xanax like Fern, but you don’t have to look too far in my post history to see the highs and lows of my relationship with alcohol, which I accepted long ago was a form of terrible self-medication. The list of shared experiences is a long one.

I’m not shy about talking about my autism but I don’t go out of my way to shout about it either, and Brady’s book crucially made me wonder why? I expect my friends and family to accommodate my differences and help me with my struggles but I’ve never particularly gone to any great lengths to help them understand why it’s necessary or what I think and feel without support or understanding.

I imagine that if I promised to be more open on here about my experiences it would, like many of my attempts to blog more, quickly fall by the wayside. However, it’s unrealistic to expect people to just silently know what’s going through my head all the time.

Maybe I should start being a bit more Fern.

1 Comment

  1. Beckie Takacs

    11 Feb at 5:39 pm

    Hi Jem,😊
    This isn’t a comment, but just a message to you. In your PMDD blog, many people asked you for the protocol, which at the end you said you didn’t have anymore. In case you would like to have it on hand again for women who write you, just email me at or my email below and I’ll send you the PDF file. Covid turns out to be brutal on potassium due to the ACE receptor involvement so women can get a worsening of symptoms from having it or it can trigger PMS/PMDD. Glad your autism doesn’t stop you. Thirty-three years ago, my daughter was born with autism and it took a lot of work to help her recover. Best of luck.

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