Hailey Slade is a yoga-loving, hippy tattoo artist with Aspergers. With poignancy and humour she shares what it’s like to be on the autism spectrum.
Living with autism is challenging; especially in a world that is made for people who think and process differently. It can be incredibly beautiful, but too often, people on the autism spectrum spend years trying to work out why they experience the world as they do.
“I’ve never really wanted anyone to think of me as moody or grumpy or not friendly or approachable. I realized since having my diagnosis, that I finally care a lot less about what other people think, because I know I can’t do so much.” – Hailey Slade
Listen in to go on a journey of understanding as Hailey explains what it’s like, why it’s so challenging and what the rest of us can do to help.
In this Episode:
- What is neurodiversity?
- Understanding the physical and emotional issues of autism
- Autistic coping strategies
- Myth-busting the misconceptions about autism
- How neurotypical people can help
Follow Hailey’s work
More information about Autism:
Adulting with Autism – Instagram account
The Autistic Life – Instagram account
Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome – Book by Rudy Simone
Asperges in Girls – Lecture by Prof. Tony Attwood
National Autistic Society – Support, guidance and advice
Online Safety for people with ASD – A great guide to stay safe online
Ambitious About Autism – For autistic children, young people, their parents and carers
Carers UK – Support for carers
Samaritans – FREE Help – Tel: 116 123, E: email@example.com
The British Psychology Society – Find a Psychologist
Autism Awareness Australia – Support for Autism families
Autism Spectrum Australia – National service provider for people on the autism spectrum
Beyond Blue – Mental health support
Headspace – National Youth Mental Health Foundation with support services
The Black Dog Institute – Medical health resources, services and research
SANE Australia – Counselling support, Tel: 1800 187 263 (10am – 10pm)
Autism Society – Information and support
Autism Society of America – Advocacy
National Institute of Mental Health – A range of helplines
American Psychologist Association – Psychologist Finder
OR contact medical services in your country.
Follow Cath at Drawn to a Story
Music by Grant McLachlan
This podcast contains conversations about trauma and other challenging subjects and maybe sensitive for some listeners. Listening discretion is advised. If you need resources to get help, please see the show notes.
You're listening to drone to a Deeper Story. I'm Cath Brew from Drawn to a Story. I'm an artist who illustrates and educates about marginalized experiences for positive change, with a particular interest in identity belonging, and expat life. This podcast is about the lives that challenge us and the difficult conversations around them. It's a place to listen openly to absorb people's truths. And basically to learn how to show up differently for the benefit of everyone. And that's you,
the listener included in recent years, you may have heard the term neuro-diversity being used with more frequency, Judy Singer the Australian sociologist coined the term in the 1990s. And she's an autistic person and a parent of an autistic child. Today, it's used as an umbrella term. to typically talk about people who are Dyslexic, Dyspraxic, who have ADHD, have Dyscalculia, Tourette’s Syndrome, even acquired brain injury and autism. I'm going to say Autism/Aspergers. Every human has strengths and weaknesses. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but for neuro diverse people, the space between those strengths and weaknesses is particularly marked. The UK's national autistic society says that autism is a lifelong developmental disability, which affects how people communicate and interact with the world and it can make
people's lives exceptionally challenging. You may not be aware, but much of the challenges are hidden. And if you're neurotypical and I put that in inverted commas, you may be completely unaware of what someone is actually dealing with on a daily basis. And someone who knows what that is like is Hailey Slade. Now Hailey describes herself as a yoga-loving hippy tattoo artist with Aspergers. And I love that description. That sums her up perfectly, but I also know that Haley is incredibly self-aware and is the perfect person to talk to you today about being autistic. So welcome Hailey, and thank you for joining me.
Hello, you for having me Cath.
It's my pleasure. I think we will get the technical stuff out of the way first.
And, um, a lot of people use the word autism. Other people use the word Aspergers. How do you, I mean, you used
Aspergers in your bio, but how do you want me to refer to you?
Well, I have no preference and I realized that I think now the term is out of date. Um, but when I had my diagnosis, which was now four years ago, that was what came on my form. Um, but I think now it is just autistic spectrum disorder. Some sometimes I say Aspergers because I, I think that maybe more people may have heard of the term. Um, whereas a lot of people still associate autism with the more severe in inverted commas end of the spectrum where in actual fact that is now the new sort of blanket term.
Okay. So Hailey, can you tell me, can you describe to me what, what it's like to be Aspergers?
We all live our life from our own perspective. So
for me, I didn't know or feel any different other than well sort of, as I grew older finding slight patterns in discomfort, through conversations within relationships, um, friendships. Those sorts of things, I guess, just sort of, as I grew older, I kind of sort of thought, oh, maybe I am a little different from everyone else. But having my diagnosis has definitely helped me to realize where the areas in my life I'm different to others are, but having spent 32 years of my life masking and trying to fit into a world that isn't made for someone that processes like me, um, it's obviously very tiring and draining, but again, I hadn't realized any of that until I had my diagnosis.
And that, that must be difficult growing up where you've only got
the experience. I mean, like all of us, you've only got the experience of your own life, so you're not to know that it's any different to anyone else's.
No exactly, I think the era I grew up, obviously I was born in 1985 so through the late eighties and into the nineties. It was certainly not diagnosed as much then, or even sort of known about unless you were presenting as a very severe case that would potentially have, um, physical effects. So because of that, I had a lot of ways and habits and, you know, what's called stimming, things like that, that I used to do as a kid. Obviously, I would have been picked on a lot for,
Can you explain to people what stimming is for those who don't know.
Yeah. Uh, so, so stemming is sort of a repetitive movements. Something you find comfort through. A lot of Autistic people would rock or do things with their
Hailey: [00:06:00] hands or near their face. For me. I know I used to spin a lot or like roly polies, that kind of thing. I used to find huge comfort laying on the, on the ground.
I heard someone the other day talking about being on the autistic spectrum and talking about the stimming that they did because it allowed them to give a boundary to their body. They felt they needed the hardness of something against them. Otherwise the, the expansiveness was incredibly uncomfortable physically. It made me suddenly appreciate why stimming was comforting to this person.
Wow. Yeah. That's such a great way of describing it. It's not something I've ever really been able to put into words before, but that, that makes, yeah, just so much sense in my head that now.
But isn't it wonderful that you found the space - you did it naturally, you found your ways.
I also find when I feel uncomfortable generally, like whether it's a sensory overload or having an awkward conversation or a feeling or emotion that I'm not comfortable sitting in. I tend to pick up my fingers or nails. I used to be terrible for biting my nails and my cuticles, but I'd dig my fingernails into my legs, like somethings try and bring me into the present, like to feel my body, um, You know, again with sensory issues, I never know the extent of one's too much or do hard. And then, you know, perhaps I might be bleeding or something, not enough, but not actually feel that that it's that bad.
It must've been incredibly difficult growing up with and with schooling as well. Cause I I've read a lot of autistic children get classified as being naughty or difficult and they're not seen and maybe less so these days, but they're trying to fit and function in a world that is a struggle for you. Must've been quite difficult for you.
Yeah, definitely. I
think from a very young age, I always felt extremely anxious as though I didn't fit. Uh, I was, I was extremely shy, like uncomfortably, painfully shy that I never wanted attention on me. Um, so, uh, I was referred to as a square quite a lot, because I didn't, I didn't want the negative attention of being naughty even though I really wasn't comfortable doing a lot of things, um, you know, that we had to do at school, but I would always just try and keep my head down and go along with things. And a lot of the time I'd just be. Uh, humming away to myself, well, whilst doodling, and trying to find a comfort. But I was, I was very, very fortunate because my mum was a dinner lady at school. So I had a little bit of a, a go to. At break times that I can go and see her. But again, it was an issue, uh, which I was only just thinking about the other day, because I
can remember holding mum's hand at lunchtime a lot. And this would have been when I was in year one or two of infant school, probably between the ages of like maybe five and seven, something like that. And mum would always just try and shake, shake me off and just say, you know, go make friends, go and find your friends and me just walking around, sucking my thumb all the time and wanting to stay with mum.
Cause it was a comfort and I didn't want to play with people because I didn't understand their game. Everything was just a competition and I was never competitive. I didn't know when I'll beat people or lose, especially cause I would take that as such a personal rejection. Um, then I would feel like, oh, my mum doesn't even want me to be with her. She was obviously thinking she was doing her best and trying to get me to socialize.
Cath: Neither of you knew why you felt that way either.
Hailey: Exactly. Without that knowledge again, obviously that was, that was very difficult. You
know, she obviously thought she was doing good by trying to force me to go and find your confidence.
Cath: And also, I think just to reiterate for people who are listening, who might not understand the details of kind of how it might manifest that some of the things are social communication can be challenging or social interactions, um, not like you've you indicated not understanding what people are doing or why they're doing things. And the other thing is, is things like there's often an over sensitivity to light and touch and sound and not liking change. And, and if you think about growing up. All of those things, social communication interaction, uh, being in a loud school playground, lots of change grow like it's everything.
Hailey: Yeah, everything you don't really want. And then if it's raining, you're stuck inside. You've got the fluorescent light and then it's even louder.
One of the common misunderstandings that I've always heard from people is that, um, people who are on the autistic spectrum don't have any empathy. They struggle with empathy. And what I know of you, I don't think that's particularly true of you. What, what do you want to say on that?
Yes, it is a very common misconception. Um, but also my experience is the complete opposite. I've always been very, very sensitive to any sort of shift in mood or tone or interaction with anyone. I mean, I am quite spiritual as well, so there's a sense of intuition with that, but I've always been referred to as over-sensitive or too sensitive, all of that but to not have empathy at all. I would sometimes absolutely love.
It would be just such a relief because yeah, I feel like I've kind of just, just grown up, feeling everyone's feelings for them a lot of the time, um, carrying it for them. Uh, maybe that's because I don't like the discomfort of there being any kind of mood or upset around that. I like to try and take some of that away from someone. I don't want to see people in pain or suffering or hurting. Hmm. And that has been a huge lesson for me to try and learn, to sit with discomfort. And, uh, I'm aware the people process things very differently to me at a different rate and pace. So I have to allow them to process it because I might pick up on it before they've even realized that they're looking like they're
upset or, you know, anything. That's my issue. I don't like this, so I need to fix it right now, making me uncomfortable.
It is, um, it's interesting because the other people I know who are on the autistic spectrum, um, have a huge amount of empathy for other people and want to help people. It comes from a nice place. It's not from a control or anything. It's about like, they they've talked about, um, wanting to be able to help people and having to learn that it's not their problem to fix. Like someone else has to learn those things as well. And that can be hard. Um, And, and you feel those emotions hugely you're aware of it. But I also think isn't, that comes back to this kind of Hollywood depiction or this idea of depicting people of
what we think of the extreme of kind of how this might present.
Yeah, definitely. Like, you know, some people are watching those sorts of films. People might even think there's a form of an autistic person that may come across as selfish or like their needs, uh, all that matters and that's that, whereas it's not at all. Um, I don't know if maybe there's an element of us, you know, being impacted by so much discomfort in ways that, we wouldn't want others to have to go through that. Um, that maybe there's a part of that as well. Maybe our empathy comes from as well.
Um, helping people because of your experiences.
Yeah. Yeah. Hm. Uh, yeah, so it can be, it can be very challenging. I remember a few people saying to me when I just got my diagnosis, so, oh, it's just a piece of paper. It doesn't
Hailey:[00:15:00] define who you are. And I thought, can I swear?
Yeah do. Absolutely!
I thought, yes, it fucking well does define me. And that's what I wanted as well. I have battled so long. Yeah. So that's a projection of your insecurity with whatever issues you have around this diagnosis. And you can fuck off with that little, chime in. Yes, it does define me. And that's exactly how I want it. Yeah,
I'm really interested you say that because someone once asked me how I would describe my identity. And as quick as a flash, I said I'm redheaded, Australian lesbian. Yeah. And I thought, oh, that's really interesting. And I realized it was the three things I'd had to fight for that had been used against me, by people and woman didn't come into which cause I'm a huge feminist woman didn't care, all this other stuff like, Ooh,
that's interesting. And I realized
You get to own the bits and don't just pick the part for me.
Don't you dare take this off me. This is who I am.
Fantastic. It does feel very powerful to finally get those parts back, doesn't it? I'm not quite as ginger now, but as a kid, I was, and that was just another thing that attracted attention. I got bullied for having a big front teeth because I used to suck my thumb because that was my stimming
So all those things, so yes. It's nice when they don't hold power over you in the same way anymore.
I've never really wanted anyone to think of me as moody or grumpy or not friendly or approachable. And things like that.
And I realized since having my diagnosis, that I finally care a lot less about what other people think, because I know I can't do so much. I have to be more intuitive and being able to get through a working day is sometimes enough or hard enough that if I have to do that without a smile on my face, and people think that I'm grumpy or I'm in a mood today, then that's fine. Because at least I can get through my day.
And also you're very open. I mean, I need to tell listeners that Hailey is my tattooist. Um, so I've seen her at work and been in her space and it's an incredibly intense environment where there's a high level of concentration for you. And you're also very open about who you are now since you've had your diagnosis. So I also think
you talk about masking and you've, you've masked your whole life to actually, why do you have to do it. It's a balance and it's a conversation, a connection is two people that both of you can come up to that level of seeing each other. And you, I think the more open you are about, the better it is because it allows you the space to not have to take the lead to be responsible for that space. Like other people, the shared space. I think that's really important.
Yeah. Yeah. That's very true. Um, I can remember an instance. One day I was tattooing a new customer and I'd met her briefly for a consultation a few weeks before the date of her appointment. And I was in the mood for it that day. Like I had energy, she was sort of quite high energy. I had an initial gut feeling like maybe she had ADHD, something like that, but obviously I didn't. want to make that assumption or anything. Um, and the day she was due in, I was
sort of just coming off the back of a few days of sort of burnout and overwhelm. And I was exhausted. I was sort of still feeling the aftershock of that, I guess a hangover from it. I had messaged her privately and said, look, I know you're due to come today. Please don't take any of it personally, you know, uh, I'm autistic and this is how I've felt the last few days. So please, excuse me. I'm just going to keep my head down, get on with my work and do the best job I can for you, but don't expect much conversation or anything. If you don't mind leaving me to it, not trying to force any conversation, I'll have the energy to get through it for. Bring headphones, whatever you want to do. But don't look to me for any type of conversation. And actually she, when she came in at the end of the session, she said how grateful she was for me saying
so that. She had, um, been on and off of, um, medication her whole life, because she had got diagnosed with ADHD when she was younger. And then ask me how I went about getting my diagnosis. It opened up a whole dialogue and had a completely different dynamic instead of her coming in all frantic and me feeling almost like backed into a corner, not knowing how to cope with it, or being able to just crack on with my work and focus on one thing, you know? So I was very grateful that I, I did it in that, to that reaction gave me a lot more confidence to do the same for other people.
I'm not surprised. You're self-employed, it's like it, you don't have a boss in that sense. So it's your environment to choose how you want to work. And if you can express that to someone, um, I think that's absolutely wonderful.
It's absolutely you taking control of that environment and
making your needs known, which I think is wonderful. And I think the more we can all do that, the better, regardless of neurodiversity.
Yeah, definitely. It's only been a really been lockdown, that's sort of taught me all of this because I've had the time to sit and process myself really.
Like I've gone through my life just as me not knowing I did or processed things any different about anyone else? It's post-diagnosis people that I didn't know before my diagnosis, uh, I've been learning a lot from them because I've been able to go into a new relationship with that knowledge. Whereas people that knew me before my diagnosis, their opinion and views of me are of me masking, but they think they know me.
Oh, that's fascinating isn't it? From an identity point of view of, yeah.
Yeah. Oh, well, that's just Hailey, well, no, nobody actually really knows me on the outside because you just see a version of me that I think exists in the world that
won't draw negative attention.
Yeah. That's fascinating. How do you think that's impacted them when they, if they think they've had a relationship like a friendship or whatever with you and learning that you've been masking, have you had those kinds of conversations with people?
I don't know if I I've maybe sort of tried to say a few things here and there. I think some people have been open to it and sort of wanted to learn, whereas other people just kind of like dismissed it and think they know me anyway. Um, but there's been a lot more instances where so before I would just crack on and do anything. Like if I made a plan, I wouldn't cancel it.
Whereas now. If I'm tired or I just don't feel right I will cancel things and maybe some people do take that more personally now. It's not, it's more
intuitive than I've ever been.
You're actually living how you like you're authentically you rather than masking.
That must be far less exhausting.
It really is. Yeah. And you know, when I first started doing it, it was uncomfortable because I would still feel guilty and then I would exhaust myself by trying to fit them in on another day when I had no time.
In the UK, we have a lanyard that you can wear around your neck that has always it. Well, it's been an indicator of having a hidden disability for awhile, and it's a sign that you might, um, need some extra help, or just be aware that you might respond to something differently. My wife finds it particularly useful at airports and going through security. Um, And in lockdown in this country is as you're well aware it was used,
also, you could have it as an exemption for wearing a mask. Um, how has your experience been before and after lockdown because you go out and about, and you see an awful lot of lanyards about now, has that had a difference about how people treat you or how they respond to you?
It's been extremely varied. I've been very thankful for it. So when the masks and everything started, I wore one because I thought I would be okay, just getting on with it for the first couple of short stints, I did continue wearing a mask. Um, but I was really struggling. The work was just even more overwhelming than normal, and I couldn't figure out what it was and why I was so drained and not able to keep up with the amount of what I could of before. I kept going to toilet. I was taking the mask off and spinning out, getting really bad. I don't have
Hailey:[00:25:00] a very sensitive gag reflex at all, but it really felt like, I just wanted to be sick all the time. Couldn't get my breath or like I was going to pass out all the time. Wearing glasses as well. Obviously, I'm sure a lot of people found how frustrating and, you know, we have sensory issues. Just the pressure on your face. One of my main sensory issues is feeling, um, breath on or me on skin. And. I hate it. It's just this instant rage and anger. I have to really try and not lash out at somebody. like not turn into a she-haulk!
and then when's it's your own breath,
Yeah, I have no one to be angry at probably present as a terrible mood to everyone on the outside.
Well, I mean, tattooing is not a temporary
thing. It's like, you need to make sure you're doing it right. And well, and I know you have a very high standard of work and you can't stuff up.
Yeah, exactly. So that the stress levels were just through the roof and when it came to, uh, returning in the new year, I wrote a statement for work to tell everyone that I shan't be struggling on through masking once again. Um, and I will be wearing my land yard. Um, you know, the testing two or three times a week. So keeping safe, but I won’t be wearing a mask. I didn't have anyone that wasn't comfortable with it. Um, at all, which was great. I don't feel comfortable really in an interaction with people unless it's ridiculously open. Um, you said in my intro that I'm
very self-aware. and I always thought that I was, but I think sometimes I don't know that I am
Is that your autistic side?
Yeah, masking again.
The analyzing that focusing on detail is, is a huge strength, but it can also be, uh, uh, like a challenge as well.
I think that's probably 'cause I know, I feel comfortable talking that deeply that I forget, not everyone wants to. I have to really remind myself to ask questions about if people are comfortable talking about things before I just launch into a conversation about their deepest, darkest moments. They probably want to forget and move on. Yeah. Quite right. Yeah. I, I feel like, um, I'm withholding important information. or something I, I felt
I'm the worst liar, obviously. I'm the worst liar. Yeah. So I just feel like if, if someone asks, how are you? It could just be, I don't really care, but you are just being polite? I don't get that, so I'm like, yeah. I'm not great because this happened, that happened and oh it's the new moon, blah blah. And someone's probably thinking I've got a I'm late for my bus now, a yes or no would have been fine.
That could be the autistic literal side, but it also could just be. As a society, we do this, this surface level kind of falseness. That's like, Hey, how are you going and people don't really want an answer. It's like, if you're at the checkout and the supermarket is having a good day and I'm sure they just to say, yeah, it's great. But part of me wants to say, actually, I've had a really shitty day. My grandmother
just died, the cat's got run over. I wanted to do that, just to see how people would react. And I, I find that when I don't know about you, but I find that that if I actually start to talk about life, not quite that extreme or ask them about their day there, they, you can see the energy shift in the person and they actually know that you're talking about them and asking about them.
and they're almost a bit baffled. Yeah. Yeah. Just sort of momentarily shocked. Someone has seen me.
Absolutely. And I think that's why I'm so passionate about these kinds of conversations like this one in the podcast, because we don't, we don't allow ourselves to be vulnerable or to talk to people that are complete strangers very much in that way. And I think if we allow ourselves a bit of vulnerability and a bit of open the door slightly, it allows other people to do the same and it's we just connect more. There's less polarity and less division, all of that kind of stuff.
I definitely do that. And it takes me quite a bit of time to then realize if the other person isn't comfortable. Like, whoa oversharing! I'm a serial over sharer.
I was just going to say you can overshare with me anytime baby, but I thought that my wife might think differently.
So that's also another thing, obviously I know you well now, but sarcasm just, I do not get, unless it's really, really obvious or sexual innuendo, I get that
That's why we get on well, toilet humour and sexual innuendo.
But outside of that, just sarcasm. Um, I take so personally,
So that must, that must make relationships harder then like that, that level of having to really, to communicate with a partner, to help them understand where you're coming from. And yeah.
Yeah, definitely. I, uh, I've just started reading a really interesting book actually called The Other Half of Aspergers. There's a bit in that, that she says about how if you were bullied as a child, and you have Aspergers that that level of personal rejection and trauma stays with you forever, the tiniest little comment can strip you right back to that moment in the playground where a small flippant comment to someone would, would use me to gibbering crying trembling wreck in the corner. And I would just think, why are you being so mean? No, no, it's not. Yeah, no, I'm
a complete different. Well, in those moments, you do feel like you've been put on an alien planet. I'm just surrounded by a completely different race that happened to look like me and function, certain similarities.
We see depictions of autistic people in film and in TV and like the most notable one is Dustin Hoffman's character and Rain Man. And, and then more recently there's the Netflix series Atypical that focuses on the teenager, Sam uh, who's on the autistic spectrum. Um, how helpful are these depictions for raising awareness in terms of how, how people react to you? Because like the Rain Man character was an autistic savant and he's one extreme, but there's, there becomes these kind of extreme ends. And there's an awful lot of people that are in between. How does that impact with your life and what people
Cath: [00:33:00] think you're going to be like? Or do they expect you to look different because you're autistic or like what, how do they,
Again, as you say, like the Rain Man thing, I think when people say we don't look autistic, that's what they have in their head, you know? I've recently been watching Atypical actually. I think it's great. There's just so many moments in that that have really like hit hit me emotionally quite hard because I can just empathize with them so much. A lot of my points of reference and things are me being at school and those teenage years, because I really absolutely hated being at school. And I can remember, you know, parents and people saying, oh these are the best years of your life. And, thinking, well, kill me now, because if it doesn't get any better than this, then what's the point?
I just hated it with all the horrible people. Um, obviously that's a generalization. Some friends from school that I'm still friends with now, but I, um, got picked on a lot. I got bullied a lot, so I just tried to do anything and everything I could to just fit in and look like people mimic and mask in every way that I could. Um, because I didn't want this attention or I didn't want to keep getting tripped up or pushed against the wall, you know? All different forms of bullying, really? Why I've seemed to call such offense to people? Why, why did they need to react? So harshly towards me? I couldn't work out. What I was doing was so wrong or bad,
None of it.
But also I want to pick up on that. You talk about the years and years of learning to mimic and then masking and [00:35:00] observing people. I don't want this to be all about the challenges because there, the positives are also incredible. Like. The incredible ability to focus and persistence on, on things. And, um, people talk about an attitude for recognizing patterns and attention to detail. And those things is, although it was born out of a difficult experience, it's you using those things for survival and, and you look at the work you do now as a tattooist, it's the artwork that you do in the detail that you put in. And it's just incredible. And I think, um, it's like that distant relative of yours saying, oh, I'm sorry. It's actually, well, no, actually this can be amazing. And the kind of jobs that people can do can really play to their strengths.
I mean, we wouldn't have a lot of things that we have in the world now without autistic people. I think that people forget. Probably electric
computers, financial system. We probably wouldn't have anything in the way the society works without autism.
Yeah. It's interesting. The, um, recognizing patterns as well. I'm, uh, just briefly my, my wife tells the story of going to a workshop day, where they were having to, I think with church and they were looking at church accounts and trying to work it out and all these people were sitting there.
desperately trying to work out how to balance these books and they just couldn't and she, because she isn't good at maths, she just said, oh, well just go make the tea. And she came back in and they was still furiously writing. And she, she just looked at said, well, it's obvious. It's just, that goes there. And that, and she just could see it crystal clear as a pattern. And they all looked at her and were like, What? A super, superpower.
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. If you're looking at a Uh, sort of like a wider image of it spread out and yeah, even just how something [00:37:00] looks on a page. There's one bit, that's slightly out of place. You'll pick it out, you know, like. Like it's a red flag. Um, I can remember learning, uh, my mental arithmetic was never great. Um, but I can remember the way I used to learn. My spelling was not the word itself, but I would memorize and remember. The whole page that I had written the words on and how the page looked. And so my mum used to call it a photographic memory, but in actual fact, it's obviously that, that pattern finding. I can still just talking about it now. I can still remember one of the pages. I remember I was trying to learn how to spell the word illustration and yeah, I can still remember like how my handwriting looked at that time and everything.
Really, really great way to wig people out like memory, like an elephant.
But I never even knew that that was a thing really until yeah. I talked to more people and. One of, uh, a friend of mine actually referred to that not so long ago said that my memory was freaky. I don't even remember that we did that. How would you remember every detail about what you were wearing? What I was wearing, what we were talking about, like what the weather was doing that day.
I mean, you've talked a lot about kind of your experiences, and I know that you're on the autistic spectrum and we know each other well, if I'm a complete stranger in the street or like someone who's just been introduced to you, what, what can we do to make your life?
That's a good question. I guess, never assume or don't talk to us in a really patronizing way. Like we're mentally ill, uh, ask questions. Very often you get the rabbit in headlights moment. Uh, and maybe some people will pick up on that. Some people might not, but just always ask, is there maybe make you feel a bit better. Sometimes it can be taking a few shoes and sitting on the floor and a lot of people might not be comfortable with you doing that. But when you meet the right friends and people, they don't care and they'll probably join you. Maybe just be that little bit more aware that meeting in a coffee shop might be dead comfortable for you, but won't be for someone who's autistic. We might need to sit outside or we might need to be in the quiet corner. That's not bright or we might be wearing our sunglasses, which people might think you're a diva, or I might just have to have,
Well I know you're a diva Hailey!
Headphones is quite a big one. I think, you know, a lot of people will probably think of There's Something About Mary, with her brother in that, but in actual fact, very often, I, I, um, I don't even have music on, I just have them to sort of trim out that background noise.
Cath: Dim the white noise. Isn't it just dim it down.
Yeah. Yeah. And especially in coffee shops, you know, if you got the milk steamer going and then if someone's emptying the dishwasher or you know that noise of just the China plates all being stacked up really roughly it's just, oh, it's like someone's sticking needles in your edge.
Yeah. I was going to say that, ask you about that. because I've heard people say it's, it's physically painful. It's not just uncomfortable, it's physically painful.
I think a lot of people think, oh, sensory things are individual, but they're not. They're so linked. You do get the
physical effects from an auditory over stimulation, even affects, at sometimes my eyesight things will go dizzy or blurry. If I, you know, feel certain things or certain sensations on my skin can make me just want to physically cringe so much or a noise can make me just want to curl into a ball for the sensory things for us. It's so linked that they aren't individual senses. It's like a whole other part of our body.
It's almost like it's electrified, isn't it? If we find you in that state, If by chance someone's out and about, and, or even for partner like partner or a sibling, friend, anybody who has someone who's on the autistic spectrum. And I know everyone is hugely varied, but in those moments of, of overstimulation,
what's the best way. 'cause if you're, if you're in a state where you're struggling just to exist and you can't verbalize what you might need or not need, what's the best thing to do to help someone in that, that situation?
Everyone's going to be so different on this. But for me, I tend to not be able to sort of vocalize too well about what I need. I need someone to almost think for me, Maybe, give me, give me some orders. Just like come like, give me a bag. Like, just take everything off of us that you might think is too much. If we're wearing shitloads of layers, which we probably are probably overheated, but we can't sense that we have, so, you know, take a jumper like take our arm, walk us outside, or sit with us on the floor, just like some, some guidance or, you know,
if you can get an answer out of us, like, what do we need or what can I do to help? We might be able to say like, you know, I need to get outside or take me home or just get some somewhat quiet, somewhere where there's no eyes and ears, you know, just some way just to be, uh, on, just allow it the wave to wash over enough to get home or get safe.
I imagine that's a big thing is as you say, to get safe, like that safety is such an important thing and it operates on so many different levels in terms of physical, but emotional safety, that it must be scary being in that state. And, and particularly if you're not in your comfort, if you're not at home, like if you're out somewhere, that can be scary. I imagine.
Yeah, definitely. Because very often, once you get to that point of overwhelm and overload, I, again, the physical side comes in.
I just feel so dizzy. Um,
Exhausted like a sort of dead weight. I can remember once just being sat in my car or getting back to my car and just sort of collapsing into it and thinking finally, I can just let the guard down for a moment, but then thinking now, at some point I am going to have to drive home. But it, it can before I've been walking in, it happened and it, it, it felt like somebody had just shaken the ground underneath me that, you know, I've sort of stumbled and gone to fall over. Very often when people are really, they stressed. That's maybe how. Um, they might feel then like you get that the chest that anxious the tight chest or that sort of thing comes with it as well.
Yeah. To the extent weigh on the floor with it. It's um, yeah, it's not very nice. And especially if you haven't had the diagnosis and you're sort of in your teens or something, and you might be out drinking for the first few times.
If that happens to you, then, you know, it can be very scary. Yeah,
Absolutely. And I think it's important to talk about that and I'm really grateful that you're sharing this because I think there are a lot of people that won't have been diagnosed or they will know someone that they suspect might be. If we can recognize those kinds of signs, um, there's more chance that that person can be kept safe and looked after and the right things happen rather than a response that's actually going to make it harder for somebody.
Yeah, definitely. There is a lot of worry, because obviously we plod along wanting to fit in with everyone. Um, well, I know I did. Some people weren't bothered, but I, I, I was never bothered as a kid, but then when I was made to feel that my confidence being on my own was weird and that's what attracted a lot of negative attention, everyone. That's when I changed and felt as though I
needed to care a lot more about what other people thought, um, that then you go, so over the top of wanting to try to fit in and keeping up with how everyone else socialize s, that you can then even not realize that overwhelm and burnout is hitting you. And if, yeah, if you're, if you're, uh, an older teenager, young adult. And you're, you're out sort of drinking and the social situations, really not comfortable, but trying your best to fit in. You know, you can get yourself into a lot of situations that you'd just be too scared to try and talk your way out.
Yeah, absolutely. And I imagine in those, I mean, one of the things I know well from, um, people on the autistic spectrum is the dislike to, to change and, and how you have to get prepared for it, like work up in your head or what's going to happen, or that there's a sameness that people like. And if you're constantly trying to [00:47:00] fit to be like everyone else you're bringing constant change into your life as well. Which must be really hard and I don't, I just can't imagine teenage years are hard enough, let alone that as well.
Yeah. Yeah. I never thought of it like that, actually. Yeah. That's an interesting way of putting it. Um, I'm very often sort of referred to having Aspergers to people as though you're living in a different country. So you're trying to translate a language in your head, back into English. So then you can understand that to then vocalize what you want to say back from English into another language, then talk to them
That's a really nice analogy that.
It's almost like that I guess, trying to process a world that doesn't work the way your brain does.
It's a hundred percent a different way of communicating. And not only that, but it's because of the physicality of it. It's, it's so deep. I mean, it's, it's probably harder
than being in another country because you're dealing with the physical sensations as well that come up. Um, so, and also the other thing that if you are in another country, you can always leave the other country and go back. You go back, you go back to fitting in like I've loved watching you come out more in that. I don't wanna say come out of yourself. Cause you've, you've, you've stepped more into yourself, I guess.
Yeah it does definitely feel like that, but at the same time. Yeah. And I think that there's a huge acceptance. So I've had, you know, a lot of things have changed in my life, especially this year. Um, And even looking back sort of three or four months ago, I look back now and I think, oh yeah, I wouldn't even bother to try that anymore.
Yeah. That's great. I love it. Absolutely love it. That's going to be us coming to a close. If people want to. Um, have a look at your tattoos and follow your work and, um, maybe reach out to you. I've got down here that your social media is @tattoosbyhai
yeah, that's me yeah, that's my Instagram and Facebook is @tattoosbyhaileyslade
Okay, fantastic. Thank you so much. Hailey. One of the things with you, I love how open and honest you are and, um, your, your enthusiasm for sharing stuff, because I think it can really help lots of other people. And if there are other people that, um, just even want to say hello, and I think you're fantastic, then please do reach out.
Yeah. Um, yeah, I'm more than happy to help where I can. Um, I know there's a lot of people of all ages that maybe have always maybe felt different, but never been able to get a diagnosis. So, yeah. Yeah.
It's really, really good. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Sorry. That's my Rocco having his input, just at the very last moment. I've been trying to pacify and keep him quiet this whole time.
Cath: Well, thank you so much Hailey for your time. And, um, I hope that, no, actually I don't hope. I know that, um, this will have been of interest and use to an awful lot of people, uh, to help understand each other and, and other people's lives that little bit more. So, so thank you.
Thank you for asking. I had no idea that my, uh, existence and experiences were that interesting!
Well they are, and I'm just about to say that, um, if you or anyone else has a deeper story that you wish to share with listeners, challenges that you've faced or grown through or still might even be dealing with, please get in touch with me at
drawntostory.com. I'm always looking for new guests in the future. So you've been listening to Drawn to a Deeper Story with Cath Brew.
Thanks very much for joining me.