Finishing my Master's and some Autism Thoughts

by - Sunday, August 07, 2022

 It was hard to put a title on this one because it's really just a collection of random thoughts but I wanted to talk about my Master's in Climate Change, Policy, Media and Society in DCU. I submitted my final dissertation last Thursday and it brought an end to a whole wonderful period of my life. For anyone interested in learning more about climate change within a whole of society perspective, I could not recommend this course more. It really solidified the science of climate change in my head but also gave such a wide perspective in a number of areas - I have to say that I found the communications and media modules the most enjoyable, mainly because they were a little bit more creative, but I also loved the policy module and have become really interested in policy change as a result.  For what is described as a 'wicked' problem, I often feel that the messaging out there on climate change can become very siloed and centred on small narratives, like (for example) plastic use or electric vehicles.  And for those who are trying to just get by, these discussions can seem irrelevant to day to day life, or worse still, they can be alienating when they are not put in the context of social equality and accessibility.

Pink Flower June Blake's Garden

The course really solidified for me a lot of things that I instinctively believed or felt, but that perhaps were not well articulated in my head. We had so many wonderful engaging lecturers and were introduced to a wealth of literature in different areas that has increased my knowledge immeasurably.  It also gave me the opportunity to chat to wonderful classmates who are as passionate about climate action as I am and I learnt so much from their creativity and perspectives. 

Even though I felt huge pressure trying to finish my thesis and thought I would feel only relief when it went in, I actually had very mixed feelings. Yes, there was relief, but also a lot of sadness as it felt like a goodbye, or the end of an era which I had enjoyed so much.  I think also it was partly my neurodivergent need to always have a focus.  I don't do well when I'm untethered as my brain is constantly in overdrive and I need to direct that energy in a good way, or else it can become inward facing and I feel down and deflated.  Another wonderful thing about the Master's, for me, was that I always felt I hadn't lived up to my potential in my undergrad degree.  Knowing what I know now about my autism and adhd, I've been able to look back on that period with a different lens, and understand that my executive dysfunction and struggles with time and organisation were probably a huge factor in this underperformance. So doing the Master's as an older person with better tools to deal with things, and the huge benefit of technology and phone reminders/calendars etc. allowed me another opportunity to do my best. I did put a massive amount of work in and for anyone thinking of doing the course, do be prepared for some serious work but it's so worth it.

In relation to looking at things through a new lens, my diagnosis has reframed pretty much every single thing about my life and learning about autistic masking has made so much sense of everything for me. I've seen other autistic people speaking about getting a diagnosis and how they seem to become 'more autistic'.  I've been thinking about that and I think this is true for me also. Having spent my whole life trying to squeeze myself into the predominant neurotyple model, I'm finding more and more, post diagnosis, that I've developed a huge resistance to masking and trying to appear 'normal' and saying the right thing.  For those who know me, this may manifest as me being rude or more direct, or saying no to social invites. It's not something I'm doing consistently as I do still very much feel a pull towards that habitual people pleasing, but for my own sake, and because I am now aware that my particular autistic perspective is not 'wrong', I am trying to be truer to myself and minimise autistic meltdowns and burnout.  Autistic meltdowns are really debilitating and it takes some time to recover from them. For me, the meltdown manifests as a huge sense of physical discomfort and irritation, almost like my body is humming out of harmony.  I feel completely exhausted and unable to deal with regular self-care activities and feel a huge sense of mental overwhelm and depression.  What helps me is to be quiet in a calm space and have time to myself to recalibrate, but ideally avoiding them is the better path and that's the thing that I'm trying to get better at.

I have to give a shoutout also to Neuro Pride Ireland who are such a lovely bunch of people and are doing amazing work advocating for all the neurodivergent people out there.  They also have a Facebook group you can join for chats and support and have organised a Neuro Pride festival. Unfortunately because I was so exhaused after getting thesis in, I missed a lot of it but I'm hoping to get to a group chat later.  Being part of a neurodivergent community is really important to me and having conversations with other autistic people has such a differnt energy that I really enjoy. Plus there is a huge empathy for other people's needs and limitations and a very non-judgemental ethos which is just so refreshing and comfortable!

Bee on flower June Blake's Garden

In the vein of always needing a focus, I've been accepted on a new course for September.  It's the level 9 Certificate in Global Citizenship Education in Maynooth and I'm really looking forward to that. It really ties in with all my beliefs and the topics that I am interested in, and looks at global systems, colonisation, climate justice, anti-racism and lots of other fascinating topics. So I will undoubtedly be getting some new blog posts out of that! :)

Yellow flower June Blake's Garden

I took a little break this morning and went to June Blake's garden in Wicklow - the pictures in this post are all from there and it's still a lovely time of year to visit if you haven't been there.  The flowers look spectacular.

Flower in June Blake's Garden Wicklow


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