My Autism Journey

October 2016

I met my best friend, who also happens to be autistic. She observed autistic traits in me that no one else had in the 31 years previously.

I was sceptical. I was almost 32 and no one had ever even considered I was anything other than neurotypical (outside of depression and anxiety) but what she was saying made sense.

She pointed me in the direction of online Autism Quotient tests. I scored between 39-42 on pretty much every test I took. She scored 39 and had an official diagnosis.

February 2017

On the 22nd February 2017, I accepted that I was autistic. I sat crying into my phone messaging my best friend saying that nothing had ever made so much sense to me in my life.

With research I’d been doing over the last few months I came across some great trans and autistic communities and realised that some 35% of autistic people are also trans or gender nonconforming. (I wish someone would study that link.)

March 2017

I went to my GP and told them that I think I’m autistic and gave them a list of reasons why. They asked me all sorts of intrusive questions that I didn’t like. I left that appointment crying and proceeded to have a meltdown in my car. (I’d also spoken to them about trans issues in this appointment and the questions about that were so uneducated and misinformed. This was also to be my downfall going forward for both issues.)

May 2017

I attend my first appointment at Trealaw Mental Health Unit in South Wales.

Expectations: GIC referral and referral to a consultant psychologist to be assessed for ASD. (Autism Spectrum Disorder.)

Reality: Nonbinary erasure, intrusive questions, disbelief that at 32 I was only just realising I was both trans and autistic.

I went over again all the things I had told my GP using my list I created, breaking down different behaviours in blocks of 5 years up until the present day. The nurse I saw took a photocopy of the list and said that they were unable to refer me me further because they were not a consultant and they didn’t know when a consultant would be available to see me.

June-October 2017

The above situation happened a total of 7 times, including an appointment which had a blood test in it to see if I was able to go on testosterone. (Talk about getting my hopes up!)

It was so draining, intrusive and destroyed my mental health. My drinking increased ten fold in this time. It was the only way I could cope with the constant invalidation and disappointment. I had a meltdown in my car after every appointment.

I also had an autism advocate write two letters of complaint. Each time I got a call from the head of mental health in my county apologising. I kept telling him that I thought someone along the line was gate keeping the pathways and that I wasn’t going to give up. I made it very clear that we could continue wasting NHS time and resources for as long as he wanted.

November 2017

I get two letters in the post.

The first one comes with clear instructions as to what the appointment is for. I’m going to see a consultant to be assessed for ASD. The appointment is in January and they need me to fill out a written autism quotient test and bring it with me.

The second letter has no details on it, just an appointment at the standard mental health place in February. (It was cancelled due to snow so I still don’t know what this was for, but as of Feb 2018 I still don’t have an NHS GIC referral.)

January 2018

The day of my appointment with the consultant is here. I’ve deliberately got myself in a bit of a state by messing with my routine and having lots of appointments on the same day to emphasise my autistic traits. I mask quite well sometimes and that was definitely not needed here.

I rock up at Trealaw Mental Health Unit only to find that my appointment was at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital and not the place I had been attending for the past few months. They took my AQ test and rescheduled the appointment. I went and had a meltdown in my car, which seems pretty standard practise for all my visits there now.

February 2018

The day itself  before my appointment was incredibly stressful for reasons I’m not going to disclose. My best friend met me in Pontypridd and I was in full shut down mode. They had never seen me like this before. They dropped me at the Royal Glam and wished me luck.

The consultant was late. I’m not sure if this was deliberate, but I was basically twitching and trying not to have a meltdown by the time he eventually showed up.

We sat and chatted for about 2 hours. He changed his fountain pen twice with the amount he was writing. He liked my now rather scruffy piece of paper with the age categories and developmental milestones. (He took that otherwise I’d show you a copy now. ) He asked about relationships, social difficulties and all sorts of stuff about my childhood. I told him I live in the world below eye contact and I miss a lot of social cues because of this. I looked at his face twice but not his eyes. I wouldn’t know him in the street.

I’m going to attach an edited version of his report so that you can see the criteria he was looking for. However please be aware that he misgenders me throughout and I have asked him to edit this in the copy he sends to my GP. (It was difficult for me to read because of this.)

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I’ve shared this process with you in the hope that it will help you if you are an adult seeking diagnosis in the NHS or elsewhere. Please feel free to ask any questions.

The search for the illusive GIC referral continues……….

 

 

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Anna Loka: A Review

Anna Loka is a brand new vegan restaurant in the Roath area of Cardiff.  I had  been hearing some great things about the day time cafe menu, but they didn’t have an evening opening so I held back on visiting.

Recently they started to open in the evenings from 6pm. We booked for a table of ten to celebrate my imminent marriage to the bearded one.

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They offered 3 courses for £19.95, so of course we had the full lot. Here’s what was on offer:

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I had the pumpkin arancini. It was crunchy on the outside and  gooey on the inside. The sweet tomato and herb sauce really complimented the the richness of the arancini. wpid-wp-1445193405256.jpeg wpid-wp-1445193583241.jpeg

My friends and family all had different dishes and were very happy with their choices. I had a few bites of everyone else’s, including eating the pansies from my mum’s salad, which the whole table found amusing.

Falafel.

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Beetroot Cappaccio.

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Southern fried vegetables.

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The main course was something altogether. Mine was absolutely mind blowing! I had the seitan steak. It was like roast beef, smothered in a beautiful gravy with perfect mustard mash and crunchy green vegetables. They even made the seitan themselves.

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My brother had the baked aubergine. He said it was good. I didn’t like it. I thought the aubergine was under cooked and the flavours didn’t seem quite right. Mismatched almost. It looked great though.

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The rest of the family had the raviollo. I tasted some and it was herby, fresh and full of flavour. It was a great dish, but I preferred my steak.

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We tried each other’s puddings and agreed that they were all amazing. I’d order any of them again. Personally, even though I ordered the creme brulee (and it had the crack when I broke the crunchy topping) , I thought the parfait was the star of the desserts.

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I give Anna Loka a 9.5 out of 10. The 0.5 will be remedied when I can have a nice glass of red wine with my steak. (They intend to bring in alcohol in the future.) The service was excellent and the food outstanding overall.

I’ll be popping in to try the breakfast and lunch menu at some point in the future too.

 

Spiced Butterbean & Sweetcorn Soup

It’s certainly Autumn here in the Welsh valleys. I’m wrapped up nice and warm with a cup of tea whilst I write this.

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With the cold in mind, I came up with a delicious and hearty soup to warm your cockles.

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Ingredients:

1 tbsp of oil

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

1 can of chopped tomatoes (and then fill the can back up for a can of water to add too.)

1 can of sweetcorn, drained

A large handful of dry red lentils

1 tbsp of chilli flakes

1 tbsp of cumin

Salt and pepper to flavour

1 can of butterbeans, drained

A handful of fresh baby leaf spinach

A dollop of vegan mayo to cool if needed

 

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Method:

  1. In a large pan, fry the onion and garlic in the oil for approximately 3 minutes.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, with all the herbs and spices, mixing well and keeping the heat medium.
  3. Add the lentils and water and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Now add the sweetcorn and butterbeans, mixing throughout.
  5. Does it smell great yet? If not, add more herbs and spices to get it to your liking.
  6. Turn up the heat for the last five minutes of cooking and add the baby leaf spinach.
  7. Enjoy with a good dollop of creamy mayo, sour cream or your own homemade aquafaba goodness.

This dish is full of protein and will fill you up for sure.

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Spiced Squash Pasta: A Thai-Italian Fusion

This is entertaining made easy and it’s extra tasty.

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Ingredients:

2 tbsp vegetable oil

Red curry paste to taste (I used roughly 100g)

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 can of coconut milk

Fresh coriander

1 tbsp lemon grass paste

500g tagliatelle pasta

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Method:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan or wok.
  • Add the curry paste, squash and lemongrass. Fry for 2-3 minutes on a medium heat.
  • Pour in the coconut milk, stir well and bring to the boil.
  • Allow to simmer for about 25 minutes. Add extra paste and coconut milk if sauce becomes too thick.
  • When the squash is almost done, cook the pasta according to packet instructions, then drain well.
  • Pour half the sauce from the pan into a big bowl and mix with the pasta.
  • Plate up and place remaining squash and fresh coriander on top.
  • Add siracha if you fancy some extra spice, which I always do.

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Simple Sharing Platter

Whenever I have people over, I always provide food for two reasons:

1) I’m a good host and I like my guests to be comfortable in my house.

2) It promotes veganism and that is always a good thing.

I had my niece around just before Christmas. She isn’t vegan and isn’t a particularly adventurous eater. The only thing on my platter she had had before was the BBQ sauce.

I made the guacamole myself using avocado, lime juice, salt, chilli and garlic and a blender. The BBQ sauce was shop bought.

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I then baked Vegi Deli chicken style pieces in Jamaican All Spice and sautéed the aubergine in salt and garam masala until soft.

The whole lot took me about 20 minutes. Guess what? She loved it!

Simple and tasty vegan food wins the day again.

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Queer Vegan now has an Instagram page too. Check it out! Queervegan666

 

Tofu Mustard Steaks With Herby Lentils & Capers

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This is one of those, “I fancy something a bit different” recipes. It’s sure as hell not a meaty dish at all, despite what the name may say. It’s savoury for sure, but filled with spice and freshness that you would never get using a lump of cow. Before anyone yaps on, “urgh then you shouldn’t call it a steak.” PLEASE! I can call it what I like. It’s my damn recipe! 😛

 

Ingredients:

1 red onion, diced

1 teaspoon of mixed Italian herbs

The juice of one lemon

The zest of the same lemon

1 block of firm tofu (I used Cauldron as it’s widely available in the arse end of nowhere where we live.)

Mustard (I used American burger mustard because my partner doesn’t like things too hot. I’d have used whole grain English mustard if I was just cooking for me.)

Black pepper

Salt

Green lentils, about 2 cups

2 tablespoons of capers from a jar (rinse them off because whatever they preserve them in is bitter as hell.)

Some olive oil

A glass of red wine to serve. 😉

 

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Method

1) Get the oven on full whack. It needs to be at a high temperature to crisp the tofu.

2) Drain and press your tofu to remove as much moisture as possible. I put mine between two plates because I’m not fancy enough to have a tofu press.

3) Once your tofu is ready, cut into four steaks and then cover in mustard, slat and pepper. Put them into the oven for approximately 40 minutes with a dash of olive oil over the top for extra crisp.

4) Now get your green lentils on the boil. following the packet instructions.

5) In a mixing bowl pour your lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper and then stir together. Now add the chopped onion and mixed herbs.

6) When the lentils are cooked, drain and then place in the mixed bowl, stirring to ensure good coverage from the dressing. Now add the capers. Serve the mixture between two plates.

7) Take the mustard steaks from the oven and place directly on top of your lentil mix. Serve hot with a glass of red wine and a fresh dash of olive oil over the top for flavour.

 

This recipe serves 2 adults.

 

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Sausage Ragu & Cheesy Polenta

A sausage ragu is one of those recipes you often see on pretentious Italian cooking shows. The chef spends all day cooking it and it looks like tomato slop on a plate. I decided I’d write my own recipe for it which can be completed without fancy ingredients and in about 30 minutes. This is now one of my favourite comfort food meals. It’s fresh and fragrant, yet filling and hearty. Everything you want in a dish right? Take a look at this!

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I enjoyed mine with a lovely Welsh cider really complemented the flavours in the sauce! 🙂 (Pretentious or what? 😛 )

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped or minced

8 vegan sausages (I used Linda McCartney as these days I’m skint.)

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

400 ml vegetable stock

2 tbsp tomato puree

400g instant polenta

1 whole block of vegan cheese (I used Cheezly because it’s hard to get hold of much in rural South Wales. Try Tesco’s smoked vegan cheese for the best flavours.)

4 fresh rosemary sprigs

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Method

Make the ragu! Heat the oil in a frying pan. Cook the onions and garlic for a few minutes on a medium heat.

Stir in the sausages, breaking them up into small pieces as they defrost. This should take roughly 8 minutes.

Stir in the chopped tomatoes, stock, tomato puree and most of the rosemary. Leave to simmer for about 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken.

Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Whilst the ragu is simmering away, it’s time to make the cheesy polenta. Make up the polenta as per the packet instructions. Remove from the heat and stir in your cheese. (You’ll need to have grated it for this to work.) Season as you wish.

To plate up, pour the ragu over the top of the polenta and add some fresh sprigs of rosemary.

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I really hope you enjoy this dish. It’s worth the time and effort to make it. 🙂