Self-diagnosing myself with Autism

Hello my little demons,

This blog post is a little different today, and I know I said ‘self-diagnosing’, there’s a lot of issues surrounding self-diagnosing medical/psychological/neurological issues, but bare in with me…

I had Selective Mutism…

You may already know that I had Selective Mutism as a child. I haven’t been officially diagnosed with it, but I’m 100% sure I had it as a child (and still suffer slightly with it today – either I clam up and don’t talk, or someone says/does something that is a ‘trigger’ and sets off an anxiety attack). If you didn’t know, I recommend you read my blog post here and check out my very first video on my new YouTube channel here.

Now, the reason why I haven’t been diagnosed is simple… it was missed. Instead, I was thought to be ‘shy’ in school, which is true, I was shy. Painfully. But, I also believe it was missed because there wasn’t enough education into it back in the 90s and early 2000s when I was at school. And the reason why it hasn’t been diagnosed, or at least officially put on my medical records NOW is because of three reasons;

1. I only learnt about it recently, say in the last few years. I stumbled across it actually. I can’t remember where it was I first saw/heard about Selective Mutism, but something in the name made me think “can it be?”. Before then, I never knew it was a ‘thing’ – I thought I was different, special, ‘odd’, that I was the only one who suffered the way I did as a child. Then, one day I came across it, read up about it, and went, Oh. My. God. That’s a THING?! So, yeah!

2. I kinda grew out of it. I developed SM (Selective Mutism) when I was at Primary School (about the age of 4 or 5) and it got worse as I became a teenager through Secondary School. But when I went to college, I went to a completely different college than all my cohort at school so I was no longer around those kids that new me as The Girl Who Whispered and I managed to break the cycle – if I didn’t, I probably would be still suffering today.

3. I learnt to mask. It took me YEARS, but I learnt to mask, hide, pretend I didn’t have it and learnt to fake confidence around people. I was ashamed of having it. I was ashamed of what people would think about me if they found out how weird I was in school, that I didn’t talk, that I whispered. So, I would mask that I had it, to the point of pretending that part of my life didn’t exist. When people would reminisce over their school days and say how they wish they were in school still, I would disagree, saying I hated school, but never said why. It was also hard to explain why I have a fear of certain things – one for example, I HATE people whispering to me now, because that was one thing the bullies in school would do, but try explain that to someone that doesn’t know about your background and you don’t WANT them to know.

It’s not that I don’t want it on my record, I just haven’t yet had chance to really talk to the doctors about it. I struggle with talking to the doctors, not only because I have moved around a LOT over the last few years, but because I have had some very bad experiences in the past. Plus, with the whole Covid situation at the moment, I find it difficult to go to the doctors – I can’t just walk in and ask for an appointment and I’m absolutely TERRIBLE on the phone (I had recently had to email my new doctors surgery to ask for an appointment, but they have just emailed me back asking me to ring them – urgh! Need to find the courage to do that!)

Is this Autism…?

Which kinda brings me onto my own self-diagnosis of Autism…. because SM is a SIGN of Autism… especially in women. So, when I learnt that… I did some digging.

Firstly, I want to apologise if I say anything that may offend anyone, I am still new to Autism, I’m still trying to understand it and I may get things wrong, or may say something that isn’t politically correct. Please bare in with me, I mean no offense. I know at least that some people do not like to be defined by their autism, there is a difference between being ‘a person with autism’ and an ‘autistic person’. I’m new to this concept and am still trying to get my head around it. I will probably use these interchangable and I do not mean offense. I’m still unsure how to define myself – and if I should even be using the term undiagnosed.

Now, I knew about Autism, I’ve heard about it, I’ve seen it, but my understanding of it was HUGELY WRONG. So, yeah, I used to think there were a few things that I saw in myself, but I never really associated myself with Autism until very recently (in the last few weeks).

Another sign of Autism, I have recently found out is masking. Which I do! A LOT! And I didn’t/don’t even realise I do! Masking is the ability to mimic non-autistic traits, or social interaction to hide the fact you have Autism. I’ve heard this is more prevalent in women with Autism, as opposite to men. I used to say that because of my SM, I didn’t learn social skills, but I’m now starting to think that, yeah, the SM didn’t help matters, but actually, my social skills were actually a result of Autism. In fact, I didn’t even realise this was a thing until recently either, because I just thought “this is how we learn” to socialise. Nope, it’s just me, being different.

There are a few other signs/criteria for autism, and more specifically ones found in women, and I will break those down, focusing on the main ones for women, because I want to show you why I have decided to self-diagnose myself with autism…

I took the following list from a YouTuber (shout out to Dan @TheAspieWorld, thanks, dude!) which I will post the video down below for you to watch. He has been diagnosed with asperger’s (which is technically Autism, but that’s a whole other discussion that I personally do not 100% understand yet, so will refrain from saying anything and getting it wrong…)

Autism in Women

Lack Of Eye Contact

✔️ Yep. I used to HATE looking people in the eye. I felt it was too intrusive. I felt like I was staring. Being rude. I also felt uncomfortable when people would look at me too long too, so if I felt uncomfortable, I would think others would too. I wouldn’t know how long to look, do I glance to make them aware I know they’re there and talking to me? How long is too long until it becomes weird and awkward? But, I learnt that eye contact was a ‘typical’ thing to do – so I had to learn how to make and keep eye contact. Some days, though, if you catch me on a bad day, or I’m a little too intimidated by the person, I will struggle – One of my coping mechanisms for those days, I find something else to put my eyes on.

Also, I am an anxious person so I tend to be hyper-aware of my surroundings, and even if I’m not hyper-aware, I am easily distracted by sounds, sights, lights, smells, etc, so if I look like my eyes are darting to things like that… it might not be that I’m struggling to keep eye contact, just something shiny has caught my attention.

Difficulty Socialising

✔️ Yep. Difficulty starting conversations (I hate small talk) and keeping them going. Although, this isn’t always the case, if you start talking to me about something I am interested in, passionate about (I can talk for hours about my book, for example) then I can talk so fast, you wouldn’t be able to keep up. I also struggle to understand what is oversharing, what is undersharing, when to stop talking if I’m talking too much, when to ask for help, and what the correct ‘socially accepted’ response is. I used to get people asking me how I am… and I would answer truthfully (“I’m terrible today, I just had a bad day with…”) and apparently people aren’t actually interested in knowing how you are… apparently this is a typical ‘greeting’ for some people. So, I learnt to say (“I’m good, thanks, how are you?”).

Introverted Personality But Outgoing In General

✔️ Yep. I have said to a few people before I am introverted (I like my own company) but I LOVE going outside. Maybe not to bars, clubs, restaurants, etc. Because they can be too loud, or busy, or have too many people. But I love the outside/nature (as long as it’s not too cold, but that’s a story for another day!) I love going out somewhere new, taking my camera, exploring the sites, smells, sounds, etc. I do also prefer going out with people… usually just the odd one or two people that I get on with, as that tends to help with my confidence, but if it’s someone I don’t know well, I’m too worried about how to act around them that I don’t tend to enjoy myself too much.

Obsessive Collector

✔️ I feel personally attacked. Let me just hide my Pokemon collection… My postcard collection… And my collection of bad habits… okay, maybe not including in this category… But yeah, I have been and still am a collector… and a hoader. I also go through phases. I had a large collection of bouncy balls, keyrings, postcards (which I regret getting rid of), bugs (yep, I was that kid! Sorry, mum!), I even came back home from a holiday with a new collection of pretty shells at one point. Unfortunately, I either stupidly got rid of a load of stuff, was asked to get rid of stuff (i.e. moving house) or I lost interest in that thing (I mean, why bouncy balls? What was I going to do with them?) but I have always been one to collect things, to the point of obsession. Currently, I am obsessed with collecting Pokemon on my Pokemon Go app, recently re-started a Pokemon card collection and re-started my postcard collection too. I also, not sure if it’s really an obsessive collection as such, but I HAVE to get something as a memento from where I went – a little gift to myself from a holiday destination, postcard is a must of course, but maybe a painting, or an ornament, heck, even a stone! And LOTS of photos! I also hoard, I’m terrible for it… I don’t like throwing something out if it may be useful in some way – tin cans I can upcycle, jars to store things in, a pretty candy wrapper for no other reason but because it’s pretty – and then I throw away because it’s technically rubbish, ribbons that I think will be useful for something, somewhere, someday and left forgotten in a draw, buttons… because you never know when you’re going to need a bright purple button from a cardigan you had when you were twelve… birthday cards, old electronics because you might want to learn how it works or try to fix it… boxes… does a collection of unironed clothes also count, or is that just me being lazy and hating ironing?

Selective Mute

✔️ I have already mentioned this previously, so I don’t feel the need to expand too much on this one. It’s obvious this means Selective Mutism, right?

Masking To Meltdown

✔️ Now, what this one means, is that you mask so often, to the point of exhaustion and then something tips you and BOOM meltdown. If I had seen this without the context that Dan said in his video, I probably would have disagreed with this one. But when he mentioned about the meltdown over something simple like realising someone has eaten all the chocolate sauce and you couldn’t have ice-cream and chocolate sauce… yeah… I realised that was me too. I may be fine one day, have the ‘issue’ not bothering me (Oh, you’re going to replace it… okay, that’s fine!)… but if I’ve had a bad day, or I’m exhausted from masking in a social situation all day… I would have meltdowns over something minor. (IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD!) It could be from moving something I own. Breaking something. Eating my chocolate in the fridge. It could even be just asking me to do something simple. I can have a meltdown. And it physically hurts… I mean, seriously feels like an anxiety attack. It’ll also take me a while to calm down, and it’s seriously difficult to be around me because I can either get mad and angry, or I can turn the opposite and get depressed.

Shy And Quiet

✔️ This one is a yes and no answer. But only because I struggle to know whether I was actually shy, or if it’s my SM and/or social skills OR if it’s my masking, but I used to define myself as ‘shy and quiet’ but less so now because I have had to ‘force’ myself to be confident and outgoing to ‘fit in’ and be ‘professional’. It’s difficult, it’s exhausting, and there are times when I just cannot be bothered to be social as I’m so tired from it, so I will become quiet. But I’m not sure if the shy part actually defines me. I guess you could say I used to be, I am nervous in social situations, especially if I don’t know you or there is a big group or I’m put on the spot to talk (please make ice-breakers illegal!) but I feel as if that goes hand-in-hand with the selective mutism checkpoint.


So, yeah, reading through that, it makes me realise I hit all of those points. But, I want to point out there are others, some I agree with, such as the sensory overload issues – only today I had to move my feet from the floor of my flat because downstairs was making noises that was vibrating up through the floor. Inability to listen to people (I find it easier to read conversations/information than listen… it will seriously not go in!). Inability to express or understand emotions (well, there are some I understand such as anger or disgust, but others not so much – I’m really not good with knowing if someone is flirting!)

But, other points I don’t agree with; some Autistic people apparently are good with numbers, I’m not, I am TERRIBLE with numbers, my brain just cannot understand them, I’m terrible with dates of birth, for example (but I’m good at problem solving, I loved algebra in school and found statistics fascinating!). Some Autistic people have great memories, I haven’t, mine is terrible, remembering someone’s name, remembering what I did yesterday, apparently this is a trait from mental health issues too though. Some are geniuses, and yeah, I have a few qualifications, but I do not see myself up there on the genius scale at all – I had to fight to get my MSc, I nearly failed it!

I also, have heard that women with autism can be misdiagnosed with ADHD (or vise versa) and one of the traits in ADHD is the inability to stick to one task, having to do things all at once… that’s me too. I also get distracted easily, by something shiny, or something out of place, something wonky (my damn picture on the wall keeps moving, guys!) But I feel I relate more to Autism than I do ADHD, plus, if I don’t finish a task… I get nervous and frustrated. If I start a task, I have to finish it. It’s hard to let go.

Should I self-diagnose?

But, why have I self-diagnosed myself? Why did I decide in the last few weeks to just go ahead and start saying I am Autistic without getting officially diagnosed? Well, because it helps me. It helps me understand myself, it helps me try out the label and see how I feel about it, and it helps me explain to others about myself.

One of the things I have always struggled with is getting people to understand me. I remember writing about it in a diary I used to keep once, I was so upset that people didn’t understand me. I couldn’t understand why people struggled. I tried to explain myself all the time. Online. To people’s faces. I would write hand-written letters with all the intention of sending them and chickening out. It was EMOTIONAL. I was more upset about that, than actually keeping friends. And yes, that also upset me. It still does to some extent. I really struggle to make and mostly, keep friends. My MSc was torture for that reason and I ended up struggling with my mental health for a bit too. I also tried too hard to get people to like me, which I think put people off.

I recently spoke out on my Facebook profile, my personal one for my friends and family to see, that I am going through the process of diagnosing with Autism and a realisation hit me… if I get this diagnosis, will people finally accept me? Will they finally understand me? And oof… all the feels… I was emotional again!

I also came across another YouTuber (shout out to Paige Layle) who talks about self-diagnosing and explains why it’s okay to self-diagnose. You can watch it below too, I have included the video at the end of this blog. Yeah, okay, I live in a country with free health care – but believe me guys, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be! (That’s a whole other rant that I will not discuss here!) I will at least say that a lot of people have said it’s difficult to get diagnoses for these things here in the UK. It took me until 2010, when I was in my 20s to get diagnosed with depression (one counsellor even said I was just ‘having a bad day’ after one meeting!). It wasn’t until I moved to Scotland (about 25/26) that they did tests to see if I actually had thyroid issues or vitamin deficiency. Getting a diagnosis for Autism is going to be hard and I’m expecting to get misdiagnosed too!

So, although I am probably going to be referring myself as Autistic from now on, for these reasons I have mentioned, I am still going to push to get a diagnosis. To put my mind at rest – and to have it officially on my record in case I need any extra help in the future (ie. with work or education, which I feel would have benefitted me so much if I had that before!) AND, in the process, I hope my SM will also be diagnosed officially too.

Another thing I hope to get diagnosed is my Fibromyalgia. I’m 90% sure I have it now, as it’s getting worse, but that is also one other thing I have had trouble getting a diagnosis. Again, for my own peace of mind. But, this also is another story, possibly for another blog post!

Lastly, here are the videos I recommend you guys watching:

Dan @TheAspieWorld on the Female Autism Checklist:

Paige Layle’s Video on Self-Diagnosing:

I just want to point out, that although I personally have self-diagnosed myself with Autism on these above points, this isn’t a proper diagnosis, so please refrain from diagnosing yourself or someone else you may know, especially on just this one blog post. Please do your own research or, if it’s possible, seek professional advice. This blog post is only short in comparison to all the information out there, and all the research I have done, it’s only scratching the surface. This is only to inform you why I have done this in the limited space I have available on a blog post, and doesn’t give you the full picture. 🙂

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Am I a YouTuber now?

Hello my little demons!

I wasn’t going to blog today, I was going to have a break and just focus on getting my first video done for my YouTube done.

But… it turns out… I finished it! I uploaded my first YouTube video! So, I might as well blog about it!

…Heck.

Now the whole world will see me… will hear me talk… and I’m open for criticism… (I’ll post the video below).

But first, I want to explain what it is and why I did it.

Most of you should hopefully know by now that I had Selective Mutism as a child, I only recently understood what this was in the last few years, for most of my life I just thought I was odd… that I was alone with this weird secret… and I kept it to myself. But, now I know I’m not alone and I want to talk about it (ahhh!!) and hopefully spread a bit of awareness about it so others, like me, know they’re not alone!

What is Selective Mutism? Well, watch the video to find out! 🙂

I also want to apologise, I filmed this back in December… before Christmas!… and it’s taken me ages to edit and finally upload.

I tried a few different video editing software (open source, because I’m tight!), from OpenShot (it was really glitchy!) to Blender (which kept freezing) and finally found Shotcut which was sooo much better!

But of course, life also got in the way… what with working full time, writing (I will get Rose Garden Sanatorium finished if it’s the last thing I do!) and planning a Route 66 Tour (as well as other things… occasionally doing the washing up for example).

I hope you like it.

And apologies for the bad lighting, camera quality (it was a DSLR with no auto-focus), and the little jumps as I tried to edit out my ‘umm’s. Haha!

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I can also start giving you this link too (hint, it’s a YouTube Channel link… I wonder who’s?):
Go on, click the link, you know you want to!

A Slight Change in Plans! – My Route 66 Charity Tour

Hello my little demons!

So, there has been a ‘slight’ hick-up, which has resulted in changing my plans with my Route 66 Charity Tour.

BUT DONT FEAR! I’m still going!

I won’t go into detail, but long story short – I’ll be going on my own now. The friend I was supposed to go with has decided he no longer wants to be my friend. Don’t ask me why, I cannot answer that. As I cannot for the life of me work out what I said or did, I am just going to assume that it’s got nothing to do with me. I also do not want to divulge into it publicly as it’s not fair to do so. I will wish him luck in the future though.

It never really crossed my mind to cancel any of my plans. We had discussed a trip around the Highlands (the NC500 – Scotland’s Route 66), taking camping gear with us, and I’m still planning on doing that in the Spring/Summer once I’ve got my motorbike. And, of course, he was going to come with me down Route 66. If you’ve been following this story from the beginning, you will know that I tried to do something like this before; I was going to tour America and Canada for Charity, I had actually paid for a working holiday visa to Canada already, but my plans fell through. I’m determined not to let my plans fall through again! You can read about it here.

Plus, I really want to raise funds and awareness for Selective Mutism!

In light of what happened recently, it has made me realise that the only person I really trust is myself. People can easily let you down. So, I’ve made the decision to do this ALONE. It kinda feels poetic, actually, like one of those soppy life-changing movies that hit you in the feels. But with cars, motorbikes, food and the open road!

Hell, it’s going to be scary, but I’m hoping that I’ll build up my confidence, work on my skills filming and editing, and plan the socks off it, all in the next year or so until I go. It also has some new challenges that I never thought of before.

The three main challenges are; 1) filming myself – I have limited filming experience, other than just starting filming myself for my YouTube channel I am going to create, which involves me sat… still… at my desk, I have no idea how this will work. I’m going to research into hand-held cameras, go-pros or similar and figure out what the best options are. I know for sure that my beloved Nikon DSLR isn’t a good option – it only records 20 minutes at a time for a start! And I cannot see the screen to record myself – sitting at a desk is fine because I can set it up and sit still…. or try to at least.

2) the other biggest challenge is doing all the driving! With a second person, the driving can be split between us, but now I will be driving it all. Theoretically, I don’t see it being an issue, as I love driving and I will be taking my time seeing sights anyway along the way, so will be doing plenty of stops. I also am pretty handy, knowing a fair bit about mechanics in case something breaks, and will be considering this in the planning stage in case I need to look into breakdown cover options, researching recovery companies in the areas I drive through, and even taking a set of tools with me. But practically, I could get tired and make mistakes, getting lost or stuck. I also have to be weary when I’m taking to a camera and driving!

3) the last, and probably one of the more important ones, is personal safety. I’m sure the majority of the trip will be safe enough. I will be researching how safe areas are, making sure I only stop in safe areas and stay at hotels that have good ratings and so on. I do have some self-defense training from one of my old job roles, but I am also considering taking self-defense classes too. This is going to be one of the biggest things I will be researching and planning, especially being a female solo traveller!

On the up side though, doing it alone has it’s benefits – I can do what I want without compromise. I’m also introverted; socialising can drain me and I need to recharge, doing a whole month-long trip with someone else can get very tiring, and I know I like my own company. I can also be in control of the music. Also, being a solo-traveller, you’re more likely to get upgrades! 😉

So, although it was a huge shock and was a little upset when I lost a friend, I’m not going to let these things stop me from what I want to do in life!

Watch this space for more updates soon!
Also, watch this space for my first YouTube video – it’s currently being edited and will be uploaded soon!

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Penny’s Birthday Grove

So, November is here, whether we like it or not. Which means it’s officially Autumn and Winter will soon be here (no, we’re not talking about the C word!)

November for me has always been greeted with a mixture of feelings; I dislike the fact it’s getting cold, I dislike that it’s getting darker at night and less hours in the day – although sometimes I don’t mind the early dark nights – but I love the colours on the trees.

But, there is one thing that is ‘personal’ about November…

November, is also the month I was born! It’s my birthday!

And this year, I’m doing something very different; I’m planting trees!

Okay, so, technically, I won’t be the one physically planting them. But after moving to Inverness (you can read about that here and here) I came across a great charity that is planting trees to re-wild the Highlands; Trees for Life.

Up on the Highlands of Scotland used to be a vast forest; the Caledonian Forest, spanning the right across, with only select areas now remaining. Trees for Life is an ambitious, award-winning conservation charity that is rewilding the Scottish Highlands, planting trees and encoraging wildlife to return.

So, rather than writing a wish list full of new books, DVDs, music, things for my new flat, tech, etc, for my birthday, I set up a website on Trees of Life for people to consider donating a small fee to this Grove to help rewild Scotland, restoring balance to the ecosystem and combating CO2 emissions. I have already paid to have one tree planted, each new tree is only £6!

Click here to donate to Penny’s Birthday Grove

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I also recently had my hair cut off for charity! Read about it here!

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My Podcast Interview – Breaking the silence and becoming an author & activist – It’s Never Too Late

Hello my little demons!

For those of you who follow me on social media (see the links below if you’d like to follow), you may have noticed that I did a podcast interview recently and was waiting for it to air.

Well, it all started when I was approached by Megha on Twitter, asking me to do a podcast interview and I jumped at the opportunity. Not necessarily because I love supporting fellow authors and creative minds (which I do), and it’ll be good publicity for me, but because I will be getting out of my comfort zone HUGELY.

If you don’t know, I had Selective Mutism as a child, you can read my previous post on ‘Why “The Girl Who Whispered“‘ here, which explains more about it, and as silly as it sounds, talking is something I have always struggled with.

When we scheduled to do it, I was very nervous, I could literally feel my heart beating in my chest. Megha was so lovely though, so understanding and I eventually felt myself calming (okay, a little).

I’ve been waiting for it to go live with baited breath, although the hard part was over, I was still really nervous about it going live. All those years worrying about speaking and I was going public on the internet. But the podcast went live today at 14:30 BST and I couldn’t be happier. It came out great!

If you’re interested in listening, here it is on spotify:

Huge thanks to Megha for the opportunity, it was great to make such a lovely connection too, and thanks everyone who has already listened to it – I was told Megha’s listeners love it (I think it’s my British accent!)

If you’d like to support Megha and her podcast, please check out her links:

website: meghaupadhyaya.com
facebook: facebook.com/itsnevertoolatepodcast
instagram: instagram.com/takeitsleeazy/
twitter: twitter.com/Young_blackbird

If you’d like to support Megha’s podcast, you can do so here!

Here was a little teaser trailer (I sound awful, but here it is for completeness anyway!):

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Don’t forget to like, reblog, share, comment and/or follow!
I also recently had my hair cut off for charity! Read about it here!

thegirlwhowhispered.com

facebook.com/TheGirlWhoWhispered
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Travelling Route 66 for Charity – Update

Hello my little demons! 😈

I wrote a previous blog post explaining about my charity tour of America, and why I’m doing it, here.

Since then, I’ve already done a lot of planning (yet, still a lot more to go!). I’ve come up with lots of amazing ideas, bought some maps, found some amazing resources and I’m finally getting there with the intial interary.

We’re doing a road trip down Route 66!

(c) Penny Hooper

Now, Route 66 sounds like an easy thing, just follow the sign posts for Route 66, right? But Route 66, as I have found, has had many alterations over the years, bypasses and re-directs, bridges no longer used, cities and towns built up over it, even the start and end posts have moved.

The original Route was established on the 11th November 1926 (although, from what I can gather, it was being built before this), it was altered in 1930 to follow a completely different line between Springfield and East St. Louis. In the late 1930s, the route was redirected again to cut off Santa Fe. The original route used to connect gold and silver mines such as Oatman, but in the 1950s these were cut off, leaving Oatman abandoned. And a lot of the interstates that were constructed saw the Route 66 abolished, some even cut through the route, meaning it’s no longer possible to drive the whole of the old route anymore. I even saw one section is on private land now – and the owners were selling parts of it to keep it safe from further distruction!

As for the start and end points, these were also moved, both in Chicago and Los Angeles, which you will learn more about both when we come to do the tour but also in blog posts along the way. You can see the map below has the old and new routes, the red is the newer route, the pink/purple bits are the older routes.

Now, we could just stick to the newer route, the one that is mostly mapped on modern maps, but that would be too easy! So, we plan to travel down as much of the old route as possible (unless the road is too dangerous, a dead-end, on private property or no longer exists) to see the areas that those early road trippers would have seen.

Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Route_66#Changes_in_routing

Originally, when I was coming up with ideas on what I wanted to do for this American tour, I was adamant to fit in lots. I wanted to see the Florida Keys, Atlanta, Washington DC, maybe visit New York city again, drive up to San Francisco up the California State Route 1 and visit the Bonnerville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City. When I realised doing the Route 66 will take a minimum of three weeks as it is, I knew we couldn’t do all of it. Well, not unless we can take two months off work and have lots of spare money! So, we stuck to Route 66. There will be other opportunities to see the others another time (maybe, if this one is successful, more road trips?)

Of course, we will be doing a few smaller things, such as going up to Milwaukee to visit the Harley-Davidson Museum (already got an invite), a two-day detour to see the Grand Canyon and another one/two-day detour to see Las Vegas (driving over the Hoover Dam of course!). We also plan to fit in a motorbike ride in Los Angeles, not all the way up to San Fransisco, but maybe at least to Pismo Beach.

We have a lot of ideas that we want to do along the way too, as you know, we will be doing this for charity; well, we have picked out at least four charities. One is close to my heart, one is close to Mozz’s, and the other two we both choose. Of course, I haven’t contacted any of them yet, as I’m still finishing off the itenary, and I have to sort out some personal things, but hopefully in the next few weeks, we can share! But we also have a few ideas such as little challenges or charity events on the route itself, one is even quite big, but again, I need to contact a particular charity to pull it off!

Although we have planned a lot of it already, not only researching where the old route goes, marking it on a map, what sites to see, what time of year to go, and so on. We still have a lot to do.

* We need to make sure we get the right visa; this isn’t just a tourist visit, we plan on filming and fundraising, this might not be suitable on a tourist visa,
* We need to work out the best camera equipment; do we spend a bit more to get a decent go-pro or will cheap action cameras be okay,
* What rigs will we need to set up cameras inside a car and on bikes/helmets,
* Maybe even microphones so we get a decent quality sound,
* We need to work out costs involved; visas, flights, fuel, car, insurance, food, side-trips, hotels, even the costs of bags, cameras, internet wifi dongle, subscriptions and software we might need,
* we also need to know which areas are American-Indian territory so we can respect their land (I plan on contacting the AIANTA – American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association for this too),
* And lots more!

I still have yet to set up a YouTube channel, get it establed now and practice filming, editing and the like. I also plan on getting my social media verified, which is very difficult to do. And of course, around all this, I work full time and I’m trying to publish a new book and write a memoir.

So, now I’m going to get back to marking sites on my USA map after spending two days researching the route and marking it out, then hopefully, I can contact the charities and get the ball rolling!

Watch this space!

~~~

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I also recently had my hair cut off for charity! Read about it here!

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Goodbye Goldi-locks

Well, they’re not gold, my locks, but it’s catchy, don’t you think?

…Yes, hello, my little demons! 😈

You might be following me on social media and have already seen that I have had my hair cut off! …It’s short!

….Is it suddenly cold or is it me?

I had the intention of getting my hair cut short anyway as I am moving to a hot country in the next few months (thats another story, watch this space!), I had booked myself into The Hair Chair in Lanark, after going down to see my parents, and it was the salon’s suggestion to donate my hair to charity!

What a fantastic idea!

So, I got the two ladies to photograph the progress (thanks, girls!) and then style it into something cool (in both senses of the word!)

As I don’t live in the area anymore, having moved to Inverness for work (yes, I have a full-time job that I love as well as writing!), I had to take my locks with me and post them from there.

… I must admit, it was a little weird having a little paper bag with hair in it!

When I got back to Inverness, I got in touch with The Little Princess Trust to ask about the process (I don’t currently have access to a printer, so I had to put a hand-written note in with my hair!) and they were extremely lovely to speak to.

So, I wrote them a letter, wrapped up my hair in a plastic bag to keep dry and popped the plaits into a padded envelope.

Yes, the envelope is being reused, I had the intention of buying a brand new envelope when I went shopping last, but after forgetting to pick one up (although, I seemed to remember to pick up a motorcycle magazine!) I decided to reuse one I already had – I figured it was more environmentally friendly and I saved my pennies (ha!)

A few days later (unfortunately I couldn’t get to the post office while working – awkward hours!) I decided to venture out into the outside world, taking a trek down to the local Tesco’s where the nearest post office is located.

Okay, I cheated taking that photo of my legs, the first one came out blurry and awkward, so I had to stand still on the pavement… I must have looked a right idiot standing like that while I photographed my legs.

I know, why take a photo at all? Well, then I wouldn’t have this funny thing to tell you… and brain decided it would be a good idea… I’m still not convinced! But you all get to see my cool boots!

Anyway… back to my hike… trek… okay, short walk… to the post office! It was touch and go for a while, when it started to rain…

This photo is not sponsored by Cranfield University… don’t look at the logo! Stop it!

But I finally made it to Tesco’s!

I did a little bit of shopping to get myself some dinner (and a little treat for myself). Running up and down the shop like a mad woman… this way to the chicken… this way to the tea bags… oh I need… better go this way… ooo, what about cake….? Is this way to the… nope… okay, screw it… ooo…. what about if I got some decent instant coffee… HOW much?! Okay, tills…

When shopping was done. I was free to continue on my quest… to the post office!

And alas!… posted my hair off to The Little Princess Trust!

After weighing the parcel and seeing if it fits the “large envelope” sizing (it didn’t!), the conversation with the lady on the desk was funny:

Her: “Is there anything flammable in this?”
Me: “No, it’s just hair.” 😊
Her: ….
Her: *puts the stamp on the parcel*
Me: ….
Her: *finally reads the address*
Her: Oh! *points to the lable*
Me: Just clicked, has it?

Hahaha!

She then proceeds to ask me how long it was before and praises the charity.

I leave feeling pretty good about myself. Even though it’s raining again – and harder this time.

BUT, this happened…

Look closely, you can just about make out the rainbow.

taste the rainbow

…..I think it’s a sign.

… that it had been raining while sunny….

Anyway, when I got back, I made a well deserved cup of tea and sat down with my cup cake I bought from Tescos.

My little adventure to Tesco’s complete.
Now I can relax.

Oh, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on my email inbox over the next week or so, as they apparently will be sending me a certificate! Win!

Update 18/09/2020: I received my certificate yesterday, check it out at the end of the blog! 🙂

Thanks for coming on this little journey with me! I’m really glad my long hair, that had been annoying me for ages, will light up a little girls face one day, when it’s finally made into a wig!

And I love my new hairstyle… so, big shout out to the girls at The Hair Chair in Lanark, Scotland!

~~~

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Touring America for Charity!

A few friends will remember that I had planned a trip around America and Canada for a charity. I was going to go to Canada first, find some work, save up, and then travel around, maybe even visiting other countries. All doing this to raise awareness and funds for a charity.

I was deadly serious about it too, I had bought my Working Holiday Visa to Canada, got police certificates for it, set up a page, I even got a few people invested, including a few celebrities – at least they shared my posts.

But, due to personal reasons, I had to cancel it all. And I felt defeated that I failed and let people down.

I was also met with a lot of negative criticism from friends and family. “Why don’t you do something smaller?” “Do you even have a plan?” I had lots of people think that I was just after money from them when I asked for support, but in reality I just wanted them to help share the word, to show that they were rooting for me and wanted me to succeed.

I lost friends over it. And I felt like I had proved them right; I failed.

I never stopped thinking about it, what I missed out on, the friends I lost, it still eats away at me. But I also never stopped believing that one day, I would do it! I’ve always been one with big ideas, and yes, a lot of times they don’t work out, but I also believe that people can do big and amazing things if they work and persist. And I want to be one of those that didn’t give up, and made a different!

So, I am planning it all again!

This time I plan to go to America on a food, bike and car tour, raising awareness and funds for charities that support world hunger, mental health and/or child abuse.

Most people know I love my cars, having tinkered with most of the cars I have owned, from basic maintenence such as services or timing belt changes, to going mad and stripping it for track. I also love my bikes, having wanted to get my bike licence for years but keep putting it off due to the costs. I love the naked, deep sounding Harley-Davidsons and Triumphs (the Triumph Bobber Black is on my Christmas list!)…and of course, who doesn’t like food?

As for the charities, mental health is extremely important to me, as I have had, and to some small extent, still suffer with mental health issues myself. I had selective mutism when I was a child (to read more about this, I wrote a post about it here), which caused no end of probelms growing up, even to this day it causes a few issues. I then developed depression and anxiety because of it.

And of course, stopping world hunger and child abuse are both important to me too.

For this trip, I plan to set up a YouTube channel to document it, setting little challenges for myself along the way, so that people can watch my progress. I plan to visit sites of interest, places like the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah, watch a Monster Truck show, try out an electric motorbike, eat at the best food joints, whether that’s street food, restaurants, maybe even try wild hunting, I plan to find the best roads to travel down – yes, Route 66 may very well be on the list, maybe even meet a few interesting people – I have a few in mind, if I can pull it off.

It’s going to be big, requiring a lot of planning and it’s going to cost a lot, I know that. It might not work out the way I plan, but either way, I plan on going one way or another. I have to.

I also may not be going alone. As I have been discussing the idea with a friend of mine who is also very interested in going. He’s a massive foodie and car nut himself, and loves America!

Planning might take a while, as there is a lot to sort, and I have just signed a 12 month contract with work (that’s a story for another day!), so I have plenty of time to plan, make contacts and save. I also have yet to get my bike licence! I also plan on getting a few sponsors, such as travel companies, bike/car companies, even clothing companies, if I can.

Either way, I am extremely excited to start off this new adventure, to visit more of America, experience new things, meet new people, and most importantly… make a difference!

Black Lives Matter!

I know I’m a little late to the game, but I really wanted to think about how to write this post, make a decent attempt at writing something about this sensitive topic. But I also couldn’t sit on my arse any longer and not say something.

I have seen a few actors, singers, comedians, and many others who are in the public eye getting slated for either not saying something, or when they do say something, saying it ‘too late’. I don’t consider myself famous, but I am in the public eye at least a little bit, so I feel I need to say my bit and show support.

This too might be late, but I, like many others, have tried to find the best way to talk about it. I probably could write this much better too, but I feel like it needs to be said.

I am writing this for my black friends. My black friend’s friends and family. The black friends I will make in the future. The black kids who will grow up and deserve a life without oppression and discrimination. To the black community as a whole all over the world that I may never have the privilege to meet.

I am with you, my black brothers and sisters. Black lives matter!

In this post, I am going to talk about why it’s important to stand up for black lives, why these protests are important, why right now we cannot say ‘All lives matter’, my thoughts on George Floyd, police in both the United States and the United Kingdom, the vandalism, the tearing down of statues and how to help.

Why do we need ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests?

I know I am not the best person to speak; I am a white woman living in the United Kingdom. I am not black, I am not even in the United States where the majority of the discimination is happening. Although, I have heard there is still discrimination/racism here in the UK.

But the fact I am white should, hopefully, speak more, because more white people DO need to speak up, that’s half the problem in the first place, white people aren’t speaking up for the injustice.

We also need to stop the discrimination, the oppression, the hate, the racism towards my black brothers and sisters. They deserve to live the way they want to live. They deserve to live without judgement, without hate, without being oppressed.

Why not ‘All Lives Matter’?

I saw a post on Facebook that summed this up really well, a young girl was holding a sign at a protest that said:

We said –> Black Lives Matter
Never Said –> Only Black Lives Matter
We Know –> All Lives Matter
We just need your help with #BlackLivesMatter
For black lives are in danger!

So, yes, of course, all lives matter. All lives DO matter. White, black, Asian, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, LGBT+, non-religious, etc. They all matter. I get annoyed when I hear racism towards my Muslim brothers and sisters. I get annoyed when I hear racism towards my Chinese/Asian brothers and sisters. I get annoyed when I hear women are still being treated differently. I get annoyed when my brothers and sisters from the LGBT+ community are being oppressed, hated, even killed!

But that’s not the POINT. The point with #BlackLivesMatter, just like where the feminist movement came from, something needs to be done to stop the racism direct and indirect discimination towards our black brothers and sisters.

There are separate movements, issues and support for the other communities. #BlackLivesMatter is specifically to help the black community.

The ‘All Lives Matter’ tags, speeches and movements are seen as another form of oppression to the black community. Let’s share #BlackLivesMatter to start a discourse, to stop the discimination in the black community so that we can finally say All Lives Matter. But until then, we cannot.

And yes, let’s also stand up for our Asian, Muslim, LGBT+ brothers and sisters too! These are also issues, and we need to stand up just as much for them as we do our black brothers and sisters!

But George Floyd was a criminal!

I’m not going to agree or disagree, I don’t know George Floyd, nor do I know whether he is/was a criminal. I have heard he was, and I also heard he was on drugs. I have also heard that he was accused of buying cigarettes with counterfeit money.

Does that mean he should have been killed? Does that mean the police officer’s actions are justified? No. Of course not.

Never mind that his past criminal actions shouldn’t define him, certainly if he’s been through the system and has paid his dues. If he was arrested due to new criminal activity, or due to his drug issue, then he should have a right to be put on trial. Of course, I don’t know the US legal system, but I’m pretty sure death by a knee on the neck isn’t part of it.

And if he was handled in such a way for suspected counterfeit money? Is that fair? Or excessive use of force? Was he really in possession of counterfeit money? Or was the shop owner racist and assumed he was?

Okay, George Floyd may not have been completely innocent, he may not exactly be a saint, but he certainly didn’t deserve to die because of it.

Plus, we cannot assume things based on hearsay. Look at the facts. He died in police custody. He died from the knee on the neck. If Joe Bloggs down the road heard someone say that George Floyd was a criminal, and told you, who’s to say that it is true? How much is true? I’m sorry, but if I was to put that in a research article and reference Joe Bloggs, I’d probably get a huge fail for it.

What about the white men killed by cops?

Yes, absolutely, there clearly is a problem with the policing system in the United States. Too many people are being shot or dying in police custody needlessly. I completely agree! Something needs to be done about the policing system in the United States!

But that is a separate issue. Hopefully, from these protests something will be done. Better training, perhaps.

From what I can gather, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I see the black community seeing this death as the last straw. They have got to the point that they are tired of their voices not being heard, from being oppressed, disciminated, and so on, and George Floyd’s death was the last straw.

Plus, I have heard that there are more black deaths in the hands of the police, than there are white people in the United States.

Here’s a link to an article I found: https://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/criminal-justice/deaths-police-custody-united-states/

A quote from the article: “It finds that black people were most likely to die in police custody.”

And, I was very shocked to see that it isn’t just the United States, statistics show that black people are more likely to die in police custody in the United Kingdom too.

Here’s a link to an article: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jun/11/black-deaths-in-police-custody-the-tip-of-an-iceberg-of-racist-treatment

And yes, okay, there are some criticisms of the actual references I gave; they’re not peer reviewed research articles, although the first one is paraphrasing from a real research article, but it at least shows you there may be an issue and something needs to be done!

Is it right to be loot and vandalize in protests?

It depends.

Looting, I would say no. That is just exploiting a situation for your own gain.

But vandalism, I can see why people do. Of course, I dislike vandalism, I dislike the idea of trying to fight hate with hate, or causing unneeded destruction, especially to properties or businesses that had nothing to do with the oppression, causing more fear and hate.

But, I understand it. Imagine you were in a work place and you were being disciminated against because you had a different eye colour. Snide remarks, jokes that you don’t find funny, being left out of meetings or social gatherings, being given the shitty jobs to do, missing out on a promotion, and you hate it. You go to complain, but there is no system and no one listens to you. Days, weeks, months, years pass and you try each time to voice your concerns, to get people to stop, to show them you’re no different to they are, that you have the same likes they do, same interests, are just as capable as they are. Then the years of discimination gets the better of you and you lash out.

That’s what I think is happening right now. And this is why we need to speak up for our black brothers and sisters to help.

I don’t agree with the vandalism, but if all other options have failed, then yes, this is probably their last resort.

Is it right to pull down statues?

This was all sparked off by a statue being removed and thrown into a harbour in Bristol: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/12/opinion/edward-colston-statue-racism.html

Was this right? Should they have been allowed to do this?

Again, it depends.

The statue was of Edward Colston, he was a 17th-century slave trader. Between 1672 and 1689, his Royal African Company shipped 100,000 enslaved people from West Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean. Over 20,000 people died of disease and dehydration, their bodies thrown into the ocean. Colson’s statue was engraved with ‘…one of the most virtuous and wise sons’. People have been petitioning to have the statue removed for ages (I’m not sure how long, but my money is on before the protests). So, yeah, I think they were right to pull this down. And apt to have it thrown into the harbour too.

So, in answer to that question, first look at; was the statue of a person who was a slave trader? Did the person get his fame for the slave trade? Was he a horrible person? Then, yes, probably best to take down the statue.

But, was the statue of a man who faught in a war for his country? Died for his country? But might have had some ties to the slave trade in a small way? Then no, probably shouldn’t be taken down.

Of course, this is just a very basic idea. It’s not going to be straight forward as that.

A lot of the United States and United Kingdom (and other countries), history is based around the slave trade. It’s an unfortunate part of our history. I don’t think every statue or memorial should be taken down just because of links to the slave trade. I believe statues that commemorate only actions in the slave business should.

Statues of people mean that we worship or look up to them. It’s a show of power. A person who built his/her power based upon the slave trade or other forms of suffering, shouldn’t be looked up to. Thus, taking down the statue is a good idea. But maybe replacing it with something else to commemorate why the statue was taken down, explain the history of that person and why we no longer accept it.

But statues of people we commemorate that only have small links to the slave trade, that represent other aspects of the person, like his service in a war for example, I don’t believe should be taken down.

We need to remember our history, remember the good and the bad. So that we learn from our mistakes. I don’t believe we should forget what happened, but I also don’t believe the statues of slave traders should be worshipped either.

What can I do to help?

The first and foremost you can do, is stand up and show your support. If you can’t actively attend a protest, then show your support in other ways. Post it on social media, tell your black friends, and be there to listen and learn.

Learn is the most valuable thing you can do. Even if you think you’re not racist, you still need to educate yourselves. There is such a thing as indirect racism and uncouscious bias.

I am still learning. You should too.

Here are a few links that I just found (I know, I need to do some more research myself) that you might useful:

https://blacklivesmatter.com/

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/black-lives-matter-charity-donate-uk-stephen-lawrence-stop-hate-a9544786.html

https://www.timeout.com/things-to-do/how-to-support-black-lives-matter

If you have any more charities, or links to where you can help, please do let me know and I will update this section.

Summary

I’m not sure how else to end this blog post, there are still a lot of things I feel I want to say. It’s a complicated topic, but I hope I at least voiced my thoughts on a few of the more relevant ones.

I will end this, however, with this small plea: please stand up for #BlackLivesMatter.

And please, do not fight hate with hate.

(and yes, also stand up for other lives! Let’s stop the hate, discrimination, oppression of all!)

I am sorry if I have said anything that is offensive, anything that isn’t politically correct, or incorrect, I am still learning.

Also, please note, any rasist, violent or unneeded negative comments will be deleted. I am happy for a discource into the subject, that’s what the world needs, a discourse to find a way to end the issue and to educate, but anything that is just unnecessary hate will not be tolerated. Thank you.

My love for animals – Animal Advocacy

Hello my little demons,

If you’ve been following me on Facebook and Twitter, you may have noticed I post a lot about animals; pet adoptions, missing pets, fundraisers, even just funny videos or posts about animals to brighten someone’s day.

I have a huge love for all animals. Dogs, cats, rats, mice, horses, snakes, and even the smaller ones. Yes, even creepy crawlies! (I have a keen interest in entomology)

Although I wish I could adopt and rescue all animals, big and small, my current situation means I cannot. And, I cannot yet make the commitment. It sounds like a bad thing, selfish even, but it’s not. I currently haven’t got my own house.

And yes, okay, I have also got a love for travelling too and thus don’t want to have a pet in the case I need to uproot without a moments notice. But this is one of my mental health coping mechanisms; travelling (I’ll explain that in another blog post for another time). I therefore cannot commit to having a pet (at least nothing as big as a cat or a dog) because my mental health would be at stake from my inability to uproot and travel, and thus the well-being of that pet would be at stake too.

However, I have considered fostering temporarily if my future landlord is okay with this.

So, because I cannot personally adopt, rescue, or otherwise own my own pets, I try to help in others ways.

This is Melli, she is up for adoption here: https://www.niagaradogrescue.org/pet/melli

An actor I follow on social media also does his own advocacy for adoption and fostering dogs with Niagara Dog Rescue in Niagara, Canada (Niagara is the region on the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls), and because of him, I have posted a lot of dogs from Niagara Dog Rescue.

I have a bit of an interest in Niagara Dog Rescue now, because they specifically rescue dogs from high-risk kill shelters. They have rescued many dogs from the US, but they’ve also rescued dogs from other countries, including Iran. I’ve even heard they are happy to relocate dogs to future homes in other countries.

I’ve personally been in touch with them and they have informed me they do relocate dogs to homes in other countries, they have done so before. It is up to the new owner to organise the dog’s transfer and if, for some reason, it didn’t work out, they would want to ensure you were properly set up with a local rescue who could help with rehoming.

They’re specifically a volunteer-run fostering organisation, they don’t appear to have an actual shelter but instead have a load of volunteers that foster the dogs until they find their true home. I think this is a great idea, the dog gets used to home-life before adoption, rather than being stuck in a kennel.

Because of this, I have posted pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to help these poor pups get their forever homes they deserve. Like I said, I cannot personally adopt, but if I share, there might be someone I know who can, or maybe a chain reaction of re-tweets/re-posts might happen and someone somewhere is willing to adopt.

If you’re interested in adopting a dog (such like Melli above, who is still available), please do give Niagara Dog Rescue a look:
https://www.niagaradogrescue.org/

Here’s the list of available dogs they have: https://www.niagaradogrescue.org/status/available

In the past, I have also given monthly donations to WWF (I adopted a snow leopard). Which, due to deciding on a career change and going back to university meant I had to cancel my monthly donations. But once I start back at work and get a wage coming in each month again, I will be looking at doing more for animals (and my other charitable interests).

I hope that what ever little bit I can give or do, will make even a small bit of difference.

I also hope that my small actions will inspire others. You don’t need to do a lot to make a difference. But if we all at least make small chances, this can make a big impact overall.

I’ll also be blogging about my other charitable interests (such as Mental Health, the environment and LGBT+), so keep an eye out for my other blogs!

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If you liked this post, please don’t forget to like and I’d love to hear your comments too. Have you adopted a rescue pet? Do you give to a wildlife charity such as WWF? Or do you do other advocacy, such as sharing missing pet posts on Facebook? I’d love to know other animal fans!

Also, please don’t forget to check out my others posts:

Charity News

My Books

Travel

If you’re interested in giving to WWF, here’s the link: www.wwf.org.uk/

A little of topic, but if you like sci-fi / space themed films and TV shows, please do check out ‘The Expanse’. It’s not only a great TV show, based on a book series, but the actor I mentioned plays in it. Everyone is also very lovely!