Caring is difficult and autism makes it harder.

Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath. Michael Caine.

A little about me I'm on the autism spectrum (Asperger's) and am prone to bouts of considerable anxiety and depression. To all intents and purposes, on the surface, I appear to be what is called a "neurotypical" person or "normal" (whatever normal is). I often struggle to fit in, though I’ve learnt skills to help hide in plain sight (mainly to prevent bullying). I often mean well, but sometimes what I say is wrong. So while on the surface I may appear calm, like a duck on water, underneath I’m struggling, paddling like mad to be socially acceptable.

I struggle to live a normal life, and my elderly mother's recent diagnosis of lung cancer, a woman who has never smoked and has been told that chemotherapy will only extend her life by six months, has hit me hard. For her sake, I’m holding myself together when I’m around her; you know, typical bloke, stiff upper lip, or smile and a shoulder for her to cry on; but secretly I’m a mess and struggling to do my day job properly, often on the verge of tears, wanting to run away and hide in an imaginary world inside my head.

We've been through this twice before, but this time seems different. It's as though she has given up. Her main worry is: "What will happen to you?" I reassure her that I'll be okay, that I'm a survivor, and tell her that she will probably live to get a birthday card from the queen, and then she smiles, kisses my head and strokes my hair, while I hug her as I tell her that I love you mum.