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Home > News > Blogs > Voices from the Spectrum > In Conversation with Debi Brown

In Conversation with Debi Brown

Gordon Barlow

Gordon Barlow, aged 21, is a frequent visitor to the One Stop Shop in Fife. He recently interviewed  Debi Brown, a young woman with Asperger’s Syndrome who is also an author.

Gordon: Do you cope well with new things?

Debi: (Laughs) Clearly my diagnosis says “I shouldn’t” but I wouldn’t say I cope terribly either.  For example, when I went to Peterhead for the first time by bus, I was more nervous than I’d like to have been about getting off the bus at the right place, even though I’d planned the travel really thoroughly in advance. But I do have a very varied and full life and do new things very often.  I sometimes do struggle with new stuff, but not in a way I let it stop me doing things in life.  I also think everyone (aspie or not) finds new things a bit tricky.


Gordon: Do you find it difficult to maintain friendships?

Debi: Yes definitely, friendships are difficult, and there are different definitions of what friends are e.g. equal, support and non-official support. I’ve been learning some important things.  For example, friendships or relationships based upon need are not going to last.  Therefore, it’s better if they can be more reciprocal and equal.  I’ve previously “chosen” people based purely on who I like and who I need.  But it’s important to ask yourself, if you have chosen someone, have they also chosen you back? If they don’t give friendship back, of if you are the one always phoning, e-mailing or suggesting to meet up, then they aren’t a real friend and are not worth your bother.   I also learned a tip for working out if someone is telling you the truth.  There is no way of knowing for sure what’s in another person’s mind – you only get two clues – what they say and what they do.  Where the two contradict, what they do is closer to the truth. For example, if a person says “yes, I want to be your friend” but then ignores you, this is a contradiction, and what they do (by ignoring you, showing they are not your friend) is the truth.  Some people like to have a huge quantity of friends.  But I want quality rather than quantity.  Fair-weather friends are common and cheap.  Real friends are special and rare.


Gordon: What would you advise someone with autism who has bouts of anxiety and depression?

Debi: I would say if you’re an aspie with anxiety – that’s completely normal!  What’s decreased my anxiety has been to tackle a lot of my big life problems.  For example, I was in a difficult position at work and it took a year of negotiating and a lot of sick leave in order to raise the problem and get it properly sorted out.  Also, I was in a flat which wasn’t really right for me, and I had to redecorate and negotiate the difficult and unpredictable problem of buying and selling, in order to get a house with a lovely garden and a trampoline – things I really need for my anxiety.  The ironic thing is that, in order to get a life-style long-term where you’re less anxious, you have to make yourself a LOT more anxious by facing these sort of really difficult situations head on.  So, you feel worse in the short-term, but better in the long-term.  Common things we might need to sort out are work problems, suitable and warm housing, friendships/relationships that aren’t working.  Also, I’ve recently discovered that an enormous amount of my anxiety was caused by my issues with organising myself – executive function issues.  Doing my housework was an utter nightmare, and always left me with panic attacks and the feeling of being utterly overwhelmed – not to mention permanently late for engagements.  I was lent a book called “The New Messies Manual” which is written specifically for people like us.  After incorporating some of these ideas, my housework is now much more easily managed.  A key part of it is getting it into a written system and doing a little bit each day.  Another key part is decluttering your life.  I’m staggered to find how much of my general stress was being caused by my organisational difficulties – especially as I’m highly organised at work!

I don’t think I’ve had proper depression – it’s hard to know as I’ve had a year feeling very down, so perhaps I was having a mild version.  From what I understand, good things to do to combat depression are exercising and not withdrawing from the world when your problems get too big – and these are things I’ve always naturally done anyway.  When I feel really bad (which I sometimes do, e.g. in times of great grief or loneliness), I think to myself, “well, I’m feeling rubbish.  I could either just go to bed and let my life fall apart because I feel rubbish, or I could get on with what needs to be done anyway, even though I feel awful”.  Given that, either way, I’m going to feel just awful, I may as well choose the option which doesn’t make anything get worse – getting on with things. I get out of bed, exercise, face my fears and keep going anyway.

I like to fill my days with things I like to do - it’s about finding what gives you joy and filling your week with it. My passions are to do with movement, so I love my trampoline – also Fridays are sacred to ice-skating – which is very social too as we go to the pub afterwards.  I also play with my neighbours’ kids who are just bundles of joy.


Gordon: Do you have a favourite TV programme or film?

Debi: “The Bridge” (a Swedish crime drama series), as it includes a positive portrayal of a woman who I think is an aspie.  I have never seen a good portrayal of an aspie woman on TV before and I’m utterly fascinated – it’s highly amusing, but also very interesting to see how the NTs perceive her (there is no time in my own social interactions to pick up on how people actually react to me but on the DVD, you can pause and rewind and it’s not actually happening to you, so you have more time to observe) and also very, very affirming to see someone who makes all my mistakes but who is very loveable, very innocent and who is succeeding anyway.  I find myself feeling very sympathetic towards her, in situations where I would normally berate myself if I did similar things – so I realise I’m being far too harsh on myself.  Ultimately, I’m finding it very healing.  You can buy Series 1 and 2 on Amazon.


Debi writes her own blog, check it out at

She has also written two books: ‘Are you eating an orange?' and ‘The Aspie Girl’s Guide to Being Safe with Men’  both of which you purchase by emailing Debi at