Feline Focus

Feline Focus
My latest puma, July 2016


Beloved companion to Sarah, Nov 2015

Window To The Soul

Window To The Soul
Watercolour Horse, June 2015

Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties
Watercolour Lionesses, Nov 2012


"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."

Groucho Marx

Snow Stalker

Snow Stalker
Another snow leopard - my latest watercolour offering - July 2013

20 December 2010

"Shall I Compare Thee To A ... Vampire?"

Seriously. I am now, apparently, closely related to the undead. Mind you this could explain my obsession with ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ and a general inclination towards things dark and vampiric. I particularly liked the character Spike, and especially his humour – though his appearance was nothing to sneeze at either! (No, I’m not sure myself exactly what that expression means – in fact, when you look at it literally, it’s positively meaningless!) Let’s face it, when you’re one of the undead, neither wholly one thing nor another, you’ve got to have a highly developed sense of humour – to go with the other highly developed senses.

It could also explain my disinclination for going outside during the day; an aversion to sunlight, which I used to have to an extreme degree when I was a child; and what used to be an unhealthily pallid complexion, which made me look as if I was terminally ill. (Now, thankfully, I just look pale and interesting!)

And then, of course, there’s the fact that I’ve never been much of a one for showing spontaneous displays of emotion: “as animated as a dead dog” is a blunt but often apt description of my general demeanour. As I now understand it this is not due to me being some kind of emotionally crippled automaton, despite what some people might believe. It is, in fact, yet another of those “quirks” of being autistic – my processing speed for everything is slower than that of a non-autistic, and my system just can’t deal with more than one thing at a time.

And when it comes to feelings, which never seem to arrive singly but rather in gangs (which leave me feeling as if I’ve been mugged!), you’d best multiply the average person’s speed by a hundred to calculate how slow I am, especially when my mind gets involved in the process of trying to work out what I’m experiencing. It’s like looking for a snowflake in the Arctic!

Basically everything I experience is out of synch: so whatever might occur today to induce an emotional response will not come to the surface until some time later - and later can mean anything from a few days up to a few years! And then, when it does hit me, I end up running round in my mind like a blue-arsed fly trying to figure out why I’m feeling so emotional when there’s been absolutely nothing going on to provoke such a reaction. Is it any wonder I would spend a large proportion of my time feeling wiped out by obsessively hunting for the reason, not to mention from the unnamed emotion itself. And the amount of times I put it down to PMS – which necessitated it being re-named to include not only Pre but also Post in the title!

But when I do experience feelings then the range and depth is staggeringly... limited! At least that’s how it seems: I can never find the right words to describe my emotional state, and they often all just appear to merge into one (the emotions not the words, though sometimes this can apply to both!). Apparently my default setting veers between worry and anxiety, manic enthusiasm, or gloom and despondency. I’m either at one extreme or the other, and I only hit the middle for a nanosecond as I go skidding by on my way either up or down. Who needs drugs when you’ve got an in-built facility for altering your own state of mind?!

As to the allusion to being one of the undead, it occurred whilst I was endeavouring to do the impossible, yet again, in trying to explain my Asperger’s to someone. You’d think I would have learned by now that it’s a totally futile waste of time and energy to keep on attempting to communicate to people what is the very essence of being autistic – my inability to communicate with people!! How ludicrous is that? Is it any wonder that non-autistics get confused by me as I proceed to talk in a coherent manner, and pronounce myself unable to express myself?!

And therein lies the problem: I can speak English. Depressingly, in fact, I can speak it very well. Unfortunately, as a means for conveying what I mean it’s a total bloody washout: I might just as well be speaking Martian, though I’m sure there’d still be some well-intentioned neurotypical insisting that they thought they knew what I meant, and that they felt exactly the same: “After all, we live in the same solar system, so we’re all basically the same under the skin, aren’t we?”!

Blundering “once more unto the breach” (more Shakespeare!), I was endeavouring to explain how I pick up other peoples’ feelings (not to be confused with feeling empathy, which I don’t do) – like animals, when they sense danger or can tell when someone is afraid of them, for example. Instinct, or sixth sense. The problem is when I don’t know that that’s what it is, and I find myself walking around experiencing a whole gamut of emotions which I can’t source or name, and that don’t belong to me. Inevitably I end up obsessing and analysing myself into a hole as I mistakenly take ownership of this seething mass of energy, and those to whom these rampantly raging and rampaging emotions belong walk away free, having discharged their shit out into the universe for me to step in. It’s one of the things I hate about neuro-typicals – they have no sense of boundaries!

During the course of the conversation, having mentioned how I’d realised that the fear which I kept feeling around one of my neighbour’s was not mine but his, the person to whom I was talking offered me a helpful suggestion. He said that whenever I found myself “feeding off” other peoples’ negative feelings I should just think about how happy he, his wife, and other people are.

And, basically, that was it. Oh, and I should listen to some Elvis Presley! Of course I simply stood there dumbfounded whilst this astonishing piece of wisdom embedded itself in my mind, ready for me to unearth and analyse later on. I also smiled. I’ve found it’s often the only recourse I have when engaging with members of the alternate human race.

I really despair sometimes at having ever bothered learning to speak, and especially at having taken such an interest in English grammar, being concerned to get it exactly right so that people don’t misunderstand what I say or mean. What is the point of grammar when, as far as I can see, the majority of the population disregard it completely, and just make things up willy-nilly as they go along? If you mention grammar to most people here in Yorkshire they assume you’re talking about a little old lady in a rocking chair!

Just to clarify: I don’t pick up feelings through my mind, so it’s a bit bloody pointless trying to change what are not my emotions anyway by changing my thoughts! My thoughts are not the problem, in this case – it’s the fact that I don’t seem to have a deflector shield for free-floating negative energy. I am a fluff magnet!! The part my mind has to play in the whole deal is in believing that it all belongs to me, and then driving me wappy trying to work out what and why and when, and on and on, ad infinitum. And of course I never find the end because there’s actually no beginning – it’s all come from outside of me, and it’s none of my bloody business!

I think it might be preferable to be a vampire sometimes: at least they get to choose whose blood they’ll suck, and they can always spit it out! I’m not able to choose whose energy I suck up, and it’s a bit bloody (ha ha ha, no pun intended) difficult to spit out what you can’t see!!

01 October 2010

Lost In Translation

Have you noticed how no matter how hard you try to explain autism to non-autistics, and the differences between us and them, they insist on relating everything back to themselves, and saying infuriating things like: “I know what you mean”, and “Everybody does that”, and the ultimate in minimisation, “We all have our little quirks.” Quirks? QUIRKS?!!! You call not being able to understand what people are talking about, on account of being so literal-minded, a bloody quirk? And how “quirky” is it not being able to read body language, facial expressions, and work out tones of voice? And, I have to say, having no common sense (and I mean none whatsoever, not just a slight lapse every now and again that’s only related to some areas of life, or a temporary blip due to tiredness or some such thing) has to be the quirk of all quirks! Do you know I’m forty-three years old and I only just found out where my hips are? Seriously: I’ve been measuring the wrong bit for years, and thinking I’ve got very narrow hips!

Just watch their faces crease into a smile when you tell them that (about having no common sense, I mean, not that you’ve got narrow hips!), and then change to a look of what I’m assuming is perplexity ‘cos they can’t quite get their heads around the idea that what they’re looking at is a sense-free zone! Let them try relating to that! But I guarantee they will, in some way or another – chauvinistic men will assume that it’s down to me being female, and women will decide I’m just exaggerating, or that it’s ‘cos I’m in need of nurturing to enable me to grow up and out of it. How, may I ask, do you grow out of being common-sense free? It’s only now, as a consequence of finding out that I am autistic, and admitting to not knowing a great deal about life, that I’m finally beginning to learn about all those things that other people just pick up along their journey through life, and take for granted that we all do the same.

Well welcome to the confusing world of the autistic! It only took me about thirty-four years to find out that you actually have to touch your genital area in order to wash it, either with a flannel or a soapy hand (your own, preferably, unless you’ve got someone with you and you’re multi-tasking – not a thing I’m able to do!) I thought that just sitting in the water would clean it, but apparently not ‘cos there are those hidden bits that have to be prised open by hand! (I am, of course, talking about women’s bits here: I have no idea about male genital anatomy, so please don’t try prising anything open unless you know what you’re doing, or have had the advice of someone who knows what they’re talking about!) Oh, and I also had a ‘thing’ about not liking touching that part of me, which made me very squeamish about the whole idea.

And, I hasten to add, I had to be told by someone (my non-autistic best friend, from whom I find out everything, and without whom I'd be totally lost): I didn't have a sudden, spontaneous attack of common sense, like being struck by lightning - a "Eureka" moment, just in case anyone out there is ready to point out that here's a sign that one day the wiring in my brain might straighten itself out - in short, I might get 'better'!

The problem, as I see it, is not that they don’t understand autism, but rather that they think that they do, especially once it’s been explained to them. If they could just accept that they don’t understand it, and stop trying to relate it to their own experience, we might actually find a way to communicate better. It’s how my best friend and I do it. She accepts that I’m autistic and that it’s down to the wiring in my brain, and not the thinking in my mind (which can be changed, albeit very slowly!); and that, therefore, no amount of trying to bridge the gulf between us by comparing herself to me is going to help. And it ABSOLUTELY, DEFINITELY isn’t going to change me or the fact that I cannot understand the whole social world or connect at an emotional level the way that NTs do.

Basically, you’re never gonna love me “better”, so quit trying! I’m tired of people, well-meaning as some of them are, trying to encompass me into the fold of humanity and make me one of them: it’s suffocating, and I already have enough bloody problems trying to separate myself out from the rest of the world, and find who Lisa is. I copy – and not, I might add, through any willing or conscious desire to do so! It’s got to be one of the most annoying, and frustrating, aspects of my autism, and I am constantly having to fight to hold onto any sense of my own identity.

So please, give me a break. Stop telling me you know what I mean, when it’s patently obvious that you don’t, especially when you’re one of those people who think that what I’ve got is some kind of illness, and that I’ll get better soon – all I need is a bit of encouragement, and to try harder! I don’t want to disappoint you, but you could be waiting a very long time for that to happen. I’d been waiting for forty-two years, and I’m just as bewildered now by the world and its people as I was the moment I arrived here. Better just to accept that you’re clueless and I’m sense-less!

23 September 2010

As A Matter Of Fact ...

Did I mention that I went for my aspergers diagnosis in June? Yes, I know I did: just checking! What I haven’t mentioned is that it’s taken two months for my report to arrive, and what a bloody disappointment it was too!

It’s only now that I have really begun to fully process what happened, and how I feel about it. And probably the major realisation is that, as usual, I had expectations – high expectations which had little basis in anything vaguely resembling reality!

One of the many peculiarities I have discovered about being autistic is that I find that I never seem to be aware of what’s in my mind until a long time later, normally after an event. In this case what appears to have been lurking in my subconscious was the belief that the psychiatrist I went to see, because of his long-time specialised interest in autistic spectrum disorders, was going to be different to your average psychiatrist. He was going to understand me, and be some kind of font of all wisdom – a God-like figure of unimpeachable knowledge about all things autistic. A bit over-optimistic of me, do you think?!

The first evidence for me that he wasn’t and that he didn’t arrived in the form of my diagnosis report. And here comes expectation number two, which I wasn’t fully aware of having either – I was expecting something resembling a certificate! I’d even had the vague idea that I might frame it and hang it on the wall! It was meant to be short, concise, factual, and clinical: and he was meant to state categorically, as he had done at the end of my interview with him, that there was no doubt I have aspergers, along with ADHD.

Instead of which I got a three page report which contains glaring factual errors - I now, apparently, have an A Level in English Literature (I studied it but failed the exam); my niece, who is actually eight years old, is now eighteen; my best friend, who was there with me, was a residential social worker (no she wasn’t: the only residential work she did was when she managed a residential unit for people who were severely autistic); she also, apparently, acted as my AA sponsor when I first joined AA at age nineteen (I didn’t stop drinking until I was twenty-one, I knew her briefly for a year not long after that, but then she didn’t become my sponsor until nine years later); I developed an eating disorder when I was in my twenties (I’ve been addicted to sugar and a compulsive overeater probably since I was about six, and my bulimia developed in my early teens), and on and on it goes.

As if this isn’t bad enough I have apparently overcome and mastered my compulsive behavioural tendencies through the adoption of a very strict timetable, which includes a careful diet and doing yoga twice daily, but there are occasions when something unexpected happens and I panic, and then I look to my friend for support.

Hello? Who is this amazingly well-disciplined, carefully controlled, independent and almost anxiety-free individual to whom this report seems to be referring? Was I body-snatched, and someone else was sitting in that room with him? Was he actually bloody listening to a word I was saying? Yes, I do have a daily plan that I am supposed to follow and which, when I can manage to stick to it for longer than sixty seconds, does actually work to keep me calmer: but note the words “when I can manage”. I haven’t yet managed to go for longer than a week without some distraction or other, and it’s usually to do with one of those pesky “compulsive behavioural tendencies” which I have been so successful in overcoming – namely surfing the web and obsessively reading anything I come across! Hell, I’ve spent the last week doing just that!

Plus my friend, to whom I apparently only look for support in times of crisis, is the lucky recipient of at least one phone call nearly every day, on account of the fact that I need her guidance and interpretation skills most of the time, especially since I have nothing discernibly resembling common sense!

I’m seriously beginning to think that perhaps he was deaf. My friend believes that he is probably autistic, and unaware of it, on account of his total lack of social skills, inexpressive face, and the fact that the building he works in had the same colour scheme throughout! She says that autism is probably his special interest, that he’s learned to diagnose an autistic when he meets one, but that he’s just copying what he’s learned from the medical and psychiatric circles which he frequents. So nothing radical or new to be found there then!

No, for that I have to continue to look within myself, and to have the dialogues with my friend who has more understanding of autism, especially aspergers, than probably all the specialists and psychiatrists out there making a very good living at our expense (and I do mean that to be taken literally!) – and she’s happy to share what she knows for free. She has said to me all along that, if it weren’t for the fact that I need a “formal” diagnosis in order to make it possible for me to access services that I might require at some point, she would have said not to bother because, after all, we both know that I have it, so what does the opinion of someone who doesn’t even know me matter?

Plus, as she also says, it’s disgusting the amount of money he gets considering what he does for it – he sat for a couple of hours asking a few specially designed questions, while I basically did most of the talking because I was so anxious that I couldn’t stop! And, of course, I’m autistic, so the moment I’m given the opportunity to talk about myself I take it – what else am I going to do?!

And, in the end, what is it that we are actually paying for? The ‘privilege’ of being given a label by someone who’s been trained to identify us from the rest of humanity! How ludicrous is that? That’s like being told that I can’t call myself female until I’ve been formally identified and given permission to do so by someone who’s been trained to recognise a woman when they see one!

After all, as I am now beginning to understand and embrace, ‘being’ autistic is part of who I am, just like being female: it’s not something that I ‘have’, like an illness or an affliction. It’s not going to go away or get better (though, with my acceptance and understanding of it, I find that I get better at living with it). I’m even beginning to question the idea of it as a condition, because it makes it sound like it’s some kind of defect that I was born with, an accident of my birth, rather than a design of God that I should be created in a way that makes me experience the world totally differently to neurotypicals.

So, in the end, what has my trip to see this all-knowing, all-powerful God of autistic knowledge given me? Yet more proof that man (in the generic sense of the word) is fallible, and doesn’t have all the answers, and can’t even get the bloody facts right when they’re sitting in a room being told them! Oh, and a three-page report that I can’t, and wouldn’t want, to frame to hang on the wall, but which will go into a drawer somewhere, only to be used in dire emergencies ie when I’m required to provide proof that I am what I say I am!!

17 July 2010

The Truth Will Set You Free

“The truth will set you free” is an adage in which I firmly believe. I have only to look back at the evidence in my own life to see where this has applied. Time and again it has released me from the frustration and futility of blundering on in the wrong direction, pointing me in the right one, and endowing me with a clarity of vision that would draw from me an oft-heard exclamation along the lines of, “But that’s so obvious. Why couldn’t I see it before?!” Unfortunately the answer to this plaintive question is not so obvious and continues to elude me. I make very slow progress along the path of enlightenment, but now I have another truth I’ve realised, to add to my list of truths, which explains this: I am autistic, and progress means change, and autistics HATE change!

It’s been almost a month now since I was formally diagnosed as having Aspergers, and it hasn’t fully sunk in as to what that really means. It doesn’t quite compute. I haven’t yet managed to process it. It’s still just a word and, as I’m now finding out, whilst I am very good at understanding the literal meaning of words (English was my favourite subject at school) the actual significance of them often eludes me or takes a very long time before understanding dawns. And then it’s just like seeing the truth, as described above: “Why did I not see that before?! That’s so obvious!”

It seems a little illogical to me that, having discovered the truth about myself last year, I should be having some difficulty coming to terms with the formal diagnosis. I do understand that there is a process of acceptance which has to be gone through, but perhaps I have taken too literally the idea that we autistics come from another dimension, and so therefore are a completely different species to the rest of society, immune to all the strange emotional processes that neuro-typicals have to endure. It appears that we are not, which is a bit of a bugger. They just take longer in us, it seems, like everything else!

Perhaps, too, it’s down to the fact that, unlike some aspergers, I haven’t always felt or been aware of the fact that I am odd, that there is something so different about me that sets me apart from other people. My oddness has been masked and hidden (from me at any rate!) behind labels. If I were a suitcase you wouldn’t be able to see me beneath all the labels signposting where I’ve travelled.

Now labels, I know, can be useful. After all if no-one had given a name to the condition we now know as aspergers and autism then people like me would still be being treated with varying degrees of ignorance, not to mention intolerance and the like. And had I not been given the label alcoholic then I would never have found a solution to my drinking.

But they also have their limits, and they can often turn from being an aid to self-knowledge and freedom into a prison cell, especially when you have aspergers and you take everything so literally. So the labels which seemed to pinpoint what was “wrong” with me gradually became barriers to progress and understanding, until it finally became obvious that they did not encompass and explain all of my peculiarities, and the boxes into which I had tried to fit myself were now confining and constricting any growth.

The other barrier which exacerbated this lack of self-awareness was the fact that my life was not exactly “normal”, a fact which seemed to give me a genuine and rational cause to feel different from other children. My mum left when I was seven years old, and I was raised by my dad, a man whom I now believe had aspergers too. He taught my sister and me how to do all the domestic work, and we became his little housekeepers, having to take care of him and ourselves because he couldn’t do it himself. Our daily life involved having to come home from school and do housework and cooking, ready for when he came home from work. Week-ends and holidays were more of the same, with the added “joys” of shopping and laundry. None of my friends lived like this, and nor did they live in houses full of stuff that their parents would not get rid of. By the time I left home there was hardly any room for us to move about, so extreme was my dad’s hoarding.

What I believed was that there was something wrong with my life, and not that there was something odd about me. And the moment I came into contact with therapy (via the psychiatric unit and a rehab unit for my drinking) they added fuel to this fire, and off I went on a journey of self-discovery and psychobabble, ending up more lost and at sea than when I started out! I don’t know whose “self” it was that I discovered, but it certainly wasn’t mine!

And so now here I am, with another label, one which finally fits. Or should I say two, as I have also been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which also fits. It’s a bit like finally finding a pair of jeans that fit perfectly and are just what you were looking for, after years of frustration never finding exactly what you want and having to make do or go without. Now I just have to adapt to the fact that they are the right ones (another change!), stop looking for the flaws in them, and stop trying to compare mine to everyone else’s!

It seems that I have grown so used to being uncomfortable in my own skin (and my ill-fitting jeans!) that I can’t quite get used to the idea that I don’t have to fight any longer to make myself heard, and to find a place for myself in this world. I don’t have to become neuro-typical, or a pale copy of one, in order to be accepted and to be happy. Hell, my misery has always been caused by my constant attempts to fit in and become one of them, whilst the truth was I never did want to be just like everybody else, long before I ever became aware that I wasn’t. I inadvertently lived a lie, which kept me a prisoner.

And the ultimate truth is that God (whoever or whatever you might perceive that to be) accepts and loves me for what I am, because He/She/It created me this way, and if They wanted me to be neuro-typical then I believe that I would have been born that way. But what a boring world it would be if it was only full of them or us! So who am I, or anyone else, to argue with Creation and the infinite variety that springs from It?

10 July 2010

Don't Be An Ass!

It’s my birthday today. You wouldn’t think so, the way I’m feeling, and behaving. More like someone’s funeral. I am as happy as Eeyore sitting in his gloomy place. But, apparently, this is the way I am every year, and at every celebratory event. My best friend tells me that this has been so ever since she’s known me, which spans the last thirteen years. I have no reason to doubt her any longer. I know she’s right. I know I’ve been like it for a lot longer than that. It has something to do with the aspergers.

I don’t know how to celebrate but, unfortunately, I seem to have this ingrained belief that I have to do it, that I have to mark each celebratory event in some way, even though it actually has no real significance to me whatsoever. My friend tells me that it’s just another day, and that I should just enjoy it as such and not put pressure on myself to make it symbolic by trying to do something special. This is how she does it, how she approaches life: she sees that every day is special, none more nor less so than another, and that all of this hype that surrounds events like birthdays and Christmas is just part of the societal pressure and conditioning that we are subject to in order to make us conform, and spend lots of money!

I get this. I agree with it. I like the way she lives, and have tried to copy her (taking it to the extreme at times, of course, not being able to make the distinction between the differences in our personalities, and the need for me to adapt what I see in her to suit me, rather than trying to copy outright her whole way of being in order to become almost a carbon copy!) Unfortunately I just don’t seem to be able to do it, and so every year is the same – a whole load of heightened unrealistic expectations, followed by a massive plummet into disappointment.

The thing that makes it worse is the fact that I keep thinking that I’ve got over being like this, because I no longer do exactly the same things, nor do I consciously think much about my birthday in the run-up to it. But, apparently, this doesn’t matter because this thing is buried deep in my subconscious, and we all know how difficult it is for an asperger to change anything, and how long it can take to let go, no matter that the thing may well have been proven to be ineffective, not to mention downright harmful.

And it’s not just events about which I have unrealistic expectations. Oh no. It’s things, too, and people (which I am now beginning to see are often confused in my mind as being one and the same – yet another delightful autistic trait!) I think this is probably part of the reason why I hate having to buy anything new, or get to know anyone new – it takes me so long to get used to one thing, after the initial period of finding fault with it and, if applicable, comparing it to the old one that it’s had to replace, and then I’ve got to go through the whole process again: is it really worth the effort, not to mention the stress?!

So, basically, everything in life is a disappointment to me until I get used to it, and manage to reduce my expectations to the level of something vaguely resembling reality. Of course it’s never going to resemble anyone else’s perception of what you can realistically expect, what with being autistic: and it is rather difficult to know what is realistic when you have nothing against which to compare it, what with being from a whole other dimension! But then this could ultimately turn out to be a blessing in disguise, a gift from God as it were – if only I could find the right circumstances in which to use it. Failing that I could always complain to Him/Her/It (delete as applicable!), and ask for an exchange for the life I’ve been given or my money back, ‘cos I’m just not satisfied with the one I’ve got!

Just to end on a happy note, Eeyore did eventually cheer up and enjoy his birthday, after he’d started out with heightened expectations. And you know what cheered him? Being given an empty honey pot from Pooh (it was meant to be full of honey but Pooh had eaten it on the way!), and a burst red balloon from Piglet (it had been a blown-up one before he’d tripped and fallen on it!) And there he sat, like an autistic, putting his bit of balloon in his empty pot and then taking it out again. Bliss!!

30 June 2010

"She's Got It, She's Got It, I Do Believe She's Got It!"

Just to continue on with the “My Fair Lady” theme (another line from a song from the film, as sung by Rex Harrison’s Professor Henry Higgins, which is also rather apt in the circumstances!)

Well it’s now official – I have aspergers. In fact I have aspergers with ADHD. How lucky can you get?!! The psychiatrist I saw did a bloody good job, and I am very grateful to him for doing in two hours what the NHS psychiatric service was going to take probably two years to do – and with no guarantee that they would even manage to get the diagnosis right!

I did try them initially – one frustrating and fruitless forty minute interview, where I ended up shutting down (and the doctor never noticed!), was enough to convince me that I couldn’t go through that ordeal again, which is what it was going to take – months of interviews for them to make an assessment.

So I went private, and it was worth the £440. And he did it without the aid of any background information on my childhood, other than what I was able to give him, because both my parents are dead. But my friend, who went with me, has always maintained that he would only have to sit in a room with me for five minutes to know that I have it!

It’s now two weeks ago since I went, and I don’t think it has sunk in at all. I had convinced myself beforehand that, logically, it shouldn’t make any difference to be told officially. After all I’ve known for a year now, and what should it matter what a complete stranger to me believes? The important thing is that I know it’s true, along with my best friend – surely? Plus, if he had said he didn’t believe that I’d got it, and he’s considered to be one of the foremost experts, where would that have left me? Which is probably why I was trying so hard to convince myself that his opinion didn’t matter.

And yet it seems it does, and it has done something, though I’m not sure what yet. I’ve been too busy being distracted and obsessed by other things that have been happening in my life just recently to allow the information to properly digest. I keep telling people that I’ve officially got it, and I keep telling myself that I have it, but this doesn’t really aid in the process of acceptance. It doesn’t fully compute yet: it just seems so surreal.

Of course my inclination is to immerse myself in all things aspergers and ADHD now, to read up on and learn everything there is to know about the two things – basically to set off yet another obsession that will distract me from getting on with my life and the routine that I have discovered helps to keep my life ordered, and my nervous system calm enough for me to think more clearly and function better. I just hate discipline! At least I now know that there is a physiological reason for it, and that it isn’t just the disinclination of a wilful and lazy child to buckle down.

But along with that too comes the knowledge that discipline and a plan are therefore absolutely essential for me – that there is no other way, no “easier, softer option” (it’s a quote from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous), no pill I can take that will turn me into a joyful discipline-junkie (just a junkie!) And the worst of it is that, because I am a full-grown adult woman, the responsibility for enforcing this routine lies with me!! I feel like the parent to a child, and I’ve never wanted children!

23 May 2010

Asp Attack

I have no idea what to write about. Everything I think and say seems to originate from somewhere other than in me. I feel like all that I am is a human photocopier, except that I don’t simply copy the original as it is, but mash together a whole conglomerate of differing ideas and behaviours, ending up with a confused mass, and never knowing where most of what I think comes from. Is it any wonder I don’t know my own mind, or why I behave the way I do? My own thoughts seem to be buried somewhere beneath a bloody mountain of shit (and I don’t mean that the shit is bleeding!) Or perhaps I just don’t have any of my own? Maybe I am just an empty vessel, except that I’ve never been able to allow my vessel to be emptied of all the rubbish I’ve accumulated over time, and so achieve that perfect yogic state of allowing thoughts to come in and go out, like the breath.

With me everything goes in and stays in, and then we have to go through the long-winded and arduous task of sorting through every single item individually, and from every conceivable angle, to determine whether it is of use to us before deciding whether it can be let go of. And even then, it seems, I never actually let go of anything ‘cos it all stays imprinted in my memory (just in case – at least that appears to be the reason for it, but then that suggests that it’s a conscious cognitive choice I’m making, and it doesn’t feel like it is: but what would I know about how my brain works?!)

I never realised that I copied: at least not to the extent that it turns out I do. But then I never realised that I was completely obsessive, that everything I do is done obsessively. Nor did I realise that I was rigid, hate change, hate discipline, can’t function without routine, can’t maintain anything, take things literally, don’t understand people, can’t chat, take everything seriously, often don’t recognise when I’m being teased, obsess about the minutiae, can’t see the bigger picture, can’t multi-task, can’t empathise, have absolutely no spatial awareness whatsoever (very freaky!), suffer paranoia, anxiety, stammer, self-stimulate (rock, make folds in my clothes, stroke my nose, etc), can’t bear certain sounds and cannot filter out noise, flap my hands, hate being cuddled and fawned over (a quick hug is fine, everything else makes me go rigid and, as I’ve recently realised, my brain interprets as sexual – which is fine, as long as it’s with a male, and one whom I like, which is very rare!), have a very limited emotional vocabulary and rarely interpret correctly what I’m feeling, cannot see beyond my own world, can’t focus for very long and lose interest and get distracted very easily from what I’m doing, see everything as black or white, do everything to the extreme, have temper tantrums (now that I’m an adult they’re in the form of silent rages), have other sensory difficulties (eg can’t tell temperature, can’t tell when I’ve eaten enough), hoard and display, can’t plan, can’t organise, have limited imagination, ad infinitum.

I’m going for my formal aspergers assessment in three weeks time. Do you think I’ll “pass”?!!

16 May 2010

Speaking With Forked Tongue

This could get seriously tedious. I’ve already had to write an addendum to one of my posts, and now here’s another one, and for the same reason. I wrote something that I thought was the truth, but it isn’t.

I know a man with aspergers who describes neurotypicals as “speaking with forked tongue” because they never say what they mean. Basically, he says, they lie. I think it’s catching! I’ve spent so long around them, learning to be polite, having to answer such stupid questions as “How do you feel?” (with my hands!), or be accused of repressing them or, ironically, of lying if I say I don’t know, that I am now even more bewildered as to what my own truth is because of taking on board other peoples’ ideas – neurotypical peoples’ ideas.

I’m finding it hard to embrace all the things that make up my aspergers because they seem to clash so resoundingly with what I have learned makes up a well-balanced, healthy, mature, responsible, caring, selfless, human being. Basically my aspergers seems to make me the antithesis of all of those things which make a person more likely to be successful and accepted in society. And so I unconsciously lie to myself or sugar coat it (another neurotypical technique I’ve learned), because the truth sounds so unpalatable.

Who wants to say that, actually, they do see people as being interchangeable and replaceable like light bulbs or batteries; that people represent certain things, like security and safety; that the most that you can achieve is a feeling of attachment to them for what they can give you, rather than one of connection and mutual sharing? When I talk about it it sounds so cold and distant, but then I feel distanced and disconnected from my own self, so how on earth can I expect to be able to connect to any other self, in the form of another human being? For me it is a neurological impossibility, and not a choice that I am making, just like my inability to empathise. The highest compliment I have paid my best friend is to tell her that I love her as much as I love yoga and my yoga mat – and I REALLY love them! The amazing thing is that she isn’t offended by this – she understands that this is the way it is for me, and she accepts it without question. And in return she loves me the way that a neurotypical loves, which is completely baffling!

So in my last post where I wrote that I now realise that people are not interchangeable, and that you can’t just replace them, I’ve not told the truth. Yes they are, and yes I do. I don’t want it to be like this, but to say otherwise is a lie – and lying makes me uncomfortable. It’s why when someone asks me “How are you?” I feel the compulsion to tell them the literal truth, and often do, no matter that they might be a complete stranger to me. After all why bother asking me if they don’t really want to know?

This is an example of speaking with forked tongue, though I know that the answer in their world is that they are just being polite. But to me you can be polite just by simply saying hello. Anything else just seems to catapult me into a whole dimension of confusion and frustration as I attempt the impossible and try to focus on more than one thing at a time – trying to work out where the boundaries are and what is appropriate for me to share, at the same time as doing it! Plus I really don’t do chatting, I do information exchanging and then have to go away and process the data!

I have had to learn to lie (sorry, I mean be polite!), and exercise some discretion, so I now do sometimes just say I’m okay: but it goes against the grain.

And as to the people who ask “How are you?”, and then sometimes tell you how you should be if you happen to make the mistake of telling them, I often feel as if they are simply going around reassuring themselves that everyone is alright, and that they go away feeling a sense of satisfaction that they’ve done their duty in making sure the world is as it should be! And when I’m feeling really paranoid I think that they’re checking up on me, as if they are working for some covert government agency that’s keeping an eye on all of the oddballs of society, just in case we gather together and start a revolution!


05 May 2010

Making Friends

How do you make friends? Okay, literal translation time: “Take a large lump of modelling clay, a few adornments for the face and body, mix them all together, and there you go! A large, squiggy mess! No, sorry, I mean – a person. You’ve made yourself a friend!” Er, I think not, though how I wish it could be that easy!

Wasn’t there a book called “How To Win Friends And Influence People”, or did I just make that up? I’m sure there is, or something like, and I know I’ve never read it. And even if I had it wouldn’t have helped me navigate the strange world of socialisation because I would only have taken it all very literally and misinterpreted most of it, starting with the title – does it mean you have to “win” people, like in a game of cards? So there’s a competition between you and another person to win the friendship of a third?

On second thoughts I think I might have inadvertently read some of that book when I was about five because this sounds awfully similar to my approach to friendship! As I’ve discovered recently, I can’t multi-task at all, and I can now see how this even extends to the “task” of engaging in relationships with people. I can’t seem to “do” more than one friend at a time. Back when I was a child I was always part of a group of about four or five, trying to balance being friends with each member, and seeming constantly to be in conflict to establish who my best friend was, and where all the others fitted in: or, more to the point, where and how I fitted in. It seems I couldn’t simply be one of a group of friends, just as it seems that I cannot simply be one of a group of anything!

So anyway, to return to the days when I had friends (plural) but didn’t quite know how I’d achieved this miraculous feat, I now see that I didn’t so much “make” friends as acquire them, a bit like the way I acquire carrier bags or boxes – I don’t quite know how I got them, I don’t quite know what to do with them once I’ve got them, but I keep them nonetheless, and because of that thing called “attachment” that I do – I just can’t seem to let anything, or anyone, go!

And because it’s what you do, isn’t it, have friends? And the more the better, as far as I’d worked out from what I’d picked up in the world, because if you lose one (or, God forbid, more!) then you’ve still got a few left to replace the ones who’ve gone! Plus they also appear to be a statement to the world about how popular you are, and generally what an interesting and busy person you must be, and what an exciting life you must lead.

Personally I can’t see how you can possibly have the time to do anything particularly interesting or exciting when you’ve got so many people demanding your attention, and you spend half your life gabbing on the phone or meeting in coffee bars etc to chat: but then that’s because I’ve got aspergers and I can’t multi-task! Oh, and I don’t do chatting, but long monologues because I don’t know when to stop talking once I’ve started! Basically chatting is hazardous to my health – not to mention to that of the person I am assailing!

I think that part of my problem is that I think there are actual “rules” to how to go about making friends, a kind of instruction manual that exists somewhere which everyone else appears to have read and understood, but which I seem not to have been party to. And, as with the way I approach everything in life, I seem to believe that if only I could learn these rules and apply them exactly as they are written (ie literally!) then I too would have lots of friends, the way other people do.

Having examined this subject in detail (and had a number of failed attempts at making and sustaining friendships) I have come to the conclusion that, as with everything in life, there actually aren’t any specific rules, only guidelines: and therein lies the problem. The requirement here is an understanding of social communication in order that you can read social signals, such as whether someone is genuinely showing an interest in being your friend or simply being polite. I cannot count the number of occasions on which I have mistaken simple politeness as being the prelude to a deep, meaningful friendship which, most of the time, I haven’t really wanted, but I’ve felt that it’s only polite to reciprocate! I have therefore deduced that being polite is a dangerous business, and often results in a confusing mess unless you know what you’re doing with it – so this rules me out! This basically goes for the whole friend-making business. You might just as well ask me to make an atom bomb. It would probably be easier, and less likely to blow up in my face!

Plus, to complicate the whole thing even more (as if it wasn’t complicated enough), there are different types or levels of friendship, which require subtle differences in behaviour. Unfortunately I don’t do subtle. I can’t seem to discern the difference between what’s appropriate conversation when talking to a complete stranger, and talking to my best friend, so I communicate the same way with everyone! Actually I have recently learned to show a little more discretion, but it is only a little, and it isn’t consistent. I am still apt to spout forth the details of my life to anyone who unwittingly engages in any kind of dialogue with me, no matter how trivial. Or, equally as bad, to offer my opinion and assistance (unsolicited!) whenever I feel that I have an answer to some problem they may have shared with me.

Witness my attempts to solve the sleeping problems of my next door neighbour, with whom I had barely exchanged more than two words of dialogue, other than to say “hello” whenever I had previously seen him. He foolishly told me one day, when we were standing at the bus stop, that he suffered from insomnia. In an attempt to be chatty, and seeing an opportunity to be helpful (I seem to have a desperate need to be helpful, which possibly stems from the delusion I have that I know a lot about everything!), I proceeded to bombard him with a series of questions about his habits, and whether he’d tried various remedies, including the one thing closest to my heart – yoga! Fortunately, before I had time to suggest a complete overhaul of his whole lifestyle, the bus arrived. He moved house not long after that!

You see I mean well, and because I can’t do spontaneous small talk, but I don’t want to appear rude by not at least trying to reciprocate, I grasp hold of anything that appears to be an opportunity for me to be able to keep the conversation going. Inevitably, though, I end up wishing I hadn’t bothered because the resultant headache and confusion created far outweighs any benefit. After all, what is it I’m trying to prove anyway? That I’m not a social leper just because I can’t do chatting?!

In conclusion, I have decided that having just one good friend is enough, especially as I have been blessed with her being such a good friend. I have given up chasing after this particular neurotypical dream, of being popular and inundated with friends, and of needing lots of back-up friends in case my best friend suddenly pops her clogs (that means dies, for those of a severely literal nature)! As I’ve recently realised, people are not interchangeable like batteries or light bulbs: you cannot replace them and not notice the difference. And now I wouldn’t want to anyway. My best friend is very special and unique, and I’d never have the exact same relationship with anyone else as I have with her.

Personally I think that making friends is an art form that requires special skills which, unfortunately, they don’t formally teach in school. Apparently you’re supposed to learn and pick it up instinctively just by being in school around other children – imagine that?! To me it’s as unfathomable as the inner workings (or otherwise!) of my computer and, as with my computer, I should perhaps simply give up trying to understand how it all works, and just blunder on as best I can. After all it has worked, in its way, so far, and you just can’t learn this stuff by rote. A pity, really: I’ve always been far better at theory than practise!

31 March 2010

Don't Mind Me Two

This is by way of an addendum to the last blog post, Sense and Sensibility.

I really find this business of not knowing my own mind a bit tedious at times, especially when I also have the annoying habit of making categorical statements, only to find that I have cemented myself in the wrong place yet again, and I’ve got to set about chiselling my way out!

In this instance I am referring to my statement about liking the change in the seasons. Now this is not strictly untrue: I do like things like seeing the flowers appear in spring and the arrival of the baby birds, not to mention all the wonderful fruit that makes its appearance during these warmer months (I have a ‘thing’ about food, especially fruit – I think it’s called an obsession!) However, my liking of the seasonal changes is mainly theoretical – I like the idea of it, but the reality appears to clash with my personality. I enjoy reading about them, and seeing pictures – the way they do it in magazines, directing your attention to whatever aspect of the change happens to be their particular interest (health magazines, food and lifestyle magazines, etc). I know it’s a bit of a bizarre thing to enjoy, but I have aspergers, don’t you know - bizarre is my middle name (er, not literally, you understand?!) And, anyway, I’ve given it up now because it was such an obsession and a distraction that I hardly got much else done but reading – anything!

I have a lot of these delusions about myself. Some of them are really quite funny. For instance I used to think that I was a gregarious social butterfly. I mistook not being able to stop talking once I started as a sign that I enjoyed social interaction, and was able to engage in light chit-chat! The fact that it would wear me out, that I would come away from such encounters with my mind racing and obsessing over what had been said (which could last up to a week until the next time!), and that I could only talk about one thing – namely me and my interests – failed to register. I had to have my neurotypical best friend tell me that this is what I did, and that this does not constitute small talk, and general polite conversation. I was aghast! Was my small talk not small enough, then? How small did it have to be? I mean, for heaven’s sake, I’m the woman who’s obsessed with the minutiae of life: you can’t get much smaller than that, surely?!! But no, apparently this doesn’t count. It’s not light enough, like a fairy cake – more in the way of a rock bun that’s been cooked too long!

So, to try to get back on track, this change business is not something I embrace wholeheartedly, or even half-heartedly at times – sometimes there’s no heart to be found in it whatsoever! I just have this idea that I do, even despite all the evidence to the contrary throughout my life. I keep thinking it’s just a matter of changing my attitude (ha ha ha, more change!) towards the idea of change, but as yet this has not worked, and I’ve been doing it a bloody long time now! Methinks it’s time I tried another method - accept that it’s intrinsically part of the aspergers and, for whatever inexplicable reason, change just isn’t something I’m ever going to find easy. Hell’s bells, I don’t even like changing my breakfast cereal, or the kind of knickers I buy! And I hate it when the Brussels sprout season comes to its end, and I have to figure out something else to buy in their place!

I hate the change in seasons, and not just because of the difficulties I have with deciding what to wear. I hate it when the clocks go forward here in the UK (which they have just done, and now I’ve lost an hour’s sleep, and I’d just got back into the rhythm of getting up earlier!), and the dreaded British summer time begins – in the middle of spring! It’s the time when all the people, who were safely locked up in their homes during the colder months while I was out taking my walks in blissful solitary peace, suddenly appear and the world feels overcrowded. Now I can hardly get from my door to where I walk without encountering someone, and even whilst indoors I can hear them going about their business outside.

What is it with people? Why does it seem they all have to come out at the same time? Couldn’t they do it in shifts? And why is it that they seem to have this propensity for gathering together in the same places, like sheep all following each other around? I mean, just look at what happens in the summer holidays when they all head for the traditional holiday spots and theme parks: can there be anything less conducive to a restful break from work or school? Is it any wonder half of them are glad when the holidays end and it’s time to go back?! (I do know that they are not all the same, and that they don’t all do these things: it just seems like it to me!) Me, I look forward to when the days grow shorter and the clocks go back, and I get my lost hour back (where does it go in the interim? On holiday, probably, away from all the people!). Not to mention, of course, all those surplus people suddenly disappear indoors.

And there, once again, I imply that I enjoy another change, but I am reminded of the fact that I apparently don’t respond well to the lack of light, the cold, and every other thing that goes with the autumn/winter season, and that it affects my mood and I become quite gloomy at times. I only ever seem able to see one piece of the jigsaw at a time, and never the whole picture, so I have to frequently be reminded of the truth about myself and my condition. It’s a bit of a bugger when you can’t quite remember who you really are!

So, having explored the issue, I have come to the conclusion that no, I don’t like change. In fact, I BLOODY WELL HATE IT!!! This will not come as a surprise to my friend, who is constantly telling me that it’s the case: but to me, I’m always amazed. It takes me a while for things to fully compute, and then I can never guarantee that it won’t go in and disappear into the black hole that appears to materialise in my mind to swallow up all the really useful information I could do with retaining, leaving me with a swirling mass of gaseous waste to ponder on obsessively – the minutiae of life!

25 March 2010

Sense and Sensibility!

You know the statue “The Thinker” by Michelangelo (seated naked man with one arm curled up to support his forehead, probably to stop his brain from falling out!)? Well I’ve decided he’s an asperger who went outside to try to figure out what the weather was like in order to decide what to wear, sat down to think about it, and froze to death in that pose because he couldn’t feel how cold it really was!

This may sound a bit odd but to me, an asperger with sensory problems, it makes perfect sense. How do you figure out what the temperature is when your wiring’s all crossed? Me, I rely on my sight: I decide what the weather’s like based on how it looks! Oh, and I stick my hand out the window (once I’ve opened it, of course: the window, that is, not my hand!) As you may well imagine this method has never failed to not work, and I invariably end up dressed inappropriately. But still I persist with it - I know no other way, so I stick to what I do know, even when it’s been proven to be totally ineffective!

It’s not so bad when the weather is “behaving” as it should do ie hot in summer, cold in winter. But it’s the bits in between, the variations in temperature, the annoying hazy bits in the midst of the extremes of hot or cold that cause the problems. It’s almost like trying to piece the weather together using an identikit. If the sky is blue, and the sun is out, I decide it must be quite warm.

But then, of course, I have to take into consideration the season, and then into the equation come all the variables, designed to confuse the process. If it’s winter and it’s a “nice” day then it still probably doesn’t mean that I can go out in a t-shirt. However, if I’m going out walking then I might end up feeling too hot if I overdress, but I’ll probably be too cold at the beginning, and what if I don’t warm up at all? Should I just take a suitcase with me with numerous changes of clothes in case every single possible variation in the weather occurs whilst I’m out for my walk (an event which only takes an hour at the most)?!!

Even more confusing is if the weather is overcast and looks gloomy. This I have got down as meaning that it must be a cool day, because it looks like one, even in the midst of summer - but then you can never rely on the weather in England to behave anyway. It’s a bugger when you dress up ready for wintry weather only to discover it’s milder than the tropics! I should just employ myself a mobile valet to follow me around on my expeditions and carry all the clothes I have to discard as I begin to overheat!

I begin to see why it takes us aspergers so long to do anything! I have a decision-making process as long as your arm to go through which cannot be circumvented. Try to speed it up and all I end up doing is slowing it down further, leaving myself in a complete dither, and generally short-circuiting the system. I appear to be innately incapable of going from A to B: it just seems I HAVE to take in the rest of the alphabet, no matter that I might not want to!

So relying on my sense of sight is neither use nor ornament, but so too is trying to work it out using my hand. I am hopeless at gauging the temperature of anything. I regularly get in the bath only to find that it’s still too hot, no matter that I have checked it frequently with my hand. It has been suggested to me that I try using my elbow instead as it is much more sensitive. I have tried this, and it does appear to work better.

However, due to another peculiar and illogical aspect of my condition, once I have got into one habit I find it very difficult to relinquish it in favour of something better, something which actually works (‘cos the thing it’s usually intended to replace almost inevitably doesn’t work, and probably never did: I just seem to pick these things up like someone at a flea market attracted to all the useless broken bits that get left behind!) Bonkers as it might seem, it actually feels to me too difficult to change from sticking my hand in the water to putting my elbow in it: and, besides which, I have to bend down further to get my elbow in there!! As a consequence, it seems, I just tend to forget that my way doesn’t work and that there’s a better one.

And then there’s the small problem of having to gauge what exactly is too hot, since I have nothing to measure it against except my own peculiar, and frankly inadequate, understanding of the word hot! And for some bizarre reason, in diametric opposition to my dislike of the weather being too hot, I cannot seem to feel the heat enough when I get in the bath, and I hate finding that I’ve cooled it down too much because I’ve been unable to gauge in the other direction too!

I used to be able to figure it out by how red my body was, and how much sweat was pouring out of me (plus how light-headed and dizzy I felt!). I’d read somewhere that hot baths which made you sweat were good for you – they probably didn’t mean that hot, and I’ve since revised my opinion in light of the fact that I have pale, sensitive skin prone to drying out easily (so it’s really not that good for me at all), and aspergers, which means I haven’t got a clue what they mean by “hot” and “sweat”! Since I don’t go to those extremes any more it’s a little more difficult.

I could buy a thermometer, I suppose, and find out what is considered to be the ideal temperature for a bath? But I’d probably just ignore what it registered if it didn’t match up to what I felt was the right temperature, totally forgetting that the reason for acquiring it in the first place was because my in-built thermometer doesn’t work properly! You just can’t win with aspergers!

Perhaps one answer to the problem of trying to gauge the weather is to move to a country where they have only one type, with hardly any variation in temperature – Siberia, perhaps, or Africa? A bit drastic, I know, especially as I hate it being too warm or cold. But then think how much time I would save trying to decide what to wear, not to mention what clothes to buy, which is another joyous event in itself! I could just buy the same outfit for every day of the week, but in different colours so that people didn’t get the idea that I never get changed!

But then there’s also a little problem I have with travelling anywhere further than the local town without suffering extreme anxiety. And, anyway, I don’t think they sell soya milk, peanut butter, or goji berries in either of those countries, not to mention all my other very specific dietary requirements! So maybe I won’t bother after all. Besides which I like England. I even like the changes in weather: each season brings with it such an infinite variety of exciting and inspiring things. It just takes me and my body a while to catch up and adjust to each change, so it’s a good thing that there are only four seasons in the year! And, asperger or not, who wants to almost freeze to death or swelter in a heatwave all year round?!

No. I think I’ll just stay where I am and learn to adapt to the peculiarities inherent in having aspergers. But I don’t really have much choice – my body would still follow me if I decided to move, so it’s a bit pointless trying to escape from it! I just need always remember not to copy The Thinker’s example, and forget to put on my clothes before I go outside to check on the weather – especially if I end up in Siberia!!

10 March 2010

Einstein Rules!

"I used to have a handle on life but it fell off!”

I read this somewhere ages ago and thought it was very funny. Now I also find that it is totally appropriate to where I am!

Life is confusing. Aspergers is confusing. Put them together and all I get is a lot of confusion. I sometimes feel like a kitten all tangled up in a ball of wool, not able to find the beginning or the end, and when I do manage to find one or the other the only place it leads to is back into the tangled mass!

I remember reading a book called ‘A Short History Of Nearly Everything’ by Bill Bryson. It was really good, and brought science to life and made it interesting, mainly because he wrote a lot about the people as well as the science itself, putting it into historical context. It’s never been a subject I’ve been particularly interested in, but after reading that I acquired yet another obsession, and would go to the library (my most favourite place on the planet!) and get out more books on the subject. It didn’t last for very long: there aren’t that many books of a similar nature to Bryson’s, and there weren’t that many science books (or any other kind!) in my local library, and I soon got bored, not to mention totally perplexed by it all. But it did give me yet another excuse for getting out more books to read!

I can’t remember most of it, though I do have my own copy, but the one relevant bit that has always stuck with me is to do with Einstein. I didn’t know at the time that I had aspergers, nor that he is supposed to have had it too, but even then I felt a sense of identification with his desire to understand and explain the universe, to put it in a neat little box with a rigid set of rules (or laws), and set down a definitive answer that no-one could refute. And for a while it worked: until some bastard came along and threw a spanner in the works, saying that his General Theory of Relativity didn’t apply to everything in the universe – namely atoms! They untidied the universe, and came up with a separate set of laws called Quantum Theory, and Einstein then apparently spent the rest of his life trying to find yet another definitive answer to the whole lot because he didn’t like there being two different sets of rules. It didn’t make sense to him, and it upset his need for rigid order, I expect.

I can understand his being upset, and then being driven by his obsessive need to tidy it all back up again. I’ve had theories of my own. Granted they are nothing so grand as explaining the nature of gravity (and, in so doing, apparently coming up with the single greatest scientific discovery of all time); and they are nothing to do with science, nor will they ever change the world: but, nonetheless, they’ve been very dear to me in explaining the inexplicable, mainly to do with human nature, and they have given me a firm anchor – until, of course, some bastard comes along and blow-torches their way through the chain, leaving me cast adrift once again!

So now I’m trying to give up theorising and setting everything in concrete: it has a tendency to set on me in the wrong place, usually while I’m at sea, and I end up nearly drowning myself in my own theories! (All of this, by the way, is not to be taken literally, you understand?!) It’s difficult to do, though, especially after a lifetime of practice, and the little problem of it being part and parcel of the aspergers. But I persist, knowing that it may take a while, but also trusting that it is possible for me to change. It’s just knowing what bits can be changed that’s the other problem: I have a tendency to try to change what I can’t, and then get frustrated when nothing happens. And, ironically, my main obsession at the moment is with the idea that I can stop being obsessive! Ah well, back to the drawing board (as Einstein might say!)

07 March 2010


What is it with aspergers and things? Why do I get so attached to stuff, and end up hoarding? And, let’s face it, some of the stuff is useless, and cannot be classed as having sentimental value, or any other kind! And yet I still do it.

I didn’t realise that I did it until fairly recently. I thought that I was rather good at clearing stuff out, and keeping my home clear of useless clutter. I hate clutter, and chaos, and yet it seems to regularly follow me around, and I’m always amazed when it happens! I don’t mean to do it!

I have learned to override my instinct to hoard, and throw things away, otherwise I would now be living with piles of boxes, not to mention carrier bags, glass jars, papers, clothes, and just general miscellaneous bits and pieces for which I can find no use, but am loathe to throw away “just in case ...” Just in case of what? That there might be a sudden world shortage of cardboard boxes exactly when I really need them? Or, perhaps, all the carrier bags in the world suddenly become an extinct species?!!

I had a clear-out the other week and discovered, to my complete surprise, that the “few carrier bags, glass jars, and boxes” I keep, to be re-used and recycled, had somehow multiplied when I wasn’t looking: it was like they’d mated and had off-spring! I decided to throw most of them away, with the helpful guidance of my NT friend who told me what was a reasonable amount of carriers to keep, and talked me through whether I really needed the boxes and the jars (the answer was no!)

And then came the hard part – actually discarding them! It was like pulling teeth, or losing an arm: “Couldn’t I just keep these three jars that are really nice to look at, and which I’ve had for ten years, but not actually used, but if I try hard I’m sure I can find a use for them now that there’s the threat of having to get rid of them, PLEASE?!!” “And I really like this particular carrier bag, and that one, and that one is useful for heavy stuff, even though they’ve all been stuffed in this bag with the rest and forgotten about, and never used either, OH PLEEAAAASE?!” And the boxes: “I might move ... in a year or ten! Or the thing that came in the box might break down, and then how do I send it back? Okay, so most of them are for things that are now no longer under warranty, but they could be really useful ... Oh, okay, I’m just stalling for time!”

It’s weird, isn’t it, how attached to things we get? And try explaining that to a neuro-typical. Hell, try explaining it to yourself!! I’ve used the good old stand-by of it being because things, unlike people, can be depended upon: funnily enough I’ve had two computers conk out on me, not to mention hi-fis giving up the ghost, washing machines dying, lawn-mowers fizzling to a halt, etc,etc. And that’s just the major appliances! But the idea that they don’t require any emotional attachment from me is quite bonkers considering that that’s exactly what I do end up becoming – emotionally attached! And that’s even to the bloody carrier bags!

It’s worse when the thing I’m trying to let go of is something that has been of real use and value to me, but has now come to the end of its life – for that I feel almost as if I am abandoning a faithful old companion! I bought myself a new yoga mat a few weeks ago. I’ve had my old one for nearly seven years and I desperately needed a new one. I was very excited to get the new one. However, I am attached to the old one and was loathe to just throw it away in the dustbin: it just seemed so callous! If it were possible I would probably have a burial ground for all the things that I have to get rid of, and give a funeral service!

So anyway I put it away, with the idea that perhaps it might come in handy for something: I could use it for when I travel (er, “when?” being the operative word!) so that I don’t lose or spoil the new one. I told my friend. She told me I was hoarding again, and to throw it away. I dithered, but in the end I did it. I know she’s right, and I really don’t want to live in a house full of clutter so I know I have to keep on throwing things away when they are of no use, despite what my strange mad asperger’s voice tells me, and despite the peculiar feeling of loss I experience every time I have to get rid of something.

So basically I have come to the conclusion that I don’t know why I do it, I just have to accept that I do. And then I have to decide whether I want to keep on doing it, and risk being pushed out of my own home by piles of rubbish accumulating, or to change the behaviour. One thing I do think is part of it is that I have great difficulty in distinguishing between what is and isn’t important or of value, and so I have the fear that if I get rid of something it will turn out to be the very thing that I needed at some point in the future. In order to curtail this possible eventuality I then just want to keep everything. Fortunately I have been blessed with a friend who helps me with this stuff so I don’t have to struggle with making those kinds of decisions by myself. But even this does not explain the weird emotional attachment business, and perhaps nothing ever will. As the French might say, “C’est l’aspergers!”

26 February 2010

Why Can't A Woman Be More Like A Man?

So sang Professor Henry Higgins in ‘My Fair Lady’. Obviously he had never met an asperger woman! Sounds a bit like a superhero’s name, like Superman, don’t you think? “I am ASPERGERWOMAN!” She cooks, she cleans, she can even give birth: just don’t ask her to empathise! She can’t multi-task!

I don’t do empathy. This is not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t. My wiring doesn’t allow for it. Now I realise that in our society this is not a very comfortable thing to have to consider, the idea of women not being empathetic. After all that’s their main role in life, isn’t it, to do most of the nurturing, at least at an instinctive level? Heaven’s above that’s what they were made for, wasn’t it? To look after men (and their brood)? “She must be inhuman, abnormal, a freak! She’s probably just a rampant man-hating feminist who just needs a good man in her life, and she’ll soon find herself feeling like other women, and wanting to have children, and the rest of it!”

I have thought these things myself, and had these doubts, mainly because of all the messages I have picked up from society, and what other people have believed about me. I can now say, without a doubt, that I don’t have it, and it’s not for any of the reasons listed above. I actually rather like men – a lot! It’s rather a nuisance sometimes because I find myself obsessing about them, and flirting with nearly every man who comes within spitting distance of me: and it happens without me knowing why! It doesn’t matter who he is – the gas man, the doctor, the delivery driver! It’s that bloody annoying “human factor”, and those annoyingly uncontrollable things called hormones!

For a long time I believed that it was a choice I was making because I’d decided that I didn’t like people (hated a lot of them), and that I was trying to toughen myself up against feeling anything in order to not be hurt. A lot of change has happened to me since those days, and especially in my view of people: I’ve grown to like them, I’ve tried to integrate with them (and in the process found myself disintegrating!), and I’ve stopped trying to pretend that I don’t have any feelings. It was a bit silly anyway, considering that I get upset at the slightest thing, especially if someone raises their voice at me!

So having discovered I’d got feelings (though never having mastered the art of being able to identify what they are, having such a limited emotional vocabulary) I naturally assumed that being able to empathise was automatically part of the package. Er, apparently not! I’ve tried doing it. I’ve believed that I have been doing it. But it turns out that what I’ve been doing is having compassion, and this is not the same as empathy. My neuro-typical best friend (and interpreter) explained it to me. And then she explained it to me again. And again! (It takes me a while for things like this to fully compute, and fortunately she has infinite patience!) Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, but still as yourself, does not constitute having it!

To be empathetic is an innate quality and not just a transitory condition, apparently: so no, you can't learn how to do it! In order to be empathetic you do not have to have experienced what the other person is experiencing. You are not comparing your situation to one that is similar in order to be able to find a commonality with which you can identify (eg comparing the plight of having aspergers, and being in a minority, with that of being black or gay, etc.), and so have compassion for their situation.

And if I can’t find anything with which I can identify then I find it very difficult to be compassionate, and can often end up being, or seeming, very intolerant as a consequence. It’s because I do not understand what is making the other person tick, and what their motivation is. And if you don’t operate like me, or within my range of understanding of human affairs (which I now realise is VERY limited), then you’re kind of buggered and off my compassion list! And, let's face it, I don't have a clue half the time how I tick!

The thing is I apply logic to everything, especially emotion. Okay so my logic is very wonky, and not very logical at all at times – but it would be because I’m being driven by the instincts of a very young child! Young children don’t tend to make a great deal of sense most of the time! So if it doesn’t make sense to me then it’s dumb. I find it very hard to take into account the “human factor”. This means that I have problems even, or particularly, identifying with my own sex - my answer to women who go on about men is “well why do you bother having relationships with them then? Just stay single.” Fortunately I have learned to keep my mouth shut, and to possibly look and sound as if I’m empathising, but I’m not really.

Nor do I know if I’m responding appropriately: for all I know I probably have a look of total bewilderment on my face, or a vacant gaze! I can’t even empathise if I’ve had the same experience: the emotional part of it has gone from my memory bank, so I just cannot connect with what the other person is going through at all. Apparently this is what men are missing, the empathy gene or wiring. Now you’d think I’d be able to empathise with them since we have this in common, but I can’t: I can no more put myself in the place of a man than I can of a woman. I think they’re just as dumb when they go on about women!

And nor can I empathise with other aspergers, be they male or female. In fact they are posssibly the people I understand the least, which makes sense considering I'm one of them and I don't understand myself! Plus I've spent a great many years studying neuro-typicals, of which I thought I was one, and misguidedly believed that this had given me great insight into how they, and therefore I, operate. How wrong can you get, on both counts?!

The other thing about empathy, which I find bewildering, is that the person doing the empathising is not actually experiencing the other person’s feelings whilst putting themselves in their place. This would actually make them ineffective in trying to be of use: can you imagine two people experiencing the same nervous breakdown?! Methinks this qualifies as “the blind leading the blind”! No: somehow, which is totally baffling to me, they are just able to place themselves temporarily there in order to see the world or some particular circumstance from the other’s point of view.

Isn’t that awesome? They can pop in, and then pop out again, because that’s the other thing about it – once there they don’t remain there for longer than necessary: it doesn’t take over their lives: they don’t become obsessed with it, and worry long after they’ve ended the encounter: they don’t feel responsible for the other person, and for having to come up with a solution! They’re not aspergic about it!! I tell you, if I reincarnate after this portion of my life has ended I want to experience being able to do that! But for now I am coming to enjoy being Positively Autistic!

24 February 2010

I've Lost My Voice!

I have been struggling to find anything to write just lately. I did put this down to having nothing to say, but then I have aspergers, and since when did an asperger ever have nothing to say?! No: I have had plenty of words all crammed in my head, fighting to be let out on paper or computer, but I haven’t had the inspiration to string them together in any coherent way.

I think my problem has been to do with not knowing how to approach writing a blog. I am a writer: I love writing. I have been writing since I was a child, and I just instinctively took to it, and to a love of the English language. It is a God-given gift, I believe: it has to be because the truth is I don’t fully understand half the words I use, and yet I somehow manage to get them into the right context! The thing is that, as such, the only way I know how to write is as a writer: ie in essay form, with all the punctuation present and correct, a title, a beginning, a middle, and an end. I write like that even on texts and emails: I just can’t help doing it! I also do it when writing anything factual, like in a letter of complaint to BT: it takes me at least three drafts to pare it down to the actual point, and to take out all the narrative waffle, and I have to have help from my neuro-typical best friend to do that because I find it difficult to know what is relevant and what isn’t!

So, to try to get to the point: I have been struggling with the idea that I have to change the way I write because this is a blog, and there’s a “proper” way of writing a blog – isn’t there? The way I think that there’s a “right” way to do everything in life, including breathe! I think that there are rules for everything, and that I have to find out what they are before I can do anything, otherwise I’ll be breaking them – and who knows what will happen then? The “Rule Enforcers” will come swooping down on me and drag me away somewhere to punish me for daring to not conform!! Now I do know, logically, that this is nonsense, but it doesn’t seem to get any further than my conscious mind, and so I do still have this instinctive desire to have to get everything right, which is a bloody pain in the arse!

One of the reasons for writing this blog was to try to help me get inspired again to write, and to find my own voice. It’s also meant as a place for me to just be myself, which I am finding very difficult having only found out about the aspergers last year and now realising that I’m not sure who I am at all.

The thing is I already do have a voice: not everything I am or have become is down to copying. Writing is where my voice comes through the most, if only I’d let it. I have become so worried that all that I write is just a copy of some of the authors I’ve read that I think I’ve probably managed to create my own writer’s block. I’ve got titles coming out of my ears (not literally, of course!), and yet no stories or articles to go with them. I am so busy trying not to be a copy, and to try to find something completely original, that I’ve just come to a standstill. I vaguely recall part of a quote from CS Lewis where he says, "Don't try to be original. Just be yourself, and then you cannot help but be original."

I’ve also forgotten (a frequent occurrence, me forgetting really important things!) that the main point of writing is to do it because it’s what I love doing: never mind trying to copy the neuro-typical goal-oriented thinking – that you have to be published, you have to make money from it, you have to be critically-acclaimed, etc, etc, before you can dare to call yourself a writer, and be able to consider yourself a success.

Therefore I finally came to the conclusion that by trying to change the way I write just for this blog, and so bending my mind into a pretzel and removing all the enjoyment once again, I would actually not be being myself at all. And who knows? Maybe as I get into it I will evolve a less formal, more rambling, style of writing for it that doesn’t involve the stress of trying to force myself to change something that really doesn’t need changing.

13 February 2010

Don't Mind Me

One of the most disconcerting things I’ve found about having aspergers is the fact that I don’t seem to know my own mind at all. It’s like living with another person, and she keeps everything secret from me! My behaviour doesn’t match up to my intentions, and my intentions are always good. It’s no wonder we are often misdiagnosed or classed as being schizophrenic, or having multiple-personality disorders: I’ve sometimes doubted my own sanity too!

I used to think that I was just some Contrary Mary, rebelling against everything I was told just for the hell of, and on the principle that no-one was going to control me. This especially seemed to fit my behaviour as a child: I was unruly, undisciplined, hyper-active, with the attention span of a gnat, with a mind that wandered off everywhere taking my body unresistantly with it! I felt like I was always being led astray, only I couldn’t point to someone outside myself and say “She made me to do it!” The person making me do it was always me, except I wasn’t consciously aware that it was. I’m still not consciously aware of it, hence still finding it a problem figuring out what’s going on in me.

That’s one of the problems with aspergers: the link between mind, body, and soul (true self) seems to be broken, or not properly connected because of the neurological wiring in me being skewed. It feels as if the three parts of me are all separate entities, and they never seem to be acting in synch. They don’t even seem to be communicating with each other half the time! I imagine the wires in my nervous system as looking like a bunch of electrical wiring, some of which are aimlessly and dangerously flapping around giving me an electric shock every so often as they touch each other randomly, and the rest look like they have been soldered together by a blind man wearing oven gloves!

I know this is probably not correct but it helps me to visualise it this way. It reminds me that what I have got is a lifetime condition and not an illness that can be cured. It also helps to alleviate some of the guilt and self-condemnation I suffer over some of the way I think and behave at times.

11 February 2010

A Salesman's Dream

I feel a new obsession coming on ... with blogging! No doubt it will last for a while and then, hopefully, it’ll settle down – or not, as the case may be!

I’m tired today. I’ve been for my once-weekly shopping trip, which lasts for a total of three hours, one of which is the travelling there and back. I have it down to a fine art now. I know exactly where I need to go, I take a list with me, and I follow the same routine each week, with the occasional variation for things that are not part of my usual weekly grocery shop. But still I get distracted. And still, despite the list, I find myself with the dilemma of trying to work out how many of something I might need, ‘cos even though I wrote the list I don’t quite trust it! And the memory of what I’ve got back at home has usually faded by the time I am faced with the enticement of all that wonderful fruit and veg. How many sprouts and apples does one person need for a week? Well, apparently, a whole truck-load (if you look in my fridge!) But seriously, how much is enough? I’ve been cooking for myself for over twenty years and I still haven’t worked it out!

I am a salesperson’s dream because of my gullibility, as well as being a nightmare, because I’ll take forever trying to decide. I once had a British Gas rep trying to sell me the idea that I should change my supplier, and he stood there talking for at least ten minutes, believing that he’d got a convertee, only for me to dither at the end and tell him that I’d think about it, and perhaps next year?! It never occurred to me that he was in a hurry to get round as many people as possible because that’s how he gets paid, and that I had essentially wasted his time by being so polite as to let him ramble on because I felt bad about the idea of being rude and telling him “no thanks” before he’d even had a chance to tell me what he was selling! My best friend, who is a neuro-typical and who basically interprets the world for me, had to explain it to me. And still he came back six months later, bringing a fellow employee with him (probably for moral support in case he got caught up in another pointless discussion with me!) This time, though, I was ready: and so was he, ‘cos he cut it very short, having remembered me from the last time! I guess it’s probably hard to forget an encounter with an asperger, isn’t it?!

10 February 2010

The Wee Whimper

This is my blog. I wanted to start with a bang, but I fear it will probably be more of a whimper! I’m not even sure what the purpose of this is going to be for me, other than a vague hope that perhaps I might find my own voice, and it might help to re-ignite my enthusiasm for writing. Oh, and that maybe there will be someone out there with aspergers whom it might help. You never know.

I am already having problems writing this because of my difficulty with spontaneity. I am trying to attempt what could be the impossible for me ie to not keep on editing and re-editing everything I write, in an attempt to get it right, and to make sure that no-one can possibly misunderstand any word I’ve written! I love words, and I love writing. I will read absolutely ANYTHING if left to my own devices – menu lists from the local Chinese takeaway (I don’t eat takeaway food!), leaflets about things I have absolutely no interest in whatsoever, the blurb that’s written on labels on anything I buy, etc, etc! I devour them, like the compulsive overeater that I am (it’s in remission).

They distract my attention, and as a child I could barely get my nose out of a book once I’d started reading it: I would read whilst walking to school. It served the useful purpose of giving me something to focus on other than the confusion of the world around me, and how to integrate with it. After all what do you do when there’s someone walking towards you on the same pavement? Where do you look? Do you smile? Do you make eye contact? Is that rude? Will they smack you in the face if you happen to look at them “the wrong way”? What is “the wrong way” to look at someone?! What happens if they smile at you, but you miss your cue and you don’t smile back? Will they think you’re being sullen or rude? Will they say something cutting? And then, of course, what happens if you ever see them again?!

All this, and more, going on within the space of about five minutes (because I’ve already started thinking the moment I spotted them on the pavement in front of me, half a mile up the road!) Ah, what a joy to have/be aspergers! And to think I used to believe that everyone went through this same protracted, and frankly gut-wrenching, exercise whenever they came into contact with another human being: or even when they just thought about having to interact with anyone else!

So this is my first blog entry. Not what I had planned to write at all, so hey, look at that – I did the impossible, and wrote spontaneously!! Now the plan is to try to write from my heart: that could be really difficult considering that we apparently don’t have one (at least not according to some sources!!)

Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
An experiment in watercolour and gouache

Quotes Quota

"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin.

"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name, but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million - worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it - an call it what tha' likes. Eh! lad, lad - what's names to th' Joy Maker."

From 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett


Copied from photograph of the same name by Roberto Dutesco

Quotes Quota

"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way."
The Dalai Lama

"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."

Malcolm X

On The Prowl

On The Prowl
Watercolour tiger

Quotes Quota

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step."

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

C S Lewis