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 January 2014

Opposites Attract

So, following on from my last post, I thought I’d offer a few examples of how having Asperger’s and ADHD can be an incentive to change, rather than the barrier that so many people believe it is.  It comes down to something I learnt from the AA programme, called turning it over – which basically means looking at the other side, finding the positive. 

In AA I learnt to see my alcoholism as a blessing, rather than a curse: a kind of added incentive with which I have been gifted in order to help me to stay away from drinking.  Knowing, and accepting, that I cannot ever drink alcohol safely, due to having a body which cannot process alcohol, means that I can get on with simply living my life without poisoning my mind and my body, and free from the constant fret and fume of trying to prove that I could control my drinking, and drink like a non-alcoholic.  Why I’d want to is beyond me, never having been a social drinker during the whole of my drinking ‘career’.    

I was then able to apply the same principles of the Twelve Step programme to my compulsive overeating/bulimia, and my anxiety.  And so onto now trying to apply it to the rest of me.

I recently wrote out a list of all the characteristics that are directly attributable to my ADHD and Asperger’s; and then I wrote the negative impact they have on my life, and the possible positive application that they could, or do, have.  It was rather enlightening.  Here are a few examples.

As has been well-documented about ADHDers, my interest in things is extremely transitory, even when it comes to the stuff I purportedly love doing.  I get excited about something, but then, if I don’t act on the inspiration immediately and just think obsessively about it, then the momentum is quickly lost.  I cannot count the number of times that I have been inspired with an idea for something to write, only to then either put off starting it altogether, or starting it but then getting distracted and procrastinating about finishing it.  And once the impetus is gone, it’s very difficult (nigh on impossible in some instances) to get it back.  Far easier to stick it out 'til the project is complete, rather than attempting what has been irrefutably proven to be impossible: but try telling me that when distraction calls!  

This means that I frequently end up with things half finished, because the energy and interest has waned due to my having misguidedly taken a break: always with the full intention of getting back to it, but without the knowledge or acceptance of how my brain is wired to work – which, in this case, means that it doesn’t deal well with taking breaks. 

Therefore, my choice is to either endure the frustration of never getting done what I want to do, or accepting that I cannot procrastinate with impunity, and so learning to get on with things when they’re fresh and I’m enthusiastic about them – which helps to manage the procrastination.  As I’ve said before, I’m a sprinter, not a long distance runner: and if I try to do long distance, then I just end up dropping out of the race before the end.

Being someone whose default position is to view everything as ‘either/or’ (I automatically see only two sides, until someone shows me otherwise – hence black or white, right or wrong, etc) can be a liability at times, and I believe is the genesis of being labelled rigid.  After all, not everything in this life has a definitive answer to it – there’s no right or wrong way to write, draw, paint, create, play, eat, love, live, etc, despite what some people might have us believe (often from those who are trying to sell something – like a book).

On the other hand, I am someone who finds it inordinately difficult to make a decision, a problem which I almost invariably (and paradoxically, given what I have just said about being black or white) compound by seeking out as many alternatives as possible.  Yet here is where my either/or approach becomes applicable, in allowing me to keep things as simple as possible, thereby removing that amorphous ‘grey’ area which people will often throw in just to complicate things, probably in the hope of avoiding having to make a decision at all.  Sometimes decisions really are that simple, and I can only believe that I was given this ability to pare things down to the bare bones for a reason – in order to counterbalance my propensity for complicating everything (and copying what everyone else does!).

And then we come to the question of how having both ADHD and Asperger’s can work together productively.  At first glance it would seem that they can’t, they being so contradictory in some ways – like having Eeyore and Tigger co-habiting inside of me.  At one end of the scale, having ADHD means that I find it extremely difficult to stick with anything for very long, and I cannot bear things being static and not changing; whilst at the other end, the Asperger’s causes me to absolutely hate change, and get locked onto a very narrow range of interests/obsessions.  It’s kind of like my Asperger’s  wants to keep me firmly rooted to the ground, whilst the ADHD has me floating off into the ether, like a butterfly on speed.  And therein lies the solution.  And no, I don’t mean that speed is the answer.

My autistic tendency to obsess (which I think crosses over into what is known as the ADHD tendency to hyper-focus) can make me very boring.  But my need for stimulation, and my desire to learn about lots of things in order to maintain my interest and my mind’s engagement with life, helps to balance out the narrow-minded fixating.  Hence the fact that I have a wide-ranging knowledge of a broad range of subjects. 

The obsessiveness itself can also be put to good use, in that it can be turned into specialising in one or more subjects that really interest me (like writing, yoga, art), whilst also helping to ground some of that flightiness, which otherwise leads me to never stay with one thing long enough to achieve anything.

And finally, there’s the question of discipline, which is an anathema to the whole of me, but which benefits both the ADHD and the autism – it grounds one, and frees the other.  But I also hate chaos, especially that created by my tendency to hoard, which I hate doing.  So the choice is to keep a routine, thereby helping to create order, minimise the distraction of all that chaos, and help me to recognise what’s important and what isn’t, especially when it comes to throwing things away; or to abandon structure, and suffer the consequences, which also includes the mental and emotional impact that living in an unstable, disordered environment has on me.

So there we go.  Rather than these things being ‘sent to try us’ (as the saying goes), I prefer to see them as having been given to help.  They also serve the purpose of helping to define who I am, and determining what is right for me, as opposed to who other people think I am, or might believe is best.  And, as someone who struggles with self-awareness, ‘every little helps’ (as they say at Tesco’s).

07 January 2014

Negative Exposure

“God doesn’t make rubbish, and S/He/It doesn’t make mistakes.”

 Here’s a novel, possibly even radical, idea.  Being autistic/ADHD is an incentive to change, rather than a barrier.

Seriously.  After living with my diagnosis for the last three and a half years, this is the conclusion I have come to.  Yes, there is hope after all!

And when I say change, I don’t mean as in trying to change myself in order to fit into a neurotypical mould, thereby becoming more like them.  I’m talking about the opportunity to embrace who I am, to become all that I am meant to be, to fulfil my god-given potential, as opposed to living up (or down) to the man-made expectations which tell me that I am limited by my ‘condition’.  For this we have the help of the Serenity Prayer,

‘God grant me the serenity,
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.’

I cannot change the fact that I am an Asperger with ADHD, but I can change the way I manage it in order that it doesn’t impede on my life, but rather enhances it.  It all comes down to how I choose to view it, which in turn determines whether it becomes an asset or a hindrance.  Just like with most things in life, actually, there are always two ways to look at a thing – from a negative or a positive perspective.  It just takes a little practice finding the positive when you’ve become really well-honed at seeing the negative, like I have.  And especially when you’ve absorbed the idea that being negative is part of being autistic, and cannot be changed. 

I have discovered that I am not naturally the gloomy, despondent, negative Eeyore that I long believed I was.  I am actually more of a Tigger – I bounce back so often, and don’t stay discouraged for very long.  To borrow a quote from Rabbit, from The House At Pooh Corner, “Tiggers never go on being Sad.  They get over it with Astonishing Rapidity.”

Yes, I have suffered from an excess of negativity and despondency in my life when I was floundering around, not knowing who I was, or where I was going, and unable to comprehend why I struggled so much with life, and with things with which other people seemed to deal with ease.  

I also now understand that I am such a sponge for other peoples’ emotions and energies, so I would be carrying around with me all that stuff that I had absorbed from the outside world.  And, for the first twenty-one years of my life, I lived with my dad – a seething ball of gloom and negativity, from whom I learnt and absorbed a great deal, most of it not very helpful - though he did teach me how to cook and do housework, for which I am now eternally grateful as it gave me some measure of ability to live independently. 

So my journey has involved working out what is really part of my individual personality; which bits I have assimilated from other people; and how my autism/ADHD fits into the whole picture.

Having been introduced twenty-five years ago to the AA programme of recovery, and the concept of a loving Higher Power, some force greater than man which is directing the universe, I have learnt that there is a reason and a purpose for everything, even when I can’t see what it is.  But that when I am ready and willing to see the truth, and open my mind to it, it will become clear to me.   

I believe that this is what has happened with my autism/ADHD.  My perspective is finally shifting, for the good, and I now believe that God (a term I use as shorthand for referring to that higher force) had a reason for making me autistic/ADHD etc, contrary to what a great deal of the man-made world thinks about it.  But it’s taken a while to get here: and why would it not, when I am surrounded by such negative viewpoints about the whole thing?

From what I have read about them, it seems that a great proportion of the world (including a number of Aspergers and ADHDers themselves) consider them to be a blight, something from which we suffer.  Indeed, there are people out there, scientists and the like, who spend inordinate amounts of time researching these ‘conditions’ with the sole aim of finding a cure.

Do they not realise that such an attitude often contributes to making people like me feel as if there is something ‘wrong’ with me; that I am inherently flawed, and therefore inferior?  This is how I felt three years ago when I was initially diagnosed.  It’s also the main reason I was so resistant to the idea that I might be autistic when it was suggested to me three years prior to my actual diagnosis.  After all, who in their right mind would want to be such a thing, having read that stuff? 

According to them, Aspergers were limited in what they could do and achieve with their lives; they couldn’t change; they suffered depression, loneliness, isolation; they were weirdos who were shunned by society because of their non-conformity; and worst of all (in my eyes), ‘it’ degenerated with age – progressing like some rampant disease, until they were inevitably, and totally, incapable of any level of independence, thereby resulting in the need for the intervention of care workers, or being shunted off to live in care homes.  What a fucking depressing prognosis!  With these terrifying prospects in store, is it any wonder I refused to consider the possibility for so long?   

So is it any wonder we often suffer from depression, and other negative consequences, when there is such a level of non-acceptance (not to mention ignorance about the subject) in the world for us, an attitude which we then absorb into ourselves (being, as we are, so sensitive to such stuff), which in turn leads to a lack of self-acceptance? 

I believe that people often make the mistake of attributing all depression, and negativity, to the fact that we are autistic – almost as if it is an innate part of the ‘condition’ itself.  We all have different personalities, just like non-autistics: and just like some non-autistics are depressive in nature, so too does the same truth apply to us.  We are human beings who happen to be autistic, NOT autistics who happen to be human beings.  It’s taken me a long time to recognise this, and stop thinking of myself almost as some kind of automaton.

To pinch another quote, this time from one of the stories in the Big Book of AA (page 449 in the third edition), 

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.  When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake... unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy.  I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.”

I cannot change other peoples’ attitudes or perspectives about Asperger’s/ADHD: there will continue to be those who consider it a blight, an illness, a flaw in our genetic make-up.  However, I can change my own attitude, and stop reading that stuff, and stop believing what other people say about me.

It’s now three and a half years since I was officially diagnosed, and I have to say that, though the journey has been extremely difficult at times, I am no longer in the same place that I was back then.  I have come to know the truth (or more of it) about my Asperger’s/ADHD, and you know what?  All those people who believe that we’re somehow disadvantaged, sick, not right, in need of their pity and their interference (sorry, I mean help), have got it wrong.  They’ve missed the point. 

The fundamental point is that being autistic with ADHD makes me individual, gives me a unique perspective on life, and offers me an alternative set of circumstances to navigate – which, in turn, provides me with a divergent opportunity for growth and change. 

As my best friend often reminds me, “There are many ways up the mountain.”  

And, as Aslan says to Aravis in The Horse And His Boy, “Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers.  I tell no one any story but his own.”  

And my story is my own, and no-one out there can tell me what it is.

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