Archive for November, 2011

This might be the most important blog post of them all, the one all of my friends and family should read if they ever read any of them at all.

After years of suspecting it – and not being the only one, I know my mother had her suspicions – and failing to get a psychiatrist to diagnose it, I took my plight to the internet, found all the tests I needed to take and took them. It’s ‘official’ – I’m autistic. Obviously, it’s not officially official, but then that would require my therapist to actually call me back. His desk must be cluttered as hell with memos to call me by now. Your NHS in action.

Oddly, I’ve been aware that I’ve always seemed a little off both to myself and the people around me for a while and I actually suspected I might be autistic for the first time a while ago. Now that it’s official I feel like it’s okay for me to start to tell people about it. So let’s talk, for the first time, about what being me is really like. Or, as it’ll probably be known, ‘ah, that’s why he does that.’

We’ll put it in list form first and then I’ll explain further. Some things that annoy me:

  • Being touched. Not always, obviously, but being touched without my permission really, really pisses me off. Don’t poke me, don’t prod at me and don’t randomly lean on me. There are literally three people in the world who can get away with randomly leaning on me with me wanting to punch them in the face. Chances are, you aren’t one of them.
  • The phone. I hate the phone. I own one purely so people I like can get in touch with me and I, if I really need to, can get in touch with them. But, if I don’t recognize your number, I won’t answer. I have enough trouble holding a conversation with people I do like. If you think I care about your new brand of double glazing, insurance, or ‘debt-buster’ loans (Can you say ‘oxymoron’?’ then you’re sadly mistaken. But if you’re calling me and you are one of the people I like, I probably just don’t have your number stored. Text me, tell me who you are, and I’ll add you.
  • Conversations. Not all conversations, that’d be quite random. I hate conversations with random strangers. If you’re sat next to me on the bus, I probably don’t know or care about you enough to want to hear all about your charity work. Save it for the grandchildren. At least if they kill you they can claim they were under duress. Also, phone conversations. Ever notice that I sometimes just drift off when you’re talking to me on the phone? You know why I do that? Because you’re either talking to fast for me to follow or my hearing has shut down on me. I’ll explain that in a minute.
  • Being talked at like I’m an idiot. I know that there are times when I don’t seem like the brightest star in the sky. Here’s the deal: I have an IQ of 186. I can follow almost any damn conversation you’re having, I can probably follow it better than you can, and I often resist the urge to correct you. If I’m not joining in, it doesn’t mean that I can’t, it means I’m not interested. I like to give the impression of being of average intelligence. You know why I do that? People take the piss out of smart kids. They don’t respect us, they don’t like us, they don’t want to like us. If I have to restrict my conversations to music, football and women to avoid that, I’ll do it. And it’s only great restraint that stops me from turning around and making you look like an idiot when you talk at me like I am one. So stop it, okay?
  • People moving my shit without telling me. If you move something that belongs to me and don’t tell me you’ve done it, then it largely ceases to exist in my mind. I have to go hunting for it, and that annoys me, because in my mind things are exactly where I left them until I move them or I’m told otherwise. My brain doesn’t totally comprehend the fact that other people move stuff without telling me or asking me. Honest to God, if I leave something somewhere it’s because it’s in the most logical place for me to find it again when I need it. This is particularly annoying when it applies to my coat and shoes. I’m usually trying to leave the house in a hurry. I don’t have ten minutes to piss away looking for things that aren’t where I left them.
  • Being drunk. Yes, this sounds weird, as I drink quite a lot. I really hate it. I enjoy drink, I enjoy most of the social aspects of drinking. I hate being drunk, not being in control. In fact, I know the only reason I drink is because people treat me like I’m weird when I say I just want to drink coke or juice all night. It’s not weird. I just want to control my damn thoughts.
  • Being referred to as ‘weird.’ Here’s the thing, yes, I’m weird. I’m autistic, and that’s definitely not normal. Ergo, I’m weird. Yes, I have a ‘freaky’ ability to memorize facts and figures and I know more trivia than any human being ever should. You’ll find most autistic people are the same. Try me at a pub quiz: I’ll slap you around like a two-dollar whore if I have to. It’s oddly useful for things like that.
  • Being referred to as shy. Okay, this is the last and least annoying thing I can think of at the moment. Yes, I’m shy. Autism, it’s kind of conducive to that. I’ll explain why in a second.
So, what does me being autistic mean to you as one of my friends or relatives? It means that now I’ve told you, you’ll notice the following behaviours probably a damn sight more than you already did:
  • When I’m not engaged in conversation and there’s music playing, I’ll drum along with my fingers. I used to think this was ADD. It isn’t. It’s my brain keeping itself occupied. It’s probably annoying, but that’s the way it goes.
  • I get obsessive about things. I know people notice this. I can get really obsessive about a band, a song, music in general, a film, a TV show, a book or any one of about four sports. Think about it, you must have noticed.
  • I make lots of lists. Reams and reams of lists. Lists about things, lists about nothing. Lists of lists. To-do lists. I like lists. They organize some chaos. Even if I may seem disorganized.
  • I have a really short temper. I know people who know me are aware that I’m a nice guy. I’m kind, I’m caring, I’m the kind of guy people are supposed to be. Or so I hear. Be aware, though, that making me angry really can lead very quickly to be snapping. I can control it to the point where I just go quiet and seethe for a while. If you continue annoying me, I can get violent. And I can’t control myself so well when I do. I’m also pretty strong. That’s not a good combination.
  • I don’t do eye contact. Think about it. Have I ever looked you square in the eye and held your gaze the way regular people do? I’ll bet I haven’t. You know why? I hate doing it so much that it actually makes me cry. I’ve forced myself before and it’s honestly the most uncomfortable thing imaginable. It’s torture. If I don’t look you in the eye when I’m talking to you, it’s not because I’m being disingenuous. It’s because doing it makes me crazy.
  • I’m shy. This tags on to the above. I can’t talk to people I don’t know. Or, I can. I can force myself to if I really, really have to. I can do it to be polite. I’m not comfortable doing it.
  • I get really uncomfortable around women (until I know them.) Ever notice that I’ve been single for four years? Ever wonder why that is? Okay, it’s probably partially because I’m overweight and hideously ugly. But here’s the thing: Women – I don’t understand you. You’re complex. I can’t get a generic read on you the way I can on a guy. You’ll notice that sometimes I’ll treat women I have to see regularly (new colleagues, for example) like they’re guys. And I know that’s kind of a dick move. It’s the only way I can process you, so please don’t be offended. See, guys are easy: You drink beer, talk sports or movies and take the piss out of each other. That’s literally all it takes for two guys to become friends. With girls, there’s this whole body language thing, potential flirting, depth of intelligence. Feelings.
  • I have trust issues. I can count the people I trust one hand. And it’s probably a lot fewer people than I should trust. I work from the stuff I learn, from past information, and I hold on to that. If someone breaks my trust, they can’t regain it very easily. If someone repeatedly breaks my trust, they won’t regain it ever. Sounds normal, right. Let’s go beyond that: If I can’t trust you, I can’t trust people I mentally associate with you. And that causes problems. Case in point, Mel, my ex, destroyed my trust in all women completely. Especially northern girls. I genuinely make an effort to keep them at arm’s length, because I associate them with Mel.
  • I can’t read you. Ever notice that sometimes I can push a joke so far that it upsets people? Maybe I don’t notice that you’re upset or angry and make things worse or don’t make the effort to make things better. That’s because I can’t read people. If I upset you, you have to tell me that I’m upsetting you. I really can’t figure that out for myself.
  • I organize the small stuff. Two things I hate: Spontaneity and little, easily fixed things being out-of-order. Ever notice that before I hand over change down the pub I’ll organize it into a pile according to size? I can’t do a handful of change. It annoys me. And spontaneity is just the bane of my life. Why can’t you people plan shit in advance like regular folk? Random nights out can be really scary for me. Especially if I end up in an environment I don’t know.
  • I sometimes don’t recognize people. If I haven’t seen you in a while, there’s a very big chance I’m not going to recognize you when I pass you on the street. I’m not ‘blanking’ you. I’m bad at remembering faces I don’t see regularly. Honestly, there are people on my Facebook that I see around from time to time that I can’t remember the name of when they’re in front of me. It’s really not personal. There are people who play my quiz every week who I don’t know by name, and I’ve been introduced to most of them by now.
  • Sometimes I self-harm. Not, like, cutting myself. I tend to avoid that. It’s not very sanitary and I have enough ugly scars. But if I do something to disappoint myself, I will hit myself for it. Actually, Mel was the last person to witness this. She used to routinely and deliberately make me feel like a piece of shit, and I’d literally beat myself up about it. By which I mean get really violent towards myself. I’ve punched myself in the head more times than other people have. Fact.
  • I don’t communicate very well. Sometimes I cannot articulate the everyday thoughts in my head. Other times, I have the most ridiculously expansive vocabulary imaginable. I find it easier to communicate my thoughts in writing, where I can think about them, than I ever will when speaking. And yes, sometimes I say horribly insensitive things or tread on a conversation. Sometimes I repeat myself. Sometimes I just cannot talk coherently. I cannot help this. I’d love it if I could. Just bear with me, alright?
  • My behaviour is repetitive. The things I eat when I’m not at home (or at home, if I make them myself) tend to contain at least one of the following ingredients: chicken, bacon, cheese, mushrooms, potatoes, rice or pasta. Eating a burger or steak for me is actually like leaving the reservation entirely. Eating things that exclude all of those ingredients upsets me. It’s entirely alien. Yes, it might sound like a limited diet. I really don’t care. These are the things I eat. Love it or leave it.
  • I can’t process time. I genuinely have very little concept of time. You’ll notice I’m regularly late for things. This isn’t helped by problems with my perception. When I arrive at a bus stop, I expect there to be a bus there. There often isn’t. This is frustrating for me.
  • I’m emotionally underdeveloped. Seriously. I know I give the impression of being mature, and seem normal enough. It’s a rouse. It’s really, really easy to upset me. I genuinely can’t tell the difference at times between people being nice to me, people being horrible to me and banter. I’m actually not sure who among my friends likes me and who doesn’t. Sounds weird, right? Not to me. I can take a lot of being upset and hide it until I get home, but I do regularly cry when you can’t see me. If it gets too much and I’m in public, it’s not uncommon for me to hit the gents and weep a bit of it out. I don’t care how masculine that is. It’s how I function. Get over it.

I also have some sensitivity problems. They’re complex, so try to keep up:

Sound: I hear things that some people wouldn’t and can identify differences in similar sounds better than most. I can tell you, just by listening, whose car just drove down my street if they live there. I can tell you when my granddad is home when he pulls up at the garage because I can hear his car. Some noises are physically painful to me. Anything sharp is like a knife in my face. White noise feels like sawing, which is why I always have the TV or music on, even when I’m going to sleep. On the reverse, I can easily lose the ability to hear people talking. By which I mean I can be having a conversation with you in, say, a cafe and be able to hear every other noise that’s going on except you talking. I’m not ignoring you. It’s just how it works. Luckily, I know when it’s happening and can lip read. Which is why I’m easier to talk to in person than on the phone. I can’t lip read over the phone. Also, sometimes I’ll have the TV louder than I should. It just sounds quiet to me. I’m sorry.

Vision: I’m really under-sensitive to light. Rooms seem darker to me than they are. I hate winter for this reason; there’s not enough light for me to see what I’m doing, which means I must have lights on. That probably annoys people. I don’t like not being able to see anymore than you don’t like me having the light on so I can. We can’t both win here.

Touch: When I’m touched without permission, it scares the crap out of me and feels like I’m under attack. People like to poke at me. This feels like I’m being stabbed. Please don’t do that. I hate fluffy things. They’re ticklish as hell. I hate being hot. In fact, I hate being warm. I keep my bedroom as cold as I can for exactly this reason.

So, with that in mind, hopefully I’ll now be easier for you to deal with. If there’s anything I’ve missed, ask me about it. And yes, you may not have noticed some of these things. I’ve worked really, really hard at learning to hide them. The one benefit I gained from those kids who liked to take the piss out of me at school.

I’m still learning to be human and, one day, I hope I can be like the rest of you. If I fail, just try to bear with me. Or, y’know, try to help. Either one is cool.

This ends my confession. Thanks for giving it a look. And, maybe, understanding.