Thursday, 04 April 2013
I may have mentioned before that I really find emotions difficult. I think my difficulties with understanding how actions give consequences may be a part of my difficulty with emotions. When I am presented with other people’s they are almost always unexpected, if I knew someone else was likely to be upset by a chain of events, I would be prepared and handle it better. There is an argument that says that when my wife is upset I should be prepared, but I still get surprised.
When my wife’s iPhone got soaked, i shrugged it off as a minor inconvenience, which to me it was, it was not my phone. I stupidly failed to realise that Neelam might see the possible loss of everything she had on the phone, as more than a minor inconvenience. Neelam has had that phone for a few years and has been asking me to sync it for most of that time. I have little sense of the passing of time and had no sense of urgency, I fully intended to sync the phone, I just hadn’t got around to it. All would have been ok if it hadn’t fallen in the water. On reflection I can see why she was less than pleased with me.
Fortunately Neelam’s phone problems appear to be resolved, however trying to sort out one problem ate up time she needed for other things. Right in the middle of sorting out bags today, we had a power cut for several hours. My response to other people’s upset is to withdraw into myself, to some extent to avoid making things worse, but that meant I was not proactively offering help when she wanted it. Sometimes, actually a lot of the time, I need to be told specifically what I should do. Sometimes I feel that whatever I say or do will be wrong so I do nothing; sometimes nothing is worse than the wrong thing. And so I tread on eggshells wondering what will happen next, an indeterminate apprehension of impending emotional storms restricting my ability to act.
I also have problems with the expression of emotions. A clear explosion of anger is understandable, but what I cannot do is read subtle expressions. I know that something is wrong but I am not sure what or how to respond to it. Somedays I feel that when I was sent to earth, the dispatcher on the mothership forgot to give me the guide book that explained humans. I don’t know about other people but I find emotions exhausting. but the most exhausting of all are the emotions of other people. Someone please beam me up, now!
Tuesday, 02 April 2013
The other day, as I headed for home, from the Boyd Orr building in Glasgow’s West End, I passed the Student Television studios. It occurred to me that, even in my day, there were students who engaged in hobbies like television or debating, because they were appropriate to their career plans. The story is told that Michael Hesseltine planned out his political career up to becoming Prime Minister, 'millionaire 25, cabinet member 35, party leader 45, prime minister 55', on the back of an envelope while still a student; apart from the last two he made it. He took his chance at the PM, unfortunately for him – if not for the rest of us – he didn’t make it. However by any meaningful material measure, he can be described as a success. Sid Savara has debunked the story of research done into goal setting at Harvard Business School . However his article does cite research by Gail Matthews, Ph.D., Dominican University which demonstrates that there is truth to the assertion that writing down one’s goals is more likely to have them happen.
It must be nice to know as a youth the course of one’s life, I personally, have difficulty looking beyond bedtime, to plan a day in advance is a tribulation. Like many people with Aspergers I tend not to have a grasp of the relationship between actions and their consequences, or rather, I can see the relationship in hindsight, but it tends not to occur to me before acting. Having said all that I have, on occasion, written lists of goals and a surprising number have been accomplished, as I have discovered on reading old notebooks. I have in the past done all sorts of personal development courses, and have been frustrated at my lack of material success, that changed when I received my diagnosis and my comparators changed. In autistic terms I may be called a success as I have employment and a long term relationship. However, insofar as I perceive myself not to have the specific success I want, I am not YET a success. To a great extent my problem has been not knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but at Sixty I have, at least, some things I want to try. At last I actually have a couple of projects on the go, apart from the garden. I am not a failure, I'm a very late developer. As for growing up, it’s not in my schedule.
Monday, 01 April 2013
Recently I shared one of my blog posts “Lucky in Love” . On my team call it was described as a “beautiful letter” which at first surprised me, but on reflection it made perfect sense. Everything I publish is to some extent a “letter”, a communication, a sharing of myself in writing. And anything which talks about another person is a communication of my feelings about them, so it is little wonder if a post about my wife is “beautiful”. There was a time, and it was not so very long ago, when it was quite normal to express one's feelings in letters. There are volumes of collected correspondence, on all sorts of matters, from the conduct of war to the consummation of love. Since the invention of the telephone writing has gone somewhat out of fashion. Although it may be argued that the internet has led to a revival of writing, we will never return to the carefully crafted, handwritten letters of yore. The thing about the internet I love is that it adds immediacy to written communication. This matters to me as an autistic because of the barriers I experience to expressing myself verbally. Much of my spoken communication uses a library of stored phrases from various sources. I very rarely say anything without carefully scripting it first as spontaneous self expression is a minefield I prefer not to negotiate. I have written before about how being able to read what I have written enables me to see and understand what I am thinking, a facility I tend to lack when speaking. The other great thing about writing is the ability to edit my words before releasing them. I do not have a natural ability to negotiate the conventions of social behaviour, being able to edit my words enables me to communicate in a manner appropriate to the world in which I find myself. (Yes, I do tend to speak as I write, which is another reason for prescripting my speech.) The internet supplies autistic people with a place, albeit virtual, where we can communicate as equals. This month is Autism Awareness Month, many of us will be writing to make people aware of the world in which we live and how it differs from what those who do not live in it may assume. You may, should you wish, enter our world, or you may choose to believe, as some organisations that purport to support us do, that we are an aberration. Whatever you choose to believe, I am deeply honoured that you have allowed me to speak to you (because this me speaking to you as I could not face to face) Thank you for listening.
Friday, 15 March 2013
Some of you may have noticed that I have, of late, published fewer blog posts on Autism than hitherto. Some people thought, wrongly, that I was becoming obsessed, but the subject was crowding out other interests. I am interested in Autism, but I am interested in many other things too, and in this year of writing every day I am endeavouring to provide a little more variety. However Autism will remain a subject about which I write.
Another reason for temporarily reducing the Autism posts is that I am building up a head of steam for April. I intend to publish an Autism related blog post every day in April. So what is on the menu for April? Perhaps something on idiomatic language? I don’t know as yet, so if anyone out there has any questions they want to ask of a middle ages autistic, please ask, you’ll be doing me a favour. So what do you want to know that I might be able to tell you, I was asked earlier tonight about getting an Asperger’s diagnosis, so I expect that will be one post, but if there is anything you want to know or if you have any suggestions, please let me know.
I know Autism Awareness or Autism Affirmation is a year round need and the effort to make people aware should never cease, but the April push seems to be becoming a tradition and it’s a worthy tradition to foster, hence a month of autism blogs. I think it’s important that people who actually have the experience of being autistic, wherever on the spectrum they may be, should make their voices heard, their opinions known. It is easy for people who have the facility to imagine how others feel, to ascribe to Autistics feelings that are not actually there for the Autistic person, and I think the actual experiences of Autistics need to be heard to counter all the myths. Now it is true that our experiences do differ and there are a number of factors that can cause considerable pain and discomfort, but to assume that all our lives are miserable is untrue. For some Autistic people their condition may be one of suffering, but would it be if the humans around them did not keep telling them they were suffering? We have our own minds and our own thoughts and feelings, which we should be allowed to discover and express for ourselves. Roll on April
Tuesday, 12 March 2013
I answered a call in the early hours of the morning from someone looking for a number. At first I thought they wanted a taxi, but when I asked them to repeat their request I heard “Dial a Curry, in Edinburgh”. Unfortunately I could not find a number for Dial a Curry and with regret I told them so, to which they responded, “Not Dial a Curry, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh!” (a number I could find)
This story illustrates how I tend to process spoken language. What I obviously pick up is the shape of the words, which I then interpret logically according to context. In this case it was late at night when people tend often to be looking for taxis or fast food. Logically Dial a curry was a very good interpretation, apart from being totally wrong, of course. I am not sure how many words in a sentence I actually hear and how many I interpret from the context, I suspect much depends on circumstance.
I am largely incapable of separating auditory inputs so when there is more than person talking their speech comes in as one input. Add to the speech any background noise, particularly music or television and confusion is inevitable. I am currently attending a series of seminars where much of the input is over videoconferencing, I am getting very little out of it because I cannot make out what is being said, but the assignments are useful. However the assignments are given to us in a printed form, much easier to understand. Although it must be admitted that the tendency of numbers and letters to move around can be infuriating it doesn’t interfere usually with the overall sense and can always be reread for clarification.
The reason I prefer cinema to television is the absence of conflicting inputs it is as if lowering the lights moves people to silence, whereas in a well lit sitting room they will happily chat with no consideration for anyone trying to watch television. There is much to be said for headphones, and while they may prevent the chatty people from listening to the television program one is watching, I personally am inclined to the opinion that one should make a choice, either chat or watch, no one can do justice to both.