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Showing posts from 2013

The season of expectations - an aspie at New Year

The season of anticipation is over and the season of expectations begins.

As Christmas approaches, we hope for things, even as adults. We hope it will be all right, that we will be able to cope and that we won't get any of those awful, well-meaning presents which expect us to throw out our old, beloved possessions in favour of shiny new ones. We hope to enjoy the season.

With New Year, the goalposts shift so much it's hard to tell if you're on the pitch anymore. Suddenly, the nostalgic cheer of Christmas is replaced with a manic social interaction where people you barely know feel compelled to wish you a happy new year! grinning belligerently while you decide how to respond.

Yes, I know the response is 'happy new year', but I don't like new year and it always comes out in a mumble where I sound like I'm wishing them ill. So, I often end up doing the next worst thing and saying 'Thanks!' with the brightest smile I have and hurrying off.

Then people …

Understanding the Tone of Voice

I had a Tone of Voice inflicted on me yesterday. Luckily, it came with a set of instructions on what I was meant to do with it so I didn't have to guess what I'd done wrong or how I had been a terrible person - this time.

How many times do other people use tones of voice to get their message across without a set of instructions though? Many times I've been subjected to seemingly normal sentences delivered in a sorrowful/angry/irritated/name-your-poison tone of voice which made no sense in relation to what was being said.

I believe this comes under the heading of 'but you should know'.

For instance, we may be having a conversation about where to go for lunch and the words would follow what I was expecting, such as what time, where to meet, where to have lunch and who else is coming along. All of this might be normal.

Replay this conversation with the other person using a short, huffy tone, as though you just ate their last chocolate or kicked their mother's beh…

The Christmas Aspie

The perfect image of Christmas, what would it be? So many of them are full of joy and colour, light and noise. Where did the solitude go? The safe places? The get-out clause (no pun intended) which means you can vacate the scene if it's all too much?

No stone is left unturned at Christmas when we are meant to be brighter, better versions of ourselves with more kindness and time to spare for our fellows. With this level of pressure, is it any wonder that aspies don't cope?

It all changes at Christmas, when the normal rules don't apply. You can't avoid your obligations or say you don't feel like it - if you do, then you have Failed, readers, failed at Christmas! How dramatically awful!

I don't want to fail at Christmas, I just want a Christmas that suits me rather than shaping the season to fit everyone else.

I don't do parties, or even gatherings. I don't care about cards, so rarely send them. I like fairy-lights and tinsel, the glittery side of the sea…

Completely alone

I have the perfect present for you: a secret door leading to a normal room. There isn't much in there, we're not talking about somewhere to hole up for hours at a time. But it is completely private.

You don't have to label it as your own. There's no need to tell people over and over again until you are sick of the sound of your own voice Not to Come IN. It doesn't have to be locked because no one else will ever see it.

Can you imagine it, readers? Complete privacy in the confines of your own home. No need to think about keeping people out or hiding from the world. Just a simple door to a simple room where you can be wholly, utterly alone with no chance of anyone knocking to see if you want toast or a trip to the shops or to get around to those jobs you've been putting off.

You see, sometimes hiding under a blanket won't do and it takes agility to make it behind the sofa in time. Windows are necessary in a house but really have their drawbacks, unless you s…

How to talk to non-aspies

Someone found my blog by searching 'How to talk to non-aspies'. So many people find me by searching the opposite - how to talk to aspies. It struck me as much more useful to learn how to talk to non-aspies, as it's something so many of us struggle with.

Non-aspies hold positions of great power, in society and in our lives. They are the coping ones, the managing, the holding down the job, two kids, mortgage and small pottery business while we aspies struggle to manage the new tap on the bathroom sink, let alone going out to conquer the universe..

Talking to non-aspies can be complicated as they often want to know things but have a very poor way of expressing themselves. It is the non-aspie who needs to know what on earth you find difficult about the new tap and learning how to tell them, in ways they will understand, can seem like an uphill struggle.

When they ask why the bathroom is flooded, we tell them the new tap did it. Of course, the tap had an aspie attached to it a…

Susan Boyle and Adults with Aspergers - Mumsnet featured blog post

(This blog post was originally published on the Mumsnet website as a featured blog post and later blog post of the day)
When I first heard that Susan Boyle had been diagnosed with Aspergers, I had to stop and remember that this was something new, that she hadn't been an aspie before. To me, she has always been 'one of us', in her way of speaking and presenting herself, her difficulties with the world and her unique talent. The public Susan seems very much like the private one would be and this is the first place we stumble, as the public aspie is only what we have learnt to show the world, no matter how honest and direct we might be in all things.

In many ways, being an adult aspie is like being a ping-pong ball in a tennis court. You know you have the shape about right, you know you have to be batted about by life and bounce back, but somehow you don't quite fit. You get thwacked with a racket and find yourself shooting out of range, lying in the corner with the dead…

We have to be our own hero

There is a scene in Spirited Away when Chihiro has to face her fears and use a massively steep flight of stairs. It is old and rickety too, so every move she makes feels like she will catapult herself off the edge and to certain death.

When she first uses the stairs, she sits on her bottom and tries to shuffle down, one by one. This is safe but she is still petrified. Later she is forced to run down them: she doesn't intend to run, it's just that once she's on her feet, momentum gets the better of her and away she goes.

Once she starts running, she has to speed up or fall, there are no other choices. She runs faster and faster, little hands in the air and hair flying out behind her, going almost too fast to know if she is succeeding.

At the bottom she is on a wider ledge and feels safer, but then has to move on to the next unknown part of her journey and face more challenges. Throughout Spirited Away, Chihiro is constantly challenged, physically, mentally, emotionally and…

Tis the season to be aspie

The usual Christmas things apply at this time of year and one of those is the time-honoured penance known as Christmas Shopping. Personally, I buy online and any shops I visit are because I want to savour the atmosphere, or get some nice decorations. And then I go as close to closing time as possible.

Last week I found myself the designated driver for a Christmas day out with my mother, IT Teen and IT's new girlfriend (hereby known as IT Girl). We were all going in my car to a big shopping centre on the other side of the country. What fun!

After a full journey of trying to be sociable and not grunt when someone talked to me, we arrived at the shopping centre. Only then did I remember something fairly important: I don't actually like shopping!

IT and IT Girl dumped us in favour of a romantic day without me and my mother pretending not to watch them. I spent the next four hours wandering behind my mother, walking through massed crowds of eagle-eyed shoppers all piling unnecessa…

Aspies are still liars...

Ever since this blog started, people have found it by searching 'aspies' and 'lying', along with the expected variations like 'are all aspies liars', 'lying aspies' and 'dishonest aspies'.

Lots of people are dishonest and lots of people lie - and aspies are people, you know. So, before I defend anyone, better to ask if your particular aspie is a liar, rather than do all aspies lie. But yes, I know what you mean.

It can come across as lying, can't it? The evasive look, not meeting your eye; the inability to commit or to answer your questions in the way you expect. The strange, complicated conversation you had when you tried to talk about something really important and ended up coming away with a new recipe for brownies instead.

We can be very. very evasive, I admit it. I can evade with the best of them, from avoiding any eye contact at all to actually fleeing the scene. It's all just part of the fight or flight reaction, and aspies FLY.

The politeness balloon

Sometimes I wish everyone was as direct as an aspie. For all the times we miss the point and get it wrong and say the worst thing that comes into our heads, we spare people the run-around of a pointless conversation-loop.

I have just had one of those infuriating conversations with a non-aspie where they have a specific thing they want to know. They have it right there, sitting up-front in the big boy chair, waiting to be seen and answered. So, what do they do?

Rather than be honest and find out what they want to know, I am subjected to a mind-numbing exchange of questions and hum-herm-ah comments where my answers to the questions obviously aren't hitting the mark.

That's the funny thing about not asking a direct question, though - you don't tend to get a direct answer!

Am I meant to know what it is behind the questions? Or am I meant to be seduced into something resembling politeness and not be offended by them asking directly? Am I happier, now that we have gone all arou…

Communication is like a bucking bronco

There are two things needed for an honest conversation and only one of them is honesty itself.

The second thing you need, a vital ingredient to making the honesty work, is the ability to express yourself. Without this ability, honesty becomes just a momentary bolt for the door, or a brief splurge of feelings, as and when they happen.

It's rather like saying to the bread dough, 'Now, Dough, I've held up my part of the bargain: you have yeast, an oiled bowl and I've kneaded you straight through five songs and an ad break on the radio. Whenever the heck are you going to start rising?'

The bread would feel even more deflated at this, having no idea why it can't rise. Imagine the sad lump of dough in the bowl, still not touching the sides, still as you left it an hour ago. What can it be doing wrong?

The bread knows you did everything you could. It knows about the yeast, the bowl, the kneading. It remembers the endless radio noise as you went to work. It realises t…

What do you expect of your aspie at Christmas?

I've said it before, I love Christmas. The Spirit of Christmas Present would not have needed to sneak in my spare room with his cornucopia of goodies. In fact, if he did, he would probably have to move my own cornucopia first. I'd have no issue with the theory of goodwill to your fellow man (you notice I keep to the theory, practice is a little bit harder sometimes) and in general I would welcome Christmas into my heart, every day.

So, having sorted that out, yes, I am going to have a moan about Christmas. That is, about other people and their idea of it and how we should all fit in.

Let me be upfront: I do not expect others to be a rabid advocate of Christmas. I don't expect them to rush out with their lights, sticking them on spiky trees in the pouring rain or trying to figure out how to keep battery-operated lights on the dog while making sure he doesn't chew them off. I don't think everyone should deck the halls or have to lop the top off the tree just to fit …

Aspies have no sympathy

Crazy, isn't it? The people who ignore your sage and logical advice are always the ones who come running when it goes belly up. This is the stage in life where you have to choose between smacking them up the side of the head or biting your tongue.

Luckily, this blog is typed so my poor, sore tongue doesn't have to do any of the work. I'm tested, though, I don't mind admitting it. I'm not really prone to smacking people, however much I would like to sometimes. But I am prone to a good sharp sentence or two, perfectly constructed and out of my mouth before I realise who said it.

Surprisingly, I have held off this time, most likely because I'm absolutely exhausted this week and was too weary to be caustic. Usually, I do say what I feel and think and then wonder why the person who ignored my advice is weeping on my front step, unable to gather the strength to go home.

I am ticked off, though. As a mistress of self-sabotage I can feel it hanging in the air with som…

Chaotic, disorganised or just aspie?

Yesterday was a simple day - on paper. Here is my to-do list, as it looked the night before:

1. Get RT Teen to college on train
2. Take IT Teen to volunteering job
3. Prepare for maths lesson and creative writing class (in school)
4. Collect IT Teen and take dogs for their walk
5. Go to creative writing class (and do not be late!)
6. Pop home for food then go to maths lesson

There. A nice, organised list with my time allocated so that I know what I'm doing. And then,

RT Teen felt a bit off, so didn't go to college, but by then I'd done my usual trick of laying awake half the night, ready to get up very early. Went back to bed and laid awake in daylight instead.

Took IT Teen to his volunteering job, but forgot about my eBay parcels so did them instead of lesson prep while he was out.

Collected IT and came home to do the lesson prep and creative writing whatnots. Forgot I hadn't factored in time for lunch, so ate that. By now, the clock was ticking.

Worked out where the…

The art of the mini-breakdown

The scenario is familiar: life becomes too much, you need to hide away and regroup but, this time, it doesn't work. You feel you need to burrow deeper into your hidey-hole, need to lock the door better, need to keep it all away so you can feel like it will never come back.

Sometimes, there isn't a small space small enough, there just aren't words comforting enough and the phone cannot be unplugged far enough to keep you safe from the outside world.

Every step along the road comes along your path, keeping your mobile on silent only means you check it more, the jobs you need to do stay undone but they bother at you, worrying at your leg like an impatient sheep dog.

How is it that sometimes all you need is a small period of hibernation, but other times, you feel like you need to shuck off the whole world and become a permanent hermit, just to stay sane? And then feel that you've left it too late for sanity anyway.

Days (if you're lucky), weeks or months later, you em…

Don't train your aspie!

You know how they say, if you hear something often enough, you start to believe it? I was torturing myself with some past stuff last night. I was caught up in that replay mode, where you know you've heard it a thousand times before, a bit like granny's stories of when she told Mrs so-and-so just what she thought of her, but can you stop it? Of course not.

It's not just at night. Through the day, in normal life, the replay starts and you hear the old voices, the familiar phrases. Most of them tell a 'truth' about you, something you learned growing up or which formed part of a significant relationship.

One of my truths was always that I was not practical, followed by the well-worn and amusing diatribe on how the practical gene skipped a generation, how my children would probably get it instead. And then the sideways jump to how it didn't skip past my cousins though - at which point I'd be likened to my great-grandmother, who preferred her gardening to keepin…

It's a process. Pro-cess. Prrr-ocess. You know, a PROCESS!

For anyone who missed it, the word for today is PROCESS. See, now I'm shouting. You can always tell what kind of week it's been if you're shouting by Wednesday.

So, RT Teen, fellow aspie, artist and person extraordinaire, is going to a new college in a nearby city. He needs to get there and back on his own and do all the little, important things which non-aspies take for granted. In other words, he has to connect with the real world without real-ectifrying himself.

He started at the college last week, so as part of the preparation for independent travel, I drove him there a couple of times, doing a reccy of the train station he would be using, tracing the routes around the city, finding out the best way to get to college and so on. An important part of this is the minutiae of city life, such as knowing which side the traffic will come from when you cross the road and which side streets cut out whole swathes of walking.

We picked out landmarks, such as the Aga shop with te…

Hiding behind yourself

I dreamt last night that I had found a really good new mask to wear. It was white and slightly transparent so you could see my face through it. I knew people wouldn't be able to see my face clearly, so I was going to wear lots of black make-up around my eyes, kind of like in the first days of television when they exaggerated the make-up so it would look real on the screen.

The aim was for my blackened eyes to show through the mask and then people would see my eyes as normal. I have no idea how this was meant to work, it was a dream after all, but I remember the relief I felt at having a plan. I knew this one would work and I could relax at last.

Funny how you need a plan to relax. When most people think of relaxing, it's because they can forget everything, including planning, and just kick back. For me, I can't relax unless I have planned and know I'm ready for what might come.

Two things resonate in this dream: my need to plan and my need to have a mask that works. D…

Coping with people who like to shout

Sometimes I feel like having a sign, ready to haul out when I need it: Don't Shout At Me. Do you think it would work? Do you suppose the Shouters would pause long enough to read it?

In my experience, they would. They'd be able to read that sign and carry on shouting if they liked. Or, for effect, stop what they were doing, read it and then shout louder because I've committed another atrocity.

They must be atrocities, right? I mean, I don't shout unless I have to or my temper has really got the better of me. I used to shout a lot more then realised it was learned behaviour and adapted to weed it out. Now I try not to do it, I take advance warning if my mood rises or my voice does the same.

I'm only human. I can shout if I have to; I can lose my temper and scream if I'm really pushed. And I can have an aspie meltdown and storm off, bellowing.

Shouters love to shout because to them it means other people must be listening. But just to be sure, they raise their voi…

I don't always act like an aspie, but when I do...

This week, I had to be a grown-up. RT Teen wants to change his college course which, due to lack of choice locally, means also changing his college. So, on Thursday evening we traipsed through to Carlisle College for an open night to meet new tutors.

I'd worried all week about him changing colleges and by Thursday night was really existing in some other, lighter place. Courageous enough on the outset, but by the time I'd driven through to Carlisle, I seemed to have used up all my sense.

I concentrated hard on the driving, as I was at that stage of stress where you feel disconnected. We got through the city, parked up and then had to find the college. I was prepared (for once) and we trotted off in the right direction.

Like country bumpkins, we got stuck on the wrong side of a barrier and couldn't figure out where we were meant to cross the road. Eventually, we saw a familiar looking building (thank you, Google Street View!) and hurried over. Once someone had pointed out t…