Being an adult on The Autism Spectrum (aka "on The Spectrum") raises obvious questions as to how one gets to this point in one's life.. has it always been there? How did you know there was something different? How did it impact your childhood? How did it impact your adulthood and Work and Home and relationships and..? That's what this website is about.
Where does one begin after years of self-research, self-reflection, studying others up close, imitating others from afar, making adjustment after adjustment, learning.. yet not able to learn.. from mistake after mistake?
I'm a bit like most folks---geeky folks---I love SciFi, music, and movies (mainly, SciFi). I collect.. my entire childhood in all of the above and below. I do, however, despise reading FICTION. I like reading NON-FICTION and live a good portion of my life trolling around Wikipedia (yes, I'm a donor). I can't really visualize the fictional characters, but I can see historical characters just fine. I can't read what the fictional characters' intentions are (so, if I have to read fiction, I skip to the back of the book to read how it ends).
My favourite symbol is the Yin-Yang symbol of Taoism. I believe it signifies and simplifies all things in life and The Universe. If we have well balanced Yin-Yang, we have harmony in our lives. Up until recently, I could not clearly identify why my Yin-Yang was more like Yin-Yin.. something was---and always has been---a bit OFF. I knew I was quite different from most folks, but I didn't understand WHY.
In 2014, I started reading in the news about an occasional kid who decided to take his frustrations out on other kids at a school (shootings). I started reading about the word "aspergers." I thought the word was profoundly silly sounding. I dismissed it at first. Then, I read about another unfortunate situation with another kid---there was that word again: "aspergers." This must be something quite.. involved.. if it's going to cause withdrawn, social misfits to lose it and start shooting up schools because they were pushed just a tad bit too far. <-- I later learned that these two examples were just extreme cases and do NOT reflect folks on The Spectrum .
Knowing full well I was incapable of that level of violence, I, nonetheless, decided to start learning a bit more about "aspergers." I learned that it was---prior to 2013---an actual psychological diagnosis. It was, at one time, considered more a social disorder than anything else. What intrigued me, however, were the TRAITS of these poor souls who were born with this silly-sounding syndrome. Note: British folks prefer to pronounce it as "as-burge-ers."
I started to see certain parallels and a great number of uncanny similarities between THEM.. and ME. I watched a splendid movie called The Imitation Game about a brilliant mathematician who was suspected to have had Asperger's Syndrome. Although, the character's eccentric personality traits were played slightly to the extreme, I found myself drawn to tears at various points through the movie as I realized that I was not all that different from the character (only, not nearly as brilliant). The isolation, ostracization, bullying, indifference, inability to communicate at the same level as peers, desire to solve things and see patterns..
A series of unfortunate "meltdowns" I was experiencing were being brought to my attention for the very first time in my life. I realized that I was socializing FAR more than I ever had in the past, and I was having difficulty adapting. There was confusion and frustration. I had a small audience that I could actually share my views and opinions (and "out of-the-box" theories) with---but, I HATED being interrupted while sharing them. I would suddenly "explode" emotionally then calm right down again.
The folks I was with at the time would react rather strongly and even give me feedback about these "meltdowns." I realized there was a pattern, and it was something that had been with me since early childhood. Thanks to these meltdowns and the feedback they solicited, I began DEEPLY researching Asperger's Syndrome.
I researched its history and why it had such a funny sounding name. I realized The Brits were front-runners in the field and had a number of specialized, available tests for people who suspected they---or someone they knew---had Asperger's. I learned (and obtained copies) of the DSM IV and DSM V and the impactful merging of diagnoses. I learned that the very name I was starting to identify with had been obliterated into Autism Spectrum Disorder. I watched the YouTube videos, read the blogs, downloaded numerous cross-reference e-books.
November 2016, I sought out a social worker/counselor who had experience working with people who had been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, and he was quite helpful in narrowing things down for me prior to me seeking-out a formal diagnosis.
At some point in a person's life, he/she must come to certain conclusions. My conclusion was to finally accept being.. not normal.. but being content with that difference.
What It's Like (to be Autistic)
From the movie, Bladerunner, replicants were essentially robot-like human clones but with enhancements and specific skillsets. They had a short lifespan and difficulty dealing with emotions (including their own). They were childlike in many aspects and frustrated about their roles in life.
This is often what it feels like in REAL life---like everyone else but NOT like everyone else.
ANY discussion or interview is like a Voight-Kampff Test. <-- an emotion-provoking test the Bladerunners would administer to interviewees to determine if they were human or replicant.
It's like being Mr. Spock from Star Trek---logical, analytical, half-human, trying NOT to be emotional or embrace that side of his being and continuously struggling while socializing with others who ARE emotional and expressionate. Spock does NOT want to be human and have emotions.
It's like being Data from Star Trek---android-like, analytical, always studying, testing, imitating.. trying to BE human but never will be EXACTLY human, continuously struggling while socializing with others but adaptive with EFFORT.
It's like being Drax The Destroyer from Guardians of the Galaxy---struggling with sarcasm and literal meanings, underlying messages, and subtleties---unfiltered honesty and blatant opinions---but doing his best at LEARNING and ADAPTING to fit in with those around him.
It's like being The Terminator---having to choose from pre-programmed responses and trying to find which response is best for each occasion. It's not literally a selection menu, but it's very close to it. The way the autistic mind operates, there is usually a delayed response because there is a MANUAL interpretation of other people's expressions and words. Another Terminator example would be his delayed process of elimination regarding what is culturally appropriate/acceptable (e.g. type of clothing and appearance and reactions/responses).
It's like being Robocop---walking stiff or odd or exaggerated.. often physically tense.. often "locking-up" while in public (especially crowds or even while driving) or when too physically close to others. Not knowing how to physically reciprocate---or having to manually think about it first---when others hug or touch with emotional intent.
It's like being a vampire---not being able to see yourself the way others see you. It isn't not being able to see my own reflection (that's silly). It's not being able to see my own appearance in the mirror the way others really do see me. This is related to prosopagnosia---and it sucks. Imagine sometimes not being able to recognize YOURSELF in photographs, sometimes (mainly when your head is turned, or it's from a different angle OTHER than facing-forward).
On the flipside, it's also like being the MIRROR and not seeing everyone else's reflections (e.g. prosopagnosia) and not distinguishing most faces/features or expressions/reactions. It is a true blindness of sorts. Imagine the awkwardness it causes when someone you've met recently recognizes YOU, but you don't recognize THEM---no matter how long you spoke to him/her. <-- boy, does this really suck.
It's like being a CAT---often hyper-focused on a specific object or activity at-a-time and unable to break that focus/ concentration---even if someone is physically touching you. If you have ever watched a cat, you will see how INTENSE their focus and concentration is.
What is their greatest STRENGTH also is their greatest WEAKNESS in that they can be taken off-guard while they are focused on something else.
Oddly enough, the instinctive reaction to moving things is another shared trait---something moves quickly in front of you, you swat at it (or touch it or look at it or..) and remain fixated on that object with hardly anything breaking your focus from that point-on.
Time can go by extremely fast during hyper-focus. This can also be tied to stimming (self-stimulating), and you see the same physical act in cats---when they spend a great deal of their time swatting, repeatedly, at a door jam or tissue paper or.. anything that catches their attention and keeps their motor functions in constant repetition.
What I See: the way I look at things
For a peek inside the autistic mind---at least MY particular mind---you'll get to see how I "zoom" in on the world around me. I look constantly for shapes (angles, curves, arcs, lines, rectangles, triangles, and squares). I love to take pics of the things that I see, even though I do NOT consider myself a photographer. If you happen to see me staring intently at something unusual, there's a high probability it's me "zooming" in on an angle or curve or unique facial feature.. If you see the same angles and curves and intersecting shapes as I do, then you see the world EXACTLY how I do.
Funny enough, my vacation trip photos are not quite what most folks would expect LOL.