Monday, 30 March 2009

Sink or Swim

While at the pub last night I was people watching and the music was loud and I think it was loud to try and drown out the sound of people talking. Looking around the room there were over 100 people, all constantly talking to each other. The whole room was in constant chatter.

Walking around town today it was the same…people in a constant state of communication. It struck me how people are like social sharks. It's almost as if people stopped communicating with each other, even for a minute, they'd die. Peace and quiet would stagnate in their social gills depriving their brain of much needed gossip and small-talk, eventually leading to a complete shutting down of the body as blood and oxygen simply isn't enough to sustain them.

Like a blind man wonders what "green" is I'd be lying if I said I didn't wonder what it must be like for these people. Normal people. I wonder what pleasures they get from communication, I wonder how talking to people makes them feel. Although it's nothing I'll ever know so I try to not waste too much time pondering.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

People are people

I couldn't tell you the number of times I've heard someone on TV say how their mum is their best friend, or their daughter is their best friend. People I know who have siblings are also seemingly enamoured with them. To me, though…my family are no different from any other people.

I have no contact at all with my siblings. My brother makes the occasional attempt at communication around Christmas and my Birthday and I reciprocate purely because I am mirroring the effort he makes. I have no contact whatsoever with my sister. Not even around Christmas or birthdays. My parents call me once a week (sometimes I even answer the phone) but if it wasn't for their weekly phone call, if I'm honest, I'd have no contact with them either.

The perfect family relationship for me would be to have no contact with any of my family ever. There you go, I've written it down, I've said it. Don't I just sound like a horrible person? But I'm not…I can't help how I feel. I just hate being forced to communicate with people on their terms. I'm dreading what will happen when one of my parents passes away. I'm so scared about how I'll feel about it. I hope to God that some primordial instinct will kick in and I'll feel sadness and grief like everyone else does. Because if it doesn't and I have to fake these things I think that would seriously push me over the edge.

I know I sound cold-hearted and horrible, but I just can't seem to really connect with anyone, even my own family. To me they're just people.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Survival of the Weakest

I've always been a firm believer in evolution and Darwin's theories, to the extent that I hold some rather unpopular opinions about modern medicine. Today we can keep people alive that would have died naturally should medicine have not intervened. That is usually a good thing, but sometimes it isn't. When I see TV documentaries about people born with terrible ailments like skin problems, bad allergies etc or really debilitating disfigurements or diseases, I often feel that sometimes we shouldn't meddle with the evolutionary process. We keep some people alive with a vastly reduced quality of life and I don't feel that's right.

We should remember that evolution and survival of the fittest are good things. By filtering out the weaker genes only the strong ones are left. By allowing weak genes to propagate we are diluting the gene pool. Yes I know…I sound like Hitler, but it's what I believe.

However…where does that leave me with my defective brain chemistry? Humans are, after all, pack animals and prehistoric research has taught us that humans needed to live in colonies to survive. They would hunt together, build shelter together, defend themselves together, eat together etc. A human on their own would simply not survive. So if this was the prehistoric times and survival of the fittest was very much a matter of life and death…would I survive? Would my inability to bond with others and maintain relationships and friendships see me shunned by the pack and left to survive on my own? If so I'd surely die and my genes would never have a chance to propagate.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

The age of communication

These days it seems that everyone is in a constant state of communication. If people are not talking with someone face to face they are on their mobile phone, be it texting or calling. However there is something unusual I have discovered from eavesdropping on the phone calls of random strangers…they are usually arguing with someone on the other end.

Yes, it seems that this increase in ease of communication has merely resulted in more confrontation in people's lives. People can now get into a confrontation on the bus, in the supermarket or at the hair dressers. And with Confrontation Waiting people can even interrupt one confrontation to complete another before returning to the original one.

Modern communication technology does seem to be a classic rose, only people are too busy holding the thorns and they have forgotten to smell the petals. If people want happier lives maybe the solution is to simply turn your phone…off.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Decay on display

There are people at work I quite like, people I am indifferent to, and people I can't stand. Sometimes I even actually hate them. Unsurprisingly the people I don't like are not liked by anyone else at work either. We always enjoy time away from them so we can slag them off to quite stunning degrees. When such people try and socialise with me, be it going to lunch or having a coffee together, I just shut them down and make excuses. I can't stand people who are nothing but a drain on my life.

When they organise a social event though…everyone from work is attending!? How and why would they do that? They slag someone off and go on about how much they can't stand them, then they're having a drink with them 15 hours later? What total hypocrites!

One thing I have noticed neuro-typical people do when they are criticising someone for something not relating to personality, they always add a tenet after a few verbal batterings…"don't get me wrong…he's a great guy…but…" and the onslaught continues. I always thought people said this to make out that they're not just filled with vitriol, and that their attacks are factually based and nothing personal. Almost as if not liking someone is a crime. Maybe this isn't a ploy after all? Maybe people genuinely can hate everything someone does, but still like them as a person?

Maybe other people can, but I sure can't.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The man who wasn't there

There's a curious aspect to my life that I find myself putting down to my Asperger's Syndrome (AS), even though I can't possibly understand why it is connected in any rational, scientific way. I'll give you some background here - in my own life, and in my recent journeys, I have come across situations already that I have no rational explanation for and put them down to things we don't yet fully understand…I'm mainly talking about thought processes. It is only since I have realised that I have AS that I've appreciated that my more advanced thought process are not normal. I have no explanation for them other than "it's just how my mind works". To the casual observer it may appear almost in the realms of genius, but to me it's just how I think. I have also seen, first-hand, feats of incredibly memory and I'm sure if I asked these people how they can remember these things their answer would be exactly the same; "I don't know, it's just how my mind works."

It's no big secret that we don't fully understand how the brain works, so writing these unusual thought processes off as something we don't understand now, but might in the future, is a fairly easy thing to do. However the phenomenon I want to address here is something quite, quite different.

It's like I don't exist.

I'm not talking about how if there is a social function that I want to attend I have to invite myself as no-one will think to invite me themselves despite inviting everyone else. I'm talking about when I'm walking down the street and I always have to get out of the way of other people…sometimes quite abruptly. People just bound down the street toward me and if I don't jump out of their way, or quickly go side-on, they'd surely knock me over. They don't even flinch like they've not been paying attention and have had a last-moment realisation that they're about to bang into me. They don't even acknowledge that they're forcing me from my stride. When I look around this isn't happening to anyone else. If two people are on a collision course what is going through the other person's mind that they decide it is them who will walk on uninterrupted and it is you who should get out of the way? Some days I wonder to myself; "Can people actually see me? Am I really here? Did I get ran over three streets ago and I'm now a ghost?"

Is this down to my AS? Are we all connected to each other with some form of unseen social tethers? All tied together but not realising it…the ties stretching, disconnecting, breaking, re-joining and interweaving as people walk through this huge web as it lives and breathes around them. Around them. Not me. I'm the odd one out, the one not playing the game, not joining the system. No-one is connected to me, joined to me…no-one feels my presence, no-one knows I'm even there. Instead I crash through the web, bounced from person to person like a Whiffle Board.

Maybe in the future they'll prove the existence of aether and demonstrate that people with AS really are disconnected from the world in more ways than was originally thought.

Monday, 16 March 2009

A person like other people

At the rock pub on Friday there were no bands playing so I just sat at the bar and drank and watched people. It's funny (slash annoying) but when I need a drink I just wait for a male barman before I try to get served. There is a barmaid that will serve me…one that sometimes serves me, and one that never serves me. When I'm the only person at the bar that wants a drink she always has something more important to find to do…like her eyeballs need bleaching.

While awaiting a drink one time there was a girl sat to the right of me waiting too. Scars in her forearm that I wanted to run my fingers over like a stylus, reading her emotions' archives that have been permanently stored for all to see but few to read. She was right-handed like me as her scars were on her left arm. Like me. Perfectly perpendicular to the bone, parallel to each other. She later on sat to my left and, unusually, I saw some scars on her right arm but they were quite small.

Later on the barmaid who will serve me tried to get me talking to another girl. I think. She probably sees me as a shy loner, but I left soon after.

In a vain attempt to make social interaction "the norm" I decided to leave my comfort zone when required. On Saturday I actually had a conversation with my comic guy, whereas I usually just buy my comics and leave. It was the "Watchmen" movie that gave me an "in" and led me to talk about something I enjoy…movies. He seemed to be quite receptive to my attempts at socialisation and bade me a rather gushing valediction.

I did fail somewhat after that as it was a workmate's birthday and I promised myself I'd go to their do, but I didn't. I played XBOX instead.

On Sunday I did attend a local music club. There is a girl there who I like and she always makes a point of coming to talk to me. My Asperger's makes it hard for me to make small talk as it is…but compounded with the issues that many red-blooded males have, I really do fail rather badly when talking to girls I find attractive. Instead I spent the whole night thinking of things I should have said. No doubt when I next meet her I'll have forgotten them all and we'll be back to square one.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Hairpins and wide turns, do things on my terms

Like most people with Asperger's Syndrome I don't really have any friends (don't worry, this isn't a sympathy blog). There are people I am friendly with such as at work, but I'm not in contact with anyone from any facet of my past life. Rolling stones and all that.

However there is someone that I see most weeks as we're working on a project together. Now I have no doubt he would class us as "friends", I guess I would too. Thing is though…when we are working on our project I always visit him. Then there was a period where I didn't really have the time to work on the project but we'd still meet up at the weekend. When we started back on the project we still arranged to meet at the weekend…but every single time he'd call to cancel on the day. After a few weeks back working he stopped even arranging to meet at the weekend. I'm not sure if he thinks I don't know what's going on, but I also don't know how I'm supposed to react. Am I supposed to confront him and say "we're only 'friends' for your convenience as I help you"? Am I supposed to just break off all contact and spend my energies elsewhere? I know I'm being "used" but am I supposed to be up in arms about it? I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me at all, but it's not a major concern.

The other side of the coin is that I'm hardly a good friend myself; I never call him, he always calls me. He might be writing a blog moaning about this pain in arse guy he has to keep seeing, and if he didn't need his help he'd never see him again as he's too much work.

However this guy isn't a one-off. My last girlfriend was the same…we always did everything she wanted to do, nothing I wanted to do. I always visited her, did loads to help her but got little in return. Either this is a coincidence, or maybe I just attract these types of people? Or maybe it's my social weakness that means I keep these people in my life when I know I'd be better off without them? I guess I should start making some promises to myself to not allow my time to be used by these people. Or maybe I should just accept that beggars can't be choosers.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Strange Anxiety

Due to recent car troubles my usual routine has been pretty much out of the window. With no real transport I haven't been going to the gym or the supermarket. I've been living day to day really, shopping at small local shops, and doing loads of overtime at work because there is nothing else for me to be doing.

Now that my car is fixed it is time to get back on track and I've been feeling anxious all day. It seems that any change is enough to set me off, even when I know it's actually a positive change, a change for the good. To get through the anxiety I'm trying to focus on the feeling I know I'll have later on when I've done all of my usual Monday night things…I know it'll be a great feeling, a relaxing and soothing feeling. I know that tomorrow I'll be happier at work also. So that's what I'm trying to think about rather than the anxiety.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

I need another DVD player

Purely by chance I have 3 DVD players but only one I really use, and it's in my living room and surrounds me in widescreen 5.1 goodness. As time has gone on it has got more and more picky when it comes to playing DVDs and it usually takes quite a few goes before it will accept that there is a playable DVD in the tray. I know there is nothing wrong with the DVDs as they work in my other two players instantly but I'm now approaching about 50 eject/retry attempts before a DVD is played and I have now reached the stage when I've given up. I have three DVDs queued to play and my player just isn't having it :(

Movies are quite an important part of my life so tomorrow at lunch I will try and track down a similar performing DVD player with built-in 5.1 to replace my increasingly faulty one. Until then I guess I'll just have to watch a movie on another DVD player attached to a rubbish TV, in my bedroom and with no 5.1.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

You know you have Asperger's when... contemplate using plastic cutlery and paper plates so you don't have to do any washing up eat with no top on because it is easier than washing your clothes if (when) you make a mess
...the pot hasn't been cleaned since yesterday but you cooked soup it in then and you're cooking soup in it now so decide that cleaning it isn't really necessary

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

The year is waking up

It seems that the weather is finally getting better and we're getting the odd bout of Sun. I wanted to go into work to get some overtime done without the constant attention my co-workers require. As usual I decided to take a walk to work rather than drive as it's only a half hour walk and it's through some gardens and then the town centre.

The Sun was out, the tennis courts were full, and as I approached the town square there was a crowd gathered and I could hear something musical, and making my way to the crowd there was a beat-boxer busking with a mic and portable amplifier. He was really good so I stood there and listened to him do his stuff. He used a loop machine as well and to better effect than anyone I'd ever seen; some of his stuff was quite incredible. The crowd ebbed and flowed but I remained until the end and as the crowd dissipated I went over to talk to him, and it was strange, like he was expecting me. The second the music stopped he looked right at me and watched as I made my way toward him. I dropped some coins into his hat and complimented him on his performance. It turns out he was MC Xander and I asked him if he knew Dub FX. He smiled and said he did and that they were friends. It's amazing how you can talk to some random person in the country and based on their musical interests ask if they know someone else and they do. It really is a small world. I asked what festivals he did and chatted for a brief while but I felt a bit awkward and I never know if people want to talk, or if he just wanted to get his stuff packed up so he could leave. So I left him to it and pressed on.

I popped into a bakery for some food then sat in another nearby park on a bench with the Sun in my face and ate my food and watched the world drift by. I didn't really want to leave, but work was waiting for me.

I cant wait for Summer to fully start when there'll always be something on, always someone busking or performing, always a local festival to drop in on and have a few beers, and the bars overlooking the beach for when there aren't.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Mozart and the Whale

I'd heard rumblings about this movie and how it was about Asperger's Syndrome (AS) however I could never find it in the stores. Turns out there is a reason for that…it's not available in the stores and had quite a limited release. So I had to get a copy on the internet and even then couldn't get a British version; it's Dutch with Dutch text on the box, English language and Dutch subtitles, but you can turn the subtitles off.

It's a story about a man with AS who runs a local autistic group and his relationship with a girl, who also has AS, who starts attending the group. It's unlikely to be of much (if any) interest to people not interested in Asperger's as the story alone isn't really enough to carry the movie. However it's based on real events and real people so you can only really use what you have to work with.

The protagonist did exhibit your classic AS traits and they did seem a little bit exaggerated. He had very bad eye contact, but it wasn't just eye contact he could barely face the same direction as the person he was speaking to. He also had a fascination with numbers and maths and I swear at times a hint of "I'm an excellent driver" appeared in his accent.

The love interest had quite a different set of traits and was the lesser affected of the two. Her two main issues were thinking without speaking and offending people and she had sensory problems with metallic sounds. It was an interesting way of showing how two people with the same syndrome can actually behave in completely different ways. Like most people with AS I probably identified with some traits but not others. Probably the most interesting for me was the state of his apartment. Again I'm not sure if it has been exaggerated and I'm certainly not as bad, but it was strange seeing how he lived on screen then looking around at the many empty cans, pizza boxes, diner plates, newspapers etc that litter my own floor. Also regarding his apartment the windows were just taped up with newspapers. I'm not that bad but my curtains or blinds are never even drawn, they're always closed. Those kinds of things spoke to me and made it feel like the subject matter was very well understood. I'm sure other people will have their own "moments" that they connect most with.

The other thing that really struck me to an incredibly freaky degree was the closeness of the people at the group in this movie with those of the social group that I attend. It really was scary in places.

Ultimately though it's just "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy regains girl". Outside of the AS angle not only is there nothing particularly meaty in the story…but it suffers from the weakest Hollywood cliché where everyone is gorgeous and the guy still gets the girl.

It's definitely one to check out though, I'm not aware of any other movies based around AS. Well, as with all things AS the self-diagnosed internet brigade begs to differ and they claim that any movie with a "quirky" or "socially awkward" protagonist is about AS.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Things I've been doing

I thought that rather than just having Asperger's Syndrome (AS) I'd see if I could benefit or gain anything from the various support groups that are out there. To this end I have started attending two monthly groups in particular. It's a start anyway.

I'm pretty much a cuckoo at the first group as it isn't really intended for people with AS but for people who have to care for adults with AS. Basically it's a meeting full of my parents. What it does give me is an interesting insight into the affect that AS has on other people. Having it myself I was never aware of the affect it was having on other people and I always thought everything I did was normal and without consequence. Not being able to pick up on non-verbal clues meant that I was probably annoying people and not realising. Also as it is a support group for carers they are quite candid about the issues, probably more so than if the people they care for were present. They often have guest speakers as well who are involved in local autistic services. Again not much use to me but I have discovered the existence of some social groups in my area that I didn't know existed.

Talking of social groups, the second group I am attending is a social group for people with autism, not just AS. I was a bit nervous about going to this one in case it made me question my own diagnosis as there are some rather common AS traits that I don't really identify with. On a certain level I was worried that people would be "more AS" than me. For the first meeting I pretty much sat and said nothing, but I tend to do that when meeting a lot of new people anyway. The fact that they were "my kind" didn't make any difference.

There are people who attend that are very much textbook AS, and I do wonder if they think I'm an imposter and that I can't possibly have AS as I don't behave like they do. This social group has also shown me the importance of an autistic-focussed environment. Although I didn't say a whole lot my first time around, I didn't feel bad about it. I didn't go home feeling guilty wondering if they thought I was shy or weird. I instinctively knew that no-one was judging my social skills and that just being present was enough to gain acceptance. This is the only social group I am involved with currently; I might try the one I found out about in the previous group I mentioned, however for now I think once a month is enough for me. It messes with my routine enough as it is :)