Monday, 31 December 2012

Internal / external

One thing that is probably a common source of frustration to people with Asperger's Syndrome (AS) are the difficulties in dating, finding a girlfriend or boyfriend. It's annoying in two ways...first, we all want someone special in our lives, maybe people with AS more than others as someone with AS' significant other is probably the only person in their life they feel close to. Second, it's annoying that the things that other people seem to find easy to do is impossible for us to do. My own personal philosophy on this is that I am working to recognise my strengths and my weaknesses in this area. I have come to accept that I'll never be the type to go up to a stranger in a bar and start talking to them, or to approach someone in the other common dating hunting grounds. My own strengths tend to be with women that are in my life anyway, the getting to know people as friends first as a segue to something deeper, as that timeframe gives me time to get comfortable (and therefore, "myself") with these people. I also tend to do better with women that communicate with mainly through electronic mediums. It is this system of strengths and weakness that I try and manipulate in my favour. Basically, I have always seem my AS as my problem that I have to deal with.

However, I have been spending time analysing the behaviours of other AS sufferers on dating sites and relationship forums, and it seems that there is another way of looking at things...that your AS is actually everyone else's problem, and that everyone else should make allowances for you, they should "give you a chance" when they wouldn't normally. That people who can't "see past" your awkwardness and deficiencies are somehow shallow or bad people.

It made me think back to when I used to attend a support group and one of the members was a mother whose daughter had AS, and she would go into detail about all the help she is given from the school, the local authorities, universities and so on. I remember thinking at the time, "What about when she gets into the real world and people stop making allowances for her?" I grew up undiagnosed so no-one ever made a single allowance for me in my entire life. I grew up "the hard way". It's great that increased awareness of the condition means children are diagnosed early and get support, but is this frustration in dating the result of all that support?

Schools, the council, the police and so on...they often have legal obligations to make allowances for "disability" (in the UK, autistic orders are classed as disabilities when it comes to legal matters), but private individuals don't. Have these children grown up thinking that all through life everyone will make allowances for them? Now that they are old enough to live outside of the system, they are probably experiencing culture shock...for the first time in their lives, someone is not making allowances. A private individual, be it a friend or a potential partner, is treating them the same way that they would treat anyone else.

I think it demonstrates the balance that has to be maintained. There is nothing wrong with giving children support, but we have to be careful it doesn't become mollycoddling, that we're not wrapping them up in cotton wool. When children are given extra help, we should ensure that it is equally made clear to them that when they grow up and enter society, not everyone is going to make allowances. That private individuals are going to treat them the same way they will treat everyone else. That life is going to be hard, and sometimes unfair, but there is no point in whining about it and blaming everyone else.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

What's good for the goosestepper...

I was reading the following article on the BBC's website about Hitler's personality

and a few things caught my eye. His avoidance of small talk, his annoying voice, his general social inadequacy. Normally when people mention these things about the famous dead, they are quick to follow up that the person must have had Asperger's Syndrome (AS). I didn't read that in this article though, and now I come to think of it I've never seen Hitler's name on any of those internet lists about all the great people who "must have had" AS. After all, it's such a gift, such a wonderful thing that makes you an exemplary human being...right? ;)

Hitler does feature on the Wikipedia article about famous people posthumously diagnosed, but I see he has a special note that indicates people disagree and think there isn't enough evidence for a diagnosis. Yet we know more about him than many other distance historical figures as he has only just passed from living memory.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Double D Dilemma

When I was away, it took me a while to settle into the town I was living, and find things like a good pub to spend time in, reading a book. I visited most a few times, then settled on a particular one. It wasn't too quiet, or too busy. They had decent music on the jukebox, but it wasn't loud. But most of all, the barmaid was pretty hot lol. Not "classically" beautiful, but she was very pretty, lovely auburn hair, great figure. She didn't work every night, only a few a week but I liked to go when she was there.

I normally only stay for one drink and a read of my book, but one particular day I decided to stay for more. There was a group of "lads" in at the bar and it was all very interesting for me. When the barmaid was at the bar they were all trying to chat her up, but quite disrespectfully. I suppose this is the "cheeky" attitude and confidence that men think women like. When the barmaid was away from the bar, collecting glasses and whatnot, the guys would talk about her amongst themselves, again in quite disrespectful tones. I'm not going to moralise on the way they spoke among themselves, as I'd be a liar if I said that I've never had some below-the-belt banter with friends. But it was obvious they all saw her as some kind of prize...literally. Just a notch on the bedpost, made valuable as she was "hard to get". When she returned they'd be asking her if she was single, asking her out for a drink and so on, all advances batted away in a tone that made her consider them disingenuous.

They didn't stay all night and soon left. Two other guys came in, older guys...late 40s maybe. Already so drunk they could barely walk. Propped at the bar they spoke among themselves. Within about two minutes of the barmaid turning up, one of the drunks tottered forward and in a slur asked her if she was "dating". She replied that she wasn't, he then asked if she'd like to go out for a drink with him. Bearing in mind, she is a beautiful girl in her early 30s and he's a drunken wretch, late 40s, face like a road map (google maps, not Apple maps), in a suit I don't doubt he woke up in. She politely declined and said she wasn't looking for a relationship at the moment. "Wha? Pretty girl like you?" he slurred before slinking off the toilet. When he was gone, she explained to his slightly more sober companion that she had been single since starting work at this bar some years ago, that it just put her off men. Having been a fly in a book for the evening I guess I can understand why. Each man was in the bar barely 5 minutes before they were asking her out, all just wanting to fuck the local barmaid. How can you possibly tell who is genuine?

I'm the opposite of these people. Not by choice, but by genetics. It made me think back to a few of my relationships and in a way I wonder if that has actually helped me? The fact that I don't go chasing girls, I don't go asking all and sundry out, draping myself over them and obviously lusting after them. More aloof, I get to know girls and let them get to know me and if things happen then great for me.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Vindication to vilification

I've just finished my first stint of temporary work away from home, coming back on the train at the weekend. It wasn't the best situation, a lot of travelling and not much of a weekend, and spending your evenings in a stray town...but it worked out ok.

I think the most important thing I got was the feedback from the client. There are skills I think I have that make me perfect for this type of work, and the client pretty much named them all when I was finishing up as a reason for why they liked me working there. I enjoyed the work, and the people were good too. They were social and we always went out together at lunchtime. It was good just being in a normal company around normal people again. It gave my confidence a boost too to hear the client say how happy they were with my work.

I had my next piece of work lined up before I finished my last so I knew I'd only have two weeks off in between. I was hoping it would alleviate the anxiety I had between jobs the last time, but it simply replaced one anxiety with another...I had a lot of things to sort out so it has made my time off feel a bit rushed. I also failed to stop descending into quite a negative life pattern. With nothing really to fill the days, and no routine, I just swam around in alcohol. I was a bit more structured last time, but no gym, no book reading...just trying to fill the day with anything until it became a socially-acceptable time to start drinking, and that time got earlier and earlier each day.

I start my next job soon, and while the endless travel is not something I am looking forward to (or finding a place to stay), I am looking forward to getting back to work. Back to a solid daily routine, as without one I just fall apart.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Once more unto the breach

Well I was right to be worried about how I would spend my time between jobs. In the immediate aftermath I was drinking a lot, for days on end. That calmed down a little but it was fairly tough overall. In order to keep some form of control, I would set my alarm for midday and try and get out of bed in fairly good time. I'd get something to eat, check emails etc, then in the afternoon I'd study my way through a technical book to learn some new skills.

It made the weekends fairly pointless, though, as technically every day was a weekend :) I was out of work for about four weeks in total. The start was the hardest part but as the days wore on it got better. Unfortunately I wasn't attending the gym though, and my normal routine was firmly out of the window.

As the days turned into weeks I have to admit one of the reasons I didn't start looking for work was that I was anxious I wouldn't get any. That I'd be one of those struggling people, pounding the phones for hours on end, getting nothing but knock-backs and rejections. In a way I was simply guarding my self-esteem.

It was after three weeks that I thought I should really start looking, as it might have taken two weeks to find something. On the Monday I submitted my CV to some job sites, and I had three interviews lined up on Wednesday, so I guess it turned out ok in the end. I accepted one of them on Wednesday too and started the following Monday. It's a few hundred miles away from where I live, so I am renting a room there Monday through Friday and returning "home" at the weekend. I'm managed to join a small gym in the area too.

Through the week it's a fairly miserable existence. I get up around 7am, go to work, get back to my digs at 6.30. Maybe go to the gym, back to digs for something from the microwave, up to my room like a naughty teenager where I have no TV, and the internet isn't always on. I go to bed around midnight, get up and start all over again. A large chunk of the weekends are taken up with travel too, so you don't quite get the full impact of those either.

In a way, I was thinking that the drudgery of this way of life is something that keeps my mind occupied. Something that "excuses" me from not leading a normal life like other people. There is no room in this way of life for friends, relationships, or anything tangible, solid, or lasting. Instead my mind simply keeps itself occupied with thoughts of the following day.

As for the job itself, it's actually quite good. Good firm too, and normal. It's nothing like my last job at all. I found that job to be very isolating, where I have always maintained that work is a good thing as it gives you chances to be social, to be among people. This company is staffed with people my age and younger, there is a lot of chat and banter, people go out for lunch together. There is a large kitchen where you can just mill around and chat to people. People in the company are really friendly, too, and I've had a few people introduce themselves in the kitchen, noting that I'm new etc. It's given me back that "something" that I lost at my other job. Even the way to work itself, and back again...I am using public transport (train) and it gives ample opportunity for being among seas of people too. Lots of people watching as you get to see the same people getting on, and off, at the same stops day in and day out.

The dress code is "casual" and most people adhere to it. Thing is, I don't "do" casual. I have smart, and I have "me" which I wouldn't want to wear to work. Having to iron shirts, trousers etc is a bit of a pain, so in order to "fit in" and also to reduce my laundry effort, I have bought some "casual" shirts to wear with my jeans. Shopping for the shirts was an unusual process, as it isn't something I normally do. I am completely indifferent to this type of do you choose things you neither love nor hate? Is this how it is for everyone? A bunch of people traipsing around the shops buying clothes not because they like them, but because they are not offensive, and they need to dress like everyone less? Or does someone see the exact same shirts I lovelessly took from the rails, and think "Wow, that looks great, I'll be far more attractive to the opposite sex in that shirt"? It's not cheap either, what a total waste of money.

This job is set to run for about 3 moths so I'll see how it goes, and how I feel after. The whole nature of working somewhere Mon-Fri is what has been worrying me, and now that I'm doing it it's certainly no barrel of laughs, but I don't think I'm ready to throw in the towel yet.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Still alive

Long time no update. I guess everything is different now. I'm in a different town, different job, different lifestyle.

I suppose I'll start with my new digs. This town is much much quieter than where I was before. Smaller too. My flat is much better though, it's like night and day. I can hardly believe that I spent about 4 years at my old place. It's one of those things that you don't appreciate until you've experienced it, but having a better flat has immediately improved my quality of life in so many ways. I used to hate going back to my old flat, it was more like a prison, it just depressed me. Not that this place is a palace, but it is much bigger, cleaner, better decorated and everything works. It's a two bedroom place with lots of storage so I'm no longer surrounded by clutter, which makes everything more pleasant. It has a more modern boiler and heating with working timers, so I get instant hot water when I need it. This means I can get out of bed in the morning and right into a hot shower, so I'm showering every morning. I'm also having something to eat every morning too. These little things all make a difference. The main bedroom has a TV in it which I find helps me unwind before I go to sleep. I used to stay up til 2 or 3am before going to bed to be bored, lying awake. Now I can go to bed just whenever knowing that I can watch TV for a while before trying to go to sleep.

Being a smaller, quieter town everything is closer, including my new gym. Two hours at the gym now takes up 2 hours and 10 minutes of my time, not the 3 hours it used to, so I'm finding I have more spare time in general and my evenings are less hurried. I have my cafes and my takeaway places sorted. I can now spend the weekend not saying a word; every place I go to asks "usual?" as I enter. The downsides are that there is much less going on. The place is very quiet at the weekend. There is a place that has regular bands but they're always cover bands, though it's better than nothing. There is a comedy club too, and I'm going to the cinema more. I'm mainly doing the cinema and comedy club more simply because everything is quiet and nothing is busy :)

The thing I was most worried about was the aspects of running a company, but now that I'm in my stride it's actually fairly easy, nothing like the nightmare I thought it would be. The company I am working with right now isn't very good, the work isn't very good, but it's not forever. The bad news is that my stint there is being cut short. It was supposed to be for a year initially, but it's now down to about 7 or 8 months, basically I have a few weeks left.

I'm not too thrilled about that, as I moved on the promise that I'd have a least a year to settle in and save up a chunk of money. I doubt I'll get another job close by, so I might have to start commuting which will make my quality of life even lower than before. I'll be up earlier, back later, plus driving lots. If I get a job very far I might have to rent a room through the week and come back at the weekend, but what about the gym? I'm just going to have to cross that bridge when I come to it...which will be very soon indeed.

The move here and getting all set up was harder than I thought it would be. Getting settled and getting into a routine was harder. All the "things" I had to do like cancelling things, moving addresses etc was all harder. For weeks on end it seemed like I was just constantly doing things, phoning people, sending off forms. I was also spending my weekends driving back and forward, packing things and moving things so I had no down time...constant high anxiety.

I'm worried that the up-coming break in job is going to push me into a bad place again. I've never been unemployed or without a job to do in my entire life, but I'll be just that in a few weeks time until I can get something else sorted out. I'm not worried about money, that I have, I just fear how I'll spend my days and that I'll go back to drinking too much and being too anxious all the time. We'll see.