Tag Archives: Asperger’s

Earth to Erin?

I know for a fact that if you spoke to me in real life, you would struggle to see the person that you see over the internet.  You may wonder why I don’t ask questions, sometimes I don’t even respond to a question myself.  Why I sit on my hands, and what on earth is so interesting about the wall that I have stared at it for ten minutes without meeting your eyes!?

In truth, I don’t ask question because I am, more than likely, not interested in the information you would give me; I don’t answer because I either wasn’t listening, or forgot to respond out-loud.  I sit on my hands because I don’t wish to start flapping them around, and it reminds me not to rock backwards and forwards; and there really isn’t anything special about the wall (unless there’s a picture squint, but I would have got up and moved it before ten minutes had passed).  I will have written more words in these two paragraphs, than I would say in total in a usual first-conversation situation.

I think the first thing to point out is that I’m not intentionally rude (despite appearances).  This is my way of managing, what is to me, a stressful situation.  Strangers present a plethora of unknowns that could take me by surprise, so saying as little as possible means I can’t annoy them with some comment.  Right?

Apparently not.  Quite a while ago, Mum and I talked a lot, and devised ‘stock phrases’ that I used out and about to limit damage from either not answering, or replying an undesired way.

“Hello Erin, how are you?”
“I’m fine, thank you.  How are you?”

As opposed to:

“Hello Erin, how are you?”
“Fine”

I have a rather comical example of not understanding what was required from me socially from when my sister was born.  Mum was in hospital with the baby, and dad and I had gone to see them.

“Hi Erin”
“Hi Mum”
“Have a look at your baby sister”
“Hmm… can I have your biscuits?”

In my defence, they were chocolate bourbons (which are the best!) and better than any howling, wriggly, sticky, pink potato-looking thing that was in that cot.  Hence baby was dismissed, and biscuits were given priority.  This was not my social requirement.  I will admit that I was quite young at the time, but I don’t think that most young girls would immediately dismiss a baby.

Mum had bought me one of these Baby Annabel dolls that cried and needed feeding all the time, to get used to having a baby.  I remember the other girls in my class having baby dolls and looking after them, and playing mummies and daddies with them.  I liked Lego.

Slight worry was caused when mum and I were feeding our respective babies, and after feeding, mum explained that it was time to wind the baby.  She propped Emilie on her shoulder, and gave her a gentle pat…  I smacked mine on the corner of the coffee table.  Hard.

I had, at some point, heard of winding someone, as in hitting them, and assumed I could do the same to the baby, with the same result as what mum was doing.  No consideration whatsoever was made as to the baby’s feeling on the matter, and to me, it didn’t matter.  I did the job, and that’s good, yes?  Well… no.  It was probably explained to me at this point that you really shouldn’t smack babies on coffee tables.

I find it very difficult to see how my actions or words can affect someone else.  In fact, until I acquired a boyfriend, nothing people said, really affected me.  Yes, I cried when people were angry and whatnot, but that was because I didn’t know how to deal with angry people, and I was scared of them, rather than their words inducing feeling.  This, along with very little skill in empathy and sympathy, meant that I couldn’t see how I could upset a person by talking to them.  This distressed my sister in particular, who wanted a classic ‘big sister’, and didn’t understand how I couldn’t see that I was being horrible.

Sometimes I do say the right things (HUZZAH!), but in the wrong tone of voice, or facial expression, or body-language to go with it, making it mean something completely different.

I managed to upset a woman in Nando’s in Aberdeen this summer, totally obliviously and accidentally, by forgetting to sound happy, and using my default monotone.  She was wearing the same t-shirt as me, and I found this rather cool, this woman had style! Anyway, I thought I’d said:

“Oh look! She’s wearing the same t-shirt as me!”
“And she’s sitting at the table next to ours!” (As in, “what a coincidence!”)

This is not what you hear when the same words are said in a monotone, a bit too loudly.  Calum (my boyfriend) was with me at the time, and looked a little bit horrified as the woman muttered something angrily while I looked generally confused at the whole thing.  If the woman with the spectacular sense of style that I upset in Nando’s ever reads this, I apologise for my monotone, it was meant to be happy.

Earlier this month, I upset my sister by giving her the answer to a question, twelve hours later than she wanted it.  She had asked me which dress looked better while I was playing The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess.  A much more important task than deciding something about some dress.  I thought I had told my sister to wait, and that I would think about it.  ‘Thought’ is the optimum word in that sentence.  I had intended to reply, even decided what I was going to say, but then got distracted before the words reached my mouth.  I then gave her the answer to her question the morning after, when I had given it due attention, but by that point, she didn’t want my opinion because I had upset her.

Mum often comments that I can be both in the room, and absent at the same time, simply because I can disregard everyday life so easily and concentrate intensely on something which I find more important.  This change in attention can be very sudden, and a bit weird for people.  I often ask mum to repeat the second part of a sentence, even a short one, because I zoned out in the middle of it as I thought of something more important.

“I don’t really understand why it’s considered normal to stare at someone’s eyeballs” – John Elder Robinson

I find looking people in the eye to be very difficult.  It’s too intimate an act for me to feel comfortable with.  Usually, looking at a person gives people information about mood and suchlike.  Body-language and things like that.  As I cannot translate body-language, I see no point in looking at people, and as I am both uncomfortable with it, and I have no need for it, I find it very difficult to bring myself to look someone in the eye for any amount of time.

If any of you have seen Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (great movie), there is a part where Flint’s father tells him to look him in the eye and say something.  Flint’s eyeballs then seem to be repelled from looking at his dad’s, like bringing together the north poles of two magnets (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clzT55JVGck).  This is what it is like when I am asked to look someone in the eye.

Well, this blog has gone on long enough.  I hope you all have a very happy, yet reasonably sane Christmas!  See you in the New Year.

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My Preciousss…

My one of my earliest memories is of collecting ‘stuff’.  Small pebbles and stones, nuts and bolts, leaves, feathers and other shiny detritus disappeared into the pockets of the eagle-eyed, four-year-old Erin.

My parents used to encourage these short-lived fascinations, helping me identify today’s mystery object, and helping me find similar objects of interest.  God forbid that anyone actually touch it though!

Once an object was claimed as mine.  That was it.  No one touched it without permission, and even then, grudgingly given under the supervision of a stern, yet jumpy child, constantly reaching out to take it back again as soon as possible.

I mentioned my pebble collection previously, which I still have.  I would spend my breaktimes in Primary 7, in the corner of the playground, smashing rocks so that I could see what they were like inside.  I would show my best discoveries to my classmates, enticing some to come and join me, but many would only join me for a few lunches, then grow bored and find some other pastime that didn’t literally involve banging rocks together.

At home, if I took a particular liking to one stone in particular, it was carted around in my pocket until mum found them clattering around in the washing-machine and gave them back.   The rest were displayed on my bookcase like some sort of shrine to geology.

My most cherished position is a pyjama-case, which I am told is a rabbit, but looks more like a yellow person with a button nose, long ears and dungarees called Wortle (Wurr-tul).  Wortle used to go everywhere with me, and I refused to sleep without him.  Only a few trusted family members were allowed to touch him.  But one day, when I was around ten, my sister decided it would be a great idea to get revenge for some overly-blunt comment, by hiding him.

Hell breaking loose probably would have been preferable to what followed.  I don’t remember a thing, but according to mum, the red-mists were down, and someone was in for it – big time!  Thankfully, mum got to me and restrained me, before I got to Emilie, but if she hadn’t, the offending sister would have been pushed strait down the stairs.

She only hid Wortle again once after that, when I was probably around fourteen.  Thankfully, Emilie was the other side of the landing when I found him, and I marched straight into mum’s room and managed to convey what had happened before losing the ability to speak out of anger. I know for a fact that if Emilie had been on my side of the landing before I reached mum, I would have gone for her without a second thought.  No-one touches my things.

My possessiveness also translates to people too.  I remember fighting over one girl with another when choosing pairs in P.E. in Primary 2 (age 7), refusing to share my friend.  I also lost a friend of five years, when I was around thirteen, because I got too possessive, and refused to share her with anyone else, which, at the stage where girls start seeking relationships, was bad.

Talking of relationships, my boyfriend is someone I am definitely possessive over.  I would go so far as to say that he is one of my obsessions (more on those some other day).  Before we were going out, one girl in the group, who had always been a touchy-feely (ugh) person, sat on his knee – an occurrence that happened regularly with all the other boys in the group without me minding.  I did very well not to hit her in the face at that point.  I had learned at sixteen, that hitting people was usually a bad way to deal with situations, but again, I couldn’t speak for a while until I calmed down.  She also never did it again.  I think the sub-zero glare translated well.

Despite this, the mixture of possessiveness and lack of friendship throughout my life translates into an incredibly loyal person.  I always try and do what’s best for my friends, and I think I can safely say that once an Aspie sees you as theirs, they’re not letting go.

Smack in the face with a cold, hard… truth?

For some unknown reason, I shall never forget the quote from Rachel Caine’s book ‘Feast of Fools’, where someone is described as using ‘honesty as a club’.

I’ve always had a problem ‘softening’ the truth.  If you’re going to say something, say it for goodness sake!  Dithering around the truth wastes everyone’s time, and you’ve said exactly the same thing by the end of it all, so you may as well get your point across fairly quickly in my opinion.

I have always preferred people getting to the point, and I will tend to get strait to the point when talking to people myself, which has landed me in bother in the past where I just came out and said something, and the person I was talking to became upset, as I said it way too bluntly for them to deal with.  This is usually because I can find it difficult to regulate my expression and tone of voice for a long time, as well as usually having something better to do (from my point of view, not theirs).

I’ve also got a propensity to use strong words like ‘hate’, when I should seemingly use ‘dislike’ as they’re less hurtful to others (apparently).

To me, these words mean the same thing.  I don’t really see the difference between using synonyms when speaking.  If I hate something, I will avoid it.  If I dislike something, I will avoid that too.  It all appears the same to me.

My recent word is ‘stupid’.  I see this word as interchangeable with ‘silly’ and ‘muppet’.  Again, I saw no difference whatsoever in using one or the other, but I was repeatedly told that I couldn’t say that, and that it was offensive.

I asked Google:

stupid
adjective

  1. lacking intelligence or common sense.
Synonyms: unintelligentignorantdensebrainlessmindlessfoolishdull-witteddullslow-wittedwitlessslow, dunce-like, simple-minded, empty-headedvacuousvapidhalf-wittedidioticmoronic, imbecilicimbecileobtusedoltish; gulliblenaïve;

informal: thick, thick as two short planks, dimdumb, dopeydozycrazybarmy, cretinous, birdbrained, pea-brained, pig-ignorantbovine, slow on the uptake, soft in the head, brain-dead, boneheaded, lamebrained, thickheaded, chuckleheaded, dunderheaded, wooden, wooden-headed, fat-headed, muttonheadeddaft, not the full shilling;

silly

adjective

  1. having or showing a lack of common sense or judgement; absurd and foolish.
Synonyms: foolishstupidunintelligentidioticbrainlessmindlesswitless, imbecilic, imbeciledoltish; imprudentthoughtlessrashrecklessfoolhardyirresponsible; maderraticunstablescatterbrained, feather-brained;

flighty, frivolousgiddyfatuousinaneimmaturechildishpuerilehalf-bakedempty-headedhalf-wittedslow-wittedweak-minded;

informal: daftcrazydottyscattyloopyscrewysoftbrain-dead, cretinous, thickthickheaded, birdbrained, pea-brained, pinheaded, dopeydimdim-witteddippypie-facedfat-headed, blockheaded, boneheaded, lamebrained, chuckleheaded, dunderheaded, wooden-headed, muttonheadeddamfool;

I made bold and underlined the words in common in both cases, and again, I see no difference.  Both words are incredibly similar.  Indeed, a synonym of silly, is stupid (therefore: silly = stupid using all values of Google.  Q.E.D.).  If Google cannot explain this conundrum to me, who can!?

Some answers came in the form of Magnus (a friend).  The conversation basically went like this:

Me:  But if I think someone is being silly or idiotic, I cannot say that they’re stupid?  It’s like the same word!

Magnus: I think it’s because, for most people, the word stupid suggests that you think they or their idea (or whatever it’s referring to) is inferior, useless, rubbish, or whatever. That might be the case but when it’s been thrown up in their face in what they think is such a blunt way, they take it personally as an attack on them.

Me: But stupid is particularly bad?  How is it any different?

Magnus: Well those words seem more comical so it’s easier for people to take it. ‘stupid’ is like giving someone a burning hot pan. ‘muppet’ is like giving someone a burning hot pan with a towel round the handle so they don’t get burned so quick.

So, calling someone silly, IS the same as calling someone stupid, but with extra padding.  That made sense!

If I throw a brick with a pillow tied round it at someone, they’re not in pain, and I get the satisfaction of hurling a brick at their face… and that’s OK!

People are weird…
Now to work out which words are which…

Imaginations from the Other Side

Everyone appears to have had their ‘monster under the bed’ when they were younger. Whether it be a scary monster from a movie they’ve watched, or a figureless shade that has no source other than an overactive imagination and a fear of the dark.

I’ve always had a great imagination, with imaginary friends for most of my life as they made more sense than my real ones, or at the point when I had no real ones at all. I would take inspiration from books, movies and songs. Creating the perfect character for me to share my time with. Why waste time with people who didn’t get me, when I could make up people who did?

If I was ever struggling to comprehend a situation, I would play it over and over in my head, talking myself through different solutions until I found an answer that made sense. I would often be up until the small hours of the morning, working out how to start a conversation about a specific topic I was worried about. I would eventually imagine a situation that seemed both plausible, and beneficial, memorise it, then try it out in the real world… often with unimagined results. Results I didn’t predict often came as a very unpleasant surprise to me (to be honest, they still do, but I’ve learned that predicting people doesn’t really work, so don’t do it). I would view their stray from the plan as stupidity, and get frustrated and upset when they didn’t stick to the script that only I knew.

So my imagination has always has always been a well-used tool of mine, but I would often struggle to separate what I imagine, from what is real. This still comes to light when I’m afraid of something.

I remember a night, not even a year ago, when my boyfriend convinced me to talk to someone, other than him, about what goes on in my head. I absolutely got that it wasn’t entirely fair to totally depend on him in every situation, but could not see a single way of telling someone without assuming they’d think I was a freak. I had so few friends, I didn’t want to lose one, and it would also mean I would have to cope with a new group dynamic in school, which I knew I absolutely could not deal with. I had a full panic attack. Hyperventilating, sobbing, I was an absolute mess for almost an hour!

My friend was absolutely fine about me when I eventually told him. He could even relate to parts of it. It goes to show that my imagination can very often run away with me, even now that I’m much older.

I’m also still scared of the dark. I’m scared of what’s in the dark, what I can’t see. I have certain criteria that need to be satisfied before I go to bed, otherwise I convince myself there’s something there and out to get me (paranoid much, I know). Nightmares make it worse. There’s nothing like waking up at ***** knows what in the morning, convinced there is something there, and not being able to get to sleep for the rest of the night in case you’re eaten by some ridiculous thing with too many teeth.

An overactive imagination, can be great fun one moment, and distressing the next. I’m still not entirely sure whether I’m glad about not growing out of it like most people. One thing it has led me to learn that I’m not often on exactly the same page as everyone else, but things are almost always better than I think.

Evil Spaghetti and Fruit Salad Peril

In my post ‘Oversensitive’, I talked about how I find some sensations pleasant, and how others definitely not, and these can cause sensory overload.  This can cause me to avoid some seemingly everyday items, such as spaghetti and fruit salad!

This evening, the house smelled of tomatoes and mince, the kitchen was warm, and my younger sister was not yet home.

“Spaghetti for dinner today” smiles mum.
“Can I have something else?”

Spaghetti is an evil thing.  Not the fact that it is pasta, nor anything to do with the sauce.  If you made me exactly the same dish with a differently shaped pasta, I would eat it.  But the tangled mess of disorder that is spaghetti, is chaos for my brain to fathom.  I really dislike how it’s all tanged up, I feel the need to sort it out from the sauce.  To separate one strand from another.  When I pull on one strand, the area on the opposite side of the bowl moves as it slowly unwinds like some ancient leviathan.  Sometimes it pulls half the rest of the spaghetti out with it, hanging on for grim death.  When you try and wrap it round your fork, it slips off, a final attempt at freedom.  Then when you try and eat it, it flicks and gets sauce on your face.  Just to spite you one last time!

It is altogether too messy, complicated and generally gross – not to mention it having a life of its own!

Fruit salad, I have avoided for a very long time.  Another chaotic mess of a dish.  All the shapes, colours, tastes, textures and smells that make it up, are just overwhelming.  The very thought of it makes me feel uncomfortable.

I remember when I was about four, sitting at the table, with a half-eaten bowl of fruit salad in front of me, a long time after dinner was over, with my father telling me to not waste it, eat it!

Perfectly reasonable really.  You need to teach young children that they can’t just decide they don’t want something after starting it.  It really is a waste.

Well, I wasn’t having any of it.  There was tears!  There was wailing!  There was gnashing of teeth!  I was not eating that fruit salad!  What had started out as ‘pudding’ had now turned into a bowl of sensory overload!

Some things that seem so normal and simple can be incredibly confusing to me, with some occasionally undesirable results.  I never set out with the motive of being ‘odd’, but some people can’t seem to see past it and see that I mean no harm.   It can be upsetting, especially when something is forced on me, but on the bright side, it lets me see who my real friends are.

Days of Particular Strangeness

This morning, I was up as per usual, but something was off.  I was bouncing everywhere, my speech was childish, and I would giggle randomly to myself.  I knew I needed to get ready for school, but all I wanted to do was run and bounce off of walls.

It was strange, like my Asperger Syndrome setting had been turned up.

When I got to school, I sat in the corner of the common room, earphones in, music blaring, fascinated at just watching peoples’ hand gestures and faces.  I didn’t understand them at all, but they looked so funny when they waved their hands around with no point being made, I couldn’t help but laugh.

I had a free period this morning, and I was somehow drawn to the sink in the common room, where I turned on the warm tap, and watched the water, occasionally flicking my hands through it, and running it over my fingers.  Usually I would never do this in school, but today it was fascinating, and I was alone, so I saw no harm in it.

In Art, I drew several figures in a really sketchy and expressive way, compared with my usual meticulous style. I just couldn’t keep still!  Later, a classmate needed a hand with painting a huge piece of board white, a task which I fell upon with relish!  I poured a massive blob of paint onto it, and proceeded to cover the whole area of board with it.  I repetitive, sweeping movements with the paintbrush was relaxing, but was inefficient, so eventually a roller was found, despite my discouragement of this plan.  I sulked for a while, until I eventually decided I really liked the sound of the roller (it sounds crackly when you roll paint on really thickly), and soon I was back to the task with as much enthusiasm as before!

Break-time was less enjoyable, I found all the people around me seemed to press to close, I wanted to be sick every time someone brushed past me, and all the conversations mixing together made my head spin.  I eventually had to retreat back to the art department, where I spent the time with my earphones in, sketching more figures.

I’m still unsure as to what causes days like this.  They can be entertaining, but I can really struggle keeping myself under control in situations where I normally wouldn’t.  It goes to show that the range of situations I can deal with like a ‘normal’ person, are affected by external forces I am often unaware of.  I know that stress is one, but sometimes, it’s a mystery.

Grown Up Quirky?

I remember a day, not too long ago, when Emilie (my younger sister) came up to me in school and took great delight in telling me that one of the people in her class had described me as ‘quirky’.  I wasn’t entirely sure how to take this.

From as long as I can remember, people have described me as ‘weird’, some in nicer ways than others.

I was definitely the odd one out in primary school.  It was a small school, only about seventy pupils, and everyone seemed to already know everyone else.  I will mention at this point that I live in the Scottish Highlands so that this makes more sense.  As soon as I stepped in the door, the others noticed that I sounded ‘English’.  I actually have pretty much no accent at all, but I ‘said things funny’, so that was all the encouragement that was needed for people to start picking on me.

I loved classes, I still do to be honest.  I’d learned to read before I started, and had a really good grasp of numeracy.  Within about a month, I had been moved up to the Primary Two (P2) table, yet was still a part of P1 (three years to a class, with a different coloured table each.  P1 was red, P2 was blue and P3 was grey I still remember).  I really liked this!  I felt as though I had achieved something good.  This made me very popular… not!

I was that clever little English kid, teacher’s pet, who spoke funny.  I often played alone, with my imagination, or collecting pebbles and stones (something I still do).  Being alone wasn’t a problem for me really.  Unfortunately, the others must have noticed that I didn’t crave the company, and began harassing me instead.

I now know that this would not have helped with my Asperger’s at all.  I had next to no chance of developing my social skills when everyone ignored me.  I’d learned that keeping myself to myself was ‘safe’.  This was a disadvantage when I finally moved schools when I was around nine.

My new school was larger, and had a greater variety of children attending.  There was also two other children on the autism spectrum.  One with Asperger Syndrome, and the other with Down’s Syndrome.  I remember being very confused as to why they weren’t picked on for acting the way they did, until I realized that my classmates had grown up with these children, and had been taught to understand them much better than in my previous school.

I met a girl in my year who took me under her wing.  She protected me in school and made sure no one upset me.  At this point, my social skills began to grow.  But I was nine, with a mental development age of four, an Aspie at the age of four at that.  I learned how to talk to children my own age without receiving strange looks by the time I was around twelve.  I still talked about the same few topics, knew exactly what I wanted to me when I left school (marine biologist) and still collected pebbles.

By the time I got to high school, I could talk to most people in my year on a few ‘safe topics’ I had learned.  So long as I didn’t go into all the minuscule details, like the electrical receptors on the underside of a shark’s snout being called Ampule of Lorenzini, I could hang around the edge of groups without attracting too much attention.

I began to develop my School Persona and my Home Persona.  In school, if something upset me, I would barely react.  I became known for being uncaring and indifferent.  I was seen as mature by my teachers because I wouldn’t mess about and chat in class.  I was well ahead in almost every lesson except English and Drama.  At home, I would throw tantrums about a change in the plan, sort my bookcase alphabetically, and spend hours on the internet watching one show (Sonic X – I’ve watched every episode).  This split in personality was my coping mechanism for a long time, until I was about fifteen.

I had just had a major falling out with the girl who had been my friend in primary school.  I had gotten really possessive and didn’t want to ‘share’ her with other people.  I was in an absolute state and didn’t know how to talk to anyone.  I would randomly start crying at break-times because I no longer had a ‘buffer’ between me and the world.

I eventually became part of the ‘weird’ group.  I’m sure every school has one.  I eventually settled back in, but struggled without a stronger person to hide behind, I was really edgy.  I would lash out if people touched me, and generally went out of my way to avoid people out of class.  I would spend breaks in the library, and get to class early to avoid the rush.

Then my little weird group began to fall apart.  One girl moved away; I was beginning to struggle with another, and the last member, the only person I would actually spend time with out of school, was thinking of transferring schools.  I knew I had to do something.  Being alone again was not an option anymore.

I began dragging my last friend around to another group that I got along with fairly well with.  A group of almost all boys, which I felt more comfortable being around than the girls.  I think guys are simpler, more direct, and that suited me much better.  I was eventually accepted into the boys’ group, and I began to feel more secure again.

Now I’m in the last year of secondary school, I still hang out with the boys, and those, along with my boyfriend, have really helped me develop my social skills.  Not all of them know that I’m Aspergic, but a few of them do, and they keep an eye on me.  I still put my foot in it a lot, and upset people by being too blunt, but I’m glad I have friends now, who don’t mind me being quirky.  I still have a pebble collection 🙂