I’m not horrible and it’s official



53 years ago the world was a different place. Things we take for granted now either did not happen then or were as rare as hen’s teeth. We have evolved so much since I was born 53 years ago; our knowledge is greater now than at any other time in the history of mankind. We can do so much now that seemed impossible then. We understand so much more now and are able to make people’s lives so much better now than we could back then.

When I was born, kids with ‘difficulties’ had to clearly show 9 particular symptoms in order to be given an official diagnosis of autism, and even with that diagnosis, there wasn’t much real help available. If, like me, you didn’t clearly display all 9 symptoms, you were stuck with the label ‘problem child’ and had to deal with it however you could, which was usually not very well. Mother always knew I was autistic but without that official diagnosis, I was just another weirdo, the problem child, the horrible child who embarrassed everyone. However firmly you know in your gut what your problem is, unless you have it validated by those who know, you grow up believing you really are just a horrible person unworthy of friendship.

With the passing of the years, the medical field has increased its knowledge and understanding of the way we humans work and Autism is treated much more effectively. Diagnoses are more accurate and the help available is not bad, especially for children diagnosed today.

Finally, after 53 years, I got my diagnosis. Having what I always knew to be true, validated is a substantial comfort when you’ve spent half a century being told you’re just a horrible person who is unworthy of friendship or love. I am not labouring under the misapprehension that I will be snowed under with offers of help that will suddenly net me dozens of friends and invites to parties. No, I’m many things but stupid is not one of them. I’ve spent too many years without any help, learning to cope alone or just withdrawing when I can’t, to believe any help is out there for me now.

What it does give me is the chance to say, “No, I’m not a horrible person. I have autism.”

How do you get to know yourself?

Thinking clip art#1

How do you really get to know yourself?  We all think we know ourselves better than anyone else but do we?  Aren’t we all just far too emotionally involved to see our own selves with true objectivity?

We are so wrapped up in how we want to be, or how we fear we might be, that we are unable to see ourselves as we truly are.  How many times have you expressed an opinion about yourself, only to have a friend say something along the lines of “oh don’t be silly, of course you’re not?”  It happens to me all the time and, like a lot of other people I tend to react with something like “yes I am, you’re just being nice.”

Maybe they’re not just being nice.  Maybe their objectivity enables them to see us as we truly are, whereas we cannot because of our hang ups, fears, desires or childhood emotional baggage.  I’m not saying this is universal truth, but I am saying maybe.

So how do we get to really know ourselves as we really are?  I start with questions to myself.  Why do I feel this way?  Why do I have this opinion of myself?  How does my opinion of myself differ from the opinions of other people?  What could be the reason for this difference?  The answers I come up with sometimes lead to more questions and I keep on asking and answering until I come to a possible outcome.  Sometimes that outcome is not comfortable for me because it requires me to consider that my own comfortable opinion may be wrong, but even so I keep hold of it and turn it around in my mind.  I hold it alongside my own, normal opinion and keep them both there for a while, just to see how it feels and sometimes I’ll allow this new opinion to affect my behaviour for a few minutes and see how it feels and how others react.  If the reactions I see are favourable then great, it can lead to change of my own opinion.

The thing is, opinions and views are things we learn from experience.   We’re not born thinking we’re fat or ugly or stupid.  We learn to feel that way through our experiences and our reactions to those experiences are the basis for our opinions.  Over time, our reactions become habitual and automatic and we stop really experiencing events and just use our usual, learned reactions.  In order to begin to make changes, we first have to stop allowing habit to govern how we react to our experiences.  We have to try to experience each situation and interaction as if it were the first time it was happening and allow ourselves to work out how to react to this situation now from the experience itself, not habits learned decades ago.

Of course this takes presence of mind and control of one’s emotions but once you get into the habit (there’s that word again) of it, it becomes routine to check your reactions each time and make sure they’re appropriate.  Once you find your old opinions and views about yourself revealed as no longer totally appropriate for you as you are now, you can let old emotional baggage go, or at least slip a little further away and begin to find yourself again.

Then you can start to live your life with the blinkers off and learn to enjoy the view.

The Running Woman

Most mornings I see her, jogging past my window.  She’s going from somewhere, to somewhere else but I doubt I’ll ever know where those two places are, the origin and the destination.  All I know is, she jogs.  She isn’t dressed as most joggers are, in shorts, sweats and lycra tops with heart monitoring armband or ipod ear buds.  She wears jeans, shirt and overcoat with a backpack on her back.  She looks like she’s going to work, or shopping or the  bus stop and is permanently a little late.

She intrigues me.  I wonder about her; where she’s come from and where she’s headed and more importantly, why she’s dressed like that for jogging.  She’s not fat so it can’t be that she’s embarrassed to be seen in jogging clothes and wants everyone who might see her to think she’s running for a bus.  She has a normal figure, a figure I’d be happy to have and if I did, I’d wear lycra and not care who saw me jogging.

Maybe she’s just crazy, a nutjob and this is the way her particular madness expresses itself.  If so, it’s a good and healthy madness.

For the first time, yesterday I saw her walking.  The same jeans, the same overcoat and backpack but walking this time.  Maybe she’s got a new alarm clock.  Maybe she’s got new meds. Now she intrigues me even more; why is she just walking?

She inspires me to write a character around her for one of my short stories.

On The Therapist’s Couch – Part 1

A woman went to see a therapist.  He showed her in and offered her chair and a cup of coffee, both of which she accepted.  She was nervous, having never visited a therapist before nor even talked about her problem in too much depth but she’d reached a point of desperation.  She knew she couldn’t go on like this; she wanted it sorted out once and for all and she knew she couldn’t achieve it alone.

Therapist – Hi, why have you come to see me today?

Patient – Because I want to understand my problem and sort it out.

Therapist – And what do you believe your problem to be?

Patient – I comfort eat.  I’m fat and can’t lose weight.  I want to be thin but food just won’t let me go.

Therapist – So is the problem you or food?

Patient – What do you mean?

Therapist – You started off by saying you comfort eat but then said food won’t let you go.  First you intimated that you have the problem, then you said food controls you.  Which do you think it is?

Patient – I suppose it’s both.

Therapist – Why do feel it’s both?  Explain your reasoning if you can.

Patient – Well, I eat for comfort but at the same time, food seems to have a hold over me.  I guess it’s an addiction now.

Therapist – Like a symbiotic relationship perhaps?

Patient – Yeah, I guess so.

Therapist – So what do you get out of this relationship?

Patient – Well I  have to eat.  Everyone has to eat.  I enjoy eating.  It’s a little indulgence just for me, something  nice for myself.

Therapist – If this is a symbiotic relationship, what does the other half get out of it?  What does the food get out of it?

Patient – Well, nothing really.

Therapist – So it can’t be symbiotic can it?

Patient – No, I guess not.

Therapist – In that case it must be a one sided relationship.

Patient – Yeah.

Therapist – So who is in control?

Patient – The food, definitely the food.

Therapist – And what does the food get out of controlling you?  What’s the payback, the reward, for the food I mean.  If you’re in charge of something, you control in order to gain a reward.  So if the food is controlling, what’s its reward?

Patient – Umm, well there isn’t a reward for the food.

Therapist – So why would the food be controlling you if there’s no purpose in it?

Patient – I don’t know.  I can’t think of one.  I see your point.  I’ve never thought of it that way before.

Therapist – Then think about it now.  Who is getting the reward?

Patient – Me.

Therapist – So that would intimate that you’re the controller, not the food.  Don’t you agree?

Patient – Yeah, I guess.  But then if I’m the controller, why can’t I stop?

Therapist – Tell me again why you over eat.

Patient – For comfort.  When I’m bored and lonely and feeling upset about things.  Food is there, easily available.  It’s just for me and I can buy it and eat it just for myself.  A treat.

Therapist – So you expect a lot from your food, don’t you?

Patient – Huh?

Therapist – Well, you want it to entertain you when you’re bored, be company when you’re lonely and make you happy when you’re upset.  You want it to always be there and give you its undivided attention to the exclusion of everyone else.

Patient – I guess.

Therapist – What else is there in life that could keep someone company when they’re lonely, entertain them when they’re bored and make them happy when they’re sad?

Patient – A person.  Or a pet I guess.

Therapist – So you’re asking food to take on the role of a person in your life.

Patient – I suppose so.

Therapist – Do you think that’s an appropriate role for food to take in someone’s life?

Patient – No, of course not.

Therapist – But you ask this of your food.

Patient – Yeah.

Therapist – Why?

Patient – Because there is no person to do it.

Therapist – Does the absence of another person to fulfill their proper role, make it appropriate to ask food to take on that role?

Patient – No, it doesn’t.

Therapist – So what does this tell you?

Patient – That food can’t take the place of a person.  That eating like I do won’t make the loneliness go away because food can’t fulfill that role, only a person can.  I’m eating to try to fix something, but I’m using the wrong tool to fix it.

Therapist – Now you’ve put those ideas together in your head, how do you feel about the control issue?

Patient – I’ve been expecting food to do something it’s not capable of doing.  And then, because it can’t do what I want it to do, I eat more to try again to fill that hole but food can never fill that hole cos it’s not made to fit it.  I’ve been trying to force my mind to find a solution in totally the wrong direction.  It’s my fault, not the food’s.  Food is food, it keeps us alive, nothing more.  It can’t keep me company or cuddle me at night or laugh with me at the movies.  Only a person can do that.

Therapist – Next time we meet, we’ll talk about where the problem really lies.  See you next time.

Patient – Thanks a lot.

Seeds of Inspiration

A friend on facebook asked me not long ago, “where do you get all your ideas from?”  A simple question indeed but one that is almost impossible to answer in a way people who aren’t ‘like me’ will understand.

By ‘like me’ I mean, well like me.  Let me try to explain.  I’m autistic, which means I don’t do the social thing at all well.  I don’t mix with folks effectively and I tend to quickly piss people off and if I do make a friend, I tend to lose it pretty quickly.  This means I’m alone for most of the time, both physically and inside my head.  You know when you have friends but they’re not actually ‘here’ at this moment but you know inside your head that they exist and they’re your friends?  You have an innate knowledge that you’re not emotionally alone don’t you?  Well I don’t have that.  I’m physically alone and alone inside my head too.  Now that’s freaking alone man..!

I also have major emotional baggage left over from an abusive childhood which means I have a trust issue.  Not something you want when you’re trying to make friends.  This also tends to add to my isolation.  I’m also physically unattractive so even if men did happen to overlook my other failings, the sight of me puts them off anway.  This also means I’m destined to remain just as alone as I am now.

All of this isolation takes its toll and not all of the effects are negative, for me as a writer anyhow.  I’ve developed an immense imagination.  Every moment I’m alone I’m living one of my internal fantasies.  People who see me may think I’m just shopping or taking out the trash but really I’m exploring the outer regions of some far flung planet, searching for the ancient truth stone that will save the people and show me my one true love who just happens to be mixed race, hugely muscular, clean shaven and hung like a horse.  I may appear to be driving to the store, or to my day job but really I’m on my way from my Los Angeles mansion to meet with my agent to discuss my latest appearance on the Ellen show and whether we could fit in a spot on Jimmy Kimmel the same day or whether we need to put that one back a week.  I may appear to be doing housework but really I’m searching the cargo bay of the intergalactic freight liner for clues as to the whereabouts of the hand written  notes that would prove that hugely muscular, mixed race, well hung hunk of a prisoner is completely innocent of those murders on Taxos 4.

You see what I’m driving at?  This is me every minute of every day and several hours into each night too as I toss and turn and struggle to switch it all off so I can sleep.  The moment I wake it all starts again.  This is the stuff that fills my mind 24/7 and all of the locations, the conversations and the people are as real to me as anyone I may physically meet.  Being completely alone both physically and emotionally too, allows me to indulge in this fantasy reality to a high degree and I’ve been doing it for so long that I doubt I could stop for long and I couldn’t imagine being able to survive without it.

It’s the easiest thing in the world for me to just write this stuff down.  I’m so tapped in to my creative flow that I can just sit down and switch it on and let the words come tumbling out.  I see it all happening as I write it.  I actually live it as I write it and I feel all of the emotions each time I re read it.  All I have to do is sit down, switch on and step out of the way.  My higher self does the rest, my creativity, my muse, call it what you want.  I always say that I don’t actually write my books; my characters write them and I just take dictation.

Last night I was bored so I sat down and opened a blank word document and then opened my mind.  An hour later I had a full plot synopsis for brand new epic space adventure novel.  No pain, no tears, no agonies of writers block (what the fuck is that anyway?) and no prob laymo.

So in answer to my friend who wanted to know where I get my ideas from.  The answer is, from me.