This is the place where I tell you about my autism...
You get to know about...
What my autism does to me
What it means to me
My relationships with other people
How I have to learn
So, this is where I get to tell you what life is like when you are autistic... Well, it's hard! The best way for me to do this is to tell you what my autism does to me, but I shall use correct terminology (don't worry, I'll either use brackets to give you the explanations in, or I'll create a link to a glossary page (if I can figure out how the hell one does it!!!) Or I could try telling you about it in the way that my friend Martin and me would talk things over when I turn up at his house and we get into the saga, and complicated ideas get turned into easy-listening academia! Martin's a good mate, and he believes there's an autistic side to every one, if they'd only admit it to themselves.... he's a true individual, and that's what I like about him - as well as the propensity to have 'saga!
How does my autism affect me? What does it do to me? Well, firstly, it makes me more of a loner than most people would be. Not that I'm anti-social, though - the sad fact is that I can't easily cope with too many human-to-human interactions all at once. This is because I find it difficult to process all that verbal and non-verbal information all at once. It's a bit like a PC, you know... you run your PC under Windows and then you select about four applications to use. What happens then is that you spend ages waiting whilst the computer is trying frantically to sort out which of these tasks it is going to work on and for how long. Then, it shares out the processor time on a basis that cannot prioritise, and this is also a problem for me. The upshot of all this is that I can only cope with things on a one-to-one or small group basis, and I don't know how to evaluate and prioritise things.
Another thing it affects is my ability to deal with emotions. In the "normal" human brain, one finds that the cells that link the cerebrum (i.e., the "thinky" bit of the brain) to the limbic system (the "feely" bit) tend to develop in quite an organised manner. In my brain, they probably don't! Instead, they're likely to be like those of the "Type II" schizophrenic (who is basically autistic, really...)... totally disorganised - as if they'd developed their links whilst on the piss!!! This means I can't easily control my emotions, and this is why I still have tantrums at the age of 35.
I also have difficulties understanding what people say to me. That's not to say I'm stupid, but rather that I have a pragmatic-semantic language problem (this is where the sufferer has difficulty in extracting the meaning from what is said to him - or, of course, her!!!). Taking turns in conversation is something I've learned a little bit about, but I still feel that I never get to say what I really mean. Along with this, I have a dyslexic-dyspraxic syndrome, which is part of Asperger Syndrome (the posh name for my kind of autism)... I have serious difficulties in reading and writing, and these do not clear up with practice. This means that when I get stressed, I can hardly co-ordinate planned movement to do anything. This is a distressing problem, and for those who have it, few people have any sympathy...
The language difficulties (not fully understanding what is being said to me, and not being able to instantly give replies because of not having the mind that can ... perhaps a bit of explanation could be useful here, yes?
The thinking bit of the brain is actually two very separate structures, which only "talk" to each other via this thing called the corpus callosum (almost literally, the hard bit!). On the whole, it is the right side structure that thinks in pictures, and the left side one that tries to describe these pictures. For me, this right side one is rather active - the left side bit is largely buggered, and so describing the right side pictures is difficult.
What my autism does to me is to make me vulnerable to being abused, and this has happened to me all my life. Most autistic people are emotionally capable of loving, but the expression of emotions is very difficult for us. And here also is the autistic person likely to be abused. It has taken me ages to actually come round to accepting that I was sexually and psychologically abused by a couple of people I became involved with. One of these was a high status nurse. I don't get the gist of a lot of things that are said to me, including things said in jest. This is a nasty situation to be in, because it is easy to end up getting paranoid about people in general. I hate being paranoid about people, because it detracts from what little real affective contact I can actually make with people.
What does my autism mean to me? Hmmm... this is a good question. I suppose that, since I've had this conditon all of my life, I don't really know any different! But what it actually means to me is difficult to say, since I am just getting used to the fact that my difficulties have all been down to my autism, rather than me just being an arse. The differences in thinking style I have tend to give me problems with relating to "common sense" stuff, but - if the following is true - there are positive aspects to being autistic. It is known that Albert Einstein (one of the most amazing physicists of the current century) had a condition that one biographer referred to as schizophrenia. However, if it was schizophrenia, there is no doubt that we would not have the bank of knowledge we have on things like relativity, electro-dynamics, and even quantum mechanics that we have today. His ability to focus so intensely on his interests was totally against the grain for schizophrenia. I found out that he was almost mute until age 4, and that he was always very prone to tantrums (possibly the reason why his marriage to Mileva fell through). He was also not a very good communicator, unless the topic of conversation was involved in his spheres of interest. In other words, Einstein was autistic. In fact, descendents of his frequent a lot of the autistic societies' activities in their localities. Another autistic person without whom, etc., was Isaac Newton. He was an arse of a person, and not very likeable, but he was a systematic thinker, with a preoccupation with his "inner space-time" (as R. D. Laing would describe it) to the point where - as one source tells it - he was hosting a dinner party, when the wine ran out (a good time being had by all, despite Newton's being a grumpy old arse... or did the wine actually loosen this guy up?). Isaac trots off to the wine cellar to find more of this stuff... and he's gone for about two hours or more! A search party is sent to look for him, and he is discovered in the cellar, entirely inside his own world... doing what we now refer to as differential equations in the dust!!! Who was this guy????
I suppose that there must, therefore, be more advantages to being autistic than most people think. Unfortunately, they do not outweigh the disadvantages autism puts on you (if you're autistic!) in modern-day societies. I have some rather direct tee-shirt designs that I want to get printed.
What else does my autism mean to me? This is a good question, because I have only just got used to having a name for it. It means something like... "Hi, world... I can see you, hear you, feel you, smell you and taste you... but I don't think I can know you very well!" There is an emotional detachment from things around me, so it's very difficult for me to relate to things the way that a non-autistic does... I don't, for example, understand things like relationships very well. I was cruelly abused by someone who purported to be my girlfriend and in love with me, but who turned out (by her own admission) to be a psychopath! People like me are vulnerable to bastards like these!!! On 6 November ('97), I was in a pub and a woman on a nearby table was confused as to how I could sit and study in a fairly noisy bar. I told her about my autism, and she then ended up having a tutorial of sorts on psychology... this is in a pub! But she pointed out that, from what she had seen of me - and Einstein and Newton - there must be some positive sides to being autistic. There was a site I visited recently that actually lists the advantages and disadvantages of being autistic. But my comment above still holds, because society still expects autistics to fall in with the crowd and be the same as everyone else - something we clearly cannot do. Ergo, society is (on the whole) bloody ignorant, and totally false in the way it provides its "care" for autisics (and schizophrenics, whose difficulties are almost always stress-induced). It tends to blame us for our individuality and inability to fit in with what it wants... but the best is this: even society doen't know what it wants. It changes its mind more often than the Palace changes the Guard! No wonder schizophrenics crack up, and autistics just hide inside their own heads... modern society's just a pain in the arse to people who are HAPPY with their individuality, and just want to be left alone to enjoy that individuality. Other members of society may well get a kick out of pretending to be like each other, but that's a bloody cop-out from real life, and real individuality. In short, normals and psychopaths are WUSSES who can't cope with individuality.
RELATIONSHIPS.... AAAAAAAARRRGH! They scare the shit out of me! It is very difficult for me to judge how someone is going to be towards me, so I can't tell how open to be with them (especially emotionally!). I opened up to one woman, whose behaviour towards me put me back twenty years in my very flimsy psycho-social development. She was older than me and should have known better, because she was a nurse. However, one relationship was with someone younger than me and she is the first person that I opened up to who really meant it when she said "I love you!"
It sometimes occurs, though, that an autistic person can come into contact with someone via the Internet, and find that there is a lot of emotional/affective contact can be made... probably more so at first than could otherwise be made in the initial stages of relating to someone... it's just one channel of communication to worry about!!!! This is a recent finding... someone really nice has come into my life via the mailing list we're both on. She's cautious, and I am too... we've both had weird shit happen to us in our lives, but we get on very well... well enough to have fallen in love with one another... e-mail, snail-mail and phone calls occasionally... she's absolutely gorgeous! In fact, she visited me recently, and our gut feelings about each other proved right... and it would be very true to say that we're in love...(it's actually neuro-typicals who get sensory hysteria....!!!! Most psychiatrists can't understand this, but they understand precious little anyway... look at what they do the schizophrenics and manic-depressives!)... Love does happen for autistic people. I know of two people who came together via the net, and they're now engaged... Hmm... interesting! Heta and I are not particularly into this "marriage" thing, but we do want a serious long term/permanent relationship. And marriage has been discussed. She has a page of her own on my site, which eventually will link to her own site, if she can get one going - it's a time thing. She works in research.
Learning is very difficult for an autistic person. I have to learn by linking something to something that I like, know about or understand - my understanding of the world around me is substantially different from the way others purport to understand it. In fact, this is why I tend not to socialise like I used to think I had to. In the end, the only person's mind I know with any degree of certainty is my own, but I still have problems expressing it. What goes into it is idiosyncratic, and what comes out of it is also idiosyncratic. The upshot of all this is that my communications tend to be restricted in content, scope, and style of delivery - I won't say discussion, because that is still a relatively new skill I have been learning. Learning new skills is awkward, because of my dyspraxia... I am not the person to do your DIY stuff. Nor am I the person that you ask to give the patient his injection. I have a very limited motor skills base, but my intellectual skills (though limited) have been developed over the years. My dad did a lot to help in those years he lived near me... he had found a way to get into his son's mind, see what it linked to outside it, and then show his son what the links were. It is only in the last ten years (if that) that I have been able to make any logical leaps. My thinking is associative - that is, it links up like http links in mark-up language (this is Temple Grandin's analogy, but I can't think of one, so I'll use hers... she is one of the more able autistic people because she is a professor in a university in America. Instead of going "if... then... " or "if ... and/or... , then... ", it goes: image/word... AHA! links with image/word... where the link is often a rather tight association (to use Personal Construct Theory terminology) which is also very idiosyncratic! Learning like the "normal" person learns is impossible. In some ways, I have to learn backwards, and that means I have to literally backtrack through say a mathematics problem in order to understand it, and that is a definite handicap to learning. Also, I have to understand what I am told AS I AM BEING TOLD IT for it to work. It gets very frustrating, and of this is born depression, which you will find is most of what an autistic person like me has to look forward to in life. Would you like being autistic? To be honest, I think that, given how our society and culture treats those who are different, I'd give you a week as an autist before you tried to kill yourself, and a further four weeks before you finally did it!
Following the success of my thesis at University, I am going to be changing a lot of what you see in these pages. I believe in differences in autism, rather than disability in autism (what disables me is the negative attitude of the general populace towards those who are different, the prejudices that those people have against those who are different and the refusal by "normals" generally to accommodate such differences as may be see in autistic people and schizophrenic people. In the end, people are individuals, and the true psychopathology is the one that makes people want to be all the same as each other!