Blog Archives

Picturing Aspergers

(It only took me to March to get posting again… not bad, right?)

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There’s nothing I hate more than having my picture taken. It’s not bad enough that I think I look terrible in about 96.318% of the photos I’m in – my wife will argue that it’s way less than that… okay fine, 95.279%, better? Everyone seems to have that problem. My problem is the actual taking of the picture. I can never have my picture taken without standing there and feeling like a complete ass.

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“When you said ‘cheese’ I thought you meant the camera was made of cheese.”

Think about the whole process for a second. I am extremely uncomfortable making eye contact with other people. Now, I have someone pointing a camera at me, most likely zooming in close on my face. It’s very intimidating. At least in regular situations I know when people are looking at me so I can avoid eye contact. With the camera in the way, I’m flying blind. My defenses are down! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!!!!

Hence problem number 1: I always end up looking away from the camera when my picture is taken.

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I call it the “terrified of something just out of frame” look.

Next comes the “direction” phase. Ah yes, how I hate this part with an immeasurable passion. This is the part where the photographer tries to get everything to get everything in the picture to look just right. For most people, this consists mainly of the person taking the photo saying “smile!” and then taking the picture. For me, not so simple. Instead, I get “okay smile… come on, bigger! Whoa, okay, not THAT big. Why are you tilting your head to the side like that? Straighten up a little. No, now you’re tilting farther, the other way. Okay, hold still. And smile… look at me now, and… head up just a bit… okay, you’re smiling too big again… you know what? Fine,” and they take the picture.

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It’s the “whatever is out of frame should be terrified of me” look.

How am I supposed to look normal in a picture when I can’t even make myself normal in real life?

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Interaction

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It has been brought to my attention from one of my followers – who also happens to live in the same house as I do and also happens to be married to me – that I need to be more interactive with my commenters and followers. Apparently, this “follower” has not been paying attention to any of the posts on this blog… or the behavior tendencies of her husband for the past fourteen years.

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She also doesn’t know about the meth lab I have running in the basement.

Breaking news: I have Aspergers. Also breaking news: people with Aspergers are generally bad at interacting with others. So yeah, you could say that my people skills are not exactly up to par. When interacting with people, at best I come off awkward and strange. At worst, I come off like a heartless, uncaring sociopath. And I thought one of the goals of this blog was to attract readers, not repel them.

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I would not be the first person to make that mistake.

With that being said… as much as it pains me to say so – because I’ll never live it down – this “follower” is right. I should be conversing with my commenters and followers. Sure, I can post personal and interesting things for you to read, but what better way to reach out than to talk to my readers and respond to their questions and comments directly? We might start a a conversation that never would have been explored without that direct level of interaction.

So, along with responding to emails, I will also be answering comments on my posts when the situation calls for it. And yes, I will also be responding to comments from that certain “follower” as well.

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If I have the strength left after heaing “I told you so” 1,364 times.

Autism and Bullying

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Bullying seems to be a hot topic nowadays. I’m not sure why all of a sudden EVERYBODY is all up in arms about this. It’s not like bullying is something new that kids just came up with this year, like listening to crap music like Lorde. Bullying has been around for quite a while. The first recorded use of the word “bully” occurred in 1530 (yes, I looked it up; I don’t spend all day making up fake facts for this blog, I’ll have you know), but the concept goes back way before that. There were even bullies in the Bible, for Christ’s sake.

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Jesus likes!

Because of the nature of bullying behaviors, children on the autism spectrum at at a higher risk of being victims of bullying. Bullies often single out those who are weak or socially outcast and make an example of them. It’s not always about physical violence. The main motivation is an attempt by the bully to feel superior to others and to be looked at as being in a position of power. Due to the characteristics of autism (weak sensory perception, social awkwardness,  etc.), children with autism or aspergers are juicy targets for the bully to get what he or she wants.

A parent of a child with special needs is then faced with a difficult situation. Very often, children with autism will have difficulty communitcating to the parents that they are being bullied. The emotions that come with being pushed around are hard to understand; the child may claim to feel sad, tired, or simply hide their feelings in order to avoid them. It is the parents’ job to keep an keen eye on the child’s temperment and watch for any changes that may indicate that something is wrong.

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Or just outsource the job to the Chinese.

Bullies prey on fear; they count on their targets being to afraid to report them or do anything about it. Children with autism are already scared and anxious to begin with. A bully doesn’t even have to work hard to intimidate these kids; half the job is already done for them.

Another reason why it may be hard for parents to detect when their child is being bullied is that the child may not even realize that they are being mistreated. To children with social deficits, a bully may seem like a friend. After all, it’s someone who is talking to them and giving them attention. That’s a friend, right? Doesn’t matter if that the “friend” is taking their stuff, slugging them in the arm, and calling them names behind their back. That must be what friends do!

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“Mom! Tommy and I are gonna go play ‘Get Beat Up By Tommy!’ “

Now, it’s clear that special needs children are especially vulnerable to bullying. However, all of you special needs parents shouldn’t jump up on your high horse and think your child will always and forever be free of blame when it comes to bullying. Remember all of that anxiety and fear I was talking about before? Well, a funny thing about those negative emotions – they tend to send you child’s self esteem crashing faster than Healthcare.gov.

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Obama no likes.

These drops in self esteem can lead to children with special needs becomingthe bully. If the child has trouble understanding how to address social situations, the chance of inappropriate behaviors evolving into bullying is higher. We can’t just look at our children as wonderful little angels and allow ourselves to be blind to the other side of the coin. If you don’t want you child to be bullied, you have a responsibility to make sure your child doesn’t turn into one.

It’s clear that bullying is a critical subject that should be discussed with our children. We need to teach our children to be respectful of one another no matter what the situation. Remember, kids grow up to be people; the last thing you want to be responsible for is letting you kids turn into assholes when they are older.

Bad News is Bad

 

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Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than hearing about someone else’s bad news. Most normal people have trouble with this also, but my reasons are particularly aspie-ish. It’s not the bad news itself that bothers me, it’s the fact that I have no idea how I’m supposed to react.

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Probably not the best reaction.

I really don’t know what to say. I don’t want to brush the bombshell off like it’s nothing, but I also don’t want to dwell on the negatives and reinforce just how bad everything sucks for this person. So most of the time I just get socially paralyzed and try not to react at all, which makes me look wooden and heartless. The best case scenario is when someone else besides me is involved in the conversation, because then I can pretend I wasn’t listening and didn’t hear what’s going on.

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Being oblivious comes off better than being rude.

Then, sometimes my Aspergers kicks in and I just don’t seem to care. It’s horrible to say, but it’s true – often, my first reaction is to figure out if and how the news will affect me. I may be self centered, but that comes with the Aspie territory.

A coworker of mine is currently going through some health problems. As he was explaining the situation to the rest of the staff on the shift, I found myself desperately trying to avoid eye contact, pretending to be heavily involved in my work. What am I supposed to say? I can’t console anybody. I’ll do more harm than good. The situation may involve him missing some time. My thoughts? “Man, this is going to make us short handed. We are going to have to bust some ass to get the work done.” I’m not joking; this guy is gravely ill, and I’m worried about how my work flow is going to change.

What the hell? What is wrong with me?

It gets worse – when he actually started to miss time, I started to get a little pissed off because work was so busy. I was resenting the guy because he had the nerve to get cancer and require chemotherapy sessions.

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“My bad. I’ll be back to work on Monday.”

At least I’m self-aware enough to realize how disturbed and callous this is. That’s why I figure it’s better to keep my mouth shut than to tell him what’s on my mind. Still, I can’t deny that my first thoughts are how the situation affects me, as if that is the most important thing. But that’s the reality of having Aspergers – the whole world revolves around you, even when it doesn’t.

Fancy NOT Meeting You Here

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A good rule of thumb concerning my social interactions is to assume that everything is extremely awkward unless otherwise specified. Today is no different.

Today I nearly ran into a co-worker of mine in the supemarket. I say “nearly” because he was literally two feet away from me at one point, only I didn’t notice him because I was busy trying to corral my crazy children and prevent them from running around and making a total mess of the place.

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Cleanup in aisle 4.

I honestly don’t know if he noticed me or not; I only realized it was him when he was walking away and facing the opposite direction. I considered myself lucky, though. I didn’t want to say hi anyway.

I hate that situation. I hate meeting someone that you know well from a certain setting, but meeting them in a completely different environment. It’s like running into someone from your church at the porno shop – it’s awkward, it’s strange, it doesn’t make any sense. For me, it’s escpecially difficult. As an Aspie, I find comfort in routines. This includes social interaction – I know what subjects I can talk about with certain people without seeming weird. When I’m at work with work people I can talk work things. But what do I talk about when I meet work people in the supermarket? Supermarket things?

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“Did you see the endcap between aisles 6 and 7? Crazy deals, man.”

This gets even more difficult when I run into someone and I cannot remember where I know them from, even if my life depended on it. I end up trying to coax information out of them to figure out why the hell I know them. Meanwhile, they have a certain expectation of the conversation, which I am obviously and painfully failing to fill. Now you know why I consider myself lucky that I ducked my coworker.

I spent the rest of the shopping trip looking around nervously, hoping to avoid him. I didn’t want to bump into him without warning, but I also didn’t want to make accidental eye contact while trying to locate him. Thankfully, I was able to avoid him for the rest of the shopping trip.

Now, all I need to do is come up with some excuse why I didn’t say hi when I see him at work tomorrow.

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Works for me.

Feeling Stupid

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It really is a no-win situation.

There were some issues with the bank that needed to get taken care of this morning… ok, fine, I’ll admit it. I forgot my PIN number for my bank card. As if I wasn’t already feeling stupid for the other stuff that I’m about to talk about. Thanks a lot, dickwad.

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Yes. Yes it did.

But I digress.

In order to get my PIN number reset, I had to call the bank and deal with (errrrg) customer service. This is not one of my many talents. In fact, I usually come off sounding more awkward than that friend of yours who asks you to be the best man at his wedding after his fiancee has already cheated on him with you. We’ve all been there, right?

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“So how are things going with the florist?”

So, this situation leaves me with only the following options:

A) Call the bank myself, and make a complete and utter ass of myself in the process

B) Ask my wife to do it.

Now many of you are saying, “Well, duh. If you can’t do it yourself, let you wife do it.” However, option B comes with a whole new set of problems. See, the customer service guy ALWAYS needs to confirm my identity before anything can be done. In order to do that, he needs to ask me to verify personal information. So my wife has to hand me the phone so I can talk to the customer service guy. There’s no escape for me, and now even the guy on the phone knows how big a douche I am.

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“Hey Bill! Check it out, it’s another lame ass guy who needs his wife to use the phone for him!”

Now, bless my wife, she tries to make things better by softening the blow and telling the customer service rep flat out that I “don’t like to use the phone.” It means a lot to me that she tries, but I don’t think for one second that it makes me look any more normal in the eyes of the person on the other end of the phone. They know the deal, they know what’s up.

So, inevitably, I threw a tantrum later, because I HATE feeling stupid. I only felt better after playing a car racing game with my kids and showcasing my mad skills.

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Because video games.

It is still nice to know that I have a family who cares for me – a wife who loves me enough to do the things for me that I can’t do myself, and children who will gladly have their asses handed to them on a platter so I can feel better about myself.

What Does Aspergers Feel Like?

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It’s a phrase I hear from often at home. It’s a phrase I’ve used myself from time to time. When you hear it, you know exactly what it means.

“I’m feeling a bit aspie today.”

Yeah, totally. We all have days like that. But what does that really mean? What does Aspergers feel like?

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“I LOVE it when he uses the title of the post in the post!!!”

Aspergers is a unique condition due to the fact that no two people who have Aspergers are the same; there are very few unifying symptoms. What one Aspie experiences will not be felt by another, and vice versa. So it may seem pretentious of me to write a blog post about how Aspergers feels. To avoid coming off sounding like a complete asshole, I’ll make this post about how Aspergers feels to me.

To me, Aspergers feels:

Awkward – this is pretty much the default, base line feeling of Aspergers. It always seems like everyone else understands what’s going on except for me. I’m doing my best to keep up, but I seem to do everything the wrong way. And everyone’s looking at me because of it.

Stressful – I’m often very aware of the fact that I’m not quite with it, that I’m a puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit into its space. I want to be able to follow along, to get with the beat, to approach some sort of normalcy. But it’s not easy. It takes effort. And when that effort fails, I get stressed that I’ll never be what I want to be.

Carefree – Then again, Aspergers gives me the ability to be blissfully ignorant of the annoyance I’m causing other people in some situations. As long as I’m feeling good and having fun, I can completely block out everyone and not even give a shit about being the weirdest person in the room. It’s these times when Aspergers becomes – dare I say it – fun!

Powerful – Aspergers gives me the ability to do things that most neurotypical people are not capable of. I’m able to think through most situations rationally, setting aside any emotions I may have and avoiding the biases that come with them. I’m able to process information faster than most people, which gives me the illusion of looking smarter – when in reality, my brain is simply more efficient at learning. I also have the ability to burden myself with painful situations and push through without falling apart mentally.

Weak – On the other hand, sometimes the smallest annoyance can seem like the biggest pain I could ever experience. A fold in my sock becomes an immediate emergency. I can’t cope with simple everyday situations that almost everybody else shrugs their shoulders at and moves on. I end up melting down over the smallest thing that doesn’t go my way.

Alone – I haven’t made any new friends since I graduated from high school. I don’t know how. The sad truth is this: I really DO want friends. People with Aspergers (and autism as well) may seem antisocial, but it’s not because we don’t want to be social. It’s because we have no fucking clue how to be social, so we’d rather just avoid the situation instead of failing miserably.

Loved – I can be such a pain to deal with, I know for sure that the people in my life truly do love me and care about me. Otherwise, they wouldn’t bother putting them through the shit they go through to be connected to me. It’s not an easy thing to love an Aspie, or even to be good friends with one. There’s a lot of take and sometimes not that much give. But when someone gets to know me and understands that there’s a person inside who wants to care about people, soemthing magical happens… they actually like me.

Passionate – The things I’m interested in, I jump in full force. I want to know everything about it. I’m competitive, high spirited, I love knowing things, and I love being right. There’s no better feeling than being completely engrossed in a subject to the point where every new detail is a gift.

Bored – The things I’m not interested in, I couldn’t give less of the square root of a shit about. God help you if you want to have a conversation with me about something that bores me, because I’ll tune out faster than you even realize it and two days later I’ll insist that the conversation never happened. And to me, it didn’t… because I was off in my imagination doing something else that I care infinitely more about than your stupid thing.

And lastly…

To me, Aspergers feels like life. This is my life, and these are the difficulties that come with it. Everyone has things they deal with in their life, whether you are on the spectrum or neurotypical or whatever you want to call yourself. We learn to live the way we are.

My Aspergers doesn’t make me any less or any more human than anybody else. It just makes me who I am.