The artists easel

The empty wooden frame sits in the corner of the studio, cobwebbed and forgotten. The brushes, once meticulously cleaned after each use lie, bristled hardened to points by the old paint that has dried on them, the colours still bright against the dark brown of the fibres despite the passing weeks of neglect. The drop cloth spread on the floor waiting to receive rainbow splashes and drips from the frenzy of activity associated with each creative outpouring of emotion, unstained, crumpled, abandoned. The room, once full of vibrant life, colourful passion, expression, sound and fury, silent now, the dust motes in the air sparkling as they pass through the shafts of sunlight streaming through the picture windows, whilst outside in the street pedestrians, cars, bikes, buses pass as if this was any other week, any other time, as if this was normal.

The sun sets, and with it the room is transformed, bathed in a rich red glow, blood red, the colour matching the stain spread around the battered old armchair, his favourite chair, a relic of better times, salvaged from his flat before the repo-men took everything. Button backed, old leather and dark wood, a quality piece as so many of his belongings had been, but no more, the cost of fame so bright it burned too briefly, passing with the fashion, the artists too fixed, too rigid to change his style, too keep pace with the every changing demands of clients and dealers. The commissions dried up, just as the paint on the brushes has dried, just as the blood stains under the old chair have dried. Another day, another week, the door of the studio fails to open as, un-noticed, un-remarked the artists body stiffens and decomposes, rotting into the leather of the seat, as forgotten as the works which once made his name…

The Wild Hunt

The sound of hoof beats mixed with the baying of the hounds as the hunt approached the copse. The quarry had been sighted and the huntmaster gave tongue to his horn, the traditional summon call for the rest of the hunt pack. The whipper in drove the dogs forward, helping them to catch the scent as the pursuit quickened. Mud and clods of sod flew as the horses crossed the ground at speed, the trees coming ever closer. The smell of sweat, the clouds of fog from flaring nostrils, the heavy breath sharp in the cold winter air.

 The first horses reached the copse, ploughing on, the lower branches of the trees tugging and whipping at the riders, nature working with the quarry to slow the hunts progress. The dogs, less encumbered by size crash through the undergrowth, flanks heaving as the climax draws near. Their baying turns to rapid barking as the quarry is sighted, the sound alerting the lead riders making them drive their horses deeper into the trees.

 The mist returns, mixing with the fog of sweat and steam as the last horse enters the copse. The sound of the dogs and the horns and the hoofbeats fade as the wind sighs. Quietly, almost unnoticed, the quarry slips away, a hint of a smile on her time-worn features, the witch survives for another year…

Neural compartments or bring your own box

This post is triggered by the NT phrase “Thinking outside the box” to which my instinctive reply has always been “What box?” but recently I started to think differently because I realised that pretty much everything I do is contained within a discrete box in my head. I’m not sure how much sense that makes :s so I’ll try to explain. I have a great many thoughts about a great many things, some of which are useful, some not so much, some are about things that are active in my life, some are more random, and if I let them they tend to get mixed up and make things more difficult to explain to anyone else even if they are still discrete and clear in my head. An example – I was talking to an NT colleague about a couple of projects that we are working on together and his comment was “Well that was confusing, you were talking about both projects simultaneously and I kept losing track of which one we were talking about” – I hadn’t realised that doing that would be a problem. The projects are related and there are overlaps between them so it makes sense to talk about them at the same time, but apparently that is confusing. 

So, in my head things make perfect sense, I know what I mean and what box the thoughts are coming from, that part isn’t an issue. I’m now starting to understand that just because things make sense to me that does not mean that thee is automatically shared synergy in someone else’s head, and that conflating ideas from different boxes on the fly doesn’t work for many people, so I have started to try to order things differently. The boxes in my head that are linked have an access password and I am training myself to use that password as a trigger to remind me to explain to whoever I am talking to that we are shifting to a thought from another box and how that relates to the current conversation. 

Life is confusing sometimes :s I’ll work on the clarity of this thought I think but I want to leave it up as is for now….writing it is helping :s

Hiding in plain sight

Sometimes I don’t feel very friendly, very sociable. I am better than I was. I remember not speaking to anyone socially from the age of 12 to about 14, and that was…a difficult time. It tends to be more prevalent when I have a lot going on in my head, a lot of projects I need to focus on and I don’t have the neural runtime to process the inputs that socialising requires. I think it is because it doesn’t come naturally that causes this process but I’m not sure if socialising is natural as anthropologists suggest. I have read that humans are social animals but that doesn’t equate to the way NT’s seem to treat each other so I remain skeptical.

Anyway, the upshot of this requirement for solitude is the development of a coping strategy that seems to work. I have developed the ability to generate what I call my “Go away” field, and yes that is the polite name for it 🙂 Think of the way people describe personal space. Now think of the borders of that personal space being quite heavily fortified. It is kind of like that but it extends quite significantly and even in a relatively crowded room I can often find myself enough of a sanctuary that I remain largely undisturbed, relatively safe. I sometimes wonder if this is a healthy strategy or whether I should push myself harder to “fit in” better?

For now I think I’m pretty good at knowing my limits and that this strategy is appropriate, but it does raise the question of how my coping strategies affect those around me. Do they help me to integrate into a mainly NT world? Do they further the my of raising awareness of differences and thereby acceptance of neural diversity? Or do they simply hide my differences away from everyone else and make me appear “normal”? Should I even be asking these questions?

I guess this is one of the reasons for writing this blog in the first place? Somewhere I can explore my thoughts and try to make sense of a World that often doesn’t :s

Friday feelings

I don’t really understand the whole “Weekend” thing. Since I was about thirteen I have been working weekends and holidays, after school, whenever I had spare time. Now I’m older I still work weekends as well as during the week. I like to keep busy I guess? There is an issue though, and as with so many things I’m not sure where the Aspie mind ends and assorted other factors take over but I can’t seem to put the same sort of effort into keeping my living space in any sort of order, or anything approaching tidyness. I have always been accused of being lazy, not washing my clothes, not picking up, not vacuuming, whatever, but I just don’t notice that stuff like that needs doing most of the time. It isn’t that I don’t know that it is important, I just don’t see it as necessary compared with, say, walking the dog, or getting some writing done, or preparing for the coming week, so it gets left, and I get accused of being lazy, disorganised, slovenly.

I’ve heard from other Aspies that this isn’t uncommon but I wonder what lies at the root of it. Is it that our brains operate so differently in terms of what we find important? Are we more tolerant of disorder because we don’t see it as such? I know that I can look at a pile of stuff and pretty much instantly break it down into what I need and what I can use, what is useful and what is trash without having to go through it. Does an Aspie mind have a in-bulit ability to analyse complex situations like an apparently chaotic room? Is this why we tend towards being good at solving complex mental problems in mathematics, art, storywriting? Is it akin to the enhanced ability in spacial awareness reported in people with Dyslexia?

I think what I’m getting at here is this concept that just maybe these conditions, disorders whatever you want to call them that make us different, that are considered disabilities may also have some positive aspects to them. I know this isn’t groundbreaking stuff to many of us, but maybe we need to focus on the positives a little more in our communications with the NT community and particularly with those in education, those preparing lesson plans and trying to be inclusive of the Aspie student sitting in the corner. If we play to our strengths whilst still acknowledging and working on our weaknesses wouldn’t we be more likely to have successful outcomes in terms of bringing some really quite useful skills to the mainstream?

Just my thoughts 🙂

Sunday night preparations

I have rituals. I’ve never been sure whether this is part of my Asperger mind or a function of my OCD, or whether the OCD is also part of my Aspie way of thinking, or whether they are seperate but inform one another….and so we have an example of the complexity of trying to sort out Aspergers Syndrome from mental health issues. I’m going out on a limb here, and these are only my own thoughts but I don’t consider Aspergers as a mental health issue like depression, or OCD, maybe I should, but I don’t. It is also an example of how easy it is for an Aspie mind to get locked into a loop of trying to sort out what is going on in that mind. Maybe I shouldn’t try to sort it out, but there are different strategies for coping with Asperger characteristics and OCD characteristics so I really have to try to sort out what is affecting what in my head, I have to risk going into that loop, and sometimes I get locked in for a while, sometimes I can straighten things out, but it is always a risk.

I wonder sometimes if NT’s have these same issues? I don’t know how an NT mind works so I don’t know if they have these constant streams of consciousness type internal debates, conversations, arguments. I don’t know if they have the same sense of risk, of danger in exploring their own minds, the risks of getting locked in and shutting down? I don’t know if the questions would even make sense to an NT person.

Whatever the reason, I have my rituals that I follow, and if I can’t I get nervous, anxious, uncertain and that affects how I function, maybe for an hour, maybe for a week, so again there are risks. One of my rituals is to ensure that I have time for performing my other rituals. Is that a little recursive? I don’t know, I’m just trying to find ways to get through each day, and to try to be functional enough to be of use to the students I work with, and to try to make sense of the structured chaos that is my brain. That’s a big part of why I’m writing this blog I think. We’ll see how it goes….

Introductions

I guess the place to start one of these blog thingies is to tell you, dear reader a little about your protagonist, to whit, me 🙂 I’ve known I felt different, out of place since I was about seven years old, although saying that, I have very few memories before about age twelve, nothing clear, just feelings. I didn’t really have friends growing up, never had a birthday party, never had people round after school, I didn’t really understand how to make friends, or why I would want to. People are generally confusing and scary and I had trouble understanding them although I have learned some coping strategies that help. I spent my free time around dogs and horses. Animals are much easier to be around than people, and much easier to communicate with.

I had a pretty ok childhood as far as I remember but my mom died when I was fourteen and I had a bit of a nervous breakdown, the first of four, which set me back a little bit. I’m not sure why I had it, but I think it was probably the stress of nursing my mom, and the experience of being with her when she died that was all a little too much. I did ok as far as exams went at school, and ended up at University, doing a degree that wasn’t really right for me, but I did ok at that as well. I’m pretty good at passing exams, and I learn new things pretty quickly if I’m allowed to do it in my own way.

I’ve worked in sales, because it seemed like a good way to force myself to understand other people better, and I was ok at that too, got promoted, got headhunted by bigger companies, moved up the ranks, then I had to give that up about six years ago to nurse my dad when he started to get really ill with aesophageal cancer. He couldn’t eat so it was pretty tough but I managed to keep him at home for most of the three years from diagnosis to his death. That was what he wanted, so that’s what happened, but I had been selling datacentre equipment to banks, and the banks stopped buying when they ran out of money so there was no job for me to go back to, and I was too specialised for other industries to take me on, so I got told I was on the scrap heap.

I didn’t like it there so I went another way and started helping people who were struggling with University. Some of them had mental health problems, some had learning disabilities but I found that I could show them ways that helped them work better and achieve the results they wanted. I did it just to see if I could, and to help people, I like helping people, I like to be helpful, it gives me worth and value I think. I managed to get a job doing the supporting of students at University and that’s what I do now, mostly students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and dyslexia, and mostly in creative subjects, and I really enjoy it.

So, that’s a bit about me, it will do for now I think. It gives you an idea of the sort of experiences that have shaped who I am, and what I am about. I’m pretty messed up mentally, and I struggle sometimes with communication but I think I’m doing better than I have, and hopefully I’m helping other people along the way. I’m not sure how this blog is going to develop, but I think it might be good for me, and maybe someone will read it and enjoy it. Who knows? 🙂

Home

Hello, I’m Matt, and I’m on the Autism Spectrum. I’m a nice guy, or so I’m told and I know some stuff about life, disability, mental health and a few other things as well 🙂 I like putting emoticons in text because it helps me to understand meaning and context better. I thought I would start a new blog all about me, my life and how life affects me. Maybe it will be useful for someone, maybe it is just to help me get ideas straight in my head. Either way, it seems like a good idea so here we go 🙂 Sit back, relax, read and hopefully enjoy!