I had a pleasant surprise today. Not the sort that jumps out from behind the sofa and makes you shat yourself after a week of constipation and not the kind that you say you like but you actually don’t. It was odd. It’s the sort of thing that happens where you’ve got this one idea in your mind about how things will pan out – like, based on no evidence whatsoever you generate and subsequently get obsessively anxiously attached to your idea of the way you think things will pan out when the given circumstances present themselves. That was where I was at earlier this week and up until this morning when the surprise came I maintained my position.
Being from England and living here in Mexico, to talk to friends and family I have to use Skype. This morning on a video call to a family member (whom I’ll not name for his own privacy because he’s funny like that and told me not to write about him for some reason), the conversation was more candid and honest than most of the conversations you or I might be used to when we’re talking with the regular human folk of the planet. (As opposed to when you’re reading this post writing by the king of oddball alien toons).
We talked about how I’ve recently come to a lull in my interest in and enthusiasm for most things – a cup that is rarely past mid-way full, if I’m totally honest. We spoke a little bit about how various spiritual principles and ideas are, for me at least, largely a waste of time and effort these days. We talked about how when people talk about “vibrational frequencies” it’s really useful because it gives you a heads up on who to avoid. And when the conversation was about half an hour to closing point, I got nervous and brave simultaneously when I heard that little voice inside of me saying “Go on, say it. See what happens.”
This particular family member is incredibly loving and supportive of me, my life and the choices I make. They are always there for me when I need them and do their best to give me what they feel I need to the best of their ability. Yet, for some reason, I had it in my projecting little head that they would react to what I was about to say in the same way that I reacted when someone first said it to me.
Let’s backtrack a wee bit. Let’s go back 2 years. Two years ago, I’m living in a 6×6 utility room in my Mum’s house for reasons I’ve explained before on this blog and for reasons which I feel are quite heavily enunciated by what I’ll go on to say in a moment. So, I’m living in this little room with a washing machine for a bedside table. The room is about 6×6 and I’m a bit taller than 6ft so it’s fairly cramped in there. I’m staying up until 8am every night to talk to my then girlfriend (now wife) Rosa over Skype (thank fuck for Skype, eh?) and as a result of this habit of staying up until 8am most nights on skype, I then sleep until 2/3pm in the afternoon. At the time I was also eating only burritos – prepared by myself – every single day for dinner in an attempt to get myself in “vibrational alignment” with Rosa whom I wanted to meet. Remember what I said about using “vibrational frequency” as a way to tell who to avoid? Yeah, I was in the Top 10 of “one to avoid” back then.
So, picture it. 20 year old man-boy measuring a little over 6ft, living in a 6×6 room, eating the same meal every day almost religiously and staying up until 8am every night to speak to his girlfriend on Skype. A tad eccentric, right? Right. Then chuck that with a life time of come-and-go friendships, severely lacking social skills, social anxiety, addictive tendencies and a notoriety in the family as someone who “takes no prisons”. My poor mum, bless her, was beside herself with the state of my life. This is a woman who I can affectionately call a very busy, very social and highly productive human but she saw what I was calling my life at the time and didn’t know how to feel about it.
I was mostly happy with my little routines. I would wake up just before my sisters came home from school, eat some Marmite on toast, play a bit of playstation, write a blog post or work on my novel or something like that and then come about 8pm give or take I’d be ready at Skype, fully equipped with a stack of burritos in hand (usually three or four – sometimes five) and then spend all night chatting away to the love of my life. I couldn’t complain, it wasn’t a difficult life really. Well, aside from the fact that I felt like a part of me was withering away due to the lack of exposure to the sun which wasn’t made easier by the already cloudy days of England. And aside from the fact that I would breakdown periodically about how I wanted nothing more than to be with Rosa and get out of the little room I had grown so accustomed to. Oh and aside from the fact that I tore up my o-ring every single time I went for a shit because my stools were like fucking rock-sausages thanks to all those beany-burritos.
My mum, watching from the outside, wasn’t really sure what to make of it all and – I imagine – seeing her eldest boy in the position I was in wasn’t so easy for her. Well, I say “I imagine”, she has told me it wasn’t easy for her to see. Anyway, she started quietly talking to some people and asking questions about what was going on with me and seeing if there were some sort of answers that would in some way provide justification to the odd behaviour I was exhibiting.(Also, no I wasn’t working. I have never been able to actually function in a conventional workplace. At the time I’m talking about here, I couldn’t have told you why. That will be clear in a moment).
Skip to the end, one day my mum knocked on the utility room door and asked me to come and speak to her in the kitchen. Pushing my way through the door that would only open partially because of the stacked up bed quilts I had laid on the floor (my bed), I joined her in the kitchen. I sat at the breakfast bar while my mum emptied the dishwasher and proceeded to tell me that she thought I had something called Aspergers Syndrome. Not really knowing what it was – having only heard of it from a friend I had in college and that one scene in BBC’s Sherlock where Sherlock Holmes insists that he doesn’t have Aspergers (even though he does) and that he is instead a “high-functioning sociopath” – I fought her on it.
If you don’t know what Aspergers is, it’s basically high-functioning autism. It’s on the autistic spectrum but at the far end. What that means is that in many ways people will Aspergers act and speak just like everybody else (or “neuro-typicals”) with exceptions in terms of social prowess, cue taking, sometimes impulse regulation and a few other things. It’s a difficult thing to sum up without basically just saying “it’s autism but not super strong autism” so I think the best thing to say is that it’s basically that the Aspergers brain works a bit differently to the typical brain. Meaning, people with Aspergers see patterns where others don’t necessary; people with Aspergers don’t have the intuitive empathy that most people have – instead people with Aspergers have only the ability to interpret the base-line of social signals (for example, instead of knowing that someone is feeling depressed or lonely intuitively the Aspergers brain will only be able to intuitively interpret that that person isn’t okay or – in more severe cases – that something isn’t right without being able to place what isn’t right.)
It also has within it certain hallmarks of ADD/ADHD and certain learning disabilities although it isn’t itself a learning disability. Oh and most people with Aspergers have a higher than neuro-typical IQ and find themselves filling the gaps in their social etiquette and conduct base game patch by consciously acting and speaking in a certain way in order to appear neuro-typical and get by in the world. Some people with Aspergers are incredible at this, so much so that you’d never guess they have Aspergers.
See what I mean, hard to explain! It’s pretty complex. It’s not like depression where you can sum it up by saying “deep emotional pits of despair where the light of the sun fades to grey and everything seems bleaker than it probably should.” Oh, I just went on Google and it says that Aspergers is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.” That’s the tip of the iceberg, Google, but it’s more concise that what I just tried to do, eh? Probably should’ve just Googled it in the first place.
Anyway, when my my mum told me that she thought I had Aspergers, I responded as most teens of the “New Age” movement likely would. To me, at the time, all conventions other than archaic ones were evil (more or less), so I got quite defensive and annoyed when mum brought it up. She pushed though and asked me to come to see the doctor with her to see what they’d say about it. I reluctantly agreed. She was right by the way. Listen to your mums kids. They know shit. And, usually – if they’re paying attention and not on their smartphones 24/7 – they know you.
So, today when I sat down on Skype with this family member of mine, the conversation came around to a moment where I felt this rippling, counter-intuitive urge to put myself in the potentially very vulnerable position of telling this person a bit about the fact that I have Aspergers and what it’s like. As I said earlier, I had already done a rather marvellous job of convincing myself that telling them that I have Aspergers would cause them to sort of judge me in the way that I judged the idea of having Aspergers when the idea was first presented to me.
The surprise was that their response was quite the opposite. Instead of judgements and close-downs, I got support and understanding. In fact, they said to me that it’s a gift and that I’m clearly the way I am for a reason. They said that I should use it to my advantage and just make sure that it doesn’t stop me growing.
Needless to say, I was like “Wow. Shit man. Das coo'”. So happy that that was the result. Especially since it was only really my immediate family like Rosa, my mum, sisters and stuff that knew before. I’ve not actually come out and talked about it at all since it first came into my life. And I think that maybe now it’s time to consider starting to do that a bit more. Who knows, maybe I know a few people with Aspergers that have been a bit afraid to speak up about it too! If that’s you, let me know. That’d be cool. Maybe we can chat, or like, sit in silence and misread each others vague inexpressive cues. Or take it in turns to rant about what we love. Either or works for me.
Also, did you see the cat?