I am what some call a self-diagnosed autist. Others would call me a faker, a liar or an attention-seeking hypochondriac. Nevertheless, I consider autism to be a part of who I am, a rather large part of what makes me who I am. I realized I am autistic when I was doing research into the possibility that my son might be. I have lots of autistic characteristics, but are some major things which probably need some explanation and will tell you the most about me.
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)- I don’t process sensory input the way other people do. There are a number of things that fall under this umbrella, including, among other things:
- I have to work very hard to distinguish background from foreground. This applies to auditory and visual noise. Everything just registers at the same level of importance all the time and I have to put constant effort into processing what is actually important.
- Proprioception. This has to do with how we sense our body’s placement in the world and in relation to things in it. I don’t really feel where my own skin is, nor where my body is. I gauge that by vision. For example, if I don’t watch my feet walking down stairs, I feel like I’m stepping out into space. And, sometimes, I do.
- My sense of balance is terrible and I get a lot of vertigo from things like The Blair Witch Project.
- Thermoception. Sometimes I warmer than anyone else, sometimes cooler. I have poor body temperature control.
- I have little to no temporal sense. I can think about the passage of time and gauge it from clues, but I don’t feel it. (Ironically, I have a great memory for dates and timelines, but that has to do with math and patterns. Yeah, I’m that kind of autistic…)
- I have poor depth perception, and it’s not my eyes. Past a certain distance, the world looks like photographs. Which is why I don’t like photographs. It creeps me out how realistic they are. If I look at too many photographs, I start to not be able to tell what’s real and what’s a photograph and then I go around touching everything to make sure. It’s kind of like the scene in At First Sight when he can’t tell if it’s an apple or a picture of an apple until he touches it.
Executive Function Disorder (EFD)- This is where the brain has a dysfunction in the process of executing tasks. Basically, there are 4 steps to doing anything: planning, preparation, doing, evaluating the results. I’m actually fairly good at planning – I love it, can perseverate on it, actually – but, generally, fail in the second and third parts, preparing and doing. Mostly doing, really. Even with things I want to do, things I really love doing, I just. can’t. start. Example:
- Hey, it’s been a couple of hours, my stomach is ready for that cake I was saving, I should go get that and eat it.
- Yeah! I love cake! And I’m so happy about the prospect of eating the cake that I’ve got tons of energy to get up, walk in there and get that cake.
- What was that guy saying on tv? Wow, that’s cool. I never thought of that before.
- I’m going to go get that cake now.
- That’s a cool point that the book I’m reading just made. I wonder what that means for these three other things.
- I’m going to go get that cake, then after I eat that cake, I’m going to go get dressed and go pick food for the bunny. I wonder when the bunnies that I want to buy are going to be ready.
- *sit staring at the wall or the tv thinking about random things for 15 minutes*
- I’m going to go get that cake. I can’t wait to eat that cake.
- *get up, head toward the kitchen*
- Oh, while I’m up, I’ll hit the restroom. Then I’ll get that cake. I love cake!
- *make use of facilities, head back to couch, sit down, watch tv and read or journal for another half hour*
- Ooh, I need another bite of that cake I got before.(If I think about something enough, it feels like I did it.) Wait, where’s my cake? *think back* Crap, I never got it. Man, EF FAIL! This time, we’re doing it!
- *concentrate, focus on not losing focus, and put much mental effort into getting up, walking into the kitchen, and getting me my cake.*
That’s kind of a silly, hypothetical example but things like this happen to me all the time. Lots. I use this kind of scenario to show that this is not procrastination or laziness. Some days, I can’t even execute the process to get me some cake.
Anxiety- I read an article once where they talk about how they have found an enlarged worry center in some autistic brains. I definitely got that. I worry about things that have never happened, have little possibility of happening, or are, literally, impossible. I am anxious or phobic about:
- other creepy crawly things
- small spaces
- large spaces
- leaving the house
- large machinery
- falling and heights
- other people falling
- large bodies of water
- doing things wrong
- talking on the phone (which is also rolled up with my SPD because I can’t hear voices over the phone or focus on what they’re saying)
- more that it would be too tedious to list.
Some days the anxiety is more severe than others. Basically, my brain is on high alert most of the time, any time I leave my almost non-existent comfort zone. Even if it’s fun.
Relationships with People- There are many things that make relationships problematic for me:
- My brain doesn’t make a real distinction between objects and people. I can get very emotionally attached to objects, having as much of a relationship with them as many people I know. When people leave, if I like them, I “miss” them, but it feels the same as the wrongness that I feel when I change the furniture.
- People blend into the background just like everything else. I don’t have that thing where my eyes are drawn to faces.
- One of my anxiety inducers is knowing that people are looking at me. That makes it hard to make eye contact, which most of our American society thinks is absolutely crucial to personal interaction.
- My SPD extends to processing voices and words. It’s hard for me to hear people’s words, to the point that I watch tv with the captions on. People don’t have captions. Are you listening, Google Glass? =)
- I am what is known as an ambivert. All other things being equal, I am neither drained nor energized by social interaction. Though I have no drive to avoid personal interaction, I am not drawn to it. I can go a long time without seeing any people besides my husband and not really notice. Either way.
Perseveration and Fixed Interests-
- I watch the same shows and movies over and over again. If I watch new shows, I only like them to be the kind of shows I’m used to (cooking shows, interior design shows, other reality tv).
- I talk in movie and tv quotes, as well as song lyrics. It’s a kind of echolalia. I also repeat things and overexplain.
- I can only have one hobby and occupation at a time. When I decide I like something, I want to learn everything about it all the time. The more I learn, the more I want to learn.
- I see patterns everywhere. I can’t NOT see them. My mind can’t filter things out, so I categorize them as a way to make sense of chaos.
So that’s probably enough to be getting on with. That gives you enough of a basic picture of how my brainweird works so that we are on the same page.