Hi, I’m JoJo and I’m an aspie.
I guess I’ve known for a while, since the first time I actually read up on what high functioning autism entails and thought “Wow, that’s me!”, but now it is official. In fact, I’d have to say that I’ve always known that I was a little different, check out the URL… that was thought of way before anyone suggested ASD to me. One of my biggest fears is that some people will think the diagnosis is wrong. He *seems* normal enough. I don’t have an answer for that, other than to say that you have no idea how I feel.
It was my idea to get a diagnosis. The last 12 months have seen me push myself further and further outside of my comfort zone. Although I was having the time of my life, I was often left exhausted. Trying to be normal is very hard work.
Honestly, I don’t know how I managed to get through 24 years of life before anybody suggested I might be on the spectrum. The clues were all there. I didn’t start talking until late. I was more happy playing with a bag of pegs than with toys. I always struggled to make friends. I always struggled to fit in. I was the first kid to leave my own birthday party because of all the noise. I used to come home from school, put on my PJs and ask if I could go to bed yet. I was bullied at school constantly from year 7 onwards. I felt ill every morning before school. At the time I guess people thought it was a combination of stress and fakery, I used to agree, but now I think it was probably just a daily meltdown.
I don’t like eye contact. I don’t understand how eye contact works, where am I supposed to look, for how long, should I look away, why are you looking at me? I find it extremely uncomfortable, it makes me want to run away. Sitting down on either side of a table, looking directly into somebody else’s eyes is about as bad as it gets for me. I remember my boss once getting cross because I was standing in his office talking to him, he wanted me to sit down at his desk and talk because he felt threatened by me standing there arms crossed (I’m pretty big). I wish you had known how I felt when you made me sit down, I could barely contain my relief when Will’s parents arrived and the meeting was adjourned. Sometimes I get very cross with myself for not being able to make normal eye contact with people, one friend in particular, I don’t know, I must’ve stared at her photo for ages just practising looking in her eyes. She has beautiful eyes, they change colour (I tell her she’s special all the time, but she never believes me). I think I’ve attached so much weight to this in my mind that I’ve just made the task twice as difficult. I hounded her for ages for an up to date photo of her, I don’t think she realised what my real motives were for wanting it, I guess she does now. Lil’ Feet, I’m sure you won’t like me saying this, but you are the greatest girl in the universe.
I sometimes struggle to speak. My thoughts are pictures, I have to translate them into words that come out of my mouth and this process is both difficult and tiring. When I am in an extremely emotional state, the translation is more than I can manage and I stop speaking altogether, my friend calls it Lassie mode. Facts don’t require translation, they’re facts, they stand for themselves. If you think my range of topics of conversation is limited, then you should realise that if I’m talking to you at all then it means a lot, it is just easier for me to stick to topics I know and understand. It took me months before I felt comfortable enough with my clan mates that I bought a mic and started talking to them. They were collectively the second group of people I told, I knew they wouldn’t care, they’re awesome like that.
I don’t like noises. I find lots of noises to be very over stimulating and I struggle to remain focused on one thing. This could be the background noise of people whilst I’m trying to focus on someone talking. A single specific noise coming from a piece of equipment whilst I’m trying to work. Or just noise that’s too loud, like the shouty phone lady. I would be lost at work without my noise cancelling headphones. I can have Avenged Sevenfold on whilst I’m working and remain constantly focused, but the hum from the strip lights will stop me in my tracks. Which brings me nicely onto lights, which I also struggle with. My Dad has been on at me to fix one of the lights in my room for several years now, as far as I’m concerned it no longer hums and it no longer emits light, so it’s working perfectly. I’m lucky that the guys at work don’t like the lights either, so they don’t get turned on. If someone uses the meeting area by my desk and turns the lights on then the sudden change in light will cause me problems. Even the difference in light when my nearest colleague closes a couple of the blinds is problematic, I have to close mine as well to keep the balance right.
I get very preoccupied with the way things feel. I’m very funny about materials touching my skin. My bed and my clothes are all soft and nice. Growing up I was very fussy about scratchy stuff and labels. I have some LRG t-shirts now and they have a label that is built into the collar, oh man it takes every ounce of my will power not to claw my neck to pieces when I’m wearing them. I liked the way the t-shirts looked and so challenged myself to wear them, I refuse to give in. Then there is my arch nemesis, the suit and his friend, proper shoes. I hate these two items of clothing, they are despicable. I feel like they are attacking me like Venom does to Spidey. The only things I like fitted are my ball caps and my trainers. Baggy jeans, baggy t-shirt, baggy hoodie, AF1s, that’s how I come packaged on a day to day basis. Want me to wear a suit? You need to get married or die.
I struggle to read faces and body language. There isn’t really much to say here, it is what it is. There is a set of emoticons that people use on iOS, some of those faces confuse me. There is one with like an upside down smile, raised eyebrows and looking to the side, I don’t know what it means. Then there are a couple which are blue, are they choking, why are they blue? The worst one is one that my friend uses all the time, it’s got a zig zag mouth like a carved pumpkin and I hate it. What the hell is it trying to represent? Is it scared, is it unhappy, is it sick? I have actually asked her not to send me that smiley anymore, it really sets my mind into overdrive. People use smileys to add context to their words, sometimes that means they use words where the context is set entirely by the smiley. If I don’t understand the smiley then how can I understand the words, in these cases I will assume that they are intended literally, which is rarely ever the intention with entee words. Emotions in general are a problem for me, I know that people often think that I’m cold and unfeeling, it’s simply not the case, I just don’t know how to show you how I’m feeling. Sometimes I don’t even know how I’m feeling, I just know that I’m feeling a lot.
If you ask me “How does my hair look?”, I will always respond with “Lovely.”. It’s not because I don’t care, or that I don’t have an opinion, it’s just that I’ve learned that if your hair doesn’t look good you don’t actually want me to tell you that. I don’t like lying, but I’ve learned that sometimes it is expected. It’s a case of learning which questions fall into this category, unfortunately I often don’t realise when this sort of situation arises and so I end up hitting someone with the complete truth when they were expecting a nice sugar coated version as a minimum. Things like telling someone to “break a leg” for good luck, they make my brain hurt too. Again, I’ve learned many such phrases and now know they aren’t intended literally, but still there are some which I don’t know and confuse me greatly. The requirement to lie will often also trigger my Lassie mode.
I struggle with instructions. I ask a lot of questions. I want to know what you want from me so that I can give it to you. If I’m asking questions it’s because what you’ve said is not clear in my mind, or maybe because I can see a gaping hole in your logic (actually it’s normally a combination, I assume I’ve misunderstood because of the gaping hole I can see in your logic if not).
I have a routine and I need to stick to it. Yes, I need to leave work on time. Yes I need to come home and do my workout without being interrupted. No, I’m not very flexible in this area. I don’t like going places where I don’t have a clear picture in my head of where I’m going. This ties into needing clear instructions, please don’t tell me something like it is a fact if it isn’t. If you don’t know where we’re going, tell me, I’m going to find out either way, it’s better I know up front. “Will you turn into a pumpkin if you don’t leave at half four?”, nope, but now you know what effect it will have on me.
But hey there are upsides too!
I can focus on things forever. I seem to be able to spot details that others miss. I have an aptitude for understanding/learning, not necessarily for memorising large chunks of uninteresting (I guess this is subjective) data and parroting them back (partly the reason I melted down in my exams). I will always tell you the truth. I have a ridiculously strong moral/ethical compass, I will always do the right thing, even if it’s not the right thing for me. I can tell you pretty much anything about wrestling, or Apple, my mind is full of information that just seems to get trapped there. I am fascinated by accents, I could listen to my friend Amy speak all day long. I’m super loyal. I don’t have many friends, but I feel truly blessed to have the ones I’ve got (TWIT clan forever!). They are the best friends in the world. I mean this in the nicest possible way, but one of my friends is the closest I’ve ever come to meeting someone who thinks like me, but is still an entee. I like to think that I’d be like him if I was normal (it’s true Roy).
So now you know. Autism is my super power, what’s yours?