The Difference Between Immaturity and AS/HFA

This entry comes as a result of the work I’ve been doing for the book. It’s proceeding rapidly, I should stress. In theory I should step away completely from this blog to write it. However I won’t do that. This blog is my heart and soul. The book is an adaptation of it. Much of the writing has unlocked ideas for blog entries. Why let good material go to waste?

As kids, we frequently have the excuse of our immaturity for our mistakes. Most bullies aren’t malicious kids, I believe. They’re acting on learned behavior. Many of them outgrow it. Some of the kids I was at odds with are friends today. What qualifies a story from childhood as different from any other?

I’ve pondered that as I dig through my past. After all, how do I cite what falls under AS/HFA and what was just being a kid? There are so many stories that fit on either side of the line. What falls where? This is rather funny when you consider that in theory my disorder was more pronounced as a kid than as an adult. But I can tell easier now than then. Regardless, why not try?

The obvious ticks get to go in the AS/HFA box. Eye contact heads there. My weird speech. My insistence on routine. The way I walked through a bookstore. (1) All of that fits easily in that realm.

Then there are the parts that go in the typical kid section. I was a skittish kid. I tended to make weird jokes. I was rude in certain expected ways. I liked dreadful movies, tv, and books. Yeah, that all goes to immaturity.

Certain parts waver past certain points. The fits in particular. Those were normal at 4, irritating at 6, getting weird at 8, troubling at 10. At 31, they’re problematic as can be, even diagnosed as I am. They definitely fall under AS/HFA now but there as a time I suspect not.

I’m guilty of having teased a few times. That falls under immaturity. It is forever on my soul that I once made fun of a girl in elementary school, calling her up to mock her. It seemed normal and I don’t think I would have done it if I wasn’t trying to be ordinary. Still, total party foul. Immaturity big time.

One other teasing incident falls under being a kid but it feels very AS/HFA anyway. One of my friends’ fathers held one of his other children hostage one night. I remember seeing the SWAT team outside my window and everything. He ultimately killed himself. I brought it up rather badly the next time I saw him. Immature, but sadly reminds me of many habits I have. I’m still not very good at handling sensitive subjects. (2)

Then there are the obvious moments. I’ve always felt my literalness as a kid was far more obviously due to the neurological issues. I got downright offended when teachers called me out for innocent behavior like the pretend games. Even when they weren’t necessarily trying to, I would get hurt by being made to feel like less of a person for that. It happened several times too. I’ll say it again: childhood is frustrating.

One story really stands out for me though. This one I have carried for 21 years. My humiliation over this moment can legally get drunk! One afternoon in early 1994, my mom invited one of my friends to go see Ace Ventura: Pet Detective with us. I did not want to see it. (3) I wanted to see Blank Check. (4) So, without thinking, I ditched my friend to see Blank Check. When my mother impressed what I did on me that night, I instantly felt profound and severe remorse, crying my eyes out for hours. I didn’t mean to do anything wrong. I just wanted to see a good movie.

What was my sickened thought process? I was at the movies. That was what mattered. When I watched a movie, the other people didn’t matter. It was about the movie. I would love to say my shame over this error taught me not to do this kind of thing again. No, this happened in various forms 3-4 more times. Even when I did go with friends, once or twice I tried to get in for free including at Harold and Kumar Go To WhIte Castle which I KNEW I would hate. (5)

So yes, that’s what you need to look for regarding an AS/HFA moment: Our intentions. Look for our mental eye lines in a moment to see what our screw ups come from. Trust me, we’ll be just as frustrated as you are once we see it.

Ultimately it’s all childhood too. Childhood is where we screw up so we can learn to do better as we grow up and make many more new errors.

(1) I still do all of these things admittedly.

(2) Irony: I’m active in activism for equality. Believe me, I step wrong often there. I care though.

(3) Good call in retrospect. That movie has aged like garbage in the sun.

(4) Good call undone. Blank Check is much worse.

(5) I got in for free…to the first one. Paid full price on the awesome sequels. I was wrong.

Six Months Later

In grief, six months is a powerful mark to pass. 6 months is half a year. It’s a nice long period of time. Much can happen. Relationships often die before this mark. School years are 2/3 over. It’s a true, sizable chunk of time. No wonder for the mourning it’s one of their darkest days.

I come to this point today sadly. Lauren Dunn has been gone for six months. Initally I didn’t want to write on this moment. I truly have said all I can say on her, which is satisfying. Yet I find myself in the same room I escaped to in the darkest depths to try to convey my feelings on this moment anyway.

Why? Well, I’m not “done” for starters. I never will be but I’m definitely not now. I still constantly want to call her. I see news every day that triggers thoughts of my friend. I see movies constantly that I wish she’d seen. I miss her horribly. I’m nearing my birthday and she can’t celebrate with me. Lauren was always great for that, you see. Amanda’s was a blast in no small part due to her.

But there’s another reason. At six months, the new normal has set in. I’ve lived with the crippling, violent depression for six months. It comes and goes. It’s never gotten that dark after the first month though. But I can see some progress in my life. I can go home on the weekends when I was scared to in the depths. I can think about the future now. Small steps.

And I’m glad to take this moment for another reason. I miss her. I have my memories though. Maybe that should be our goal today. Not to mourn her death. To celebrate her life once more. Those of us who knew Lauren loved her deeply. How lucky were we to know such a fine soul.

So today, my heart is heavy. I’ve cried already. I will again. But I’ll be happy too. I was blessed to know my dear friend. My life is better for this fact.

Mindscape

There’s a really weird cliche present in the media relating to HFAs. In both Sherlock, who is unofficial, and Community, whose representative Abed makes so many clear comments that he’s definitely official, the protagonists have the ability to form intense mental pictures using data available to them and their imaginations. This is, of course, a superpower and as I’ve noted, I hate the myth of autism superpowers.

So why do I have to concede truth here?

The truth is this one isn’t inaccurate weirdly enough. I thought about this as I was doing research for my forthcoming, sure to be unpublished book. I haven’t been back to Houston, TX in 19 years and to select parts of it in 20+ years. I needed to look at places there to get at least a decent picture in my head to write my book. I’m broke and have obligations so I chose to use the good old cheap option called Google Earth. I typed in a few locations. An hour later I felt certain I’d been there while I was on my couch.

Now sure, I don’t get credit for noticing a 360 degree online photo of an area gives me an accurate mental picture of an area. That’s just obvious. But what isn’t is the intensity of the sensation. It was borderline supernatural. I knew I was sitting on my couch in Little Rock, but I truly felt the sensations in my head that I’d been there.

Much of this stems from a real truth about us: we have excellent long term memory. Highly detailed, intense abilities to recall minute details. I’ve looked at pictures on CinemaTour of theaters from my past, I can describe tiny little details of the locations from my childhood. I can tell you what was where. Looking at the photos of Houston, I’m acutely aware of every change.

And even if we can’t use memories, we can form a picture that’s inaccurate but vivid just from absorbing data. I’ve been to Victoria, TX once and Port Lavaca, TX twice, but from reading page after page of the Victoria Advocate, I can form a complex picture of it in the 1980s. It’s inaccurate but it feels like a real place to me.

Why is this? I think it stems from the way our minds work. True, we’re rightly knocked on our lack of imagination but we can fill in the gaps using information like nobody’s business. We notice details others don’t but that’s not really a superpower. And in fact 99% of the ones we notice are completely useless. I mean, I know where video stores used to be 20 years after visiting the place I grew up. That’s pointless.

But the mindscape is real. What purpose does it serve for me? Abed gets it most accurately. It’s a shield. I was stressed on Tuesday after some of the worst weather and a set of stressors. I first tapped into this place in 1997-98 after, well read that entry. I raced there after Lauren died. It’s a comforting thing to escape into your mind.

The healthiest thing to do with it is to try to describe it in print. To make clear the nature of our mindscape in words. So it is I return to working on my lost cause.

On Amanda

Amanda Shinn has haunted this blog since it started. In many ways, bringing her up feels like I’m giving away the twist to my story. So many of my entries so far have dealt with loneliness and several still lie ahead. Amanda is the answer to the question of did things work out for me. They did. I’ve debated back and forth as to if and how I should write about this subject. I don’t wish to intrude on my life partner’s privacy but I want to celebrate her. Thus I’m going to proceed.

Continue reading

When I Want Attention

I write my blog not only for neurotypicals trying to understand my blog but also for my fellow neuroatypicals. On twitter, I have met a number of my brethren, be they fellow autistics, depressives, or other myriad issues. They are the finest of souls. I’ve come to notice a common thing. Whenever we all have an episode of our mental situation, we all hear one sentence that inflames us: “you just want attention.”

I’ve heard it before. I’ve heard it a lot. After all, I throw fits when I’m having trouble expressing myself. Of course I face that accusation. It makes sense, maybe more so than what I’m actually trying to say. I’m certainly being loud after all. I’m trying to be heard. I MUST want attention.

WRONG.

This applies to countless situations too, not just fits. How often does the depressive hear they’re just “throwing a pity party?” Quite a bit sadly. Depression sufferers often get treated as if they’re just dwelling on it for attention when the truth couldn’t be further from it. Furthermore, they don’t want puffery. They know their own value. They’re just not feeling very high on it. And for the love of all there is, do not tell a depressive to stop being depressed. It’s the first thing we’d do if we could. Depression is a form of hell after all.

Here is what we want in an episode: we want help. We want to be validated and told it’s ok we hurt. Unless you really understand, don’t tell us you do. We want to know that the situation sucks and that it’s not wrong to see it. If you’re going to suggest a solution, make it a real one, Tell us some things we can actually do.

And understand this: we want attention for the good things we do. I’m a writer. If I get attention for this post, I will be very happy because this is something I’ve worked on. If I do a good job at work, that rules. If I look sharp today, great. I want attention for the good things I do. In truth I’d rather ignore the darker side of my life. If I express it, I’m only trying to reach out. I’ve mentioned my friends. When they’re in crisis, I try to treat them as I wish to be treated.

That’s the hope. That we can do unto others as we do unto ourselves.

The Gap Year Interlude: A Flickering Room: A Look At The Films of 07-08

How do we get through depression? I would never have survived this period without film. The movies were where I got lost through the challenges. In this 1h7min minute cast, I take a look at:

  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  • Ratatouille
  • Transformers
  • Live Free or Die Hard
  • Superbad
  • The Simpsons Movie
  • The King of Kong
  • No Country For Old Men
  • Juno
  • There Will Be Blood
  • Enchanted
  • Cloverfield
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall
  • Michael Clayton
  • WALL-E

And more

Listen to it here.