Flaws and ceilings

Why am I selfish, rude, sarcastic and lazy?

You probably need to read this to understand…

Former Australian Rugby captain John Eales had the nickname ‘Nobody’, as in ‘Nobody’s perfect.”  As sporting nicknames go it’s wittier than most.  But I suspect if you delved far enough into Eales’s life you’d discover some less than perfect things.  Maybe he doesn’t put the toilet seat down, or perhaps he doesn’t wash his hands before cooking.  There’s bound to be a few chinks in the Eales halo because we all have flaws. It’s part of being a human.

I’ve got a whole host of flaws that carry varying degrees of annoyance.  Most of them annoy me as much as anybody else.  Some of them often lead me to think that I’m a bad person. But as I’ve delved deeper into my behaviour and my character traits I’ve realised that a lot of my ‘bad’ characteristics can be attributed to autism and associated mental health issues…

Sarcasm – A lot of autistic people struggle to understand sarcasm as they take everything literally.  I’m not in the boat. I use sarcasm all the time, which is far too much of the time.  It’s sometimes rude – especially when aimed at people I’m not close friends with, it’s boorish and it’s often inappropriate. It can be funny at times, I certainly don’t think it’s the lowest form of wit (That’ll be Mrs Brown’s Boys), but it’s not always a great look.

I know I do it and I often subsequently beat myself up about it. But I’ve come to realise that I use sarcasm as a coping mechanism.  If I’m feeling stressed or anxious (aka most of the time!) then sarcasm helps to make light of whatever situation I’m in. It makes me seem more confident and in control. If you can try and be funny then you can’t be feeling that stressed, right?

Selfishness – You see somebody falls over in the street or a friend is upset. You’d probably try and help.  Two years ago my dad died and my friends were superb in rallying round and helping through a very tough time. But would I have been the same were the positions reversed?  I’d like to think so, but I also know that I can’t definitely say that I would. I know from experience that I’m not always the first person to help out when someone’s in trouble or the first to show sympathy.  I often come across as uncaring.

So does this make me selfish? I used to think so and I hated myself for it. But I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all to do with my untypical way of processing information and reacting. Autistic people reach sensory overload more easily than neurotypical people, and at this point their ability to cope with situations diminishes. So instead of engaging with the situation, they become very inward in order to avoid it. Which can come across as selfish.

man doing boxing

Aggressive – No I don’t want to start a fight when I’m in a bad mood.  I’m smart enough to know I’d lose.  But when things don’t go my way or I hear things that don’t fit in with want I want I get agitated. This sometimes manifests in me wanting to remove myself from the situation, but if that’s not possible my responses become agitated and mildly confrontational.

That’s not to say that I’m wrong in my views (sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not). Where I go wrong is in the way that I project my point of view.  It’s essentially a minor form of a meltdown, caused by the way I process information and the impact it has on my temperament.

Laziness – Yes, I’m lazy a lot of the time. And no I can’t attribute it all to autism. But, in some cases, I’ve realised that it’s a huge factor. Again it comes done to mental overload. Certain things that you would do without thinking about – catching a train, cleaning the car, sitting in a meeting etc – often cause me to take up more headspace. As a consequence, I don’t have enough headspace for lots of other activities, plus I have a greater need than most to try and relax from the stresses of life. All of which can create the impression that I’m lazy.

Rudeness – We all have to sit through conversations we’re not interested in. I’m just not as good at faking interest as you. So who’s the rude person really?  The honest person or the one who pretends?  It’s probably neither of us, we just have different ways of dealing with the situation, but pretending to be interested is a more socially accepted method.

woman in red lipstick opening her mouth

 

There are many more flaws I have. I’d love to blame them all on autism and thus claim that I’m actually perfect! That’d be very disingenuous, but it is clear that having a neurodiverse brain can have a negative impact on your behaviour and how people perceive you.  That being said, plenty of autistic and non-autistic people are complete dicks, so you’re better off avoiding them!

Talking of other people, my next article will be on the thorny issue of – what not to say to people with mental health issues!

9 contradictions of Adult Autism

A short post about the contradictions of autism

The hardest part of writing about adult autism is explaining exactly what it feels like. I mean, as the word neurodiversity implies, the autistic brain doesn’t work in the same way as a neurotypical one. So trying to explain it is a tricky task. Well, this post will do absolutely nothing to rectify that problem!

Below are a series of paradoxical statements and contradictions – but they all apply to many autistic adults. Some of them apply to me, some don’t.  You can play along at home by guessing which do!

Autism brain

  1. I have to organise everything in my life BUT I regularly forget where things are
  2. I have some brilliantly creative ideas BUT I struggle with day to day reality
  3. I’m really caring, BUT I struggle to empathise
  4. There’s loads I want to say, BUT I struggle to communicate
  5. I want to be popular and sociable BUT I want to hide away from everyone
  6. I know an absurd amount of obscure facts BUT I forget basic stuff all the time
  7. I can hyperfocus on a few things BUT I struggle to focus on most things
  8. I can start hundreds of projects BUT struggle to finish any
  9. I am extremely intelligent BUT make simple mistakes

 

As clear as mud then! To use a cliche to sum up the whole situation –  it’s both a blessing and a curse.

What is clear is that explaining autism to neurotypical people is extremely difficult, so just think how hard it can be for autistic people to live with brains that function in that way.  To be both brilliant and useless, often at the same time, can be massively frustrating and depressing.  And that is definitely something that applies to me!

You’re not alone

What support can I get during my adult autism adventure?

As far as I’m aware, I don’t have any autistic friends or family members.  In terms of my ‘journey’, I’m on my own in the sense that nobody else I know is having an ‘adult autism adventure’. But whilst that might sound like a lonely experience, I’ve discovered that I am getting quality support and that support is coming in many different ways…

The most surprising and positive discovery I’ve made is that there is a wealth of online support out there for people going through experiences like mine. Discovering that I’m not the only person to go through this, and that pretty much all of my autistic traits belong to plenty of other people is great for my well-being.

The National Autistic Society is a fantastic resource to find groups and support networks, as well as being a comprehensive guide to the condition.  When I get round to writing a post along the lines of ‘What is autism’ it will be my primary source.  It also has a busy forum where contributors offer advice and tips, as well as sometimes just unloading their thoughts and problems. As I mentioned previously, just reading about others who share my issues is a great source of comfort.

facebook instagram network notebook

For the first time in about 10 years, I’ve been venturing onto Facebook over the last few months.  I previously gave up on Facebook as I got annoyed with the endless stream of humblebrags, politics and people who seem to have a bizarre view that anybody else gives a shit about their train being ten minutes late or what alcoholic drink they have on the table.  But I’ve found a couple of very good UK based adult autism groups. The content is similar to the NAS forum, but because of the nature of Facebook, you can do a bit of casual stalking!

‘Casual stalking’ is of course completely harmless and in no way similar to the ‘serious stalking’ favoured by the likes of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction or Robin Williams in One Hour Photo.  Casual stalking just involves a few seconds of finding out who the person behind the post is. And that can be invaluable – not because the person is especially interesting, but usually because they are perfectly normal and uninteresting…just like me!   Normal job, maybe a partner, a few hobbies, post annoying nonsense on Facebook and so on.

Some Facebook posts are from people going through, to put it lightly, a really rough time. Be that down to depression, anxiety or just the sometimes extremely tough side effects of being autistic in the world.  And that’s when the community aspect of the groups really kicks in. Whatever your circumstance, no matter how close to giving up you are, somebody has been there before and can offer hope and advice.

I’ve made a few posts introducing myself and my circumstances, as well as asking for feedback on this blog. I’ve had lots of encouraging messages and constructive feedback. All of which has helped me feel less overwhelmed by events.

Offline, there are plenty of local support groups out there for both children and adults. is a twice-weekly meet up in Birmingham city centre for adults with autism. As well as similar events in cities all over the UK.  I don’t think I’m in a position to want to go to these just yet, but that may change post-diagnosis.

blogging blur business communication

Not surprisingly, there are also a fair few blogs from autistic adults out there. Equally unsurprisingly, they vary in quality and content – I mean, obviously none of them are as good as this!  But regardless of that, it’s great for spreading the word and raising awareness amongst fellow autistic people.

Despite the often negative places people are in, there’s a real sense of positivity about all of the online (and I presume offline) communities. The internet can often be a nasty place, but when it’s used for the right reasons it can be a really heart-warming, useful and empowering place.

I didn’t really start writing this blog with the aim of appealing to autistic people, it was more about raising awareness for people who weren’t on the spectrum. But if anybody reading this is either autistic or knows somebody who is, then I can highly recommend getting involved with the online communities I’ve mentioned here.

The other aspect of support that I’ve found a great comfort is the support I’ve received from friends and family.  My wife and mum have been especially supportive, but (in the nicest possible way) that’s not been a great surprise to me as they’re great. Equally, close friends have regularly got in touch asking how I am and offering to meet up, but again I almost expect that from close friends and I hope I’d be the same were the situation reversed.

What’s been more surprising and, in some ways, more heart-warming has been the messages from people who I wouldn’t have expected to have offered support.  Work colleagues, ex-work colleagues, ex-school/university friends, even people who I hardly knew from school who had read the blog and got in touch.  Honestly, every single message is a great source of comfort and support.

All of which is helping me to stay positive and look forward, despite my brain trying to look for negatives at every corner. Which leads nicely on to my next blog post…why autism is so difficult to understand AKA the paradox of autism.