Max's shop of horrors

Warning: imagination testing site. Enter at own risk

Month: May, 2015

Time Out

Ah, humans. They’re like the chillis of life; they’re great for spicing things up, but after a full course serving, some of us need a cool down period, or we can end up burned out, numb, and vowing never to try it ever again. (Humans and chillis have a lot in common actually; both are more sought after the hotter they are, and both can lead to a burning sensation when you go to the bathroom)

Don’t get me wrong, I love people. And I do get lonely sometimes. But I also love time my alone time, (in moderation) because socializing, as awesome as it can be, is hard work. If you see me pacing by myself in an empty room or something, I’m probably just enjoying some time alone with my thoughts.

One thing I (and quite a few of my friends on the spectrum) find challenging is long periods of human interaction without any breaks to recharge. Situations like loud parties or the workplace can feel like running on a treadmill in a cage full of cicadas for hours on end.

That’s probably the biggest barrier to full  time work for me; when I worked 8-9 hour shifts back in 2012, the grinding pressure would wear me down until I was virtually non-functional by the end. The three part-time jobs I do now circumvent this problem because they’re generally broken down into chunks of around 2 hours, which I can usually handle without hitting boiling point.

It’s easy for this to be misconstrued as us disliking social contact, but I for one love spending time with my fellow homo sapiens. I just sometimes need a breather between those stimulating chillis. 😉

CDO

Let’s play a game. I’ll show a series of images, and you let me know if they bother you, okay?

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Any of them bother you? If so, I have news for you. You are… wait for it… human.

People like patterns. We like symmetry, and consistency.

We like to put our pencils in the order of the rainbow, and avoid stepping on the cracks in the pavement. That’s not OCD.

OCD is when you get stuck in a public toilet in McDonalds for half an hour because touching the door knob to get out would make you vomit from terror. It’s when you literally can only sleep when you’ve checked 2-5 times that the doors are locked, the windows are all slightly open, there’s no intruders in the wardrobe, the smoke detectors are working, and none of the taps in the house are dripping.

The “C”, after all, stands for Compulsive. There’s an overwhelming, crushing, suffocating need to carry out the ritual. Not doing so feels like not moving out of the way of a speeding car, or not letting go of something burning hot. It’s a physical reaction.

Always setting the TV volume to an even number or a multiple of 5 does not mean you have OCD. If setting it to 27 gives you a panic attack, then you may want to look into it.

You know what the funny thing is? As someone who has been clinically diagnosed, those OCD cliches like photos above don’t really bother me that much. As with a lot of conditions and disorders, half of what you hear about it is utter poppycock. If you want to know what it’s really like, ask someone who has it. 😉

Hesitate to self-medicate

If you’re not autistic, imagine for a sec that your brain is stuck going a gazillion miles an hour, like Roadrunner’s on a treadmill hooked up to an espresso drip up there. Imagine everything is magnified, a torrent of sensory data assaulting you constantly. This is what it can be like for those of us on the spectrum.

Needless to say, for a lot of us, there are few things as appealing as a break from this relentless bombardment. We begin to seek out ways to numb ourselves to it, which often leads to self-medication, typically with that wondrously affordable, accessible, and socially acceptable drug; alcohol.

When you’re chronically stressed, find it difficult and frightening to talk to people, and want to drown out feelings of inadequacy, alcohol can seem like a godsend; a sensory anesthetic, social lubricant, and a feel good buzz all in one. I myself quickly succumbed to its allure in my late teens.

As someone who has “been there done that”, I would strongly advise against this. Don’t get me wrong, if you wanna have a beer with your mates, go for it. I’m not advocating prohibition. But I do suggest being very wary of alcoholic self-medication.

For one thing, if you already have difficulties with social protocol, adding an extra layer of confusion tends to do more harm than good. And even if you do turn into Smooth McCool when you’re drunk, this can prevent you from learning to socialize without alcoholic assistance. You can end up socially dependent on drinking.

Another problem is that once we begin self-medicating, we tend to up our dose the worse we feel, as well as gradually over time as our alcohol tolerance increases. By the time I was 22, I was somewhere between Tyrion Lannister and Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas. The further you go, the harder it gets to dial it back.

There’s nothing wrong with having a nice drink now and then. Just be careful it doesn’t become one of your primary coping strategies.

Maiasaurus Rex

My Dad and my brother have had a go, so I reckon it’s only fair that Mum gets a blog entry as well!

What’s with the Saurian title? Well, the Maiasaur was the first dinosaur that showed proof of raising and caring for its offspring, hence it’s name, which means “caring mother lizard” in Greek. I’m sure you can figure out the Rex part.

I swear, if my Mum’s willpower was congealed into a solid, you could coat a smartphone with it and run it over in that giant crawler-transporter they used to move space shuttles with, and you wouldn’t even crack the screen. And those badboys weigh 2.7 million kilos, plus up to 5.4 million more in payload.

In a polar reversal of the traditional nuclear family, my Mum’s always been the family breadwinner, while my Dad was a stay at home househusband. When I was a kid, spending time with her was extra special, cos she often worked long hours and on weekends.

For 31 years, she’s been a teacher and administrator at the local Kindergarten. Naturally, when I was old enough to go, I found it a little hard to come to terms with sharing my Mummy with thirty other kids. I quickly became a bit of a knee-high terrorist, with a long list of rebellious stunts including climbing onto the roof of the building. How she put up with my reign of terror, I still don’t know.

As I’m sure many parents can attest, raising not one but two Aspies with a penchant for double trouble tag team mischief is no mean feat. Up until I was 19, she had Dad’s help, but when he passed away, she was suddenly left to support two kids in challenging transitional phases on her own. It still amazes me how well she held up. Her world had just been ripped out for under her, yet she managed to get me into University, and keep both me and my brother from careening off the rails.

I remember her spending what seemed like hours on the phone talking to the warden of the college I was accepted into, who was concerned they would not be able to support my special needs. By the time that phone call ended, my place was secured. When it came to me and my brother’s wellbeing, she was like a mother grizzly bear.

In 2010, she married my step-dad Mark, and it seemed like the hard times were over. Then, 2012, she got breast cancer. A brutal course of chemo and radiotherapy followed. She seemed to wither away before our eyes. Then, in her true indomitable fashion, she pulled through. She’s now working again full time, and is as unstoppable as ever.

I can’t begin to imagine where me and my brother would be today without such a strong, loving, and supportive guardian.

I love ya Mum, and I wonder if you even realize how fantastic you are.

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