Max's shop of horrors

Warning: imagination testing site. Enter at own risk

Month: December, 2015

A dingo in the wolfpack

I confess a certain ignorance as to how much people from other countries know about Australia,  (after all, apparently I get a fair few views from countries like the Netherlands, Denmark, and Mexico, and I know about as much about those places as I do about the sex life of stick insects, something I really should fix) so if you haven’t heard of a dingo, it’s a kind of large wild dog that predates European colonization.

You can see what an adult looks like on Google, but here’s a photo of a friend of mine with a Dingo puppy he found while working with the Fire Department.


Photo courtesy of Jason Lewis.

Okay, now that cleared up, onto this week’s topic!

Almost all my life, I have tended to hang out and form friendships with people outside my own demographic. When I was 3-9, I used to like talking to older kids and adults. Then, from the age of about 11 to this day, I have mostly been friends with people a few years younger than me.

A theory I have about this is that these older/younger friends were at similar developmental milestones to me. As a kid I related to older people because, as a “gifted” child, I felt I had more in common with them academically. Then, as I entered adolescence, my social development was a bit delayed, so I related more to people a year or two younger than me. As I write this, I am 26, but a lot of my friends are 22-24.

Another curious trend is that, since my mid teens, the majority of my friends have been girls. I suspect a significant factor in this that I found them less intimidating; in early high school, I was bullied a lot by other guys, but not so much by girls. (Also, I could talk to them about cool stuff like movies, while most teenage boys only wanted to talk about bloody football!)

This seems to apply to a lot of people on the spectrum that I’ve talked to; their experiences don’t always align with those of their own demographic, leading them to seek friendships elsewhere.

Some people seem to think this is a problem, but personally, I don’t think it is, at least not necessarily. As long as these friendships are mutually beneficial, and are safe and appropriate for the younger party, I don’t see anything wrong with having friends from a different gender or age group as one’s self. Friends are hard enough to come by without placing arbitrary restrictions on who we can and cannot include.

Harnessing my OCD

In my quest to conquer Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I’ve spent so much time researching diseases that I’m probably on ASIO’s bioterrorism watch list. One of the things I found fascinating is how viruses basically hijack the body’s own cells, and essentially reprogram the cell’s own molecular production line to churn out more viruses.

This got me thinking about my OCD, and about whether I could hijack some of the tendencies it bestows on me and turn them to positive ends.

For example, my OCD compels me (or tries to compel me, anyway) to perform certain rituals or patterns. I feel like I have to wash my hands after touching almost any surface, or only eat certain meals at specific times.

One of my early successes was that I was able to commandeer this habit and use the same thought process to get myself to exercise, save money, or limit myself to a certain number of hand washings per day.

Basically, I turn things I want to get done into a sort of game. When I was a kid, I’d do the same thing with stepping a certain number of times on each slab of pavement or swimming across the pool underwater every time I visited it. As an adult, I sort of manually reprogram these compulsive behaviours into doing x number of pushups a day or keeping my weekly budget under x number of dollars.

That way, the pressure to perform these rituals can be harnessed to help me motivate myself.

OCD may seem like a purely negative force on the surface, but sometimes there are positives to be gleaned from even our darkest demons.

My 100th Blog Entry

As far back as 2012, both my best friend and my then-girlfriend had been telling me I should start a blog. I put it off for the longest time, treating it kind of like when your family tell you to find a nice girl/boy and settle down. “What would I even write about?” I thought.

In the end I just kind of started with a loose scattershot of ideas; my writing, my life experiences, OCD, autism. Basically, I threw everything at the wall to see what stuck, like a toddler studying the adhesive properties of his dinner.

When it quickly became clear that people responded best to my posts regarding my autism and OCD, I made these my primary focus. However, these subjects were already well covered within the blogosphere. I wanted mine to offer something different, so instead of making it serious like most others, I went out of my way to make mine whacky, silly, and upbeat.

Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games; along the way I ended up touching on some subjects that were no laughing matter, and these I tried to approach with the appropriate gravitas, but I also wanted to come at them from an ultimately positive and constructive angle.

When I started this blog back in February of 2014, I never dreamed it would be as widely read as it has become, and I am deeply humbled (and sometimes baffled!) that so many of you seem to care about what I have to say.

So, to Cindy and Mana, you were right, I should have listened to you sooner, and thank you! 😄

And thanks also to the rest of you, for being so supportive, so insightful, and so straight-up awesome.

Fear wears many faces

As we speak, the world stands on the brink of eradicating polio. One of the reasons this has taken so long is that not every case of polio exhibits the paralysis the disease is known for. As a result, the disease can circulate undetected, and by the time the first person becomes paralysed, dozens or even hundreds are infected. It’s the same disease, but it doesn’t always present in the same way. Similarly, heart disease, influenza, and cancer can each manifest through a variety of symptoms, even when the underlying cause is the same.

Now, I don’t mean to make light of these diseases and their impact by this comparison, but panic attacks can be likewise variable in terms of symptoms.

Panic attacks are commonly thought of as they appear in films or television; hyperventilation, bulging eyes, that sort of thing. But not everyone who experiences panic attacks presents with these symptoms. Some people freeze. Others appear to “zone out”. Yet others experience sudden bouts of irritability, or even rage.

As a result, panic attacks that don’t fit the traditional mould can go unnoticed, even when to the people having them, it feels like the world is ending. A casual observer may see nothing amiss, leading to the dreaded “but there’s nothing wrong with you.” Worse still, if someone’s panic manifests as anger, people can assume the sufferer is being deliberately rude or nasty.

I myself tend to become quiet and spaced out when I have a panic attack. As such, those who don’t know me well often don’t notice. I’ve learned it’s best for me to just tell people that I’m feeling uncomfortable, to avoid misunderstandings.

So remember, just because someone’s not gasping for breath or crying, that doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing severe anxiety and discomfort.

Conversational Crossfire

There’s something uniquely unpleasant about two people talking to me at once. It’s like wearing a space helmet filled with cicadas.

Whenever I try to concentrate on one voice, the other gets in the way. My brain tries to process both and it just ends up an incomprehensible jumble, like a can of alphabet spaghetti dropped from a low flying space shuttle. Beyond the sensory discomfort, it also stresses me out, because I feel under pressure to understand and respond to both people.

A lot of people on the spectrum have told me they find this uncomfortable as well. For many of us, conversing with just one person can be a daunting task that requires our full concentration; dealing with two people talking to us at the same can be completely overwhelming. It can feel like a relentless onslaught on both a social and a sensory level.

Try to keep this in mind when interacting with people on the spectrum; if someone’s already talking to us, it’s probably best to wait a bit rather than join forces! 😉