Some people know me as the confident, athletic guy who has a bit of banter, and is ‘one of the lads’. Others know me as the guy who did well at school, and who is quite quiet but also academic and hardworking. Others know me as a childish and annoying numpty – but who uses this to his advantage to develop good relationships with the kids at work.
But they don’t really know me. I guess this is part of my mask. I’ve decided I am going to start being myself more after going through burnout, so I thought I’d start by sharing who I actually am, by telling you 16 things that no one knows about me.
1. I hate uncertainty
If you asked me whether I want to be punched in the face right now, or wait a month and then have a 50/50 chance of being punched in the face or being given £10,000, I would be in hospital with a broken nose.
Neurotypicals tend to be quite abstract and wishy washy, or don’t tell the truth so they don’t hurt your feelings. This drives me crazier than anything else in the world.
If I ask you a question, please give me a straight reply. I appreciate all feedback, positive and negative, so that I can learn. Neurotypicals seem to work differently – I have offended LOTS of people when I have tried to be helpful given honest feedback. I can ‘fluff things up’ if I try, but that takes lots of time and energy, so I don’t do it often, and I think it’s counterproductive anyway – Why ask a question if you don’t really want to know the answer? Please don’t take it offensively if I am being honest.
My hate of uncertainty also means I don’t really answer the phone, unless I know in advance exactly why I am being called. If it’s important, they should leave a voicemail!
2. I hate compliments
‘You are great Andy’
*Face transforms into a tomato*
*Brain gets overwhelmed and short circuits*
*Sits awkwardly and pretends I’m invisible or lets out an embarrassingly awkward little giggle*
Compliments and feedback are important to know whether I’ve done a good job or not, but that doesn’t mean I don’t hate them. If for some reason you want to compliment me, please compliment my work rather than me. Or even better, just let me know you don’t expect a response from me. I can’t even work out appropriate responses over text when I have all the time in the world to come up with something, never mind in person!
3. I am a perfectionist
Don’t ever beat me on a game, I will SCREAM. I am a really, really, really, really, really sore loser.
I feel the need to do everything to its best possible standard and get frustrated when something isn’t perfect, even though nothing ever really is…
4. I have trouble recognising people’s faces
I believe it is called prosopagnosia where you struggle to recognise people’s faces. Even if I have known someone for years, my brain can be unsure about whether it is actually them or not. I find it easier when someone has a really distinct feature or two.
5. I am terrified of getting people’s names wrong, even if I am certain I know what they are
Not recognising faces affects my ability to say people’s names and introduce them. I know you, but my brain thinks I don’t and this puts me in doubt. My favourite line is ‘This is idiot, and this is even bigger idiot’ when I am introducing people. To them I’m just being my usual, annoying self who thinks he’s hilarious, but really I just don’t want to say their name in case I get it wrong, even though I won’t, if that makes sense?
6. I don’t like eye contact
If I feel comfortable I can easily give eye contact.
If I am not comfortable, I have learnt how to give eye contact, but it feels awkward and irritating. It also takes brainpower to consciously think about where my eyes should be looking and when. If you stare too long it freaks people out, and if you don’t stare enough you look dishonest. It’s a difficult skill to master!
I can focus and listen better if I am not giving eye contact, so don’t take offense if I don’t.
7. I hide my stims a lot
I have an infinity cube that I take everywhere. I don’t need it unless I’m in a new or unfamiliar situation, but then I need it. I also feel a lot calmer in new situations when I can freely walk back and forth.
I rock sometimes too. But rocking also makes me feel dizzy and get a headache really quickly! It’s strange, I seem to be both under and over-sensitive to vestibular input. I get dizzy really easily and those weird swirly stairs are a no go for me, but I also crave lots of movement. People who know me will also know that I constantly move and twitch. I look like I am desperate for a wee most of the time.
Did I mention I have non-existent finger nails from chewing them too?
8. My mind is really, really intense
Sometimes, I go on walks alone just so that I can focus on nothing but dealing with my intense thoughts. Even when I am relaxing, I don’t feel like I am because my brain doesn’t stop.
If you’re talking to me and I look like I have lost focus or started daydreaming – I probably have. If something captures my attention, whether it is something in the environment or a thought, my mind has a tendency to block out other things so that it can focus on this.
9. I love being alone
Because people are awful. Jokes.
It’s not that I don’t want to socialise and meet people. Every human being has an innate desire to socialise. But it is hard work, and I would much rather spend my time becoming a Pokemon master or having a one man rave in my bedroom.
I go out as much as I can so I don’t forget that other people exist, but on some days I don’t have the energy. Though I do have to admit some people take a lot more energy than others.
10. I love Pokémon
I tend to keep this a secret, because I’m supposed to be too old to like Pokémon, but I have started being more open about it recently. Tyranitar is my favourite Pokémon (closely followed by Garchomp). Tyranitar is a bit on the slow side, but that’s what EV training is for 😉.
Recently, I bought a pack of Pokemon cards for the fun of it, and found Rainbow Rare Gyarados (I’m not keen on Gyarados but it is really, really rare). I’ve been on a Pokemon card hunt ever since, trying to find some of my favourite Pokemon. I have found quite a few so far:
Unfortunately life has got in the way of gaming and I have started doing a lot less than I’d like to (I haven’t even played Fortnite yet!).
11. Autism is my main special interest
I feel the need to learn as much as I possibly can about autism. I have read dozens of books, dozens more blogs and go to every possible networking meeting, training course and event that I possibly can.
However, my main method of learning about autism is through introspection. Every decision I make, I spend time thinking about when I am alone to understand my reason behind it. My brain feels the need to find a reason for everything and doesn’t stop until it does. If someone asked me why I have done a certain thing (over text or email, not in person because I don’t have the best face to face communication skills), I can usually explain exactly why.
This is very useful for my jobs working with autistic children. We have the same or similar methods of thinking. Only when you know the root cause of a behaviour, can something effective be done about it. I get frustrated at work sometimes because a lot of people take behaviour at face value, rather than taking time to understand the reason behind it.
My autism interest includes an interest in sensory integration. After going through burnout, I haven’t been able to learn as much about SI, but I am hoping I am able to tackle some of the higher level books soon. I have read lots of sensory integration books, but they are all quite similar and I want to learn about more advanced concepts.
12. I can’t focus on one task for a long period of time, unless it is something I am really interested in.
I do dribs and drabs over a long period of time to get to the finished product. I can’t really do things any other way.
13. I hate small talk
It’s just pointless and stupid.
14. I am an emotional mess
Not just do I feel really strong emotions, but I also struggle to understand emotions. I didn’t realise growing up I was anxious most of the time, as I was always told that anxiety is a feeling in your stomach, but I feel it in my chest. My brain doesn’t automatically connect internal sensations with emotions, which makes life very confusing. This is to do with the eighth sensory system: interoception.
Also I’m really, really good at hiding my emotions? However, sometimes I get so overwhelmed by them that I don’t know how to respond, so I still look emotionless when I am not.
15. I have phases of liking different music genres that I can’t control
Right now all I can listen to is Grime but I think it’s silly. They rap about useless rubbish and most of the time they are rapping too fast for me to even understand what they are saying.
I also have days where I listen to the same song on repeat over and over again, today it has been this. Give it a few days and I’ll probably never listen to it again.
Music is a huge part of my life and it directly impacts on my emotions and behaviour. My favourite song is F**kin’ Perfect by P!nk. It lightens my mood no matter what.
16. I love being autistic
Despite all of my weaknesses and weirdness, I also have unique strengths and I am happy with who I am. Autism isn’t a problem, it’s society and societal views of autism that are a problem.
I love autism, and you should too.