Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I'm not really sure what color day I was born on, to be honest....

For my birthday on Sunday, I received a rather large (and unexpected) sum of money from my parents, so on Monday, I decided to go splurge a little bit and took myself down to the shiny new Borders Books near my parents' house, and actually bought a new hardback! Of course, I also had about $7 in gift cards left over from Christmas, so that helped as well.

The book I bought was one I've been wanting for awhile, a memoir by Daniel Tammet, the brilliant autistic savant that I wrote about back in February called Born on a Blue Day. The book is a very quick read, and totally fascinating, if not incredibly well-written, but that's all right. I'm not done with it yet, but I'm almost there, due to a good 4 hours of traveling back to Texas on Monday.

Anyway, the point is, when I started my Abnormal Psychology class this semester, my professor warned us that studying all these mental illnesses up close, we would probably gradually begin to apply all of these broad, generalized, and often vague symptoms to ourselves and start to think we were going crazy, or had scizophrenia or something.

Well, I think I'm autistic. I mean, it is possible to be just a little bit autistic, right? Well, except in my case, without the superior intelligence or any discernible gifts or talents.

Reading Mr. Tammet's book, I've been struck throughout it by how similar we are in our behaviors and mannerisms. Or so it seems; it's difficult to get a good grasp of what someone is really like be reading about them.

We both felt tremendous amounts of anxiety as children, beginning as early as we can both remember, and we were both terrified of the other kids, even before we had a reason to be.

As children, and largely as adults, we both found/find emotions to be completely overwhelming, and have a really hard time dealing with them, putting them into perspective, and they cause us great anxiety.

We both have tremendous difficulty concentrating or focusing on a task for very long.

We're both self-professed bad conversationalists. Which is weird to me, because it seems like people find it naturally easy to open up to me, and I've never quite figured out why until yesterday, when I was thinking about this, and I realized I think it's because I don't ever know what to say to people. In conversations, the other person generally does a lot of talking (at least from my perspective; I could be completely mistaken) and I just sit there, taking it in. Generally. But I think people generally just want an active ear, and my lack of communication skills makes me a good listener, so there you go.

We're both very easily overstimulated, especially around people and crowds, and usually prefer to stay in for that very reason. For both of us, noise is the greatest source of overstimulation.

I, too, am kind of obsessed with numbers, but not to the degree that Daniel Tammet is, obviously. But I constantly count things in my head, and if there are multiple items of the same thing (like candle holders on the back of my toilet), they either have to be in an even number, or shaped in such a way that being odd numbers is okay, like in a pyramid shape.

I also do this thing in my head with letters, that I've done ever since high school, when I did it with a stop sign while sitting at an intersection, and I just never stopped doing it. It doesn't seem all that weird to me, but when I've told people that I do it, and that I do it constantly, like, sometimes to the point that it starts to make me crazy, people always freak out. What I do is take words in my head and rearrange the letters of the word so that they're in alphabetical order. This happens generally when I see signs, billboards or advertisements. Sometimes it even distracts me when I drive, because I'm too busy putting all the letters in a billboard in alphabetical order to drive properly. For instance, if I see the word "grocery," I immediately put the letters in order, like:

Or highway:

Or house:

Or Dallas:

And I can do it instantaneously, within a blink of an eye, almost any word. Which, needless to say, sometimes even makes reading difficult, because, especially if I'm stressed out already or feeling anxious, I'll just start doing that with all the words on the page. I do it almost the entire time I'm at work, ringing up people's groceries, running words and letters in my head. Sometimes even while I'm talking to them.

But ultimately, I guess everybody has their own little weird things that they do, and eccentricities. I suppose rather than admitting I'm just sort of dumb, socially awkward, and have poor coping skills, I'd rather blame it on a learning disability.


Mandy said...

I'm no expert or anything, but the counting and rearranging stuff kinda sounds like mild OCD to me. Again, I'm no expert. IS OCD related to autism or Asperger's?

I don't remember you having anxiety or being terrified of other kids when you were young (well, from kindergarten on), so if you did have those feelings, it wasn't apparent to those of us on the outside. And I don't think you're a bad conversationalist.

The Fire Next Time said...

Maybe I wasn't as scared as I remember being, but seriously, one of my earliest memories is going to pre-school, and standing in the corner and praying that none of the kids would talk to me. Yeah, other kids always really intimidated me. Kids still do intimidate me.

Eh, whatever. I'm just a weirdo.