The Rules

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Imagine for a moment that all the road rules you know were suddenly gone, and a series of new rules had taken their place, however you have no idea what those rules are. What do you think your chances would be of getting from point A to point B without breaking any rules?

How would you feel to have everything you thought you knew pulled out from under your feet as a surprise to yourself? That is what life can often feel like for someone with Asperger Syndrome.

If you spend any time with me, you will quickly discover that I love rules, procedures, policies and especially, Having These Things Written Down. I suspect it is the same for many who are diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. I can’t speak for all Aspies, of course. The ones I know personally feel similarly to me.

There is one important reason I prefer rules to be Written Down, VS just unwritten type rules. It has been my experience that unwritten rules change regularly. People would say to me X is ok, so I would do X, and all of a sudden guess what? X is not ok. X will in fact get me in a lot of trouble, maybe even fired from a job.

Even worse than those rules are the rules that Do Not Exist Until You Break Them. Today I am going to tell you about one such incident.

I worked for an insurance agency once, in a call centre taking calls. I worked the late shift, midday to 8pm, or 11 to 7pm. The office was split over two floors and once 5pm hit, the late shift people would have to move downstairs for security reasons.

I had been working at this place nearly 6 months, and I had a desk I would always use when we moved downstairs. On this particular day, the computer would not work at that desk. Myself and my team leader spent nearly 20 minutes trying to work out what was wrong with it to no avail, so she said to pick another desk. I just went to the next closest one.

I did *not* know that I had Asperger Syndrome back then – nor did I know about light sensitivity. This particular desk had a lighting issue, for me. When I sat there, a light was shining directly into my eyes. I actually could not see the computer screen very well and after about 10 minutes of working there a headache began to develop.

Once I got off my call, I went over to the team leader and said “I’m going to have to move again, that light there is shining in my eyes”. She said “Here, put on my baseball cap, see if that fixes it so you won’t have to move”. I did what I was told and it worked – the light was no longer a problem. I finished my shift and went home.

At my 6 month probation review, I was told they wanted to extend my probation as they had some “issues” with me. I was told that my personality was a problem for them. I asked too many questions, and I “talked back” – interpretation, I tried to discuss the answers I was given so I would understand them better. Those ones, I won’t go into right now – other than to say these were all Asperger related, I can see that now.

The fourth and final issue was so petty, ridiculous, and stupid. I almost quit on the spot.

The fourth issue was that I was seen by management wearing a hat inside. I was not given a chance to discuss these issues at the meeting – which was held on a Friday afternoon – I was told to go home and think about what they had said, and return for another meeting on the following Monday to discuss things further and sign an agreement to extend my probation for an extra 6 months.

I went home absolutely furious – hello, there were no rules about hats that I had been told about. Furthermore, it was not even MY hat, and I was TOLD to wear it by the team leader! When I got home, I dug out the dress code from the code of conduct. There was nothing about hats.

I remember having an major meltdown that evening. I do not remember specifics but I do remember being curled in a ball on the floor, crying and screaming. I do remember thinking I had enjoyed that job so much and now I never wanted to go back there.

By Monday, cooler heads had prevailed somewhat. I went into that meeting ready to sign whatever they wanted me to sign – but having applied for a multitude of other jobs over the weekend. I was fully prepared to argue the hat issue, having spoken to the team leader involved who was also furious that had been raised, and I was ready to discuss all the other issues as well.

Mostly I felt that I wanted to keep my head down until I could find another job and get the heck out of there. Sometimes incidents like this show you who people are, and these people were not people I wanted to be involved with long term.

Three months later – three months where it was Not Ok to be ME every single work day, remember my personality was a problem for them – I resigned and was out of there. They weren’t paying very well, anyway!

This was not the first time this kind of thing has happened to me, nor was it the last. I have finally got to a point where I would rather not put myself out there to be rejected yet another time, even though I follow any written rules more than 99% of other people would – because I love the rules, you see.

If they tell me I can’t use my mobile phone at work, I will never take it out of my handbag. If they tell me I can’t use the internet for personal stuff, I never ever will, while people around me are breaking these rules constantly and my team leader is Facebooking up a storm even though Facebook is Not Allowed.

This is one reason computer games can be so reassuring and appealing for me – once I know the rules of a computer game, they rarely change. This is also why I need to be the person making – and enforcing – the rules in future.

Previous posts in this series – I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, then we talked about My Aspie Super Powers and My Aspie Limitations – then I spoke about a concept with The Cup Is Full.

Angry Snoskred, Asperger Syndrome, mistakes I made

The Cup Is Full

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Once I was finally diagnosed a few years ago – in my mid thirties so way too late to be useful in school days! – my psychologist explained a new concept to me.

She explained it like this – Every human being has a cup of human interaction. Many humans rarely fill this cup. They could go out to work all day, and social events every night, and still be happy to go back for more.

For some of us with Aspergers – and some without, this cup is filled on a regular basis. When my cup of human interaction was full, I needed to be in a safe place with only trusted humans around me in order to empty the cup before I could be around the other humans again.

I suddenly had a huge breakthrough. I totally understood why I simply could not go to school sometimes – it also had happened to me with work as well. Dealing with the “normal” people was sometimes so tiring, exhausting even.. and I just needed peace time to recharge my batteries. Renee from About A Bugg explains more about the cup concept here.

I think what I have learned in the years since my diagnosis about how to manage the cup is – it is all about timing for me. When I worked five x8 hour days, that was simply too much for my cup. I can do a nine day fortnight in the right circumstances. Four or five 6 hour days works for me. I can even do six or seven 6 hour days in a row, as long as I get a couple of days off afterwards.

However, if I have a bad interaction on day 1, that is going to limit my cup capacity until my next day off. And usually a bad interaction leads to further bad interactions, plus, even in my downtime I will be turning that bad interaction over and over in my mind, trying to figure out where I went wrong.

So I think a useful point is – anything that can distract me from turning that interaction over in my mind is like gold, and for me that has always been computer games. My cup will empty in half the time if I can spend it playing a game that I love.

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Theme Hospital – one of my favourite Good Old Games.

But come bedtime, there it is again.. what I usually do is read until I am too tired to keep reading. Even if it is a book I know back to front (and could totally write out from memory!) it takes my mind off That Thing, which is, again, like gold.

It is completely exhausting to try to be “normal” for 40 hours a week. It is even worse when someone tells you “it is ok to be who you really are, truly, trust me and be yourself” because the actual truth is, it is not ok to be who I am in a workplace. It is not ok to say what I really think. And while I think I have become good at pretending, they can *always* tell that I am holding back, because my poker face pretty much sucks.

So then I do the thing they have asked me to do – be myself – and all of a sudden, my personality is a “problem”. Why anyone thinks that is ok to say to someone.. I do not know. But that has happened to me more than once, sadly. I even got asked to lengthen my probation and the fact that my personality was a problem was put in writing for me to sign!

I will never, ever, be the real me in a workplace again. No matter how many people try to tell me to “be myself” – every past experience has taught me that it is NOT OK TO BE MYSELF. I will never blame myself for keeping my real self 100% hidden away from the “normal” people. They have proven to me that they cannot – or will not – or refuse to – accept the real me.

Previous posts in this series – I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, then we talked about My Aspie Super Powers and My Aspie Limitations.

Asperger Syndrome

My Aspie Limitations

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Last time I discussed My Aspie Super Powers. Every Aspie gets some super powers but with those super powers you also get some limitations. I’m still discovering what those are but today I want to talk about the ones I have found so far.

The Fake Struggle

There are some people in this world who are just fake and who tell lies 99% of the time. I’m not talking about little things, either. Here is an actual example. I had a team leader who would be so lovey dovey with people but the minute they left the room, she would grab her shovel of bitchery and dig into them.

In my personal life, I can avoid those people. When it comes to work, that is not always an option. I find it very difficult not to call these people out for their lies and fakeness. I also find it hard to pretend that I like them. I’m not good at being two faced. I don’t have a great poker face. I’m also a terrible liar.

I’m Done When I Say I’m Done

I had a huge argument with this one girl at work and I told her straight up to her face – we are not friends, I’m done with you, never speak to me again unless it is work related. After that argument, I only spoke to her if I had something work related to say. No hellos, no goodbyes, no chit chat.. She tried really hard to get me to chit chat with her and all she got from me was dead silence in return.

You would think that my silence would be a sign to her that I meant what I said.. apparently not. After 6 months of trying to get me to talk to her, I finally snapped and went off. No, I don’t want to hear about your life. I told you before – do not talk to me ever again unless it is work related. Believe me, after what she had done, she deserved this treatment from me. She finally got the message.

I Prefer Clear Lines

I hate having any kind of grey area in my life. I prefer yes or no, black or white, done or not done, will or won’t, can or can’t. Maybes are not a fun experience for me. If I say I am going, I am going unless there is a medical reason or my car breaks down. If I say no, I mean it and there will be no changing of my mind.

Sound Sensitivity

Along with Super Hearing comes the limitation of sound sensitivity. This limitation is truly bizarre because some sounds I will be perfectly fine with, and others make me want to drill holes into my skull without any anaesthetic just to drown that noise out. The worst part is – none of it makes actual sense – things are very contradictory.

If you were to park a car and leave the engine running outside my house, I will lose my ability to focus on my present task. It is almost like part of me wants to tune into that tasty white noise and really enjoy it. A car engine running would be considered white noise in most cases, and yet other forms of white noise like rain or a fan do not have that same effect on me.

Random and ongoing noises like a barking dog I find quite irritating, but I enjoy the sound of crickets at night or birds chirping. Running water is fine but a water drip will have me losing.my.shiznit. I can handle a ringing phone – you have to be ok with that in a call centre. But if there is a phone that rings and never gets answered, that irritates me.

One of the call centres had a phone that would ring when calls were waiting to be answered – at a low volume and a decent distance from me, that was fine – closer and/or at a higher volume it made me want to dead people. I’d have to turn it down or else I found it difficult to function.

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Remember this post – Don’t Cross The Streams – I sometimes feel that way about sound streams. If I am having a serious conversation with someone, I prefer no other noise to be present so that I can focus on what we are saying. If music is playing, that is a “sound stream” my mind will try to focus on. I have to mentally work against it and this can be exhausting.

Light Sensitivity

Similar to the sound sensitivity, this limitation can be very contradictory. I do not like a light above my head 99% of the time, especially when watching television. I prefer for a light to be behind me. Lights in my peripheral vision can be very distracting and I might have to do something to fix it, like close a blind or turn off a light.

Bad Human Interactions

What is a bad human interaction? That will be different for everyone. For me, it is when someone misunderstands my meaning, or takes something I said in a way I did not mean it. Even if they listen to my explanation and accept what I have said, the interaction has sapped my strength a little. If they will not listen, I find it very frustrating – and in very occasional cases this can cause me to go into full on meltdown mode.

My Cup Is Full

Some of these issues mentioned are known as sensory sensitivity. All of these limitations can be tiring, sometimes exhausting. They are the kinds of things that fill up my “cup of human interaction” quickly. That cup is a much larger concept I want to talk about more next time.

Previous posts in this series – I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, then we talked about My Aspie Super Powers.

Asperger Syndrome

Don’t Cross The Streams

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Egon : There’s something very important I forgot to tell you.

Venkman : What?

Egon : Don’t cross the streams.

Venkman : Why?

Egon : It would be bad.

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Venkman : I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean bad?

Egon : Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.

Spengler : Total Protonic Reversal.

Venkman : Right, that’s bad. Ok, important safety tip. Thanks Egon.

(Quotes from the movie Ghostbusters)

Asperger Syndrome, movies

My Aspie Super Powers

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Number Memory

This is a strange phenomenon which was incredibly handy for call centre work. When I see a number and it is a number I have called before, I know instantly who that number belongs to. It is kind of like inbuilt caller ID.

We had a computer switchboard and when someone dialed out to a number, you could see the number they were calling. For most people that is where it would end, but me, I knew they were calling the ranger for X council, or the emergency contact for X client. I would not be able to recite that same number from memory though – if you asked me the number for X ranger I would have to go and look it up like everyone else.

Just to give you an idea of how epic this super power is, we had over a thousand clients and about 50-60 councils that we took calls for and I would recognise 95% of outgoing numbers other operators called. Even if I had only called the number once myself. I cannot tell you *how* I do this. It just happens magically.

In addition, any clients and customers who called in regularly from a mobile, I knew who was calling before I answered. I’d do the greeting and then say Hi Name without taking a breath, and they would always be like.. how did you know it was me? I’d joke and say I was psychic and would they like next weeks lotto numbers.. :)

Numberplate Memory

Similar to inbuilt caller ID, I would only have to see the numberplate of a friend or family member once to remember that is their vehicle. Oddly, I know all the numberplates for Volkswagen Polos in the Shoalhaven, and when I see one driving, I can tell you where I normally see it parked. I guess this would be inbuilt number plate ID.

Filing Cabinet Mind

In the call centre, I could be on the phone with someone having a conversation but at the same time, my mind was hearing *all* the other conversations going on around me and filing those details away in case I needed them. One of my roles was to follow up on the calls other people had taken, so this super power was truly incredible for me – I never needed to read the log to see what had happened, I already knew.

This happens when I am out and about in the world as well – I can be having a conversation with someone in a coffee shop and I am hearing every other conversation and filing those nuggets away. It is subconscious and unconscious, I do not know I am doing it until my mind pulls out those nuggets when I need them.

Filing Cabinet Of Bitchery

At the same time I was filing all those conversations, if two staff members were having a conversation about another staff member, that would be filed away in my cabinet too, except my mind would replay that conversation to me later as a surprise to myself when things were quiet. It did not matter how far away the conversation would be – if it was in the same room and people were whispering, I still got it. This leads us to –

Super Hearing

One reason I like to use my cordless headset around the house – I can hear every noise both outside and inside loudly and clearly in my head. If a bird is tweeting, I hear it. If there is a jet flying thousands of feet above, I hear it. Leaves rustling on the concrete, I hear it.

My headset blocks a lot of that extra noise out – in fact it does too good a job – The Other Half can sneak up on me when I am wearing it. Sometimes I’ll wear it with no sound at all, just to block out all those uninteresting and unnecessary noises. Some of the noises irritate me enormously and if I don’t put my headset on, I will just sit there and be annoyed about that noise. Like a running engine that isn’t going anywhere, or a dog barking constantly.

Video In My Head

If I have seen a video clip for a song, I will always see that video clip in my mind when the song plays. If I have seen a movie, I can replay it in my head without any need for DVDs or a TV screen. My memory for lines is better than any actor could dream of – I can tell you specific lines for a movie I saw once 20 years ago. Not all the lines, usually just the ones I most enjoyed or loved.

Ninja Focus

My ability to focus on what I am doing and shut all distractions out while simultaneously filing all those nuggets of information away plus noting who everyone else is calling is pretty amazing. The only thing that can break that Ninja focus is an unexpected sound stream like music, a barking dog or someone whistling. When those things happen, my mind wants to focus in on those noises and forget what I am focused on. I find it really difficult to work if music is playing, yet I have no problem working with a multitude of voices having different conversations around me.

These are just a few of the super powers I have been given – there are more. A lot of them are inbuilt and not something I would notice.

There are some limitations that Aspergers puts on me, and I’ll talk about those next time.

About Snoskred, Asperger Syndrome

Asperger Syndrome – Being Diagnosed

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I have not really talked a lot about my Asperger Syndrome diagnosis here on the blog. I want to talk a little more about it and also about the journey I am taking – looking back at life happenings through a new filter and seeing how almost everything that has occurred in my life has been tied up with Aspergers – and how things make a lot more sense to me now. I’ve decided to schedule one post a month on this topic for the foreseeable future.

Today I thought I would share a little bit about exactly how my diagnosis came about, before going back in time to explore past events through the glasses of the diagnosis. There are some parts I am a little foggy about, so I ask you in advance to forgive me those.

I was diagnosed in 2009 by a wonderful psychologist that I was seeing for depression and anxiety. I was telling her about a visit by my nephews – one of whom has mild autism – and how that nephew and I had played lego together. I said something like –

So we talked about it and we decided to sort out all the blocks into groups because that would make it easier to build things. We grouped together the blocks with 2 dots, 4 dots, 6 dots, 8 dots, etc. Then I wanted to build a house but my nephew said “Auntie, you always want to build houses. Why don’t we try to build something else?” And we build this enormous lego boat with a tower on top.

My psychologist asked me if I always had sorted the blocks before doing any building. I said yes, because I liked to be able to reach out and grab the right sized block that I needed rather than having to look through a box or pile of lego. That, put together with the fact that we do have more than one family member with autism, plus some other things she had observed in me during our time together, was the thing that made her hand me a brochure about Asperger Syndrome.

It was almost the end of the session, so she handed it to me and asked me to take it home and read through the various “symptoms” and put a tick next to any that I felt applied to me. The next session I handed it back to her and there were quite a few ticks. So she gave me a diagnostic test of some kind – I forget what the name of it was now.

It turned out that I was on the “Autism Spectrum” as they call it. It is really difficult to find a good list of symptoms like she had handed me on the web but here are a couple that are fairly decent – here and here. Here are some online tests that you can do.

In many ways being diagnosed was an enormous relief because it told me that there were good and reasonable reasons for things that had happened to me in the past – times where I had thought I was the problem and times when I had been told my personality was a problem for other people. I’ve been looking back at those times with my present psychologist and making a new sense out of them.

Being an Aspie is not all bad though it does present some serious challenges for me. I have some brilliant things that I like to call my Aspie superpowers. That is what I will talk about in my next post on this subject. :)

About Snoskred, Asperger Syndrome

Quirky Snoskred

Tell us about a quirk or odd habit that you have.

nypdblue1

Many of my best one liners are courtesy of NYPD Blue. The one I use the most was from the first season with Jimmy Smits, where they had a “skell” in the room and they said something to him, and he yells “I decline that”.

I took this to work by simply adding the word “respectfully” in there. I was respectfully declining all kinds of shiznit. Nobody minded, because of the respectful aspect. I even used it on the phones with callers, on one occasion with great success to a prank caller who wanted me to.. well, things I wanted to decline with great prejudice, and possibly to decline with my fists, if such wants had been requested to my face.

No became a word rarely used. And to be honest, I liked declining a lot more than just no. Why use one word when you can use three or four? It fit in with my quirky, Aspergers nature. And with my friends, it was an in joke, as well. :)

I’m like a virus, my words are contagious, they don’t just stay with me, they go places with people. I heard someone respectfully decline that at the supermarket – someone I never met myself, but someone I know is a friend of a friend. And that was kinda cool.. :)

About Snoskred, Asperger Syndrome, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2014

Life Rules

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Sometimes, as a person with Aspergers, I make mistakes.

It would be so much easier for me if I would allow myself to delete them and pretend like they never happened. Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we could all do that, when we screw up?

But if I did that, I would learn nothing from those mistakes. These mistakes must remain in existence for a reason. I made myself a life rule some years ago – I must never delete something I type. Even when it would be so much easier.

These mistakes come along when I am feeling comfortable enough with people to type things I should not type, the things I should only think and never allow to be typed out loud.

And isn’t that an awful thing – to know that every time you begin to get comfortable with people, to settle in, to be accepted, to feel like a part of a community, that you are going to screw that up, possibly in un-fixable ways.

It makes me want to retreat, to hide, to disappear. And that is dangerous in itself.

I know I’m a good person. I’m generous, with my time, with my money, with others. But like everyone, I am not perfect.

Believe me, that thing I said wrong, I’ll still be kicking my own butt over it months, maybe even years later, long after you have forgotten it. That is the only way I can learn and make progress and not make that mistake the next time..

About Snoskred, Asperger Syndrome, life lessons