Monday, December 30, 2019
Since I came to Canada, many people(from different cultural backgrounds) have told me that I was very likely to be autistic. Some of them are complete strangers who just know me online because we are in the same chat group. Some are closer and know me in real life . And many of them already have ASD diagnosis and told me that my “signs” were much more obvious than theirs.
Signs that indicated I was on the spectrum were Communication, Social, Sensory & others.
Communication: Others told me that I always make the conversation about myself and my interests(I'm already conscious trying not do that but still …), take words literally and ignore most nonverbel cues. Even when chatting in my native language I often fail to tell when others are mocking me or annoyed by me or I talked inappropriately until someone explicitly tell me so. My style is very straightforward and rational and “unusual for my age”. Now in university, I still often have to ask my NT classmates if the professor is being serious or just joking in order to understand assignment instructions. I hate eye contact, only started to force myself doing so after learning that not doing this brings a lot of negative consequences. And I still avoid having eye contact whenever possible, and physically not able to do that when I’m tired.
I stim by combing my hair with hands, rocking and jumping. I was disciplined throughout the entire elementary school for rocking chair since it’s “bad manner and disturbing” but I still rock today, and when I watched a video in which a non-verbal autistic girl rocks I realized that I do the exact same.
I enjoy writing down hundreds of names from one of my areas of interest in an order of generations or geographical locations, and repeat doing this again and again. I'm also sensitive to dates. My interests are all very intense though they can change from time to time. This intense interest makes me learn related stuff quickly. Most of them are unusual for my demographics, like enka.
My empathy is also very limited. My reasoning may tell me that you feel bad, but I don't know how bad feels. It's just a word with 3 letters and I know it is negative. Again negative is a concept hung up high somewhere in the sky. I'm kind so I hope you don't feel the negatives. Occasionally I can feel the “bad” itself, on average less than once a month, often with the assistance of music or my love towards someone. By the way I can only either have intense friendship or barely feel any emotions at all, just like how I feel about my interests.
- A debilitating condition. An “illness” whose patients do not speak and have severe developmental delays.
- “Children from the stars” as portrayed on media and by some advocacy groups. Similar to 1 but with more adorable characteristics like “having a pure heart”.
- Silent or weird genius, cannot social but especially talented in certain ways like math or music.
I was born in Osaka, Japan on the 29th of April, 1971. I am currently 48. At 6 months old, my family moved to Lima, Peru due to my father's job. He studied Spanish in University and the trading company he worked for asked him to open branches for the company in South America. Two years later we moved to Quito, Ecuador and back to Japan 3 years later. 4 years in Japan and we were back to Ecuador where I went through school at an American Christian school and later an American International School. During my early childhood I was lonely because of language barrier and the fact that I was a tiny bit weird didn't help. I had a book on hobbies for kids and I was very interested in the section about photography. I indulged and wanted to find out everything about how photography works. All I had were the few point and shoot picture machines that my parents had, but it was a start. I later had a pin hole picture box and learned how to print photos in the lab from a magazine and a professional photographer when I was around 10. High school was the first time I was actually taught about photography and became the yearbook photographer. My first year in University was a nightmare... new place, new routines, new climate... I couldn't do it. I pretty much had a breakdown and was allowed to go home, and took a year off. During my year off, I worked at my old school and I kept taking photos for the yearbook. Decades have passed since then, and I'm still taking pictures, and for the most part they are pretty much the same type of pictures that I've been taking for yearbook. Before they were candids from school activities and now they are candids from community activities. So I'm a photographer and I get jobs every now and then. Let me go back into the past a bit... After high school... to make a long story short, I majored in film production at USC in Los Angeles and officially became a filmmaker. I worked in the film industry for over 10 years and after a few meltdowns I needed to quit. It was an ongoing thing since my university years. During school, I had to produce my own student films and I found it extremely challenging. Producing meant making lots of phone calls, and phone calls are very scary. Phone calls give me extreme axiety and takes me to a very dark place... Producing meant that I had to audition actors, talk to location owners... in other words I had to deal with an awful lot of interpersonal communication. It's all very awkward and confusing. In the end I got them done, but can't say that I did my best... If I had an ASD diagnosis back then perhaps I was entitled to some sort of help to deal with all the issues that come with the autistic neurotype. The same goes for actual work after graduating. It came to a point where I was no longer able to interact with people, with coworkers, and even friends. I was also having trouble with my relationship, and one day it all turned into a series of meltdowns. They were bad enough to have me institutionalized twice. They really couldn't figure out what was wrong with me, and I also wanted to leave the place. I pretty much had to do something uncomfortable, which was to lie, and say that I was feeling well. I was allowed to go home. All that basically ended the relationship, but I was ok with it. It was a relationship with a girl and I'm not into the opposite gender. I told her that earlier on and she found that as something attractive. It was a time when I was sure about my sexuality, but I kept hearing that sexual orientation is a choice, or a few would say that being with a girl would change me... I didn't believe it, but decided to try it out, not that I wanted to change... was just curious. So, I made the choice to be straight and get myself a girlfriend. It didn't go well and came to the conclusion that sexual orientation is hardwired and not a choice. A few years later I was approched by a guy and we ended up going out for six years. It did come to an end because of many things, but it was mainly me. I had to have things a certain way, and if things weren't the way I thought was “correct” I was very insistent on having it “correct”. It was just too much for him. It all ended, but we are still very good friends.
After I left the film industry, I lived on a passive income. It was rent money from a property I had inherited early. I was quite happy during those years. I had an income without having to deal with people and telephones. I had a wonderful relationship (with the guy I mentioned earlier), and I had two great room mates in the beautiful city of Barcelona. I was also playing guitar in a band and things were good, but I still had issues. Having room mates, it was a challenge to keep things in their place or to schedule activities together. The good thing was that one of them was very much like myself. We often talked about our issues and he used to tell me that I'm autistic. I didn't know much about autism back then and I was actually offended when he said it. My only autism reference was the film Rain Man, which was the reference given in high school psychology class. I was definitely not like Rain Man. I didn't give it much thought and tried to find out what was “wrong” with myself. Didn't even look into ASD or Asperger's because, like I said, I had no idea what it was and was sure it wasn't autism, because Rain Man was the only reference I had. Things changed after a few years. After we all went our own way, I learned that my room mate officially had Asperger's. My relationship fell apart and was single again. I lost the tenants and lost my passive income, and couldn't find a new tenant for two years. It turned into a financial crisis. It was the darkest years of my life. I had to generate income, but refused to go back to the film industry... In the end I tried, but couldn't figure out how to do it... I thought about how I was able to get a job before, and the answer was that I had help. People set me up with interviews, gave me tips to get through the interview, etc. I basically had jobs thanks to the friends of friends who were kind enought to be helpful. This time around it was different, I hadn't kept in touch with people and couldn't find my way into the industry again. I did my research on “how to get a job” and all, but still couldn't execute the things I had researched.
I was very lonely and sad, because everything fell apart. It seemed like everything had fallen apart at the same time. Broken relationship, loss of income, and not being able to get a job that I was qualified to do. Right around that time, I had moved to a rural village in the south of Spain to get away from everything and figure things out. I wanted to be in the village for no more than a year. I'm still here, and in my fouth year here. I got to meet quite a few people here, mostly British expats who have come here to retire. It was also the first time I was making acquaintances that are much older than me. It was all new and weird, but managed. They were the ones that helped me out with “little jobs”. I ended up teaching Spanish to foreigners in the village, work as an interpreter and translator, take photographs, make short videos, do gardening work, drive people to the airport, teach guitar, teach people how to read stock and forex charts, and make posters and flyers for local events. Every week was different and just drove me crazy and kept me in constant axiety. Even had a few meltdowns in front of people. Just difficult times, and was not happy with my way of generating income. It was a nightmare. While all this was happening, I kept trying to find out what was causing all my issues, and looked more into ASD and Asperger's. It seemed everything checked off. I wanted to find out for sure, so I talked to the GP, who refered me to a psychologist. I've been to the psychologist and psychiatrist before, and it ended up being the same crap as usual. Therapies and treatments of symtoms rather than trying to pinpoint the underlying cause. It wasn't helping so I left. I looked up an ASD specialist and got an appointment. After seeing her for a month, performing tests and interviews, I was officially diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, ASD level 1. Everything made sense finally, and was able to figure out a lot about myself.
Basically, I'm a really intelligent person with a highly coveted film degree, skilled in many things, an understanding of 4 languages, 3 of them at native level, and knowlegable about a lot of things, but can't get a steady and secure job, can't get into a relationship, have difficulties making friends, horrible with money, can barely take care of myself when it comes to feeding myself or keeping things tidy. It's really frustrating when people think that I'm just lazy or uninterested. But despite all these negative and debilitating aspects, I was able to get a film degree from USC, move out of my parents' house, and was able to have two romantic relationships. Thanks to my second relationship I was able to travel quite a bit and get to see more of the world. I wish I could travel more, but scared to do it on my own, and really can't make travel plans effeciently. In fact at the moment, I'm supposed to plan a trip to Japan to see my mother, but I just can't do it. It's because I've never traveled to Japan from where I am now and the whole idea is very scary and confusing. In fact I was supposed to do this about 8 months ago, and still struggling with it. A good friend of mine has offered to help me organize this trip. She is great. She reassures me that it'll all be fine, and that she and her boyfriend will take me to the airport and all. I also need to renew my passport, and having trouble figuring out how I to do this. I think I have great accomplishments, but I think my top accomplishment is happening now. I got to meet a highly talented English musician here and I'm making a music video for him. It's not quite done yet, but I think it'll be the best thing I've done so far. I think I will finally be able to think that I've put my film degree to good use. I mean it doesn't compare to the accomplishments my classmates at USC have accomplished, like writing and starring in well known tv shows or directing Star Wars, but once this video is done, I know I'm going to be very proud of it, and maybe even get me more jobs.
I wish there were more honesty and integrity in this world. That's because I find the world to be very confusing, and I think it has a lot to do with lack of honesty and integrity. I wish people could be more direct, precise, and to the point, without subtext. I wish there was less greed in the world. Greed makes too many people to become dishonest. Machination is a horrible thing. I wish everybody would just get along. I know it's a utopian ideal, and will probably never happen, but I still fight for it. I fight for integrity. I try my best to advocate for friendliness and kindness. I wish the neurotypical world would understand the autistic neurotype more. I wish they all knew that we have a tendency towards honesty and integrity instead of assuming we're weird as hell, low IQ, rude or even violent. Of course not everybody is the same but from what I know and have observed, we are a group of honest people. I wish we could participate more in leadership. I believe that our participation will make the world a better place. Look at people like Temple Grandin or Greta Thunberg. There are a lot more Temples and Gretas on the spectrum that need to be heard. The problem is perhaps our insistence on honesty, integrity and getting straight to the point. We get manipulated and cheated out of the circle through lies and lack of integrity. Nasty people know very well how to get ahead of us because we're seen as innocent and easy to manipulate, I hink. This is why I say I wish the NT world would know more about the autistic neurotype.
I do need to make something clear. I'm not just saying all this for the so called high functioning autists or Aspies, I'm saying it for everyone on the spectrum. Yes, there are nonverbal people that seems to not communicate, but the truth is give them a communication tool and they will often prove themselves to be very intelligent. Yes, not all but many will. And yes, there are plenty of autistic people with low IQ's or can't function on their own. It is important to point out that low or high IQ is not something that defines autism. There are noverbal people that are very intelligent and there are Aspies that aren't so bright and even a bit mean. What I want to say is that it would be good to get rid of stereotypes. Stereotypes such as: autistic people in general are nonverbal, not very intelligent but can have genius level skills at something, or that Aspies are all geniuses that can figure anything out. Just not true, but I do want to emphasize that we have a tendency towards honesty and good integrity. There are exceptions, but you know what I mean, I hope. I believe that these negative stereotypes are what lead to bullying and mocking. And all this negativity is what leads to low self esteem of many autistic people. I've seem many autists with low self esteem and lack of confidence in online support groups as well as personally in reality. I've been through many periods of low self esteem with no confidence at all. I've even come to a point where I thought life is simply not worth it... I've recently used my autistic traits to be more positive and not be a threat to my own well being. I looked at myself in the mirror, making eye contact with myself and told myself, “you are worthy and life is worth living. Promise me you will keep trying and not do anything stupid like killing yourself.” I answered by saying, “yes, I promise.” I now feel safe from myself because I keep my promises. Believe it or not, this works for me. To all my fellow autists that are struggling or those that are in a very dark place, what I can say is that you are not alone in this world. There are ways to make it through bad times. There are ways to make things better. We all need to embrace our autistic traits, harness them, and use them to our advantage. Keep things simple and stick with the ones we trust and quickly ditch the toxic ones. Even then, there will be awkward and uncomfortable situations and comments, but just hang in there. Get rid of any shame and be proud of your difference. Be proud of that seemingly useless skill. If you can be proud of it, it's not so useless.
So, I've been trying to write all this since mid June 2019 and it is now mid November 2019. It's just really difficult to organize my thoughts in a coherent way to cover the subject in an efficient way. Also I've been having a really difficult time... it's been a struggle to get myself to get anything done. I've mentioned a video that I've been working on. Well, the thing is it was done in a way that was just no appropriate for myself. At first, something that I came to agreement with my musician friend, the idea of “keeping things open” and not following a speific structure or deadline for a more fluid creative process seemed attractive, but in the end it stressed me out beyond belief. From now on I'm definitely working with a schedule and a deadline. The “openness” and lack of structure was a stressful experience. The video is now finished and I'm satisfied with the result, but the project which ended up lasting, on and off, for about one year, has made me accumulate quite a bit of unnecessary stress and has made me extremely apathetic.
When the video project was finished in late September, with the help of a close friend, I was able to
plan my travels to Japan to visit my mother in late October and book flights. That was a relief, but
as I've mentioned earlier, the idea of travelling alone from an unknown airport and a route that I've
never taken was a horrible experience for just over a month until travel time. I was shutting down in
a serious way, and quite frankly, I barely made it to the travel date. It felt like I was going to “lose
it”, but in the I made it to Japan. The first week or so was extremely difficult. It meant readjusting to
a shared routine with my mother, and as awful as it may sound... putting up with her way of doing
things. I guess it's getting back to how things were when I lived with her as a teenager and into my
20's. But in many ways it's not too bad... for a very long time I've had issues with a feeling of not
being able to grow up. In the end this was something related to my ASD, and now I've given up on
attempting to become an adult, and just live and do things the way I've always done. And I'm
comfortable with it. Knowing that it's ASD related the stress of this “obligation” and pressure to
become an adult has been relieved and I'm no longer concerned with it. I no longer feel bad about
not using the living room when friends visit me. I still do it the way I've always done it. When
people come over, we hang out in my room and do the things I've always done, which is talk about
the things I like, listen to music, watch videos, and play guitar. Before receiving my diagnosis I felt
a bit of a pressure to change this behavior, but not any more and it's a relief. I guess it's also good
that my guests have no problem with it. In fact they enjoy it!
I've been trying to “reset” since I've come to Japan, and just relax. I've been taking a lot of pictures and enjoying myself. I hope I will be able to fully reset before I go back to Spain later this month because I've got some challenges when I go back. I'm sure I'll be able to deal with them. I know exactly who to ask for help.
One of the troubles I've had in writing this is that my thoughts tend to “jump around”. It goes from one thing to another in tangents and writing a coherent way that everybody will understand is somewhat challenging. Short things are no problem and it can be fun, but long things, like what I'm writing now, can be difficult. Which is why writing essays was a major task in school. I needed to start days before everybody else... if I had that luxury. Something I wanted to mention, but couldn't quite figure out how to “weave it” into the text is about my earlier passions, and went ahead and wrote about my film school experience and the such... Can you hear me out? My earlier passion, apart from photography and art in general, which I din't mention either, is science. I was especially passionate about medicine. I wanted to be a surgeon up until high school. I needed to decide what to study in university and my mentor in high school, who was a biologist, was suggesting I pursue my interest in medicine or anything sciencey. I gave it a lot of thought and it at the moment it felt like studying medicine to become a surgeon was a complete waste of time. Spending over 10 years to practice medicine seemed outrageous and unreasonable. I wanted to be out in the so called real world helping humanity as soon as possible. I especially wanted to help young people and children, because they are the future of humanity. I had some wonder experiences during high school with elementary school kids. I got to be friends with the third grade teacher and she showed me what a wonderful profession teaching was. She even gave me some hands on experience with her students, and I absolutely loved it. That's when I abandoned the idea of studying medicine and switched to elementary education, and I waas quite determined. It was a much quicker way to contribute to the future of humanity. But I had a major obstacle, my dad. He was a businessman and despised the idea of me giving up on medicine to become a teacher. He tried to discourage me and placed a lot of obstacles saying that I would never make it in life as a teacher and that I would be piss poor... For me it wasn't about the extrinsic merit of earning figures, it was about the intrinsic merit of making a contribution to the future of humanity. He didn't let me go to Clark University, the school of my choice. I was accepted into Boston University, which was my backup school. It was a more reputable university in many ways. In fact the school of education there was “better”, but it just wasn't my first choice for many reasons. Being in a smaller school in a quieter surrounding was one of them. I even had an agreement with my best friend to attend Clark if we were both accepted. I had to break the agreement because my dad forced me to go to BU... it made me feel horrible, and it was before the school year ended that I had a meltdown and had to drop out. Back home I had to see a psychiatrist for a while and take medication. It's a bit more complicated than that since the whole medication thing had started just after high school with the first comflicts with my dad, but let's just leave that part out. My dad was still adamant about the whole becoming a teacher idea, and in a verbal confrontation I had with my parents I had one of my biggest meltdowns in my life and went non-verbal for a few days and was pretty much bedbound for about two weeks. I did recover and felt like I had to do something... I decided to go toward my other passions... art and photography, but I could just hear my dad saying something along the line of artists being poor. I did some thinking and decided to go to film school. I was able to convince my dad quite easily by explaining to him what a big money maker the film idustry is, and how the school I wanted to attend was one of the most competitive on the planet. So competitive that statistically it's easier to get into Harvard Law and that not even Steven Spielberg was accepted. My dad was happy with the argument and let me go. It felt like a victory, but I wasn't exactly happy... I still wanted to be a teacher. The rest of what happended you have already read. What I didn't mention because it was irrelevant was that my passion for teaching pushed me to helping young people at an individual level. I was always in contact with younger people, in part because I was quite child-like, and I still am, but more because I wanted to help. I helped them with their homework and the such. When I graduated from film school, I was able to set up a business and took in interns so that I can teach them... I still enjoy looking after kids and teaching Spanish once a week. I believe that if I would've pursued elementary education instead of film, I would've been truly happy now with a steady job.
I have no idea what I need to do to have a secure income at the moment... I wish I could somehow get into something like special education and work with autistic kids. This is something that has been growing on me ever since I got my diagnosis, but I have no idea if it's something I can pursue. Apart from not knowing where and how to start, a part of me feels that my age, the number not the personality or attitude, is too high... it's just really confusing at the moment. I also constantly regret not having gotten into medicine. I would've been a surgeon with many years of experience by now. Dear parents... please respect the passions of your kids. Please let them pursue their interests. If they fail, let them fail because of their own actions, not because of yours. If they fail because of their own actions, they will probably get back on their feet and try again. Please let them try again, and support them during that process. Dear parents, please let your kids be themselves. Please don't be like my dad. I do love my mother, but please don't be so passive like her either. Please fight for what what your kids want to pursue in life.
Thursday, November 28, 2019
About the Editor
Danielle Ryer, editor of UVoA
Tips for completing the interview:
Monday, November 25, 2019
Foley, Alabama, US