The season of expectations - an aspie at New Year

The season of anticipation is over and the season of expectations begins.

As Christmas approaches, we hope for things, even as adults. We hope it will be all right, that we will be able to cope and that we won't get any of those awful, well-meaning presents which expect us to throw out our old, beloved possessions in favour of shiny new ones. We hope to enjoy the season.

With New Year, the goalposts shift so much it's hard to tell if you're on the pitch anymore. Suddenly, the nostalgic cheer of Christmas is replaced with a manic social interaction where people you barely know feel compelled to wish you a happy new year! grinning belligerently while you decide how to respond.

Yes, I know the response is 'happy new year', but I don't like new year and it always comes out in a mumble where I sound like I'm wishing them ill. So, I often end up doing the next worst thing and saying 'Thanks!' with the brightest smile I have and hurrying off.

Then people with their damn-fool resolutions. Please, save me from the resolutions and save yourself from having me point out you've made the same resolutions year after year and are no slimmer, wiser or richer than you were when we first met.

If asked, or forced, I admit to fake resolutions. In reality, my only resolution every year is not to get so overwhelmed in January that it takes me until March to recover. This is not what people want to hear, so I say something like eat healthily or exercise more. They don't ever question this as I'm well known for my biscuit eating and sloth-like ways.

Also, even though it happens every year (almost like clockwork) New Year as a celebration always feels like it is sprung on me. Christmas is in the shops from the end of Summer and has to be prepared for in a different way, meaning even the most narrow-focused person cannot escape the build-up to the Christmas season.

New Year is right after Christmas and it feels like the tree is still shaking in the corner when we are expected to throw off the shackles of the old year and welcome in the new. It means people have an excuse to be noisy, get drunk, dance in the street and do all manner of intrusive and sociable things which make me want to get out the catapult.

Yes, I know when it comes to the new year I am a grouch. I really am. I'm a nostalgia freak at the best of times, so new year is the reminder that I move forward without people who used to fill my life. It makes me worry that I won't be up to the challenge of the new year, the unknown lying waiting around the corner.

Really, how many of us embrace the unknown? The secret fear is that it is a beast, waiting just out of sight, slaver dripping from its jaws. The future is to be cheered and welcomed when we know what is in it. I believe a wise person treats the complete unknown with caution.

So this new year I will be looking forward to the good things I am planning. Rather than a wholesale welcome to the future, I will stand just behind the door and usher in January as if it is liable to kick on its way past.

I do wish you what you hope for in the new year. I even hope you stick to your resolutions, just so we don't have that awkward moment in April when I ask you how the skydiving is going.

Just don't expect me to be comfortable with the new year until it's been around a while. I need time to get used to new things and this is a big one, you know? Come back to me in February and I might be ready.

And don't be expecting me to sing Auld Lang Syne in a room full of other people while we all hold hands. I like to start my new year the way I mean to carry on, thank you very much.


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Understanding the Tone of Voice

I had a Tone of Voice inflicted on me yesterday. Luckily, it came with a set of instructions on what I was meant to do with it so I didn't have to guess what I'd done wrong or how I had been a terrible person - this time.

How many times do other people use tones of voice to get their message across without a set of instructions though? Many times I've been subjected to seemingly normal sentences delivered in a sorrowful/angry/irritated/name-your-poison tone of voice which made no sense in relation to what was being said.

I believe this comes under the heading of 'but you should know'.

For instance, we may be having a conversation about where to go for lunch and the words would follow what I was expecting, such as what time, where to meet, where to have lunch and who else is coming along. All of this might be normal.

Replay this conversation with the other person using a short, huffy tone, as though you just ate their last chocolate or kicked their mother's behind and it stops making sense. It becomes a very awkward conversation as I am answering questions and replying to the right things but the other person's tone of voice suggests there is another agenda.

I have found that when people behave this way they either want me to notice so I can be the one who 'starts' it by asking what's wrong or, maddeningly, they don't want to discuss what is wrong but do expect me to know what I've done.

Readers, life is short enough and tiring enough without having to play this pointless guessing game, especially when the reason behind the latest tone of voice turns out to be something we were completely unaware of or was an innocent mistake.

As an aspie of long-standing social clumsiness, I am used to being in the wrong and being to blame for things, but that doesn't mean I instinctively know each time what I have done. Sometimes, no matter how angry or sorrowful the tone of voice, I still don't know what I've done. And just occasionally I haven't done anything at all!

So I would like people to do what I have often requested and just spit it out. Tell me the problem, lay it in front of me and let me look at it. Let's talk about it like grown-ups and not behave like a small child who needs persuading to do what is good for them.

Life is so much easier if we just use the tone of voice to match the words we are speaking at the time and not the tone of voice to match the internal monologue which, to be honest, no one else can hear.


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The Christmas Aspie

The perfect image of Christmas, what would it be? So many of them are full of joy and colour, light and noise. Where did the solitude go? The safe places? The get-out clause (no pun intended) which means you can vacate the scene if it's all too much?

No stone is left unturned at Christmas when we are meant to be brighter, better versions of ourselves with more kindness and time to spare for our fellows. With this level of pressure, is it any wonder that aspies don't cope?

It all changes at Christmas, when the normal rules don't apply. You can't avoid your obligations or say you don't feel like it - if you do, then you have Failed, readers, failed at Christmas! How dramatically awful!

I don't want to fail at Christmas, I just want a Christmas that suits me rather than shaping the season to fit everyone else.

I don't do parties, or even gatherings. I don't care about cards, so rarely send them. I like fairy-lights and tinsel, the glittery side of the season. I like to dress the cat up and take his picture for Facebook. I like to take the dog out in his Santa suit.

I don't really want to interact with real human beings dressed up for Christmas as that tends to bring out the hugs in people and the kisses and the pushing to have a drink, when I don't drink anything stronger than Tropicana.

I like the old fire at Christmas, the light in the darkened room, the sense that this season brings us closer to all the people who went before, sitting in their safe places while the wind howled tales of dread and demons.

I love the lights on the trees as I pass by, the feeling that they bring some element of magic to our winter nights, reminding me of childhood days when I went fairy hunting in summer and laid traps for elves in winter (sorry, yes, that was me).

I really like the idea that Christmas is a time of giving, of becoming a little of the person you hoped to be, without caving into the pressure of doing what you think you should. There is such a vast difference there.

Most of all, I like the quiet days after Christmas when everyone has gone home and I am safe to sit by the fire, dreaming away the time as winter slumbers on.


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Completely alone

I have the perfect present for you: a secret door leading to a normal room. There isn't much in there, we're not talking about somewhere to hole up for hours at a time. But it is completely private.

You don't have to label it as your own. There's no need to tell people over and over again until you are sick of the sound of your own voice Not to Come IN. It doesn't have to be locked because no one else will ever see it.

Can you imagine it, readers? Complete privacy in the confines of your own home. No need to think about keeping people out or hiding from the world. Just a simple door to a simple room where you can be wholly, utterly alone with no chance of anyone knocking to see if you want toast or a trip to the shops or to get around to those jobs you've been putting off.

You see, sometimes hiding under a blanket won't do and it takes agility to make it behind the sofa in time. Windows are necessary in a house but really have their drawbacks, unless you splashed out and got one-way glass.

Sometimes, you need an extra door for no one but you where it is truly safe and really your own. Not just until somebody else needs you or thinks you've been alone for long enough.

Readers, close the door softly lest they hear it click and come looking. And don't come out until you're ready.


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How to talk to non-aspies

Someone found my blog by searching 'How to talk to non-aspies'. So many people find me by searching the opposite - how to talk to aspies. It struck me as much more useful to learn how to talk to non-aspies, as it's something so many of us struggle with.

Non-aspies hold positions of great power, in society and in our lives. They are the coping ones, the managing, the holding down the job, two kids, mortgage and small pottery business while we aspies struggle to manage the new tap on the bathroom sink, let alone going out to conquer the universe..

Talking to non-aspies can be complicated as they often want to know things but have a very poor way of expressing themselves. It is the non-aspie who needs to know what on earth you find difficult about the new tap and learning how to tell them, in ways they will understand, can seem like an uphill struggle.

When they ask why the bathroom is flooded, we tell them the new tap did it. Of course, the tap had an aspie attached to it at the time, so the non-aspie will try again: Why did we flood the bathroom?

At this point it's very tempting to wonder (perhaps out loud) if the non-aspie is stoopid. I mean, we already told them the tap is to blame. Obviously! But what the non-aspie is looking for is the reason why we, the attachee of the tap, managed to flood the bathroom again.

They want to know what we did, you see. They want to find out how it is possible for an intelligent person to not be able to use a tap simply because it is different from the old one. And also, while we're at it, they want to know why we left the tap on long enough for the bathroom to flood.

Instead of asking these things, they ask why we flooded the bathroom. This implies a level of blame we simply refuse to recognise. The tap is at fault, the water from the tap flooded the bathroom. Our presence in the vicinity has little to do with these facts, it could have happened to anyone (it's always us, though).

Don't ask me why non-aspies prefer to speak in code instead of just going for the real questions. I think perhaps they have some kind of social awareness issue, where they expect others to guess what they are thinking without having to say it. They maybe think we are all on some giant psychic pulse where we know the insides of their heads like the insides of the biscuit barrel.

So, when speaking to non-aspies I suggest you keep it simple. They like answers, even though they often claim we give the wrong ones. Try asking them what they want to know and see if that clears it up more quickly. Rather than guessing what they want, say something like, 'Did you want to know why the bathroom flooded?'

As we've discovered, they want to know why we flooded the bathroom, so turning the question around is likely to get their attention, even if they appear a little agitated at having it returned to sender.

Once you have their attention, do not abuse this privilege by asking them how they expect you to cope with a new tap when they know full well you don't read instructions. And don't moan on about how much better the old tap was when you know it leaked for two years. Try asking them to watch you use the blasted thing and see if you can figure out why it keeps flooding the bathroom.

You see, talking to non-aspies does involve focus and dedication on the part of the aspie. It's always worth repeating what they have said to see if you have it right, and then keeping calm when they lose theirs. This method does work in the end and means you will both be focused on the questions that matter, rather than spending half an hour of your precious time waiting for the non-aspie to figure out which question they really like.

In the end, talking to non-aspies requires patience and some foresight. Keep in mind their habit of dodging the real questions and try to make them hone their attention so you can help them understand what you are saying.

Remember, they always assume you know exactly what they mean, regardless of the many times you failed this test before. And they haven't yet figured out not everyone is psychic.


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Susan Boyle and Adults with Aspergers - Mumsnet featured blog post

(This blog post was originally published on the Mumsnet website as a featured blog post and later blog post of the day)

When I first heard that Susan Boyle had been diagnosed with Aspergers, I had to stop and remember that this was something new, that she hadn't been an aspie before. To me, she has always been 'one of us', in her way of speaking and presenting herself, her difficulties with the world and her unique talent. The public Susan seems very much like the private one would be and this is the first place we stumble, as the public aspie is only what we have learnt to show the world, no matter how honest and direct we might be in all things.

In many ways, being an adult aspie is like being a ping-pong ball in a tennis court. You know you have the shape about right, you know you have to be batted about by life and bounce back, but somehow you don't quite fit. You get thwacked with a racket and find yourself shooting out of range, lying in the corner with the dead leaves and a lost shoe while the proper tennis balls whizz about, making it look easy.

Being an adult aspie can be a very lonely, isolating experience, especially as a woman. Women in general are good at holding things together; they manage their lives and the lives of their families, they do jobs, school runs, care for relatives and make everything all right in time for tea.

All of us have extra stresses which make life complicated and I would never want to diminish what other people have to go through. It's just I know I speak for many other aspies, men and women, when I say that managing  life is hard enough without any of the normal stresses, let alone the extra ones that life occasionally throws at us all.

On a good day, I could run this country or figure out a cool and exciting way to populate Mars; on a bad day I can't open the door to the postman without feeling like sandpaper is being rubbed across my psyche.

Getting a diagnosis of aspergers can be a very important first step in understanding why you feel the way you do; it can be the vital push you need to help yourself cope with life and become the person you always wanted to be. Fulfilling your potential begins with knowing where to start looking for yourself.

Sometimes, what we all need is  information which tells us it's okay, it's all right, we were meant to be this way. We need permission to love ourselves, to see in our quirks and eccentricities the kind of light other people have always seen in us.

In her interview, Susan Boyle says "I think people will treat me better because they will have a much greater understanding of who I am and why I do the things I do." This is what she hopes will change. She does not want to change herself and thinks the diagnosis will not change her life - she simply wants other people to treat her better.

I hope she gets what she wants, I really do, but in my experience people see the adult first and the aspergers often somewhere else down the line. We are fully grown, we are expected to behave like we know what we are doing. And often we do!

How awkward we are, looking like adults and usually acting like them, only to go on and have a meltdown in the middle of Tesco because that old woman pushed past me again and hit my bag and the lights are too bright, the self-service tills are making too much noise and where on earth was I meant to be going after this?!

What adults with aspergers need, above all things, is just what Susan says she needs - other people to be kinder and more understanding, so that we feel safe to break down and then be picked up again. For all the days when I have the sun shining on my face, I would give an awful lot to have someone near on darker days, when my hand shakes as I go out of the door.

We can learn to work with our aspergers and grow as people but might always have that sensation of being spun away from everyone else. We need to feel that even as we are spinning and the world is flying out in every direction, that we will come to rest and be able to stand up, dust ourselves down and try again. And that someone will be waiting nearby, to make it a little softer and a little kinder while we live our glorious lives.


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We have to be our own hero

There is a scene in Spirited Away when Chihiro has to face her fears and use a massively steep flight of stairs. It is old and rickety too, so every move she makes feels like she will catapult herself off the edge and to certain death.

When she first uses the stairs, she sits on her bottom and tries to shuffle down, one by one. This is safe but she is still petrified. Later she is forced to run down them: she doesn't intend to run, it's just that once she's on her feet, momentum gets the better of her and away she goes.

Once she starts running, she has to speed up or fall, there are no other choices. She runs faster and faster, little hands in the air and hair flying out behind her, going almost too fast to know if she is succeeding.

At the bottom she is on a wider ledge and feels safer, but then has to move on to the next unknown part of her journey and face more challenges. Throughout Spirited Away, Chihiro is constantly challenged, physically, mentally, emotionally and has to grow and adapt to survive and to save her parents.

By the end of the film she has progressed so much that she can save her parents without doubting herself. She has finally cast off the shackles of who she was and is ready to embrace her new life. She has also learnt to appreciate what she had before.

Yes, I feel this way on public transport too

This is what so many of us aim for, to be able to get past all the hurdles and be there, at the triumphant end of the movie when it has all turned out well, we have saved the day and now understand ourselves and our place in the world. It sounds like a human version of perfection, to have this sense of knowledge, composure, belonging.

I admire Chihiro in this movie. I like that she isn't afraid to show her fear, that she isn't a go-getting hero who faces death and never quavers. She just keeps on trying: resolutely and with as much confidence as she can muster, she pushes herself towards every obstacle and hopes it will be all right in the end.

I really hate lifts

That is how it really is, as the heroes of our own stories. There is no magic pill or fairy godmother. There are people along the way who can help, but mostly we have to help ourselves. And there are many challenges which feel like a long, rattling, angled staircase which we have to use or die.

I know many days as an aspie feel more like the middle of this film and not the end. How often I feel like I'm on that staircase, hair flying out behind me, hands raised to keep my balance as I catapult myself into the next unknown. The only control I seem to have is to run or fall, and sometimes they turn out to be the same thing.

Other people are always the problem

Readers, here's to all those times when you felt the stairs move under your feet and had no one waiting to catch you. I salute us all for still having the courage to run down them, even if it was a forced choice and not a decision.

In the end, if you are running for your life, it doesn't matter where you started. You are doing it and hoping for the best. Heroic finale or not, every challenge is worth appreciating, and so are we.


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Tis the season to be aspie

The usual Christmas things apply at this time of year and one of those is the time-honoured penance known as Christmas Shopping. Personally, I buy online and any shops I visit are because I want to savour the atmosphere, or get some nice decorations. And then I go as close to closing time as possible.

Last week I found myself the designated driver for a Christmas day out with my mother, IT Teen and IT's new girlfriend (hereby known as IT Girl). We were all going in my car to a big shopping centre on the other side of the country. What fun!

After a full journey of trying to be sociable and not grunt when someone talked to me, we arrived at the shopping centre. Only then did I remember something fairly important: I don't actually like shopping!

IT and IT Girl dumped us in favour of a romantic day without me and my mother pretending not to watch them. I spent the next four hours wandering behind my mother, walking through massed crowds of eagle-eyed shoppers all piling unnecessary STUFF into their baskets.

It was like a strange, alternate reality where I was faced with behaviour not familiar enough for me to copy. I felt completely alienated.

At one point, in the glory that is Primark, I took a look around me and just couldn't do it. Off out the shop I went to the walkway outside. Still too many people but room to breathe. For a moment in there it was as if every face was lit with an uncanny and manic light, full of strange emotions I would never feel and none of them quite human.

I waited outside until the demonic visualisation had died down and tried again. Weaving my way through the crowds I found my mother clutching a bag full of shopping and looking at me along the edge of her nose - you know the look, when people understand you're going to have a meltdown and are trying to work out if they have enough time to take you somewhere less populated.

I coped with the rest of the day, mainly by zoning out as much as possible. Unfortunately this meant I wasn't really present or a full part of our day out. It's a shame when you have to choose between not coping at all or disconnecting as a way of struggling through.

Next time I might take a book and schedule myself some time alone in the car. Or I'll bag a table in a nice, quiet cafe and growl at anyone who tries to join me. However much I don't like shopping, I'm likely to be the driver again next Christmas, so I might as well plan my strategy now. Maybe by then I'll have learned to love shopping. Loving crowds, though? It's never going to happen.


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Aspies are still liars...

Ever since this blog started, people have found it by searching 'aspies' and 'lying', along with the expected variations like 'are all aspies liars', 'lying aspies' and 'dishonest aspies'.

Lots of people are dishonest and lots of people lie - and aspies are people, you know. So, before I defend anyone, better to ask if your particular aspie is a liar, rather than do all aspies lie. But yes, I know what you mean.

It can come across as lying, can't it? The evasive look, not meeting your eye; the inability to commit or to answer your questions in the way you expect. The strange, complicated conversation you had when you tried to talk about something really important and ended up coming away with a new recipe for brownies instead.

We can be very. very evasive, I admit it. I can evade with the best of them, from avoiding any eye contact at all to actually fleeing the scene. It's all just part of the fight or flight reaction, and aspies FLY.

If I think you'll want me to have a heavy, in-depth talk about the state of our relationship, I'm flapping those wings before you've even finished the first sentence. If I suspect more is wanted of me than I am willing or able to give, I take a look around in case I need to run before I can launch.

Especially if I'm confused as to what someone actually wants, and I'm worried about it; then it makes so much more sense to flap off in another direction and wait for things to feel normal again before I show my face.

It's not lying, it's evasion and the difference is in the intention. Liars set out with a deliberate intent to deceive, often for their own gain. Evasive aspies just want life to be uncomplicated and to be able to move onto the next stage without having to work out the perils of this one.

Evasion and lying are like two small children in kindergarten. They both took a cookie from the tray before the teacher told them to. The liar took it and lied, because he wanted that cookie and he was ready for it now. The evasive aspie took it because she was passing and saw cookies and hadn't the teacher said they were all going to have cookies later? Was now later?

Having discovered now was not later, she becomes the evasive aspie, keen to get out of the latest trouble with no real clue as to how she got into it in the first place.

The trouble is, lying and evasion often end in the same way, with someone looking at you as if they're disappointed and you feeling like a big problem.

Lying and aspies may lead you to asperger blogs online but don't let the same search take you the wrong way when it comes to your own aspie. Make sure you know the difference between deceit and confusion, between subterfuge and fear. They may look the same from a distance but take a closer look and with less anger in your heart.

We are only people, in the end, and so are you.


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The politeness balloon

Sometimes I wish everyone was as direct as an aspie. For all the times we miss the point and get it wrong and say the worst thing that comes into our heads, we spare people the run-around of a pointless conversation-loop.

I have just had one of those infuriating conversations with a non-aspie where they have a specific thing they want to know. They have it right there, sitting up-front in the big boy chair, waiting to be seen and answered. So, what do they do?

Rather than be honest and find out what they want to know, I am subjected to a mind-numbing exchange of questions and hum-herm-ah comments where my answers to the questions obviously aren't hitting the mark.

That's the funny thing about not asking a direct question, though - you don't tend to get a direct answer!

Am I meant to know what it is behind the questions? Or am I meant to be seduced into something resembling politeness and not be offended by them asking directly? Am I happier, now that we have gone all around the houses, back out the side gate and down the lane to Aunty Joan's before getting to the right answer? Do I sound happy??

If this conversation had been with an aspie, it would have taken a few seconds.

Aspie 1: 'Oh yeah - hang on, my shoe lace has done that thing I hate - there! Now, what time are we getting back from Mars on Friday?'

Aspie 2: 'Probably about five, I have to detour to Pluto to pick up my new hum-a-bing.'

Aspie 1: 'Great! I need to be back before six so that's perfect.'

There, wasn't that easy? No one was hurt, it took no time at all and we even had a few extra seconds for re-tying shoelaces. Isn't life simple when you ask the question that is really in your mind, instead of all the little questions that are meant to make life softer?

Of course, I am being generous to aspies. I know that half the time the aspie wouldn't ask the question and only remember they needed to be back by six when we were still trying to get out of the Mars carpark at five-thirty. But, in general, if aspies are not ditracted by the shoelace before they speak and if they remember to speak in the first place, then a direct question will be asked - and answered.

Now, non-aspies, please, I beg of you, take it on trust that we are unlikely to be hurt or discomfited by a direct question. It is the shimmying around with the politeness balloon that drives us absolutely crazy. Really, it does. Be offensive if you like, but be quick about it and be honest. Then we can all get on with our lives!


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Communication is like a bucking bronco

There are two things needed for an honest conversation and only one of them is honesty itself.

The second thing you need, a vital ingredient to making the honesty work, is the ability to express yourself. Without this ability, honesty becomes just a momentary bolt for the door, or a brief splurge of feelings, as and when they happen.

It's rather like saying to the bread dough, 'Now, Dough, I've held up my part of the bargain: you have yeast, an oiled bowl and I've kneaded you straight through five songs and an ad break on the radio. Whenever the heck are you going to start rising?'

The bread would feel even more deflated at this, having no idea why it can't rise. Imagine the sad lump of dough in the bowl, still not touching the sides, still as you left it an hour ago. What can it be doing wrong?

The bread knows you did everything you could. It knows about the yeast, the bowl, the kneading. It remembers the endless radio noise as you went to work. It realises that now all it has to do is hold up one small part of the bargain, and rise.

What it doesn't know and what you forgot is that it needs some warmth too.

Without warmth, you will probably get some rising, eventually. You will still mainly have a sorry sight in the bowl though. It wasn't the dough's fault that you forgot it needed warmth, it only understands part of the process.

Okay, aspies are not bread dough, though we also require some warmth to grow. What I am trying to explain is, we rarely have the full picture, not when it comes to ourselves.

Sometimes, we are desperately wanting to express ourselves and be honest and all we manage is a small sentence on  how we aren't feeling too good. Often we divert and think we are ill instead, thanks to the twisting stomach and the frantic headache brought on by nerves.

Someone else might need to step in and remind us why we don't feel happy, or to ask pointed, direct questions to get to the heart of the matter. It is no good expecting answers when you haven't asked the right questions. How many times have I wondered, long after the event, what someone really wanted to know after a conversation with them! If only they had come out and said, without expecting me to remember or know.

Other times, people don't want you to be honest so they avoid asking the important questions, instead pretending to themselves (or conveniently deciding) that if they don't ask and it's really important to you, then you'll bring it up yourself, without them having to risk the question.

This is where stupid hurt feelings come in, as when the aspie trips gaily on their way, oblivious to all this tortured sub-text, the best beloved is left in the dust, full of self-pity at their heartless aspie and wondering what they did to deserve such cruelty.

If you would like to know how an aspie feels, ask and risk rejection or horror or the sight of heels disappearing in the opposite direction. But also be prepared to prompt and help along the conversation.

Do not push in and say, 'But you said you were desperate to go to Valencia!' only to have your aspie remember, quite clearly, that it was you who was desperate for a holiday in the sun. Try instead, 'What exactly worries you about Valencia?' (I have nothing against Valencia, by the way, feel free to go on holiday there with my blessing).

Be brave and ask questions, be forthright - give honesty in the hopes of receiving it. And do not, in any way, play games, expecting your aspie to know what their part is or that anyone is playing at all in the first place.

Above all, remember that communication is a constantly evolving, tumultuous beast, only dressed blithely in summer clothes because the human race decided communication had to be a civilised thing. In real, human relationships, where people want to communicate, not just get along or pretend to be friends, then communication is a primeval and vital component, ever-changing to suit the needs of the moment. It must be ridden like the bronco, steered as well as you can, holding on and feeling for the next move before it even happens.

This, after all, is what communication is like for aspies most days of the week. Try it in its basic, pre-dawn form and see how well you get on. At the very least, you'll start to see each other in a new light. Being kicked off into the dirt can do that for you.


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What do you expect of your aspie at Christmas?

I've said it before, I love Christmas. The Spirit of Christmas Present would not have needed to sneak in my spare room with his cornucopia of goodies. In fact, if he did, he would probably have to move my own cornucopia first. I'd have no issue with the theory of goodwill to your fellow man (you notice I keep to the theory, practice is a little bit harder sometimes) and in general I would welcome Christmas into my heart, every day.

So, having sorted that out, yes, I am going to have a moan about Christmas. That is, about other people and their idea of it and how we should all fit in.

Let me be upfront: I do not expect others to be a rabid advocate of Christmas. I don't expect them to rush out with their lights, sticking them on spiky trees in the pouring rain or trying to figure out how to keep battery-operated lights on the dog while making sure he doesn't chew them off. I don't think everyone should deck the halls or have to lop the top off the tree just to fit it in the living room. I don't expect them to listen to Christmas music and have a little cry when Judy Garland sings (yes, I go insane this time of year).

What gets my goat after all this 'not expecting' I do (and I think I do far too much), is that other people then expect me to fit in with their view of Christmas. At this time of year more than any other, the old issues come out of the woodwork.

For the rest of the year, people in your circle can usually behave themselves and remember, as much as possible, that you have limitations and need some careful treatment, depending on the situation. In other words, the rest of the year they have much less trouble remembering you are an aspie.

Come Christmas, and all the Musts and Shoulds and the nasty, sneaky little Could You?s come out of the woodwork. It's as if, in honour of the time of year, you will leave your aspieness in a cupboard, possibly in the same box that used to hold the fairy lights, and do everything others think is acceptable, without a glimmer of awkwardness.

That waspish biddy you happen to be related to, who no one expects you to visit any other time of year, suddenly becomes a big spot on the To Do list. Yes, I know, goodwill to all men, and I guess this includes waspish old aunties too. But does the visiting make anything better? Does she become any less waspish? Is she likely to be pleased you came? Or is it an hour of chill-inducing stares and long, painful consuming of elderly mince pies?

The relatives and friends who suddenly must visit. Previously, on Life With an Aspie, it was deemed acceptable to see them away from the safe place, somewhere close to a bolt-hole or where you could see your car, waiting in the car park.

Now, they must come to your house or you must go to theirs. And you all must have a Good Time and be jolly and friendly and, oh, I'm sorry, I do sometimes have to include bad words here...sociable.

(I do hate the word jolly. I have a feeling it is the only thing I wouldn't like about the Spirit of Christmas Present. All that laughing and belly jiggling. The only person who is allowed to be jolly anywhere near me is Santa and he knows to keep the volume down).

The only thing that saves me on my Christmas visits is if people have children. Now you're talking! We can talk about Santa, watch cartoons, do some colouring and work out how the sleigh works, whether the reindeer will land on the roof or in the garden and just get so excited that it's best for all of us if we have some time out by the end of the visit.

Children are not the same as adults, you see. They don't expect you to be suddenly jolly at this time of year, when you haven't been jolly before. They know when you are happy on the inside, they see the twinkle in your eye or the subtle reaction you have that means you love their new storybook. They know, for certain, if you are really watching the cartoon with them or simply pretending and waiting for an adult to come and 'rescue' you.

Kids know the inner person and they don't expect false gaiety and the release of inner elves into the outer world, just because it's Christmas.

So, from now until the time when I get the burning oil stationed above the front door, I will be on my best sociable behaviour, for the sake of people who ought to know better. I will go out (cringe), be pleasant (I'll try), be nice to sticklers (I have limits) and promise not to vanish into the garden with the kids as soon as I've come through the door (I'm crossing my fingers).

I will be whatever I can be on the day, readers. If it means looking grumpy at Christmas-time, then so be it. The trick to not having me grump is simple enough, though each year this trick gets tossed to one side and replaced with brussel sprouts.

I will not soften if I am boiled enough, nor will I stop giving you wind. And I do not promise that everyone will like me. But, if you treat me right and don't have unrealistic expectations, then I can be very good for you and be a delightful part of the Christmas season.

Now readers, I am off to see how many lights still work and whether the dog can fit into his Santa suit. Be brave, 'tis only once a year!


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Aspies have no sympathy

Crazy, isn't it? The people who ignore your sage and logical advice are always the ones who come running when it goes belly up. This is the stage in life where you have to choose between smacking them up the side of the head or biting your tongue.

Luckily, this blog is typed so my poor, sore tongue doesn't have to do any of the work. I'm tested, though, I don't mind admitting it. I'm not really prone to smacking people, however much I would like to sometimes. But I am prone to a good sharp sentence or two, perfectly constructed and out of my mouth before I realise who said it.

Surprisingly, I have held off this time, most likely because I'm absolutely exhausted this week and was too weary to be caustic. Usually, I do say what I feel and think and then wonder why the person who ignored my advice is weeping on my front step, unable to gather the strength to go home.

I am ticked off, though. As a mistress of self-sabotage I can feel it hanging in the air with some people. For myself, it can be hard to spot - in others, it might as well be flying past with Snoopy at the controls. And again, for myself, if someone was to say, Do Not Do This Thing, well, sometimes I would listen as usually my self-sabotage goes right under the radar and isn't apparent to me or others until it is too late.

I would go as far as to say that professional self-sabotage always has an element of secrecy about it. As aspies, we are used to second-guessing ourselves so if we are to self-sabotage, we need to be able to divert our attention so we don't spot it when it happens. It's only looking back that you realise this step led to that and then the next step led to a trip.

With other people, it seems so simple. You see where they are going before they reach the first step, perhaps because they are better at expressing themselves and plotting things out? Or they are more likely to share how they are thinking and feeling? I know I'm not very open, in real-life at least, with my thoughts and feelings, often because I'm afraid of the usual criticism coming.

For others, sure of themselves and the way they think, it must be easier to express themselves, which then makes it easier for me to see it as it happens. And when I see where things are going and point them out, and am ignored, it can be very frustrating.

So, some time later, a sorry and sad person comes to me, surprised and horrified at how it all turned out, wanting to bend my ear with the details but not have any real reaction. I am supposed to be sympathetic and, possibly murmur 'there there' while I put the kettle on.

Oh, it's hard, you know? Having the right words to say, the logic to apply to it and seeing the whole shenanigan laid out bare and obvious in front of me. What is an aspie to do? How far can you stretch kindness and tolerance before it snaps back and takes your eye out?

Only so far, readers. Sooner or later, whether I like it or not, the comments I bite back at the wrong time escape and become a conversation, probably at what I think is the right time. It usually isn't the right time. Sometimes there is never a right time to tell someone they were a damn fool for not listening to you in the first place. They do tend to take it so personally.

Aspies have no sympathy; except that we do, we honestly do. Just don't expect too much of it if you will keep on running at the same wall and then wondering why you bounce right off when you hit it.


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Chaotic, disorganised or just aspie?

Yesterday was a simple day - on paper. Here is my to-do list, as it looked the night before:

1. Get RT Teen to college on train
2. Take IT Teen to volunteering job
3. Prepare for maths lesson and creative writing class (in school)
4. Collect IT Teen and take dogs for their walk
5. Go to creative writing class (and do not be late!)
6. Pop home for food then go to maths lesson

There. A nice, organised list with my time allocated so that I know what I'm doing. And then,

RT Teen felt a bit off, so didn't go to college, but by then I'd done my usual trick of laying awake half the night, ready to get up very early. Went back to bed and laid awake in daylight instead.

Took IT Teen to his volunteering job, but forgot about my eBay parcels so did them instead of lesson prep while he was out.

Collected IT and came home to do the lesson prep and creative writing whatnots. Forgot I hadn't factored in time for lunch, so ate that. By now, the clock was ticking.

Worked out where the school was for the classes, was told by lying heap of donkey-leavings that is AA Routeplanner that it would take 15 minutes to get there from my house.

Took dogs for their walk, got dog-leavings on my shoes (not my dogs' dog-leavings), hurried home to wash shoes and get changed for school class. By this time, I had just enough time for getting to the school with ten minutes to spare.

Set off, only to find there are massive roadworks set up along most of my route (thanks again Routeplanner) and I spent longer than the whole journey should have taken siting on one little stretch.

Divert off across country as soon as possible, get behind lily-livered people who don't know the road and am frothing at the mouth by the time I reach the general vicinity of the school.

At this point, my directions didn't help as they were based on my original route. Putting aside my usual habit of not asking, I begged help from a dog-walker and she told me where the school was.

Finally walk into the school, almost 20 minutes late for a class only lasting an hour in total. The class was being led by a woman I went to college with, so she was more willing to forgive than most (and is always late for things herself). She introduces me and I open my mouth, ready to give my own little presentation before handing out worksheets.

As I stand there, my hand slips down my side and finds the tag on my top, which I am wearing inside out, having been in too much of a rush after washing the shoes. I do a quick mental re-cap of the top and decide my hair will cover the tag at the back. I surreptitiously shove the side ticket into the waistband of my trousers and hope for the best.

By now, I'm meant to be speaking and the presentation in my head has fled. I pick up my book, The Boy Who Broke the School, and do a very hasty rendition of the plot, of how characters can be naughty and then, shakily but creatively, lead into the worksheets. Not a sure start!

It takes 10 minutes for an eagle-eyed girl to notice I am wearing my top inside out but she whispers it to me and thinks it's funny, so we're okay there. I then spoil it a bit by telling my old college friend, adding the unwanted details that at least I was wearing all my clothes, and that standing on the step, checking you're fully dressed is good practice for when we're very old and might go out without pants. She laughed, but apparently is never in danger of going out without pants (yet).

I leave the lesson only a little scarred and jump in the car to dash home, eat and go to my maths lesson. Halfway home, I realise my maths papers are back at the school, tidied away with the creative writing.

Once home, I do get to eat, but then ferret about repeating my lesson prep and set off again, into the dark, cold night, to my maths lesson. Get there, take a moment to discover they're not in. They got mixed up about the night (specially rearranged, I wasn't even meant to be out that night) and thought I was coming the next day instead.

I go to the shop and resist buying placatory chocolate and also resist having a meltdown at the self-service checkouts where the assistant and the ten-items-or-less woman had just shared a hilarious, amazing joke and were shrieking with laughter the whole time I was self-serving, quieting for a second before one of them added another 'mazing, 'larious joke and starting again. It's amazing and hilarious how much hate can build up in your body in a short space of time.

I went home, collapsed on the sofa, discovered the Sky remote had broken (our TV has no buttons) and was trapped with an Australian soap opera for too long while I worked out how to not press the Off button on top of the Sky box. Apparently, Josh is a bad boy and Kieran feels no one understands him - which is a pity, as he seemed pretty transparent to me.

You'll not be surprised to hear, at this point I just went to sleep on the sofa. That was it, no more!

I decided the day might have been better if I hadn't got up so early or had more sleep the night before, but I'm still dubious. I think some days are just sent to try us. I'm only glad that, as an aspie, I am used to winging it and playing it by ear and acting on the spur of the moment. All the things which mean when life suddenly descends into chaos, it only feels a little different from a normal day.

Today, though, I am staying in.


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The art of the mini-breakdown

The scenario is familiar: life becomes too much, you need to hide away and regroup but, this time, it doesn't work. You feel you need to burrow deeper into your hidey-hole, need to lock the door better, need to keep it all away so you can feel like it will never come back.

Sometimes, there isn't a small space small enough, there just aren't words comforting enough and the phone cannot be unplugged far enough to keep you safe from the outside world.

Every step along the road comes along your path, keeping your mobile on silent only means you check it more, the jobs you need to do stay undone but they bother at you, worrying at your leg like an impatient sheep dog.

How is it that sometimes all you need is a small period of hibernation, but other times, you feel like you need to shuck off the whole world and become a permanent hermit, just to stay sane? And then feel that you've left it too late for sanity anyway.

Days (if you're lucky), weeks or months later, you emerge out of the cave and take baby-steps to being a real human being again. Like magic, a switch finally flicked over and you were able to function again.

It is not a breakdown, most of the time. You don't need to cut all ties to your old life, or take up new therapy, nor do anything particularly drastic. What do you need, however, is to be allowed to breakdown in peace.

Readers, the mini-breakdown is truly an art. It requires the sort of finesse which comes naturally to aspies, as you need the ability to live at least two lives at the same time.

One or more of your lives follows a normal path and you do what you have to do, albeit at a muted level. But then, the main life, the one that matters and other people rarely get to see, is breaking apart while you watch. You are often the one doing the breaking, snapping pieces off, unlocking couplings, setting yourself off to float down river, never to be seen again.

You swear you'll not need those pieces of yourself again. You are done with it! (Whatever it is). You are going to keep yourself safe and warm and cosy until you feel able to cope again, and then you'll never pick up those pieces again, because they made all this other stuff happen.

Does it ever work like that though? In the end, I often find myself wading off down river after the life-pieces, dragging them back out of the water and onto the bank. Then, after all that breaking up and freedom-thinking, I have to wait for the pieces to dry off in the sun so I can link them all up again and have my life back together.

This process repeats so often, I get bored with myself - but am no better at managing it. I am rather more able to accept it, though. If this is what it takes to move on, at some future date, then I will let those pieces go, even if it makes things harder. I have to do it that way as the alternative is an onward struggle where life just gets worse and I am going past not-coping to never-again.

The mini-breakdown, readers, your friend and mine; always there for us in times of trouble and often in times of happiness too. Always at hand to help us shake away the burdens weighing us down and offer us the possibility of a life without constraints, where we can ignore everything and it will go away. No matter what.

I urge you not to feel bad when this happens, and not to be persuaded it is permanent. The only thing of permanence in our endless drama is the aspergers itself. The rest is malleable, transitory, a creative response to the world's dogged determination to make us reinvent ourselves in order to survive.

We are insightful, determined individuals with the ability to dissect and manipulate a confusing life where everyone else seems to know what they are doing. Dear readers, if we can work out real life, even a piece at a time, then we can allow ourselves a mini-breakdown now and then, as a way to recover from it.

You just have to become adept at putting things back to together, and at wading in deep waters. Having already learned so many unusual life-skills, I promise you, this you can do.


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Don't train your aspie!

You know how they say, if you hear something often enough, you start to believe it? I was torturing myself with some past stuff last night. I was caught up in that replay mode, where you know you've heard it a thousand times before, a bit like granny's stories of when she told Mrs so-and-so just what she thought of her, but can you stop it? Of course not.

It's not just at night. Through the day, in normal life, the replay starts and you hear the old voices, the familiar phrases. Most of them tell a 'truth' about you, something you learned growing up or which formed part of a significant relationship.

One of my truths was always that I was not practical, followed by the well-worn and amusing diatribe on how the practical gene skipped a generation, how my children would probably get it instead. And then the sideways jump to how it didn't skip past my cousins though - at which point I'd be likened to my great-grandmother, who preferred her gardening to keeping the house clean and tidy. She died a heroine so I never minded that too much.

Except, when I've become more assertive with age (and it took a loooong time), I discovered that while every nail I might knock in was likely to bounce back out, I was very good at looking at the bigger picture and showing other people where to put the nails.

This often meant I was seen as being critical too, but my advice or reasoning usually solved some difficult problem that the practical people had spent an hour scratching their heads about. It was obvious to me, but being so resolutely not practical, I stayed away until the sound of cursing and nails being removed was too much to bear.

As a non-practical person, I have also been pushed away from sites of busy-ness and doing, as if my very presence would hold up the fine industry of real people, the ones who can knock in a nail. 'Here, get out of the way!' was the usual phrase, or 'Can you not do anything but stand there and look?'

If you get used to being sent off or made to take part (rather than stand and look) then cause problems, you start removing yourself from the situation. You grow accustomed to sitting in another room and listening to the sound of those hammers, working away with the kind of industry that built empires (and you know how they usually turn out).

You become adept at reading through the disturbance, or pushing refreshments through the gap in the door so you won't be drawn in to helping or told off for being there at the wrong moment. And, you really, really get used to admiring other people's shoddy handiwork because you know you couldn't have done it half as well yourself.

In other words, you train yourself to step back and only take part when it's all over, by which time you have no choice but to say it all looks good. You have no room for manoeuvre once you have vacated the situation.

If you have the courage to stay and help in your own way, not by wielding the hammer but by looking at things from your unique perspective, then you have a far greater chance of helping out. You can often make things better than by leaving the room. However - and this is a big however - this only works if the nail-hitters will allow you to help in your own way.

If they insist on doing it their way, or on your space in the plan being dictated by how they see the world, then you will do little to help and might make things worse. Blaming you for your part in this compounds your feelings of helplessness and detachment, making it less likely you will be involved the next time, and so on.

So, taking part in situations you have been trained to avoid does take courage and not just on your part. Other people need to put down the hammer occasionally and consider there may be a better way to make the world than by fixing one plank at a time. They also need to be brave enough to look at their aspie and say, 'What do you think? Is there anything else I can do?'

And then, they have to listen to the answer too.


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It's a process. Pro-cess. Prrr-ocess. You know, a PROCESS!

For anyone who missed it, the word for today is PROCESS. See, now I'm shouting. You can always tell what kind of week it's been if you're shouting by Wednesday.

So, RT Teen, fellow aspie, artist and person extraordinaire, is going to a new college in a nearby city. He needs to get there and back on his own and do all the little, important things which non-aspies take for granted. In other words, he has to connect with the real world without real-ectifrying himself.

He started at the college last week, so as part of the preparation for independent travel, I drove him there a couple of times, doing a reccy of the train station he would be using, tracing the routes around the city, finding out the best way to get to college and so on. An important part of this is the minutiae of city life, such as knowing which side the traffic will come from when you cross the road and which side streets cut out whole swathes of walking.

We picked out landmarks, such as the Aga shop with teapots made to look like little stoves with food on top (all right, I picked that one out. I so want a stove teapot now). We admired the smell from the biscuit factory and memorised the road name he needs to find if all else fails.

At the station, once we were ready to do the journey by train, it was a comedy of errors. I'd forgotten I didn't like train stations until the minute before we had to use one. So, throughout our process of familiarisation, I had to fight a feeling akin to when I drive into a dark, scary multi-storey car park.

We did manage this journey, though almost got on the wrong train which would have taken us on a beautiful route across Northern England and into Yorkshire. As we don't live in Yorkshire, this would have been an interesting detour.

So, as you can see, we have hopefully covered the whole journey and, fingers crossed, RT Teen will do it by himself tomorrow.

I'm very happy with his progress but, as the days have passed since he started last Monday, I am feeling increasingly aeriated with the people around me who think that he should be able to hop on a bus or a train and do the journey by himself from the start.

Let me be clear: anyone who knows him, knows he is an aspie and most of them have known him his whole life. Since when was RT the kind of person who could switch off his aspieness and suddenly manage, as if by psychic lightning-bolt, things he has never done before?

Day by day, people have assumed he's going to college on his own, has been 'popped' on the bus or train at my end and left to it. He is an aspie, he's always been an aspie. He gets his sense of direction from his mother and takes the disconnect from real-life to a whole new level.

He does not, by virtue of reaching voting age, suddenly know what other people know. If it was really like this then we'd all be automatons who could download a new program when we wanted to do something (tempting, isn't it?).

He. Is. An. Aspie.

I've had to say this as if it was news and then endure the pause while the other person tries to work out where I'm going with the statement and what it has to do with RT going to college or their comment that he'll 'soon get into the swing of things if you let him'.

Readers, if I was to leave RT to get into the swing of things, he would be in Bronte country by now, possibly holed up in a Yorkshire tea room somewhere, being looked after by friendly old women, feeding him cake and asking him when he's going to have his hair cut.

Every day people have expected him to be going alone by now, when what we've been doing is working through the whole process so that he reaches a stage of travelling independently without panic. If something goes wrong, he needs to be able to fall back on the other things he has learnt about his journey.

It is a process, I've said, over and over. A process.

I've tried to explain where we are in the process and again, that moment of silence where their image of a teenager doesn't match up with the idea that RT planned out landmarks today and worked out which subway to use.

If I have to tell one more person about the process, I may just scream. Tomorrow, he'll go by himself. He'll follow the process we built up over the last week and a half. And he won't panic because he was a part of that process and not simply thrust into the situation and expected to manage.

Sometimes we all need a little bit of process in our lives, even those people who think the lives of others are like pop-up cards, all merry and ready to use. And after helping RT get ready to take this journey alone, I've also realised how much the process has also helped me.

From now on, when I do something new, I'm not going to wing it and tell people everything is fine. Instead I'm going to say, 'I'll get the hang of it eventually, it's a process you know.' And let them fall silent if they want, I'm done explaining.


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Hiding behind yourself

I dreamt last night that I had found a really good new mask to wear. It was white and slightly transparent so you could see my face through it. I knew people wouldn't be able to see my face clearly, so I was going to wear lots of black make-up around my eyes, kind of like in the first days of television when they exaggerated the make-up so it would look real on the screen.

The aim was for my blackened eyes to show through the mask and then people would see my eyes as normal. I have no idea how this was meant to work, it was a dream after all, but I remember the relief I felt at having a plan. I knew this one would work and I could relax at last.

Funny how you need a plan to relax. When most people think of relaxing, it's because they can forget everything, including planning, and just kick back. For me, I can't relax unless I have planned and know I'm ready for what might come.

Two things resonate in this dream: my need to plan and my need to have a mask that works. Do you see how it never occurred to me not to cover my face? How sad and strange!

I've often worried about how I present myself to the world and I know my feelings tramp across my face in hob-nailed boots. When I think I have them hidden, I'm aware of how much my eyes still show. And, in the dream, the eyes still showed because I made sure they did. Yet. even though I was making them more visible, I was also covering them with make up. I didn't cover them with a mask, like the rest of my face, but I still disguised them under war-paint.

In the dream, I was trying to explain to my mother why the make-up needed to be black and so bold. It was all over my eyes and it shone. I guess I looked like Cleopatra when she wakes up in the dumpster after an all-nighter. My mother wanted me to leave the make-up off but I told her, 'Then nobody will be able to see me.'

Again, the paradox. After hiding for so much of my life, I want a mask to keep myself safe in front of other people but then to highlight my eyes so they can see me - the very eyes which betray my feelings so often.

In the cold light of day, I have no desire to share my feelings with everyone by highlighting my eyes. The mask, though, I can see why I'd approve of that. Imagine the relief at finding just the right one and being able to feel safe when you go out into the world.

The eyes? They're a different matter. I guess part of me does want to share the real me with the world, so long as that self is protected by the mask and make-up. Possibly that's what we all want, even the most open of us. Who really wants to be naked and vulnerable in this bad old world?


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Coping with people who like to shout

Sometimes I feel like having a sign, ready to haul out when I need it: Don't Shout At Me. Do you think it would work? Do you suppose the Shouters would pause long enough to read it?

In my experience, they would. They'd be able to read that sign and carry on shouting if they liked. Or, for effect, stop what they were doing, read it and then shout louder because I've committed another atrocity.

They must be atrocities, right? I mean, I don't shout unless I have to or my temper has really got the better of me. I used to shout a lot more then realised it was learned behaviour and adapted to weed it out. Now I try not to do it, I take advance warning if my mood rises or my voice does the same.

I'm only human. I can shout if I have to; I can lose my temper and scream if I'm really pushed. And I can have an aspie meltdown and storm off, bellowing.

Shouters love to shout because to them it means other people must be listening. But just to be sure, they raise their voices to be certain they're the centre of attention.

Then they concentrate on your reaction, the person who dared to cause this outburst. You may think they're out of control and can't stop the shouting or have a runaway temper. It could be true but I doubt it. Do you know what they're really doing? Behind all the noise and bluster they are watching to see how you're taking it.

Are you upset, like a good wrong-doer? Do you look guilty? Do you want to cry? All great results, people but you want to know what the big one is? The thing they really want is for you to shout back.

Why would they need you to shout back? Simple, they need you to be the bad guy in all this. If they stand and yell at you with no response, their satisfaction-to-temper ratio diminishes and they have to increase the range of their performance.

If you stay completely silent and don't feed the fire, what do you get? You actually get a whole lot more shouting. Like a toddler rolling around on the floor, a tantrum is no good unless someone sees and reacts.

Readers, it took me years to learn this is a perfomance, as much an act as when I pretend to be normal and force myself to enter real-life. Unlike my own performances, this one always, always needs an audience, whereas mine is solo street art, meant for nothing except getting through a crowd.

How is the aspie meant to know this manipulation for what it is when we have trouble understanding even ourselves? You'll know when it's not the right kind of argument by how you feel about it.

You might not be able to explain why you feel this is wrong but your whole being will be off-kilter. It's one of those times when you have to follow your instincts and believe you are not to blame.

Like many aspies, I have been shouted at. Quite a lot, in fact. I don't know whether it's low self-esteem, a quiet personality or a willingness to get along with people: whatever lies behind it, I've attracted Shouters. And then, I've let them Shout.

The secret is to walk away, it's the only permanent answer. If you can't do that, you have to learn to deal with it and the best place to start is with yourself. Other people shout because they can, they choose to shout. It is not your fault.

Breaking the best china or falling on the dog or deleting all of Game of Thrones might be your fault. But the decision to shout instead of talking is theirs.

Never be tricked into believing it is you who causes the Shouting or that it would happen with everyone else too: shouters choose their audience wisely, and aspies can be a very good audience indeed.

Here's to all the people who told me these truths over the years, and eventually helped me believe them.


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I don't always act like an aspie, but when I do...

This week, I had to be a grown-up. RT Teen wants to change his college course which, due to lack of choice locally, means also changing his college. So, on Thursday evening we traipsed through to Carlisle College for an open night to meet new tutors.

I'd worried all week about him changing colleges and by Thursday night was really existing in some other, lighter place. Courageous enough on the outset, but by the time I'd driven through to Carlisle, I seemed to have used up all my sense.

I concentrated hard on the driving, as I was at that stage of stress where you feel disconnected. We got through the city, parked up and then had to find the college. I was prepared (for once) and we trotted off in the right direction.

Like country bumpkins, we got stuck on the wrong side of a barrier and couldn't figure out where we were meant to cross the road. Eventually, we saw a familiar looking building (thank you, Google Street View!) and hurried over. Once someone had pointed out the large button with Press Here written on it, we managed to open the doors...

It was a big, open space with lots of glass and very hot. The open night was going to be in the foyer, which also turned out to be their canteen area and main thoroughfare. Tables and chairs everywhere, with very few labels and none of them for Art or Computing.

Oh dear. We sat down on the edges, looking like we'd been dumped and waited for enlightenment to strike. It didn't, so we started wandering around the tables, vaguely angling towards any tutors who looked Arty or Computery.

Finally, a sympathetic admin woman caught sight of my face and came over to help. She identified the non-Arty looking Art tutor and we were off!

It went very well, though RT can't join the Art course this year due to how much he has missed. The Art tutor loved his work and made all kinds of helpful suggestions. Then, at the end, I found myself rounding off with a meme.

Yes, I've spent so long online that I now speak in memes. This is kind of embarrassing even with people who know me, but seemed to delight the Art tutor, who thought it was very funny. It was; I slotted it in the right place and presented it with panache, but, looking back, I'd rather have just thanked him and wandered off, like any other mother.

Onwards and upwards and, by bothering the disinterested receptionist, we found the Computer tutor. He turned out to be IT Teen's old tutor, who jumped ship from our local college and went to a better working life in Carlisle. He followed the department head, also IT's old tutor, who did the same thing. He was quite surprised to finally meet IT's mother and brother.

We got on very well, talked about IT, made fun of his iphone while he wasn't there to defend himself and talked about retro computer games too. He was more than willing to have RT on his course, using IT's consistent enthusiasm for computing as a reference.

This was weird, as when both boys were small and going through school, each new teacher would look at mini-RT Teen and say something like, 'Oh, I expect you'll be a good, hard-working boy like your brother!'

RT was good and he could be hard-working, but mostly at home and not at school. It was always a shock to his teachers that he wasn't a carbon copy of his brother and was so good at making their lives interesting.

Funny that the same phrases still come out all these years later. Ah well, at least these days RT will be less likely to climb things he shouldn't or introduce himself to new people in creative ways.

I did resist the urge to meme with the Computer tutor but, unfortunately, heard myself describing to him how the Art department at our local college always made me feel like going in with a flaming torch to clear the air and liven things up a bit. There were other descriptive phrases, but he seemed to take it all well.

Also, and I haven't been able to get to the bottom of this, there was a certain lack of surprise when I was being 'eccentric'. I just dread to think what IT has said over the years.

So, there we are. We found the right way out of the building and the short way back to the car and both flopped into our seats like we'd swum the Channel. RT is to turn up on Monday for a trial day, then he can make up his mind about the course.

Readers, I have to tell you that the fog had lifted by the drive home and I was able to travel safely again, as well as replay all the things I said to both tutors, in alarming technicolour. A good sign is that, unlike at the local college, neither of them flinched or widened their eyes while I was speaking. Perhaps, this time, we have found the right place!


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