Thursday, 27 November 2008

Into the depths

This blog has been written in order to supplement my personal article about paranoia and empathy, it may contain some of the same information and descriptions, but it delves a little deeper, more of an attempt to understand my negative thought process and why it is present, it might bore you to tears, as it is almost an autobiography specifically about times in my life that have shaped my thoughts and beliefs. I think this is a good way to understand and realise things about myself, to become less self absorbed as a result.

I am a deep thinking person, as mentioned on a previous blog, my deepest thoughts occur in picture and musical form, with internal words offering a brief narration and description of these thoughts. To internalise words can result in a fragmented thought process, where this necessary but personally unnatural form of thinking occurs, which can lead to false and negative conclusions.

Beliefs about one’s self and other people can become imprinted, automated and stereotyped. To use words is a habit, a necessary evil; they can be repeated, slightly changed like Chinese whispers, and misinterpreted when they are kept, locked away in the memory banks, picture memories are always crystal clear, but the changing words change those memories subconsciously. This narration that supplements the recreation of painful experiences can be loud and clear. An event is played consciously and relived. This process has taken place so many times it becomes a subconscious habit.

Beliefs as a result of negative experience become hardwired, are difficult to shift, can lead to a self fulfilling prophecy if a new but similar situation occurs. A stubborn, impulsive and habitual act of defence can occur without thought, like a negative unwanted skill learnt through physical and/or mental experience.

I have a very good long term memory; this comes at the expense of my poor working memory, and my tendency to remember defining moments of emotion with ease, the unwanted words become louder, the pictures get clearer.

A few examples of those situations:

School & College

During junior school I had a few friends who were geeky like myself, we shared interests, and we were naïve about the real world we spent most of our time talking about our toy cars and computer games. There was no reason to be angry with the world or people, due to that childlike innocence even my ‘cool’ peers at the time probably showed as well. I was able to copy their behaviour, I could fit in with the fellow ‘geeks’ by repeating quotes id heard off the TV and video games, and I appeared to be quite content to those around me.

It all changed at my first day at secondary school, the first thing one of the others kids said when I first walk into the form room was that I looked like Frankenstein’s monster. Comments such as that kept on coming throughout that school year from many kids at school. I froze and internalised it, creating the belief I am completely ugly, believing everyone in the world thought that about me, not realising at the time that people have different opinions and thought that everyone thought the same thing about everything. I was so mad that I couldn't let out my anger. I was just like hiding it. I just didn't feel like being at school anymore.

Over the next few years I took defensive measures such as hiding in the toilets at lunch time, wearing a hat to cover as much of myself, and being in denial, I didn’t revise for any of my exams due to the continuing self doubt and chain reaction of negative beliefs that I wasn’t even good enough or smart enough to do my exams.

Unknown at the time, but fully aware now due to my discovery of Asperger’s syndrome, my lack of social intuition and inability to learn in the same way as the other kids at school resulted in my withdrawal. Although I was in the top classes, as per default from SAT exam results, the other kids kept asking the teacher why I was in their class when I appear to be so stupid, especially when asked a question by the teacher for example, which reinforced my lack of confidence in my abilities, let alone my physical appearance. I hated myself in more ways than one.

I managed to get good grades at GCSE regardless, but that still didn’t change my hardwired views. During 6th form, my next form of defence was to start weight training, make myself look big and strong, carry on wearing the hat, and wore several layers of t shirts under my jumper even in the summer to make myself look big and strong so nobody would ever dare say anything. This resulted in further social withdrawal due to even sincere people being afraid of me as well. I avoided classes, only turning up to around a third of them, I was told to give up physics because I failed to complete the course work. A lot of the time I stayed at home playing on computer games all day, avoiding even being in the same room as my parents, let alone talking to them.

My weight training became an obsession; it dictated my life at the time I loved the routine of being able to plan my workouts at exact times on exact days, eating the same foods for nutrition at certain times of the day. It was like a comfort zone, a real predictable way of living. And the release of my frustration during the exercise regime worked quite well too.

This carried on at college; I made a silly decision to go on a course for countryside management, purely because I had a special interest in trees at the time. This obsession came and went in months, and I felt depressed having paid for this course and having to see it to the end. I failed to connect with anyone on my course, again withdrawing. With hindsight I still have a HND to my name and should be proud of it, and the fact I passed without even really trying.


In reality I couldn’t ask for a more supportive family, they would never intentionally hurt me emotionally, and have provided me with everything I could ask for. Being a little bit old fashioned they were a little strict on discipline. For a NT child, discipline isn’t a bad thing in the traditional sense. Telling a child to stop being naughty is fine when the child is aware they are doing something wrong.

Seeing the world in a different way, being told off for something scared me, especially at the same time my beliefs were becoming more defined. I became scared of my parents in some ways, through no fault of their own. Sensitivity to abnormal tone of voice, made me become shocked at being told off, I would internalise everything said to me, and I still remember it today. To a neurotypical child with no issues, this would have been beneficial, but I believe it supplemented my negative process of self doubt. If kids tell me im stupid and ugly, and my mum and dad tell me off, then they must think that too. These thoughts stuck in my head like glue.

Asperger’s Syndrome was not well known when I was small, so in no way would I ever criticise my parents for bringing me up the way they did.

After college until May 2008

This was quite a turbulent time; I became more outgoing with my best friend (who I had known since infants school), yet at the same time still having those hard wired beliefs that had developed. I created a dividing line, based on my special interests. Due to the thought processes described in the first few paragraphs, I believed that anyone who shares at least one of my special interests would not see me as ugly and stupid. This was partly because since I was a child I do tend to latch onto people who share an interest (hence friendships I had at junior school), and partly because it gave me hope that there may be people out there who could see me in a positive way.

I could be scared of the general public yet go up to somebody who was in a band I liked, or had a vintage motorbike with ease, asking them questions about it. Looking back at it I realise it was more of an initial contact based on objects using the person as an exchange terminal, rather than actually having the desire to get to know them personally, which didn’t even occur to me at the time.

As the months and years rolled on, it hit home that my other peers had relationships with the opposite sex and even had kids or got married. I never questioned my sexuality, as I am definitely heterosexual (get your tits out etc etc!) But I never have the guts to speak to women, possibly hampered further by the fact I am bad at small talk and non verbal cues, something which women find more natural as far as I know. My friend introduced me to a woman who was 9 years older than me had two kids, we didn’t have anything in common apart being a fan of the type of music I was absolutely obsessed with at the time.

Something seemed to click and I thought I was in love with her, exclusively at the time because I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that there is someone else who likes this type of music. I wrote her a letter telling her that. But then after a couple of weeks I started listening to another type of music, I wasn’t interested in her at all. Was it actually the obsession with that sort of music I was infatuated with?

After completing my CBT, I was outside a pub on my own when a group of bikers around my age asked me to join them, at the time this gave me a mental rush. Was my belief that people who share my interests are totally compatible actually true?

Of course this ended in tears, I was often the butt end of their jokes, often not even realising it. I was accused of not having any backbone, when they were sarcastic, it wasn’t as if I didn’t understand the sarcasm, more that I couldn’t tell if they were being sarcastic or not, I couldn’t make the choice. I couldn’t look them in the eye, when there were women present in the group it was even more difficult, I kept looking away, I was accused of being homosexual, was ridiculed because I had a friend who was homosexual as well, but I just half heartedly laughed it off.

When they turned up out of the blue asking if I wanted to come to a pub, I always declined, because my routine was being broken. When in a group conversation I hardly took part, all those eyes, faces and words bouncing around was too much for me to take in, but I was ok in conversation one to one. I had a nickname which I really resented because I felt degraded stimulating that belief that I was ugly and stupid, forcing me to rein act that first day at secondary school (both of them stayed together, if I ever thought someone believed I was ugly, the stupid part would be there as well and vice versa), and also because nobody had ever called me that before so I was confused as well. I couldn’t work out why we were all into bikes but they still thought I was stupid and ugly. I thought that surely if we are into bikes we should all be the same?!

In an attempt to fit in I told them jokes that people I knew from school thought were funny, they were bemused, I thought again if we are all into bikes and I find these jokes funny, then shouldn’t you? The frustration was building, but the severity still unknown. I was trying hard (maybe too hard) to latch onto them and feel part of them. When put on the spot I would be lost for words, and then they would laugh, further reinforcing the stupid and ugly view. But they seemed to still say hello and how’s it going so I still assumed they were good mates.

Then one day one of them called me a twat, the adrenaline kicked in I had a meltdown my views on people had turned to dust, I couldn’t figure out why, and I throw my pint of Guinness in his face. He went livid and started hitting me; the rest of the group told me if they ever saw me again they would kick my head in. I couldn’t understand why it had ended like this.

Some of the group weren’t present that day, they still gave me a chance, but eventually they turned their back on me as well. Telling to meet me somewhere at a certain time then never turning up. This happened several times without me taking the hint. I was naïve.

Afterwards, I have only had one real friend I have seen regularly. A lot of our conversations were similar to the ones we used to have when we were kids, lots of silly words, quotations from movies and immature comments! This was a nice feeling, made me feel like I was reliving more innocent times. It was ok to appear naïve in that respect. But eventually, this wore me down slightly; I knew I was capable of better, and so was he.

During this time I became aware that I wasn’t the same as most people, did some research and came across Asperger’s syndrome, it created a few more questions, but answered so many more. I was distressed when I mentioned it to my mum she thought I was being silly (reinforcing the stupid and ugly belief), made me more resentful of her at the time. Every time she used to raise her voice, and when my dad used to tell me off or just say home truths, I would have a defensive/offensive reaction. Scared im not being taken seriously enough, a belief that occurs with everyone I come into contact with, if I don’t have any acknowledgement telling me otherwise.

Now I realise, that people don’t know what I know and vice versa, I was oblivious to the fact that people won’t know what I am thinking and what I have experienced unless I tell them. Just coming up with Asperger’s syndrome out of the blue, of course it is going to sound silly with nothing to back it up, especially when the person is used to how I am.

The ‘stupid and ugly’ theme has become part of my subconscious, but I realise this now, it explains why I act and react how I do in such a habitual manner. The condition Asperger’s syndrome explains how I think and feel in its rawest form, mentally and physically. It explains how I see objects, people, how and why I have made assumptions and expectations about people. Thinking with pure logic, using intellectual integrity & humility, and facing up to my shortcomings will make me a better person. Realising I am not stupid, or inferior, just misunderstood and different and something I can admire. I admit I am grumpy, have a terrible short term memory, a complete geek, totally useless and awkward when talking to women, lacking theory of mind, and having hardly any friends. But even these alone don’t make me a bad person, and they certainly shouldn’t make me feel ashamed of myself.

Although realising and facing up to personal issues is a huge step, it is only one step. I have automatic responses to certain emotional and social stimuli, hired wired from beliefs and experiences, when lacking acknowledgement and feeling ignored they kick in again. This can be from not receiving a reply to a text message or someone not hearing me when I am not talking loud enough when I believe I am talking at a normal volume. Anger, frustration and self doubt surface again.

It came to a conclusion in May when after music was coming from next door, which was torturing me inside, I put a letter through their door informing them that they have neighbours. Their music didn’t seem to bother other people but it was driving me crazy. My dad told me off, I walked off, he told me to find another place to live on the phone, and I attempted suicide. Years of internal build up finally drew a conclusion there and then. I made the impulsive decision that I was just too unlikeable and not fit for this world and stabbed myself in the neck.

This gave me a sharp wake up call afterwards, as they say actions speak louder than words, my parents never even realised the extent of my problems,

I do often question the Asperger’s concept about myself, especially when I have good days, and when I can be talkative, often thinking I just have a personality problem. But then that question can be answered by the fact that using pure logic, I am able to realise things and face up to things about me without being in denial or hiding away from them. Painful eye contact might be fuelled partially by confidence issues, but the fact I cannot feel back or emotionally lock on or exchange anything from non verbal cues is the clincher. In my opinion confidence problems and a lack of intuition are two separate things, but when combined they create a powerful force that can become unstoppable unless emotions are worked on and understood.

Asperger’s alone didn’t trigger my beliefs, but I believe it made me more vulnerable and more susceptible in terms of adopting them. Only understanding my point of view, and believing one person’s view was everybody’s. The lack of intuition and taking what people say literally has made me feel left behind by my peers ever since my school days.

I may have narcissistic and borderline traits, and mild social phobia, but this can be understandable considering the circumstances and my general childlike emotions and view on the world. Pure intellectual procedure has allowed me to come to these conclusions, with no external guidance or help. The fact I am able to realise these things myself should in the future if I am successful enhance my qualities, and reduce my shortcomings (even if it may never totally exterminate them). I don’t want to fall into the trap of arrogantly convincing myself of things for short term comfort, as I know this is detrimental for my long term mental health.

I may experience depression and I may feel low again in the future, but having thoughts spelt out to me in pure black and white makes things all the more clear than having to keep them hovering around inside my mind, allowing them to crash into each other, like an out of control nuclear reaction, which may result in a full reactor meltdown or complete shutdown of the reactor core before things get out of control. Breaking things down, and logical analysis act like the rods, soaking up extra particles that may get out of hand, allowing the ones that do get through to become clearer and easier to handle.

Now things are clearer, I can work on creating personal rules to follow in social, personal, employment and family based situations, rather than struggling to make my own paranoid or self centred conclusions every day. I can write down facts about myself that I can refer to, to remind myself of how to act. Instead of concentrating future mental effort to the point of mental overload to try and understand myself, I will be able to channel these thoughts towards my interests and for more practical processes. My brain has been a slave to itself, being used for things that it should never have done.

One can only process so much at a given time, and if these processes are purely concentrated on your own self, the amount it has available for other things in life are severely limited, and possibly making me appear stupid for real, and creating a catch 22 situation.

To be true to one’s self, intellectual integrity, courage & humility are required, to do this strengths and weakness must be enhanced and reduced accordingly. When you are true to yourself, it will be easier to be true to others, and one’s process of thought can become ever more efficient. Being excessively self absorbed is a lack of these incredibly simple but difficult to master skills. I can’t guarantee they will be applied in every situation to come across, if I make the positive effort to apply them whenever I am able to, they will become the new habitual process, allow the real me to thrive.

A personal truth in the present should not be feared if it is a variable, as it doesn’t always have to be the truth of the future. The goal is to define the difference between a variable and an absolute. People are too afraid or maybe dont have the ability yet to look deeply into their actual problems, and this is something I am overcoming.

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