Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Addicted to books - Hyperlexia

So... i've been thinking about the ways in which autism has affected my life, and the way I look at my life.

At the age of 3, I leaned over my father's shoulder, and began to read the Telegraph out loud. Nobody had taught me to read, I had just figured it out for myself. I believe this is called hyperlexia.  I became a voracious reader. Among my early favourites, were Anne of Green Gables, not surprisingly, as I was an adopted girl with decided opinions, who just didn't seem to fit in, kept dropping things, and getting into trouble for speaking my mind. I loved Enid Blyton, especially the Famous Five, and the Naughtiest Girl in School (see previous). Once I reached the age of 10 or so, the supply of interesting books for my age range dried up, it not being a popular demographic with publishers at the time. I then proceeded to read my way through the library, and my mother's book collection, my father not being a great reader. My mother was fond of historical novels, of the more serious variety, Jean Plaidy rather than Georgette Heyer. She bought quite a few Reader's Digest Concise Collections, as they were good value for money, and leather-bound, looking well on the bookshelf. She bought many works from the Reader's Digest Book Club, all in hardback, and she has them all to this day.  By the age of 11, I had read most of Dickens, all of Austen and Bronte, Thackeray, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, etc.

Rarely without a book in my hand, I saw school as an interruption to my reading activities, and did my work as quickly as possible so that I could carry on reading. I did not have many friends. To be honest, I didn't miss them. What I wanted was information and advice on LIFE. I struggled to understand what was expected of me in different social situations, or to comprehend the motivations of other people, the Novel was the answer to all my questions, as it allowed access to the stream of consciousness of other minds, and a glimpse into motivations, and social expectations and mores from different eras. It also asked nothing of me, and allowed me to drift into a dream-like state.

I came to understand the emotions of those around me through the medium of the written word, and by direct learning rather than intuition. However, it was a theoretical understanding until I reached my thirties, and went for counselling, which allowed me to identify my own emotions for the first time in my life. (But that's another post.)

I still love to read, it is less of an addiction now, but provides enormous solace when the outside world becomes annoying.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

It's the ignition that's the problem...

So... thinking about some more good news type stories, big news today is that I am actually managing to sit at the computer and do studying, when I plan to do it, in a motivated fashion, and for quite a long time at a stretch.

When I have been studying in the past, I have been a Just In Time student, I used to plan to work and then fail to work, until motivated by sheer panic at looming deadlines. But this time is so different! I have an essay and a poster to hand in, deadline is 10 days away. I finished the poster today, did most of the work over a month ago, and the essay I just have about 250 words left to finish it off. I did most of it before Christmas, and rewrote it last week. I had planned to do about 4 hours study today, along with a full day last Friday for the last 3 weeks, and I've actually done it. This is so unlike me!

I've always had problems with 'executive function', and one of my problems, is the link between planning and carrying out the plans. I can plan, write lists and organise for England, but I have always had great difficulty in actually sitting down to work. In the past, I suffered from excessive stasis, lack of impetus, and problems in changing from one activity to another. I think these things are all going on, but they seem to be affecting smaller parts of my life these days, and they don't appear to be affecting my studying at all.

I wonder why this is, is it just that as I get older I'm getting better at finding ways of overcoming my autistic deficits? Or is it more related to the fact that I'm genuinely passionate about Midwifery, and don't mind looking at the books, or writing stuff down about it. It's still hard to get over that moment of revulsion, where I look at the computer, and just want to run away from the work, curl up in bed and never come out again. But I've found that if I don't think about doing the work, or imagine doing the work, and instead, I sit down at the computer with the intention of going on Twitter, then I can spend 5 minutes on Twitter, and then accidentally start working. Once I've started, I can't stop till the task I've set myself is done.

It's the ignition that's the problem...

Friday, 20 May 2011

Feeling Irish... and the Queen

So... this week has been the Queen's visit to Ireland, and for some reason I found myself crying throughout the coverage. I had to sit down and figure out what was going on.

I lived in Ireland for a long time, although I'm English I feel about half-Irish (married to an Irishman with 2 Irish kids). But, as you may know, the English haven't always been very popular in Ireland, for some very good reasons.

Although I always felt accepted by most Irish people, and lucky enough to be loved by some, there was always a feeling in the back of my mind that I was essentially a foreigner, and would never really Belong. The Irish term for this is 'blow-in', and I could never shake it off.

Seeing the Queen visiting Ireland this week, and seeing Irish people allowing themselves to be so enthusiastic about her visit, has been very moving for me. I'm sure there are plenty of Irish people who aren't really bothered either way (I'm not a monarchist myself), but for the most part, people seem to be happy and excited about the visit, and keen to discuss all the plans and details. Everybody in Ireland was talking about the itinerary, and the fact that each single visit carried a heavy weight of symbolism.

Seeing her lay a wreath in the Garden of Remembrance was just amazing. The British monarch walking the streets of Cork shaking hands with the public was something I never thought I'd see. And her speech felt like a very personal expression of many of my own feelings. The sadness for the tragic history between our two countries, the difficulties of bringing up my children with their shared heritage in its shadow. I didn't even know I felt any of this, I'd never really tried to articulate it, as it just was the way things were. I never talk to my Irish friends about being English in Ireland, some of them have had more difficult experiences being Irish in England.

I have heard so many Irish people criticize the English, part of it being the painful history that there is no denying, and part of it just typical neighbourly stereotyping. (Like we do with the French and Germans). The need for England to lose at the football, no matter who they were playing. I did tell my husband in the end that it made me uncomfortable, and that he should consider the fact that his children are equally half-English.

I do wish the Queen had apologised, but I do feel that she went out of her way to convey her sorrow for all the horrendous events that have occurred in our shared history. For me, it felt like a healing, as if 'we the English' were being officially welcomed onto Irish soil for the first time. That's why I cried.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Extended Family Bonding - what works?

So... realised that I had been using my blogging to help me deal with some difficult issues, and get some shit out that was causing me anxiety and depression.

But you guys deserve to hear about the good stuff too!! So in my next few blogs I'm going to talk about some of my best moments from the last while. By the way, things are going great right now, and I haven't felt this good since I was on anti-depressants! (I wish that was a joke, but it's not.)

My mum has let me know that they don't see enough of us, even though we live just a few miles away now, after living overseas for years! She said that she didn't want to do big Sunday dinners for all the family any more, as it's too much pressure for Lucas. She said she feels she hardly sees him any more, as we mostly get together for these big dinners, and he has meltdowns and disappears, or sometimes stays in the car and refuses to come in the house. So, upshot is they are going to come over for dinner on Tuesday night, after I finish work, it's going to be low-pressure normal family dinner, without sister and niece. I'm also going to find some things to do with mum and the kids at the weekend from time to time, trips out etc, maybe even join the National Trust (they're already members) so that we can go out to local stately homes and go for walks and stuff.

This might all sound kind of small, but in my life, it's huge! My adoptive mum is a very different character to me, not just down to the lack of aspergers on her side, but she's fairly uptight, growing up there was a big emphasis on the house, and the possessions, and not breaking stuff, I'm kind of the opposite. I think she's learning to be a bit more easygoing as she gets older!

A new approach to family time is on the cards then, I'm looking forward to it, and will let you know if we are successful!