Why I’m not a casual reader

Ok, it’s time for a little confession. This is something that I’m not exactly proud of, and I can’t help but feel guilty about it. However, I think it simply has to be said. All right, here goes: I honestly don’t like to read that much. There, I said it. Reading through entire novels, textbooks, short stories, and even brief articles tends to feel like a chore for me instead of a pleasurable activity.

Now this does not mean that I have trouble reading or that I find reading to be a boring hobby at large. Far from it, I can read text just as proficiently as anyone else, and I know fully well that reading is extremely vital for a successful education and a successful living. Reading is obviously necessary to have sufficient knowledge of the world around us, and it can introduce people to a fantastic world of imagination and creativity. I wholeheartedly believe that people should read as much as they can – both fiction and non-fiction. Unfortunately, frequent casual reading is just not for me, at least for right now.

The main reason I say this goes back to my post about having so much trouble focusing (“Focus, man, focus!”). Remember when I said that it is massively difficult for me to stay attentive to what’s currently in front of me or to what I’m currently doing? Well this applies almost perfectly to when I’m reading. As hard as I try to keep my mind on the text that I am examining, I can’t help but be regularly distracted by something – whether it be an external stimuli, or simply a thought that I want to contemplate. Consequently, I have no choice but to keep going back several times on a single page to make sure that I’ve truly absorbed the material in the book. This, of course, means that getting through a single chapter or article will take a lot more time than it does for most other people.

So basically, I’m not a huge fan of reading because it simply takes waaay too long for me to do. It is impossible for me to go through each paragraph just once since my mind will constantly drift away, forcing me to skim through it at least twice, until I feel confident that I understand what the text is telling me. This quickly becomes very tedious and irritating, thus preventing me from getting the same enjoyment out of reading that many others seem to experience. It is especially problematic when I’m trying to read an article or non-fiction book for class. Much of the time, I do not complete the full reading assignment because I simply don’t have the time or patience to read through the whole thing.

I also wish to make clear that I am not implying that I never read in my free time. I read articles on the web pretty frequently, and I will sometimes try out books that people recommend to me (I rarely finish them though). Nonetheless, the vast majority of my reading is done as part of an academic assignment or a duty at work; as a requirement. Leisure reading, especially of longer works, is considerably rare for me. This isn’t to say that there haven’t been novels that I’ve genuinely enjoyed and that I like to revisit occasionally (e.g. Harry Potter, Phantom Tollbooth, Redwall, and Bud Not Buddy). It’s just that you won’t typically see me reading stories from a newspaper or a well-known work like Lord of the Flies.

The thing is that I probably would be reading on my own much more often if I could do it without retracing myself every 2 minutes. Indeed, the only thing that prevents me from truly appreciating fantastic writers from Mark Twain to George R.R. Martin is the fact that going through their works would require many, many, MANY hours of my time. I am all too aware of the joy and excitement that people receive from reading these authors’ stories, in addition to the vast amount of knowledge I could gain from looking at more non-fiction pieces. Therefore, I sincerely do wish that reading long texts didn’t have to be such an arduous task for me.

Well, I think I’ve done enough lamenting on this particular topic for now. I promise that in my next post, I will discuss something unrelated to my ADHD or obsessive mindfulness. In fact, perhaps I will write something a little more positive to let you guys know that these difficulties CAN be overcome; to remind everyone with Aspergers Syndrome that there is always hope for improvement.

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“What do I do? What ‘should’ I do?”

Have you ever experienced a moment where you felt completely “stuck” – where you were under a significant amount of pressure, were given a large number of tasks or requests, and you simply did not know how to handle it all? In other words, have you ever had to say to yourself, “God dammit! I seriously have no idea what to do right now!” Well I certainly have… countless times in the past few years, as a matter of fact.

Not being able to decide for myself what I’m “supposed” to do in certain situations is yet another significant contributor to my overall anxiety. Although this issue is not as prevalent as many of the others I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts, it is still pretty frequent and causes me severe stress whenever it happens. It usually occurs when I have a lot of things that I want to get done as soon as possible and I’m not at all sure where to start. On some occasions, it can also occur when I don’t have much to do at all and I cannot decide how I should spend my free time. So in other words, it is considerably easy for me to become lost and confused with what I ought to be doing in the present moment, especially if there is a great number of tasks or activities I could be engaged in.

Anyhow, whenever I am in this sort of situation of not knowing how to move forward, I will most often spend a considerable amount of time standing or sitting still, stressing myself out and worrying. I will try my very hardest to come up with a plan or schedule that I think will sufficiently address everything that I wish to address. Unfortunately, in most instances it will take almost hours for me to come up with a plan that I feel ok with, and even if I come up with one, it may not work when I put it into action, forcing me to try to come up with another strategy. On top of that, I will sometimes be much too frightened by the sheer (or apparent) difficult of the tasks that I have been given as well as how many I have to (or wish to) tackle in one day.

As a result, instead of being as productive as I can in the time that I have, I will waste so much that time just thinking about what I’m supposed to do and endlessly stressing myself out to find an adequate solution. In most cases, though, I eventually will sit down and get to work, doing what I can to accomplish at least some of the things that I wanted to do for that day – typically with the help of my parents or college counselors. Well, that’s at least what happens with academic assignments or anything that’s absolutely mandatory. It can be a slightly different story, however, with things that aren’t exactly obligatory, yet are highly recommended to me.

Indeed, there are two separate categories of tasks that will cause me serious unease when I have so many on my mind at once. The first are tasks which I am directly required to fulfill within a certain period of time. Right now, this mostly consists of academic assignments and long-term projects (although eventually it will no longer be the case, after I complete my Paralegal Certificate Program at Marist). Aside from that, it can also involve things such as duties at work, personal obligations to other individuals, and household chores.

The second category of “tasks” are things that people, either directly or indirectly, have suggested to me or said that I ought to try, for one reason or another. A couple of common examples include trying to make plans with friends, reading a particular book, using a certain meditation technique, trying a new exercise schedule, playing a video game that is extremely popular, staying in touch with current friends, or going to a local event. I’m basically talking about anything that could, supposedly, be somewhat beneficial to me.

To sum up: whenever I’m given large amount of tasks from one or both of these categories, I very easily get stressed out and have trouble deciding what I ought to do first. One reason why this happens to me so frequently is that I am not too skilled at managing my time as well as many others. As hard as I try, I simply cannot get things done as quickly as I would like to, and thus it’s pretty difficult for me to accomplish a significant amount in one day. On top of this, I can only be productive while I’m on my medication (see blog post “Focus, man, focus!”), which sadly only lasts for about 9-10 hours. I shall elaborate upon this whole topic in far more detail in the next blog post.

Another reason it occurs so frequently is because I can be a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to performing tasks and “doing what I ought to do.” What I’m saying here is that I often want to: a) Make sure that the work I’m doing looks adequate and meets all sorts of criteria; and b) Do all of the things that I feel like I “should be doing” given my current situation. In other words, I seem to have this constant desire to feel productive and do what will supposedly make me a better person. This perfectionist tendency is something else that I will definitely touch upon in another upcoming blog post.

I think you can imagine how stressful and embarrassing it can be to have this sort of problem. Not only has intense indecisiveness delayed progress on some very important projects, but it has also resulted in several emotional outbursts and temper tantrums in the past. The worst part is that I am not confident that this issue will go away in the near future, meaning that I may have to deal with it as I enter the workforce and start living independently. So, as with many of my other problems, it is my hope that I will gradually get better at handling multiple responsibilities at once without stressing myself out so much and without making a scene. Maybe as I get more used to functioning in a job environment and continue to use many of the tools I’ve mentioned in “Ways I’m trying to cope with my problems”, I will be able to settle down and take things one step at a time instead of spending hours to formulate an intricate plan. One thing for sure is that I cannot allow myself to go through life continuously worrying and procrastinating when I should be getting things done.

My Aspie obsessions over the years

I have a good feeling that a bunch of fellow Aspies can relate to this aspect of my life: being constantly preoccupied with particular subjects of interest. I have heard many accounts of other individuals with Asperger Syndrome having a fixation with something that especially appeals to them – whether it be a comic book franchise, an entire field of science, or just a specific musician or band. It is arguably one of the most common as well as most noticeable features of the disorder as a whole, and I am definitely no exception!

Throughout most of my life, up to this very day, I have had a number of particular interests that tend to overshadow much of my thoughts, behavior, and what I want to talk about. My specific obsessions have changed many times over the years, and I am normally obsessed with more than one subject at once. In this post, I will describe some of the fixations I have had in the past, as well as a couple of my current ones. They are not posted in any particular order because I am unable to remember the order in which they popped up in my life.

I believe that one of my earliest obsessions as a child was computer games and video games. Before I had access to video game consoles, I would play various CD-ROM games on my parents’ Windows 95 PC – the majority of them interactive storybooks and activity centers. Then as soon as I got my hands on a PlayStation, I quickly got hooked on console games, frequently playing the PlayStation titles that I owned for hours and hours. In addition, I often liked to immerse myself in the worlds of the games that I played, sometimes pretending that I was in the games (see my earlier post, “Imaginary Play”). For a while, video games the only thing I wanted to talk about with friends, and whenever I was spending time with them outside of school, I pretty much just wanted to play games with them all day.

One particular game series that I grew fond of was Sonic the Hedgehog, starting with Sonic Adventure 2 Battle on the Nintendo Gamecube. Soon after I started playing that game, I simply couldn’t get enough of the entire Sonic franchise, so I spent a massive amount of my adolescence talking, fantasizing, and daydreaming about it. I repeatedly played nearly all of the new games following Sonic Adventure 2, and I would get super excited for each new release that came out. I was such a passionate fan that I somehow convinced myself to enjoy Shadow the Hedgehog (the 2005 game), the Sonic X TV series, and yes, even the infamous Sonic ’06 (if you’re unfamiliar with its notoriety, look it up on Wikipedia).

Along with video games, I also became obsessed with some of the films that I watched as a child and teenager. Any time I saw a movie that I really enjoyed, the movie would instantly become a new fascination of mine for the next couple of weeks or months. A couple of examples off the top of my head include Toy Story, The Grinch (the 2000 movie, which I now actually despise), Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, and the Dark Knight. In each case, I could not stop thinking about the film, acting out my favorite scenes in private and in public, or getting a bunch of merchandise associated with it. I distinctly remember buying nearly all of the toys based off the Toy Story characters, and regularly pretending to be Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. Interestingly, it was the Dark Knight (2008) film that got me interested Batman and many other DC comic book heroes for a while.

On the other side of the spectrum, there were also obsessions I had as a child/teenager that were social/political topics which I could not stop dwelling upon. Bullying was one of these topics, mainly because I loathed the mere idea of bullying with a passion that didn’t seem to exist in other kids my age. As described in the blog post, “Timmah!”, I had to deal with some harassment in middle and high school, but that wasn’t the kind of bullying I was so troubled with. It was the stereotypical physical harassment that I would often see in television shows and in the news which filled my mind with rage. Whenever I heard or saw something related to bullying, I would go into this long, hate-filled rant about bullies, describing how I would love to deal with them if I had the opportunity (I could get pretty graphic at times).

There was also a time when I was considerably preoccupied with the Iraq War, at least whenever it was brought up around me. Borrowing a lot of what I knew about the conflict from my family as well as popular media, I was a bit overly passionate in my opposition to the war while it was at its peak. I didn’t actually participate in protests of any sort, but I certainly made no secret of how much I believed that the war was a huge disaster and built upon a complete lie. My opinions on the Iraq War haven’t really changed since then, but I can say with utmost certainty that I was far too emotional and one-sided in my criticism of the conflict. Even worse, I would sometimes rant about it in situations when I definitely should have kept my opinion to myself. For instance, I once argued about the war with a woman who said that her son was fighting in Iraq. I now regret doing that with all of my heart, and wish to apologize to her for being so insensitive.

It would be nice to say that, as an adult, I have overcome this issue and am no longer so obsessed with things, but that is not quite the case. While I’m pretty sure that it has gotten somewhat better, I still find myself regularly preoccupied with certain select subjects. For one thing, I am a HUUUGE fan of rock and roll music. Not only do I enjoy listening to classic hard rock songs, but I also like to converse about individual bands, look up information on them, go to concerts when I have the chance, and sometimes fantasize about being in a band myself. I mostly blame Guitar Hero for all this, although I do not intend to abandon my fascination with rock music anytime soon.

One obsession that I would like to get rid of, however, is my constant preoccupation with reading anti-egalitarian, neoconservative viewpoints on the web. Whenever I’m using a computer, I will repeatedly go on websites such as YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, and Google just to look for comments that “trigger” me or put me into a mental self-debate. For instance, I will often search for critical comments on things that may contain feminist, pro-gender equality elements, where many users will inevitably call it “more liberal, feminazi propaganda.” To be honest, I sort of understand these critiques to a limited extent, and I will admit that they’ve encouraged me to be more open-minded and thoughtful in how I approach various social and political issues. Nonetheless, the fact that I engage in this activity almost every day clearly makes it somewhat of an addiction: something that I, for some reason, cannot stop doing, even though it gives me nothing but headaches. Hopefully with the help of exercise, meditation, and reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, I might eventually be able to kick this habit and find more productive things to occupy my free time with.

It would be wonderful if I didn’t have any big obsessions at all, so that it could be much easier to interact successfully with other people and to get work done quicker. I do realize, however, how difficult abandoning it is for individuals with Asperger Syndrome to abandon obsessive behavior, so I shouldn’t expect it to go away in the near future. Plus, I’m not sure if there is any actual danger to having an excessive interest in things, as long as it doesn’t go way too far or directly harm anyone. In any case, I ultimately wrote this post to express what it’s like for many of us Aspies to be so preoccupied with certain subjects. I’m sure a good amount of other Aspies can relate to my experiences, and I think they should know that there is nothing to be ashamed of in being so fascinated with things, no matter what other people may tell them.

I wish my mind had an off-switch

Throughout the majority of most days, my mind will constantly drift away and reflect on a number of topics that I can’t seem to get out of my head. What I’m thinking about usually involves subjects that were brought up to me earlier, and are somewhat controversial, debatable, difficult to resolve, or simply extremely thought-provoking. A couple of examples to mention here might include third-wave feminism, racial tensions in big cities, the existence of free will, the rising Islamic State, and if Sonic Adventure 2 is actually a good game. It most often happens when my mind is relatively free from stimulation and I’m doing something very simple like walking, driving, eating, showering, or waiting for an appointment.

Unlike many people who seem able to put their mind at rest when they’ve decided their opinion on a topic, I often find myself incapable of settling upon any specific, concrete viewpoint. Instead, I have to keep considering both sides of the debate and how each would respond to a given counter-argument, while also dwelling upon the potential consequences of any claim or suggestion proposed. I feel compelled to make absolutely sure that I’m looking at the topic from a fair, objective perspective and am not jumping to conclusions nor being biased against one stance or another.

I think everyone can agree that there are many problems around the world today that are far too complicated for a one-sided solution, and instead require thoughtful discussion. If these issues really were that simple and could be resolved right away, then they wouldn’t be so controversial to begin with. However, I perceive that for the majority of people, a clear-cut answer is available, and when they believe they have discovered it, it isn’t very easy to change their minds. For me, it’s an entirely different story. While I do hold certain philosophical and political values close to my heart that I doubt will ever radically change (at least not without effective convincing), my specific viewpoints on a variety of topics is either uncertain or always changing. I am not suggesting that I cannot decide at all what my social and political ideology is, as I always have something to say about social and political topics. What I’m trying to get at here, rather, is that there are so many different factors to take into consideration with issues such as immigration, free will, poverty, and the quality of video games that I find it incredibly hard to reconcile with them successfully.

This means that I can’t help but see why any sort of stance on these issues could be problematic for one reason or another, or could legitimately be called “downright wrong” by the opposite side. As a result, my mind is regularly fixed upon these concerns and I have to debate with myself over what is right, what is wrong, and how we should approach these topics. Saying to myself, “Look, let’s just say that X is the right answer to Y and leave it at that,” is rarely ever an option for me (except maybe for same-sex marriage). In my view, there is almost ALWAYS more to the story that we need to consider, meaning that whatever argument you side with is always going to be confronted with legit complaints and counter-arguments. Both the pro immigrant rights and anti-immigration stance, for example, are riddled with logical inconsistencies, negative implications, and so many ways in which they can be wrong (even though I side a bit more with pro-immigrants’ rights). So I will keep on pondering over these complications, until I find something else to obsess over or at least something to distract me.

Pretty much whenever I have the opportunity, I will engage in a sort of mental discussion regarding a number of these topics – continuously attempting to make better sense of them and possibly form a more informed, more objective opinion of them. While I’m driving home from work, for instance, I will most likely spend much of the ride debating with myself regarding whether or not abortion could be considered wrong, if hard rock has any place in future mainstream music, and the true validity of full gender or racial equality. The debates will go on and on until I get tired of them, only to shift to another topic, and then to yet another topic, and so on. In almost all cases, the debate will never reach a satisfying conclusion, and I am simply left as uncertain about these issues as I was before. It’s as if I am literally having constant debates with a clone of myself: I can’t resist constantly talking to this other me, we can hardly agree on any political, social, or philosophical topic, and we change the topic every 5 minutes or so.

So in other words, my mind will just never shut up! I cannot avoid the ongoing barrage of thoughts and considerations of various topics of interest, even when I’m trying my absolute best to stay relaxed or focused on something. Yes, there are plenty of moments when I am not engaged in this mental debate, but that’s usually when I’m doing something that requires my full attention like playing video games or talking to someone else. Even then, however, it is still challenging to not subconsciously reflect upon matters that stimulate my curiosity. The whole thing can give me a serious headache at times, and make me desperately wish that I could just form an opinion and stick with it. If it were at all possible for me to merely stop obsessing over these things and have a calm, yet attentive mind, you can bet that I would. As usual, the world just doesn’t work like that, and so I am left to deal with this issue as best as I can.

Much like with my anxiety and difficulty focusing, I am currently trying to reduce my obsessive mindfulness through activities like exercise, meditation, and reading. The progress, so far, is tremendously slow, and I don’t expect to be rid of this issue any time soon. Maybe some of you can relate to this sort of problem, in which case I would love to discuss it with you. Indeed, if there is anyone out there who also suffers from a mind that won’t sit still, then please know that I understand completely what you’re going through, and that you have my utmost support!

“Tim, please settle down and see me after class!”

Today I’m going to share something that I’m REALLY embarrassed about, and took a bit of courage on my part to post. I say this because it earned me a fairly negative reputation in middle and high school, and probably contributed to why I didn’t make a whole lot of friends back then. Looking back on this topic isn’t easy for me at all because it brings back some rather painful memories.

However, I strongly believe that it needs to be shared in order to give my readers good idea of what Asperger Syndrome can look like in several cases. From what I understand, the kind of behavior that I shall describe in this post is somewhat common among many individuals who are on the autism spectrum. So perhaps there are some of you who can relate to this issue a little bit, and it is my hope that I can help some of those without Aspergers or similar disorders understand it slightly better.

Ok so starting in middle school, up to my late high school years, there were numerous instances where I would completely lose my cool and have an emotional outburst during class. The exact specifics of my outburst would, of course, vary, but most of the time it would generally look something like this:

  1. To start with, I am probably in a bad mood or particularly stressed from schoolwork.
  2. One of two things will occur at some point during class:
    o The teacher will talk to the class about a challenging assignment or exam that is due in the near future, which makes me feel extremely worried
    o OR a couple of other students in the class will engage in what I find to be particularly mean, obnoxious, disrespectful, or disruptive behavior – which is either targeted toward me or toward the teacher.
  3. After one of those two things occur, I will start speaking to the teacher without being called upon, gradually raising my voice and becoming aggressive
  4. The teacher will try their best to quiet me down and maintain control, clearly getting more and more impatient with me
  5. Not obtaining what I want, I become even more emotional and will not stop shouting either till the teacher somehow convinces me to sit down and talk to them after class, or till they dismiss me from the classroom and send me to the principal’s office.

Like I said, not all instances of my outbursts happened exactly like this, but I believe the vast majority of them followed this basic formula. Anyway, these classroom temper tantrums didn’t occur until I was in middle school, and kept happening all throughout high school. In fact, I think that they got much worse in high school. Further, there may have even been one or two instances during my freshman year at Marist when I let my stress or frustration get the best of me and had to remove myself from the class. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure these outbursts went away quickly by the time I was done with my freshman year, and have not been much of an issue since.

Nevertheless, I think you can see why I feel so ashamed when looking back at these classroom temper tantrums. The thing that makes it most humiliating for me is that I wasn’t exactly a young child at the time. I was in my early and late teens! Consequently, not only did I look incredibly childish to the other students, but I also think it secured an image for myself at school as the kid who goes ballistic at the drop of a hat. Even worse, I must have caused some of my teachers a massive deal of anxiety, causing them to often worry that I may soon have another outburst. In fact, I remember someone coming up to me when I was a senior in high school, asking if I was ok with being the male “Teacher’s Torment” for the yearbook. Let me tell you, I was immensely hurt when this was suggested to me, because it was never my intention to torment my teachers in the least.

On one plus side, my parents as well as many faculty members at school did their best to help me understand why this sort of behavior wasn’t acceptable. They usually never got upset with me, and actually tried to calmly explain to me how I should maintain composure during class when I’m experiencing serious anxiety or being bothered by other students. Plus, many of the teachers that had to deal with my tantrums in their classes showed me a generous amount of forgiveness and sympathy. They probably knew that I wasn’t trying to give anyone a hard time, but simply had difficulty properly handling my stress with schoolwork and my frustrations caused by other students.

Despite all that, it’s hard to avoid the embarrassment that this past behavior has caused me. I now fully realize how rude, irritating, and inappropriate it was for me to interrupt classes the way that I did, yelling at the teacher and other students in the middle of a lesson. I sincerely apologize to all of my teachers and fellow students from middle and high school having to suffer through all of it. I wish I could offer a sufficient explanation for why I behaved like this, but unfortunately, I don’t remember the experiences well enough to do so. All I can say is that I’m deeply sorry and that I hope I didn’t cause my teachers and classmates too much pain.

In addition, I would like to say that I fully sympathize with young students who exhibit similar tendencies during their classes at school. Although I don’t have a very clear memory of my own emotional outbursts, I do somewhat understand why many children on the autism spectrum do it so frequently. I imagine that they must find it extremely difficult to handle their stress, anger, insecurity, and other emotions without being able to openly express it. I hope that they receive all of the support and understanding that they need, just as I did, and that more people can realize that these students are not just “annoying little brats who need to shut the f#$% up.”

Focus, man, focus!

I consider myself to be a fairly productive person in terms of academic work, occupational duties, and personal chores. Whenever I’m given something to do, I am usually able to finish it with rather satisfying results. Even if the task seems especially challenging or I come across many problems while handling it, I can at least get it done in most cases.

The actual process of getting things done, however, can sometimes be a little difficult and take longer than it should for a number of reasons. Perhaps one of the biggest factors that contributes to this problem is the fact that I have a lot of trouble focusing on the task at hand. This is partially because, in general, it is near impossible for me to pay attention and stay perfectly focused at any given moment – meaning that I suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). As a result, I have to take some medications each morning to significantly help me concentrate on things like work and studying, while also remaining somewhat calm and non-agitated.

The meds that I take do a really good job at significantly reducing the effects of ADHD on my overall behavior. Unfortunately, they cannot make the ADHD go away completely, and so I still have trouble keeping a steady focus during the day. I constantly find my mind drifting away into space and being so easily distracted by all sorts of things; even when I’m trying my absolute best to concentrate on what I’m currently doing. A lot of the time, my mind will go to something that has nothing to do with what’s at hand, though I’m deeply interested in. To put it more simply, my mind almost never sits still; it’s usually all over the place and frequently keeps me sidetracked.

So, for instance, while I’m sitting in class trying to listen to the professor and take notes, I may end up continuously pondering the logical validity of modern-day feminism. As I’m exercising on Wii Fit U, I will engage in a mental debate concerning the true plausibility of Rand Paul being nominated by the Republican Party for the 2016 presidential election. Even when watching a movie that I really enjoy, I might find it really hard to stop thinking about how Gravity Falls is predominately a kids’ show, and yet contains so much writing aimed for older audiences. Yeah, I think you guys get the overall gist of it.

In situations like the ones I discussed above, this honestly isn’t too much of an issue. However, it can be extremely bothersome when I’m trying to accomplish important tasks. I’m talking specifically about schoolwork assignments, duties at work, and various personal errands here – ones that take a considerable amount of time and require a good amount of concentration. This primarily includes things such studying for exams, writing documents, filing reports, conducting research, weeding the garden, or simply cleaning my room. As hard as I try to stay present to the task and get it done as efficiently as I can, I find it impossible to resist letting my mind drift somewhere else, or sometimes engage myself in another task.

Allow to me use the writing process behind this very post to illustrate how it works. While I am composing it, I’m switching to my internet browser about every minute or less to do things like chat with a friend and check up on my Facebook page. Once in a while, I will look up information on topics that I’m slightly obsessed with, such as which rock songs have been #1 on the Billboard lists for the past couple of years. In fact, just a second ago I looked at my YouTube home page to see if any of favorite channels posted a video during the last hour. After about another minute of writing, I will most definitely go back to Facebook again or surf the web for more information regarding my favorite video game franchises. I simply cannot stay focused on this post for more than 3 minutes at best, although it will most definitely be finished in the end (if I didn’t complete it, then you wouldn’t be reading it right now, would you?)

Indeed, if everything were to go my way, then I would have it so that I could stay far more attentive to what I’m supposed to be doing at the moment. This would mean that I could get my jobs done much quicker and perhaps significantly better, giving me much more free time and allowing me to feel a ton more productive. I could finish cleaning my room in 10 minutes rather than 30 minutes, or complete editing a web page in one day rather than five days – with the same results, of course. Sadly, it doesn’t look like my ADHD is about to leave my body anytime soon, so I have no choice to continue putting up with it. As someone who truly does care about his work and wants to do his very best, the entire issue is rather disheartening and makes me worry about my future at times.

Being a hard, productive worker is not an easy thing to do when I can’t remain focused on my job for very long. Therefore it is my hope that I’ll find a much way to better cope with my ADHD in the near future. I would certainly not like to face being regularly criticized by my supervisor for not handing in reports on time or not being engaged in my work as my colleagues. I think that the best way to do this may be through regularly engaging in activities like exercise and meditation, as well as helpful books such as the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle (a book that I highly recommend to anyone). I certainly don’t expect my ADHD to improve dramatically, but it is reasonable to at least hope that it doesn’t impact my life too negatively in the years to come. For now I guess it’s just something that I will have deal with as an Aspie. It seriously isn’t pleasant one bit, and I wish with all of my heart that it didn’t exist, but complaining about it further won’t do that much good.

Ways I’m trying to cope with my issues (Part Two)

Having shared tools that I use to improve my social life and socializing skills, I will now go over ways in which I’m currently trying to reduce the effects of several other problems brought up in previous blog posts.

First I will discuss how I’m coping with my anxiety (first read “Not allowing myself peace – Anxiety and Me” for background info). I am essentially using a lot of the same tools that plenty of other people (including those without Aspergers) commonly use to help deal with stress in their lives. There are three main activities that I engage in as much as possible to relieve stress: exercise, meditation, and yoga.

One fact that should be clarified, before I continue, is that the way in which I’ve been incorporating these activities into my schedule has gone through endless changes over the past several years. There have been times when I did a great deal of exercise and meditation each week, but no yoga; there were times when I didn’t exercise, but instead practiced yoga and meditation; and there were times when I did none of those three things. Nonetheless, I can safely say that when I do engage in at least two of them on a regular basis, it has a greatly positive effect on my overall level of stress. Of course, anxiety remains a serious problem for me, and it probably will for many more years to come, but it isn’t nearly as bad as when I do nothing at all to try relieving it.

As of now, here is how exercise, yoga, and meditation fit into my schedule: every day, I try to do around 7-15 minutes of meditation, followed by a couple of workouts on my Wii Fit U program. Allow me to elaborate a little on these two activities:

For those who don’t know what Wii Fit U is, it is basically a game for the Nintendo Wii U console that functions as a personal fitness program. Along with keeping track of your weight and posture, it includes a wide range of games, exercises, dances, and even yoga poses. I am using the program for two main purposes: to become much more healthy and fit in general, and to greatly reduce stress during the day. So far I have found it to be fairly effective in serving both purposes. Plus, since I can do yoga poses in addition to aerobic and strength exercises on this thing, I’m sort of killing two birds with one stone.

Now regarding meditation: whenever I do it, I typically either listen to some relaxing sounds that I’ve downloaded to my iPhone, or I try focusing on my breathing – one breath at a time. Both of these techniques are quite effective, although they aren’t at all simple. While meditating, I will repeatedly go back into thinking mode instead of staying focused on the relaxing sounds or my breath, which I have to snap myself out of. Still, the brief moments when my mind is empty and passive are always worth it, and I know they will become longer the more I keep at it. The same can be said with pretty much everything I’m doing to deal with my issues as an Aspie.

Aside from reducing anxiety, meditation has also been really helpful in teaching me how not to be so fixated on my thoughts, and how to stay conscious of the present moment. This relates to my issues with obsessive mindfulness and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), which were the primary focus of my last three posts. Indeed, by meditating as regularly as possible, not only do I generally experience less stress, but it also becomes slightly easier to not be constantly distracted by senseless thinking. Just like with anxiety, however, I have quite a long way to go before I’m at a point where my mind is mostly in the now and doesn’t get sidetracked by different topics every couple of seconds.

Fortunately, I am also currently reading a book to help me out with this compulsive thinking issue. The book is titled The Power of Now, written by Eckhart Tolle, and I consider it to be one of the most inspiring works I’ve read in a while; a must-read for anyone who experiences frequent stress, low self-esteem, a lack of self-discipline, or is simply unable to keep their mind relatively clear. The overall thesis Eckhart Tolle articulates is that the great majority of our thinking throughout the day is entirely unnecessary and compulsive, a product of “false identification with the mind.” He believes that the only real way for us to live peacefully and problem-free is to keep our consciousness in the now as much as possible; to stay completely present to the situation that we are in, rather than allow ourselves to be continuously troubled by the past or future.

So The Power of Now proposes a unique, possibly even radical theory that may take time for most people to fully comprehend. I find the book to be tremendously helpful in encouraging me to be more aware of my thought patterns and take things one step at a time, as opposed to being endlessly obsessed with what happened earlier, with what’s going to happen, or with issues that have nothing to do with the present situation. I’m nowhere near finished with the book, though, so I’ll have to keep reading it in order to gain the full advantage of Tolle’s message. Once again, I must insist it is a fascinating read that could be seriously helpful to anyone who experiences similar problems.

I would like to share one last tool that I am using to deal with my Aspergers-related challenges. This one concerns my difficulties with reading; how it takes so much longer than it should for me to read through different texts. What I do is use an audio version of the book that I am reading, whenever one is available, so that I can listen to the text while I visually skim through it. The reason that this is helpful for me is because it keeps me a bit more focused on the text and reduces the amount of times I have to go back and read the same sentences multiple times. I will usually obtain the audiobook through one of two ways: I will either buy the audiobook off of Audible.com, or I will download a copy off of LearningAlly.com. Learning Ally is generally used for texts that are required for my college classes.

Since I graduated from Marist College last month, I doubt that I will be using Learning Ally much more in the future. I will, however, give a brief explanation of how it works, mostly to recommend it to people who have or who know someone who has Asperger Syndrome. Learning Ally is an online, non-for-profit service that provides audiobooks to students with various types of disorders in order to help them with their reading. Students get a yearly subscription that can be paid for by the school or by their family. The organization has audio versions of many different kinds of texts, which not only includes novels, but also science, math, and history textbooks. So their website (https://www.learningally.org/) might be worth a look for families of a child who has similar troubles with reading.

Ways I’m trying to cope with my issues (Part One)

Many of my previous posts have been entirely focused on issues I still have to deal with as an Aspie – specifically my challenges with anxiety, socializing with others, and focusing. For now I’d like to take a short break from lamenting on how challenging life can be for me, and share something a little more positive. Therefore I’ve decided to dedicate two whole posts to some of the ways I have been attempting to overcome these issues. Some of methods I bring up may even be helpful to those who are struggling with similar kinds of problems.

The first step I’ve had to take to make any serious progress is becoming more self-aware of my problems and what may be causing them. Although I’ve learned a lot about my various issues from my parents and my teachers, in the end it is me who has been most helpful in convincing myself that I struggle profoundly with this and that. Thanks to constant personal experience and deep self-reflection, I have had to come to full terms with the fact that I have trouble maintaining good composure in social situations, that I’m very unfamiliar with how most people form and maintain friendships, and that I can’t seem to keep my focus on what’s happening in front of me. The bottom line is that only when you are thoroughly aware of your personal challenges can you hope to fully understand your challenges, and thus find effective means of coping with them. Fortunately, I now have a fairly good idea of why I continue to have many of the problems that I have mentioned in earlier posts. For instance, I’ve realized that much of my severe anxiety stems from perfectionist thought patterns, including this false belief that I’m “not good enough.” I may further explain my issues with perfectionism in a future blog post.

With a better understanding of my difficulties, I have discovered several tools that can somewhat alleviate them, or at least make things slightly less problematic for me. When it comes to my difficulties with socializing, I’ve been using a number of websites to help expand my social life a little bit. For instance, there is a site called Meetup.com that gives individuals an opportunity to join online groups which assemble in person every once in a while. It is through Meetup that I’ve been able to hang out with some really nice, fun people that I share numerous interests with. I have enjoyed some great times with particular group called Albrony Meetup, which is a community of (adult) fans of the television series, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, that live somewhere in New York’s upstate region.

I have also used a couple of sites to socialize with people and even make a couple of acquaintances on the web. One website in particular is called WrongPlanet.net – a virtual community dedicated entirely to people on the autism spectrum. Wrong Planet includes a comprehensive forum, a chat room, countless articles and videos about ASD, and even a dating section. I actually don’t use this site very often anymore, but I’ve definitely had a lot of fun on this website simply hanging out with other Aspies. If there is any website I can recommend to my fellow Aspies, it would have to be Wrong Planet.

Another way that I’ve been trying to improve my social life is by adapting a number of helpful behaviors to use in social situations. They are behaviors that people have been telling me to do for many years, and it’s only in recent years that I think they are finally starting to kick in. There are two main behaviors that I am consciously attempting to engage in while hanging out with other people. The first one is to stay casual as much as possible and be myself, rather than stay on edge and try to be “cool” or what I think others want me to be. Much of the time throughout early childhood up to high school, I would frequently attempt to blend in and get more attention by adopting the behavior that I noticed in my peers (or on television). I didn’t often allow myself to simply relax and be my own person, mainly because I had a hard time identifying who this person is. To be honest, I still can’t exactly pinpoint what my personality is at its very core. Nonetheless, I have at least learned that it’s best in social situations for me to say and do what feels natural for the moment, rather than try so very hard to make other people admire me or mimic their mannerisms.

The second behavior that I endeavor to become a habit is to not speak so much or dominate the entire conversation. I’ve already mentioned in my second post (“Tim, please… keep it to yourself”) that regulating my speech and giving other people enough room to speak is a somewhat of a challenge for me. What I’ve been attempting to do lately is actually follow the advice of my parents and be a little more silent when socializing with other people. As you would expect, this is a hard thing for me to do, and it doesn’t always work. So I need to keep telling myself as much as I can that I don’t HAVE to be talking every 5 seconds, and that I don’t HAVE to bring up everything that’s on my mind. I also try to put myself mentally in the shoes of whomever I’m chatting with, reflecting on how much I hate it when I’m constantly interrupted and given little room to speak. There is, indeed, a significant degree of self-restraint and memory involved, meaning that I have a long way to go before this becomes natural. Fortunately I’ve noticed slight progress in keeping thoughts to myself and not dominating the conversation, so I can say there is some promise in getting much better at social situations.

In order to prevent this post from becoming waaay too long, I will have to continue this topic in another post, which will be uploaded next week. There I will describe how I’ve been coping with my anxiety, attention problems, and obsessive mindfulness in recent times.

“Timmah!”

In spite of the several kind, supportive friends I had in school, my relationship with other students in general throughout elementary, middle, and high school was… well… withdrawn at best. Being the kind of person that I was, widespread social acceptance and approval was hardly possible among most kids, as they obviously found it difficult to tolerate my “awkwardness” and “weirdness.”

Now, I would be lying if I said that being in school was a constant nightmare, or that I was regularly bullied by students left and right. It’s honestly difficult to consider myself a “victim of bullying,” as I did not experience the same kind of harassment and intimidation that some children in the autism spectrum are sadly faced with. From what I remember, the way in which many students treated me mostly involved distancing themselves from me, while silently suggesting that they considered me unpleasant and irritating. It may not have been the nicest way to behave towards me, and it certainly hurt my feelings, but I believe they could have been a lot nastier if they wanted to.

However that does not mean that none of the kids at school were ever mean or offensive to me at all. Far from it, I was picked on by students on many occasions, typically in the form of “playful” mimicking, manipulative teasing, hurtful jokes, and most notably, continuous taunting. One of the most widely used of these taunts, something that will stick with me to the day I die, involved provokingly repeating the expression, “TIMMAH!!!”

What they were referring to, I later found out, is a character named “Timmy” on the adult animated series South Park. Timmy is, shamefully enough, a mentally and physically handicapped boy who goes to school with the other children on the show. He uses a motorized wheelchair, appears to have some form of palsy, and is well-known for only being able to shout out his own name. The way in which he continuously shouts it out, “TIM-MAAAH,” is apparently what makes him an incredibly humorous character, although probably not intended to insult or mock children with mental disorders. Nonetheless, the fact that this character and I share a similar name, and that we both have some form of autism, or “mental retardation,” can hardly be a coincidence.

I was not aware of the connection at first, but I still found it extremely aggravating whenever I heard the other kids at school shout, whisper, or murmur “TIMMAH” near me. For a while, as I didn’t understand the proper way to react, I would yell at people who did this to me and demand them to stop it. Naturally, middle and high school students don’t usually comply with these sorts of demands, so this only caused their mocking to intensify and thus get me even angrier. I tried everything in my power to make them stop, including telling a whole a bunch of teachers at school, politely letting the kids know that it really upset me, and of course, threatening them with violence if they kept it up (I never actually went through on my threats). None of this effectively ended the taunting for good.

My teachers and parents eventually had to tell me that the only way these kids were going to stop was to ignore them completely. They explained that once I no longer gave them the angry reaction that apparently entertained them, those students would soon leave me alone and go both someone else. When I first heard this advice, I was all like, “What?! Ignore them? I shouldn’t HAVE to put up with it! Just force them to stop!” It took some time for me to eventually understand that there was little to nothing that the adults could do to convince these students that they couldn’t do it anymore.

So at one point I did try not responding to it at all, hoping that my parents and teachers were correct in that it would slowly get them to stop. Unfortunately, this was not easy at first. For quite a while, it was sooo hard to fight the urge to fight back by yelling at them or threatening them – showing them that I “wasn’t someone to be messed with.” After all, I still felt it was completely unfair that I had to deal with this infuriating behavior in the first place. Plus, the strategy didn’t seem to be working initially. A lot of those kids were fairly persistent in their efforts to get some “hilarious outburst” out of me, and I could only put up with it for so long. God, I just wanted to smack people in the face whenever they used the “Timmah” thing against me.

Fortunately, I continued to ignore them and, over time, it was happening to me less and less at school. I suppose this was because the students simply got tired of this routine and were no longer getting the reaction they desired. Perhaps they just grew up and realized that it made them look stupid. Of course I would still hear one or two obnoxious guys whisper it behind my back every once in a while, often when walking down the hallway or when I did something to “upset” them. Now that I’m graduated from high school and far away from all of those people, I haven’t had to hear this maddening sound for several years. For the sake of my own emotional stability, I have tried to avoid any South Park episodes that feature the Timmy character. Hearing him shout his name may just spark some really unpleasant memories, causing me to become deeply agitated and restless.

Looking back on it now, I actually feel slightly more offended by what those classmates did to me than I did back then. As I pointed out, they were clearly making fun of me due to my disorder, comparing me to a fictional “retard” and intentionally trying to make me feel distressed. Quite frankly, this might be a perfect example of bullying, because these kids were essentially harassing me because I had Aspergers Syndrome. It’s only now that I realize that it could be considered such, and it helps me to relate with many other people on the autism spectrum who have experienced bullying at school. Well, maybe it isn’t nearly as bad as many of the stories I have heard from other Aspies, but I can safely say that I know what it’s like to be a target of harassment simply for being different and “weird.” It certainly is upsetting, and it can really make you want to just not talk to anyone.