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.