prepotence

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Propped up by a broom.

A huge ‘hidden’ but acute disability of mine is something that many autistics share: executive dysfunction. Teetering at the edge of a cliff, there is that sensation of falling, and yet one is still on firm ground – if just only by a hare’s breath. The feeling of executive dysfunction, of running out of what they call ‘spoons’, being at the very thin and slippery border, that unstable, fine line between (a veneer of) absolute control and complete breakdown, is a queasy, heart-rupturing silent scream. Sometimes, the tasks can be the most rudimentary, things that people just do, as naturally as any spontaneous activity like brushing their teeth or picking their nose. For example, answering multiple WhatsApp messages one after another upon emerging from a three hour meeting, without mixing up the who, how, where, when details of doing and saying. Then again, most people do not have to do all this while trying to quell gurgling, seething, frothing nausea, sometimes even excruciating migraine headaches and sharp stabbing pain in the eyes and inner ear, all from sensory overload. For the autistic person with executive function challenges, dealing with ‘simple’ chores can often turn into a battle with large roaring monsters, and staying on top of things becomes a colossal full-body, underwater wrestling match with an invisible Leviathan. For me, this is especially overpowering if ‘things’ involve many different human beings who are interacting in ways that seem to my brain to be alien, diverse, fragmented and scattered. The more human interaction is in the pot, the more cruelly exacting the grand performance becomes. Making mistakes is an inevitable and frightening feature in this unmerry-go-round. The ringing of the phone or the pinging of message notifications have become Pavlov bells of agitation and vexation for me. I have a horrible white-hot searing fear of sending messages to the wrong people, or not remembering certain details when people ask questions outside the ‘compartments’ in my mind that I’ve created for them. A person messaging me directly, taking a conversation outside a group chat but asking me questions that (in my mind) belongs to the group chat, can quickly send my brainwaves into wriggling, jiggling, wildly gyrating spams. I panic – why I do not know because it is not logical to panic – and of course I end up replying with either some garbled nonsense, or wrong information, simply because my mind has short circuited.

Even the most ‘expert’ of non-autistic ‘experts in autism’ fail to notice the subtle nuances of executive dysfunction and mental-sensorial overload as it happens in real time. In fact, I have yet to meet a non-autistic ‘expert in autism’ who can actually ‘expertly’ communicate with the autistic me. It is usually I who have to make all the necessary overtures – performing the unnatural as naturally as possible – in order to get any meaningful communication across. And autistics are supposed to be the ones ‘impaired’ in social interaction and reciprocal empathy?

This is how my autistic executive dysfunction plays out. On the surface, nothing is noticed. Not yet. There I am, deep underwater in the miry depths, engaging in mortal combat with that Brobdingnagian of Executive Dysfunction, but people sauntering by throw nary a glance at the pond, and nobody sees the tiny desperate bubbles bursting silently as they make contact with the aerosphere. All is cleverly concealed, until my spent and bloated corpse makes its way upwards, causing a huge blister on the placid surface. Then comes the shock and even derision. The accusations too.

People can be ‘aware’ that autism means a difference in neurological function. People can even be ‘aware’ of the terms “sensory overload” or “executive dysfunction” etc. But people have little or no idea how to identify the actual unpacking of all their ‘awareness’ in real time, especially if the autistic person is labelled by the non-autistic world as “high functioning” (not rocket science to figure out why I detest functioning labels, is it?). All this Autism Awareness with its fanciful labels is therefore as useful to me – an actual autistic person – as Blahblahblahdittydoodada. And this, while mildly comical, is not at all funny.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I am autistic. I love what I love with intense, all-consuming passion. And I am great at doing what I am great at doing – even rather brilliant. But I find the simple activity of keeping track of WhatsApp messages so difficult that I have developed a phobia for the sound of a message notification.

Prepotence in uncomfortable co-existence with decrepitude.

home cooked by experts

It is lovely to have good meals cooked at home by people who can whip up nosh better than I can. The icing on the cake is that I do not have to lift a finger, and no dishes to wash afterwards. Always look on the bright side of life. 🙂 It’s not always that my peculiar senses fully embrace the eclectic and sometimes strange (to me) tastes, but having that executive function taken care of so completely is a relief, and that makes the smells and tastes all the better, even the dishes I am not as keen on.

Merci Beaucoup! ❤

function

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I can do a whole lot of things, and superbly well too. But autistic executive dysfunction is a very real thing, and I need help with the simplest stuff, without which, I am unable to do all the marvellous things as marvellously as I can. Autistic persons need support, no matter ‘where on the spectrum’ we may seem to be. That is why functioning labels are harmful. Stop referring to us as ‘high’ or ‘low’ functioning, we are autistic, we are humans. Start trying to understand how you can support us to do the things we can do well, so that we can in turn help you do the things you cannot do well.

soffit

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Standing under the arch. A looming foreboding. A comforting covering. An oxymoronic juxtaposition. Trundling along towards an end that is far too near, autumnal chants that incite the demons of fear… Yet, dancing underneath the sheets of toxic foam, spring is valiant and defiant.

The Sensory Gremlins are at it again. Not merely the insistent neuropathic pain, but the indefatigable Dust Bunny Mob, the Grime Spectres that lurk in kitchen and bathroom, the endless loads of laundry, and dishes to attack – these monsters demand a battle spirit of intense vim and vigour, which I sadly and frustratingly lack.

I just want to focus my limited resources on my work. It is distressing. Not being able to direct the strength of my innate autistic focus upon what matter most to me. Well, alongside Lucy, my work is of utmost importance to me – oases of rest, regeneration, inspiration and tranquility. Lucy and work, that is. But I have scant time and physical fuel left for the two, because I am frantically chasing tiny leviathans. Yes. Tiny Leviathans!

In the meantime… the deadline looms nearer and nearer. The nausea sitting just beneath my diaphragm like a sinister black statue is growing, the curl of its mocking smile lifts higher as the time draws nigh – and laundry, dishes, Dust Bunny Mob, Grime Spectres join forces in a deafening roaring silent Dies Irae chorus.

Food is a temporary solace. But cooking and eating also means more dishes to wash.

Lucy is my only sensory clemency for the moment. The happiest time of my life. Yet, the dichotomy is cogent in its own tangible material parallel existence.

cloudy

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Lucy is my Angel of Clemency.

[This is not a Pity-Party Poor-Me post. I am voicing these thoughts because I hope that there will be greater awareness and understanding of the conundrum faced by autistic people who struggle to live and function within a system that is largely alien to our innate make up. It is not a grumble either. There is no “Us vs Them” anymore in my mind. I strive for Neurocosmopolitanism – a coming together and blending of minds – rather than to emphasise the divide.]

After two days of intense sunshine and heat, last night, it finally rained a little. We woke up to cloudy skies and a relatively robust wind. I have a love hate relationship with robust wind. On one hand, I love the refreshing feeling of a good cool breeze, the way it skims over my skin in a firm, passing yet continuous caress, but my auditory senses become increasingly stressed by the cornucopia of sounds that the wind stirs up. Rustling leaves are delightful, but my senses can only absorb and contain a limited volume – decibel level, frequency and yes, ‘volume’ as in capacity – before becoming overwhelmed. Continue reading

jeeves

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The sensory nightmare continues – Miss USA Door Slammer has been hard at work with the increasingly vicious and violent slamming, as if this was her one grand mission in life. But I have been valiantly plodding on. There’s good news to relate, though. I have at last found a place to move into! A sweet little space back in our old neighbourhood. I am so relieved! The grand exodus will take place this weekend. In the meantime, I have been valiantly forging on, feeding myself with as much gusto and as cheaply as I possibly can. However, I have been feeling a screaming stretto of mounting anxiety and agitation, because my work has been punctuated with so many frustrating holes, the mental-visual landscape is that of a very large and ugly block of Swiss cheese!

I need a Jeeves. He or she will do the dishes. Cook when I am buried in work and not feeling like it, but let me cook when I want to. Do the grocery shopping and laundry. Keep the physical environment clean and organised without disturbing the ordered chaos of my work space.

Oh, and there’s the electricity supply and internet connection to take care of too.

Continue reading

empty

The Princess is off on a sleepover adventure with her Godma. My friend Rose, who is Lucy’s Godmama, has so kindly taken her off me for the weekend, so that I can rest and try to recuperate from this horrid cough and cold. I packed her off with her food, treats, bowl, light coatie and warm pyjamas, and fleece blanket. She loves her Godma, and she jumped happily into the car, tail wagging and all excited. I think I caught her eyes in a moment of surprise when I closed the door and Lucy realised I wasn’t inside with her. She had made space for me. But her Godma will make sure she is well occupied, happy and thoroughly spoilt, so I am not the least bit worried. I know she will have a grand time, and I do hope Godma will not be too tired out by her antics.

There is a resonant emptiness in the tiny space without her. And it seems just a tad colder too. I did get to sleep without interruption, which was great, though I think I rather ate a tad too much. I must be missing my baby. It was a vegetarian, high carbohydrate day. Continue reading