The Hidden Village of Aspergers

August 20, 2017

We need to talk about Kevin.

(Note: this mentions abuse, so may be triggering for some readers)

Never push a loyal person to the point where they no longer care. – Kevin Pressman

For my dad, I cried a thousand tears  / For you, I won’t cry one / You were rotten to my brother and abusive to my mum / I know you’ll look down on me for being a fat, depressive Jew / But I’d rather be anything as long as I am not like you – LucyShadow, ‘Kevin Pressman’

I’ve not posted on this thing for a long time, due to working two jobs, going to Space gigs, the usual, and not having much to say, but I’ve wanted to talk about this for a long time. As some people who know me might know, I write songs. I’ve been writing since I was 13 or 14, played my stuff at open mic nights and have started writing, or trying to, again. One song I wrote used an old tune I’d written in high school, and it ended up being a massive coping mechanism for me because I was finally able to articulate how I felt about my ex-stepdad.

It all began with football. More specifically, it all began with Kevin Pressman.

A bit of background for non-football fans: Kevin Pressman is a former footballer. He’s currently goalkeeping coach at Millwall, but he is most known for playing in goal for Sheffield Wednesday for nearly 20 years, during which time he scored an amazing penalty against Wolves in the FA Cup and made 404 appearances, the most out of all post-war Wednesday players. He joined Wednesday as a teenager in 1985, and left in 2004, aged thirty-six. He was one of many players let go by Chris Turner. Four years earlier, in 2000, his contract had run out, and as this article shows, he was pretty bitter about it. He’d grown up supporting Sheffield Wednesday as a kid in Dronfield, he’d outlasted several other goalies – Chris Woods, Pavel Srnicek (RIP), Matt Clarke, Ola Tidman, and so on – and had helped out with coaching at the club academy. Even now, he still cheers Wednesday on and irritates many a Sheffield United fan on Twitter. To the disappointment of many Wednesday fans, unlike other players who’d done their ten years, he never got a testimonial, which seems like a huge kick in the teeth for someone who’d spent so long at the club and been so loyal. (Even though, there are petitions calling for a Pressman testimonial, though the man himself is presumably too busy with his charges at Millwall.) I’d always thought Pressman was cool as a player, and along with Matt Le Tissier, Alan Shearer, Zinedine Zidane and the great Marco van Basten, he was one of my non-Everton favourites as a kid.

Where does my ex-stepdad come in? Well, firstly, he’s a Sheffield Wednesday supporter, and one of my best memories of him involves them. I was desperate for him to take us to Hillsborough, and in 1997, he took me, my brother Jack and my ex-stepbrother to see Wednesday play Chelsea (who, incidentally, are my current stepdad’s team). Wednesday lost 4-1, Dan Petrescu – who had recently moved from Wednesday to Chelsea – got a ton of abuse, and an annoying man behind us commentated throughout the match. But for me, it was like a bonding experience and a chance to spend quality time with my ex-stepdad. Football was one of the things that brought my dad and me together, and it was the same with my ex-stepdad, and it was part of a bigger picture. While he and Jack had a bad relationship – and for the sake of Jack’s privacy, I won’t go into detail as to why – I was the one who tried to be a good stepdaughter and make him like me. I did my chores and pretended to enjoy the incessant walks we went on. I even internalised some of his values, which is why it took so long for me to admit I had depression and needed help. Several years later, when he and my mum separated, Mum apparently asked, “How do you think Lotte will feel?” He dismissively replied, “She’ll be OK.” I started crying, because I felt like I’d been cast aside like a piece of trash. I also found it strange how he never came to visit me while I was a student, yet after the separation he sent me a card, which I threw in the bin. It felt like he only cared when it was convenient. I remembered how he’d comforted me at my maternal gran’s funeral, how I’d cried in his arms after admitting I’d been self-harming (Mum was at choir practice and Jack was too young to help). And now this.

What made it worse in retrospect was finding out that he’d been abusive to my mum – emotionally, if not physically. I’d heard them arguing, and by ‘arguing’ I mean yelling at each other and him making her cry. My dad had never done that. I won’t go into detail about the things he said, out of respect for Mum’s privacy, but one of the reasons why she is an alcoholic is because of him. At least he wasn’t abusive to me, thank G-d, but Mum and Jack are my flesh and blood, and if you hurt them, you hurt me too.

Secondly, I am an Everton supporter myself, but reading the interview with Kevin Pressman, I began to see parallels between his relationship with Sheffield Wednesday, and my relationship with my ex-stepfather. Pressman loved Wednesday to pieces, gave his all for the club (especially in Steel City derbies), and stayed with them through the good times and the bad, even after they were relegated, even when he was dropped in favour of Chris Woods, and they eventually cast him aside like a piece of trash, never even giving him a chance to say a proper goodbye (compare to how Everton treated Tim Howard in 2016). While I was upset about my mum remarrying at first, I genuinely wanted to make a go of things. I wanted everyone to get along and I really wanted my ex-stepdad to love me. I wanted to win his respect and since Jack was the ‘bad’ child, I felt I had to be the ‘good’ child. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Like Pressman, I felt like I’d been kicked in the teeth when my ex-stepdad – like the powers that be at Sheffield Wednesday – stopped caring. Sometimes I even wonder if he resented the fact Mum had children. And like Sheffield Wednesday in the 00s, my blended family began to show cracks. Pressman wanted to get Wednesday back into the Premiership, and I wanted a normal family, but my parents grew further apart and split, living separate lives under the same roof, then in separate houses, then officially divorcing in 2008. I may not be a goalie (back when I played football, I was more of a defensive midfielder), but I understand the pain of being loyal, or trying to be loyal, to someone, only for them to gradually erase you from their life.

One day, I had a dream about Sheffield Wednesday, and a line about ‘watching Kevin Pressman’ got stuck in my head, and gradually I came up with more and more lines and wove them into a song, the song I’d been meaning to write for years. Music has been one of my coping mechanisms, and writing that song was a huge release for me – I still listen to it when I need a kick up the arse. I’m going to end this post with the final line:

I’d rather be at Hillsborough watching Kevin Pressman / Than spend another life with you.

 

 

April 24, 2016

Autistic kids being targeted by hackers

Stuart Duncan, the father of an autistic boy, started Autcraft, a Minecraft server for autistic kids and adults to play in safety. Then this happened:

On April 6th, 2016, two people attempted to hack into the Autcraft server and failed.

What they did succeed in doing, however, was to hijack our IP address, effectively redirecting all the traffic from our server to a server of their own.

The children that signed on to play, some as young as 6 years old, signed on to their server instead of mine. Once there, they were encased in a bedrock box from which they could not leave and were told that they were rejects from society, degenerates and that they should kill themselves.

When I asked these guys why they’d do such a thing, they responded “it’s funny.”

They told us that we’d never figure out what they had done or how to stop it and that they’d continue doing it unless we paid them $1000.

The full article is here.

The hatred for autistic people in some corners of the internet is incredible, it really is. I’ve seen ‘autistic’ and ‘sperg’ used as insults more times than I care to admit (I’m a goon, and it’s one of the few things I hate about Something Awful). Anyone showing an over-enthusiastic interest in something gets called ‘autistic’ (such as people on TV Tropes). We’re treated as little more than a joke, and I’m fucking tired of it. I can’t help having this disorder and I do try my damnedest to integrate – I have two jobs and two degrees, I have a great group of friends, I go to gigs, I own my own home, I can take care of myself (cook, do laundry, clean etc.), I go on holiday on my own. But even people like me who are able to manage some degree of independence aren’t safe and there are some people who would prefer it if we were wiped off the face of the earth.

In the comments on this article on Ragen Chastain’s Facebook page, one person brought up Chris-chan as a possible reason why autistic kids and adults are so hated. Now, Chris-chan has a ton of issues that, in my opinion, are as much to do with his upbringing as they are with his autism. I do think he is genuinely autistic, and his parents have a lot to answer for, frankly, and when I see him it makes me realise how lucky I am to have a mother who actually gives a shit about helping me function in the world. But that’s another story. What really irritates me is the idea that all of us are being judged by this one dysfunctional human being. The vast majority of us are not like Chris-chan and are just trying to get on with our lives. I’m not a Minecraft player myself, but I do feel so bad for those kids. They’re just trying to play a game, and now they can’t do that because some arseholes think it’s funny to bully them and tell them they don’t deserve to live. And frankly, the word ‘degenerate’ used to describe disabled people scares me. It sounds like something the NF would say.

It’s incredible how there are people who hate us and don’t want us to have fun and would prefer it if every single one of us ceased to exist. If my mum lost her daughter, and my brother lost his sister, and my family and stepfamily lost a loved one, and my friends lost a friend. I have been overwhelmed by the amount of support I’ve received from friends this week after a major depressive episode culminating in self-harm (see here for some of the reasons why). It reminds me that there are people on this godforsaken planet who want me to stay alive. And the loved ones of these kids would feel the same if they died. I wonder what their mums and dads must be going through, knowing strangers on the internet are wishing death on their children because it’s ‘funny’.

And all because they’re autistic.

April 4, 2016

It’s me again, in-sig-ni-fi-cant me again; also, Autism Speaks can fuck right off

I’ve not updated this blog in over a year. Basically, a lot of stuff has happened.

– I changed jobs in January last year and now work in a hospital. It’s better than the last place, thank G-d. I’ve also started doing freelance translation work on the side.

– I sang The Ballad Of Tom Jones onstage with Space at the Liverpool International Music Festival in summer. It was one of my proudest achievements and I can’t thank them enough for letting me do it, it was an honour. I got to do it again in Runcorn, where I was dressed up as Anne Shirley (I pretended Tommy was Gilbert Blythe).

– My brother was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in summer, and has been in and out of hospital having chemotherapy. Thankfully, he is fine now and will be coming to Primavera this year.

– My mum was admitted to hospital in January this year after drinking too much and passing out due to dehydration and lack of food. She’s OK now, but it was…not pleasant.

– I have been having some very disturbing intrusive thoughts about Roberto Martinez, Everton’s manager, which I will detail another time. I’m getting help for it.

On another note, it’s April, it’s Autism Awareness Month, and this means the dreaded blue jigsaw piece and the ‘turn it blue’ meme are going to rear their ugly heads. I’m talking, of course, about the notorious Autism Speaks, the group with THAT ad about autism. Well, they don’t bloody speak for me, or any of the autistic people I know. Autistic Hoya and The Caffeinated Autistic both explain much better than I could why Autism Speaks are bad, bad people, and not an organisation you should be supporting. Be warned: some of the content is very distressing.

September 21, 2014

Autism and Girls:

This has got nothing to do with the Space miniblogs, but 1) I need a distraction from the despair of my beloved Everton getting totalled by Crystal Palace, and 2) I found this on Facebook and it interests me.

Flyer found on Facebook

Flyer found on Facebook

In case the text is a bit hard to read, I’m going to reproduce it here and add my comments:

Unlike stereotypical autistic boys, autistic girls may have:

– No language delay problems This is true, I learned to talk quite young – I was about two, I think.

– NO interest in technical things (like spinning wheels) I don’t remember having any interest in ‘technical things’.

Autistic girls often:

– Are very shy Yes, I was pretty shy. Still am.

– Are less prone to aggressive outbursts (especially away from home) I don’t remember having any aggressive outbursts as a kid. Those came later, as a teenager and an adult woman.

– Want to make friends Yes, but it was very hard for me, which goes without saying.

– Copy social behaviour I still do. I have a rather large complex about what is and isn’t the ‘right’ way to do things. I should probably not take behavioural cues from Tumblr, though.

– Only have one mother hen friend at a time I’m not sure what a ‘mother hen friend’ is, but I was the sort of kid who’d have one best mate rather than a large crowd of friends like my brother did.

– Are highly intelligent and academically gifted Yes. I wasn’t a savant, but I did get good grades.

– Have very good memories (such as for facts or events) Yes, and not much has changed there. To quote my brother, “Lotte is an encyclopaedia of family history. She remembers everything.” This actually came in handy recently, regarding my mother, in an event which I am not prepared to talk about right now.

– Say NO a lot I might have. I don’t know. 

– Have poor eye contact, especially with strangers Yes, and I still do. If I don’t look you in the eye, I’m either nervous, or I don’t like you. Generally, it’s the former!

– Enjoy arranging toys into groups or sets Yes. Definitely. And later, CDs and books.

– Are very creative and imaginative Yes. I loved writing stories and I read like the clappers. 

– Create elaborate fantasy worlds Yes. Mum used to get angry with me for living in ‘my own little world’, and I got upset because I felt like she was attacking the fantasy world in my head where all my characters lived. This wasn’t a DID thing, incidentally. It was more like an imaginary friends thing. I used to play with toys and dolls and make up stories for them, often based on things I’d seen on TV.

– Have obsessive interests (such as in animals, songs or books) Yes. Abba, Asterix books, Sylvanian families, certain TV programmes. When I got older, it was Space, Naruto, Everton FC, the Chalet School series, and many other things.

– Are hypersensitive to stimuli (such as sunlight or sudden noises) Yes. I hated people shouting or loud crowds, and would put my hands over my ears or cry. I’m still the same. The partner in the Manchester office kept shouting at me when I was having a meltdown, and that made it even worse. People ask me how I listen to metal. It’s expected noise, basically. You know the singer’s going to start screaming, plus it often has a nice tune or beat to accompany it. I draw the line at drone, though. Friends of mine love Sunn O))), but I could never get into them for this reason.

– Have over-the-top seeming emotional reactions Yes. At one point, Mum said she was going to take me to a doctor because there was clearly something wrong with me, because I cried very easily. 

By age 7 or 8:

– Social alienation increases as peers use more complex nuances Yes. I felt left out a lot of the time, and some girls did take advantage of the fact that I was quite naive and took things literally. 

– Stress increases at home, whilst being model pupils at school Yes. Admittedly, a large part of it was my father’s illness, but there was also the fact that my mum was frustrated at my weird behaviour and my brother and I didn’t get on very well a lot of the time.

Credit for this flyer, by the way, goes to L Style, an autistic mother. At the bottom, she has provided a link to the National Autistic Society’s section on gender.

April 2, 2014

The English Language Let Me Down

All my words done failed me
Every line derails me
This is the day that the English language let me down

Words. Language. Etymology, definitions, wordplay, translation, stories and poems, word puzzles, word games. English, French, German, Spanish, Hebrew. Language is both my friend and my enemy. In I Am Unlike A Lifeform You’ve Ever Met, I talked about books and the imagination. This post covers speech and language.

Somewhere, there is a tape of me reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, aged about two. My first word was ‘duck’. I’m not sure when I learned to talk, though I wasn’t a late developer or non-verbal. I do remember, however, that I spoke in a monotone, and that efforts were made to correct this and have me intone words like ‘normal’ people. Mum also told me my speaking voice was too high-pitched and that I should try and make it a bit deeper, and that I was too loud. “Turn the volume down,” was a comment often directed at me. Years later, in synagogue, the rabbi took me aside and asked me not to sing so loudly at Friday night services as I was drowning other people out. This upset me a lot; I was just enjoying the service and had no idea that what I was doing was wrong, and as it was not an Orthodox synagogue, the principle of kol isha did not apply. Was it because of my Aspergers? How the fuck should I know? Maybe it was. I have no idea how I sound to other people. When I hear my own voice played back to me, it sounds horrible, like a cross between Morrissey and Henry’s Cat. I hate my singing voice as well, possibly because Jack always used to tell me to shut up whenever I sang along to music in my bedroom. I have a bit of a complex about it. How it could turn any nice Jewish boy on, I do not know.

Anyway. Tangents aside, I apparently went to see a speech therapist at some point when I was younger. In terms of writing, I was doing OK – I got team points for stories and essays I’d written at school (I even wrote the script for our class’s production of the story of Pandora’s box), I was in the top group for spelling, and when we had to write sentences using words on coloured cards. It was also at primary school that I discovered an aptitude for languages. OK, I’m not a polyglot and I’m not fluent in any language besides English, though I can speak German pretty well, but I got interested in languages after going to French Club in Year 3, having French lessons off a friend of Mum’s in Year 5, and doing French lessons in Year 6. Even when I was little, the way people said things in other languages fascinated me. When we went on holiday to the Algarve, I pored over the Portuguese phrase book we had. I was fascinated by an old English/French picture dictionary and the conjugations of irregular verbs. How could ‘avoir’ become ‘aurons’ and ‘aurez’, and what the hell was the deal with ‘être’? When Dad went on a work trip to Germany, he brought back comics in German. I didn’t have a bloody clue what any of the words meant, though they did come in handy when I started doing German in Year 9. I found the German language even cooler than French, with its complicated word order and Modalverben and ever-changing masculine definite article. I also liked the way it sounded, and was made up when a friend gave me a Rammstein tape. (Till Lindemann’s voice helped. That guy could sing the contents of the Dusseldorf phonebook and make it sound sexy.)

When I got into Sixth Form, I decided I wanted to read languages at university, since languages were my thing; I was doing A-Level French, German and English Language (and my transcripts of Space interviews came in handy when we were studying accent and dialect!) I wanted to read Chinese or Spanish alongside German. Cambridge turned me down, and I got offers from Durham and Leeds, but went with Manchester, which didn’t do Chinese at the time but did offer Spanish. I took night classes in my gap year to give me a bit of a grounding in Spanish. I find it harder than German, I have to admit. Maybe it’s because German is closer to English. When we were studying the evolution of the English language, I noticed a lot of similarities between Old English and German. The fact it was phonetic, for instance.

On the subject of accents, Rudy Simone writes in Aspergirls that she has a tendency to pick up accents; she recalls being mistaken for an immigrant after speaking in a ‘Hispanic’ accent that she’d picked up from a colleague. The same thing happens to me. The one time I did consciously put on an accent was in high school, because I was being bullied for talking ‘posh’, but after moving to Manchester, something bizarre happened where I was out with mates and I started talking in a sort of weird half-Manc half-Yorkshire accent. Everyone thought I was putting it on, but it was real. I’ve toned it down a bit, but it changes depending on who I’m with and where I am. Expose me to Everton matches or members of Space, and my accent gets a Scouse tinge. In London, it goes a bit cockney. I’m not putting it on to make fun of people; it just happens. It’s a kind of osmosis. G-d help me if this ever happens in Scotland. Perhaps it’s some kind of instinct to imitate sounds, like a baby learning to talk.

As I’ve said before, I find writing easier than talking. Writing helps me organise my thoughts better, and I can rewrite what I’ve written, whereas when I say things, that’s it, the cat is out of the bag. Sometimes I can’t find the right words to express myself when I speak, or I say stupid or horrible things without thinking. At least, sitting at a keyboard, I have a bit more control over what comes out.

March 26, 2014

This isn’t part of the Space miniblogs, but it is important.

A mate of mine linked to this article on Facebook, titled ‘Intersectional Collisions: “But What If He’s Autistic?”‘. It’s on Feminist Hivemind, and it’s well worth a read. This is exactly the reason why I started this blog; because of the continued misconception that autism / Aspergers are ‘male’ conditions. People might ask if the guy harassing women is autistic (and therefore, he can’t help his shitty behaviour), but do they ask if the women being harassed might be on the spectrum? Do they balls.

Firstly, it’s bloody demeaning to men on the autistic spectrum. For every Chris-Chan, there are plenty of decent men who, while maybe being a bit socially awkward, have boundaries and respect them, and don’t use their disability as an excuse to creep on women.

Secondly, what about us? What about the women on the receiving end? What about autistic women being harassed by neurotypical men? I wrote a bit about this myself in the Bastard Me Bastard You post. We aren’t always given the tools to deal with harassment. Should we laugh it off? Ignore it? Respond? I’ve seen the ‘he might be autistic’ excuse used enough times, and it absolutely does my head in.

Anyway, go read.

December 4, 2011

On suicide and Clarkson

This is not going to be an easy post to write. But a lot of people have been talking about Jeremy Clarkson’s comments on suicide recently – not to mention that one of my beloved Everton FC’s former players, Gary Speed, recently killed himself – and I thought I’d weigh in. What I am about to say will piss a lot of people off, but here goes: Clarkson may be a professional douchebag, and the way he expressed his sentiments was pretty disgusting, but I can see where he’s coming from. I’m not universalising my experiences; everyone has a different story to tell regarding their mental health, and everyone has different ways of dealing with it. I do not claim to speak for anyone but myself.

I have been suicidal, but even at my lowest, I would never have considered throwing myself in front of a train. It is one of the most disgusting and horrific ways a person can commit suicide. Train drivers have had to quit their jobs because of train deaths. Maybe it’s because I was raised to be considerate, maybe I’ve been conditioned into caring too much what people think, but I never once considered going down to Piccadilly or Oxford Road and leaping onto a track as a train was coming in, thereby ensuring some poor train driver would end up in therapy, while some unfortunate railworkers cleaned up the bits of me that had not been splattered all over the front of the train or screaming passengers. My reasoning always was that I didn’t want to involve strangers, I didn’t want to be a nuisance to people on trains, and I didn’t want a disgusting messy death that would end up on Rotten.com. Each time I’ve attempted suicide, it’s been with overdoses of pills. The only strangers getting involved would be the paramedics who would find my body, hopefully before it became one with the carpet. There would be no traumatised driver or bystanders. It would not be a grande geste, just a small, hopeless death in a flat somewhere in south Manchester. I would take my pills, post my goodbyes on Livejournal, lie down and wait to die.

I can joke about this because the alternative option is to cry about it. Sometimes I feel what I did was so pathetic, I have to laugh. I didn’t even take that many pills. The first time, I was swallowing Nurofen. The second time, I think it was anti-depressants, codeine and G-d knows what else. No stomach pumping was involved, although the second time, I ended up sleeping in the hospital with a drip in my arm to fight off the meds. I was given some counselling the next day and released. The first time, I ended up dropping out of university for the rest of the year because I simply could not cope anymore. The second time, I was worried I’d miss my presentation on Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in my Assent & Dissent in the Third Reich class.

I mention causing an inconvenience. The reason why I wanted to die in both cases is because I thought I was an inconvenience. The first time, I thought my flatmates would be happy if I was dead. Their behaviour towards me afterwards made me wonder if I had been right. The second time, I’d had a screaming argument with one of my bandmates at a gig. I removed myself from the house in 2005, and was thrown out of the band without my knowledge in 2007. I genuinely believed, both times, that they would be happy if I had died, and that I deserved to die because I was making them unhappy.

Not once did I think about the effect it would have on my family and friends. G-d knows how my friends must have felt when they discovered the suicide note on my Livejournal. Maybe, deep down, I didn’t really want to die and I was hoping they’d catch me before it was too late; I can’t recall clearly because my mind was such a mess at the time. But I thought, for some weird reason, I would have to be considerate and at least let people know I was going to die so they wouldn’t wonder where I was. (Luckily, the one bandmate who actually gave a shit about me called an ambulance, and my then boyfriend sat with me in the A&E. Even if I did dump him a year later, I’ll always be grateful to him for that night.) But I didn’t think about the impact it would have. I didn’t realise my mum would have to sit down because her legs were shaking, or that she’d ring the university counsellors in a panic because I’d said the night before that I wanted to slit my wrists. I didn’t realise my brother would be frightened of me going back to uni in case it happened again.

When I was suicidal, I was selfish. The only person I really thought about was myself. People with Aspergers are often accused of lacking empathy, and while I don’t lack empathy myself, I admit I didn’t consider people’s feelings at all. You don’t. All you can think about is wiping yourself out of existence. You don’t think about upcoming gigs or Naruto chapters or friends’ birthdays. You just want it all to stop. I do consider what I did to be selfish, albeit unintentionally – when you want to kill yourself, you’re hardly thinking rationally. It’s not like going down to the corner shop to buy milk. Even if it’s calculated and planned out, you are not yourself.

I don’t know if Clarkson’s ever lost a loved one to suicide, but I have friends who have, and family who’ve lived through continuous suicide attempts, and I can understand why they might be angry. To people who have never been suicidal, it’s hard to rationalise and explain. It can be seen as the ultimate act of selfishness, with no heed to how the people left behind might feel. I’m not saying “OMG people who kill themselves are bastards”. But if either attempt had worked, Mum and Jack would have been angry as well as sad, that someone they loved could hurt them so badly. G-d knows what was going through Mum’s head the first time I did it, besides ‘oh no, not Lotte too’.

I wonder how many people with Aspergers have resorted to suicide. Bear in mind that a lot of us cannot deal with strong feelings, and that we cut ourselves or smash things or hit people because it’s the only way we can express those feelings. When you’re suicidal, you’re overwhelmed with feelings and the only thing you hear is the screaming in your head and that one little voice telling you that all you have to do is pull the trigger, jump off the chair or onto the tracks, eat the pills, shove your head in the oven. You can’t talk to anyone because they won’t understand or you can’t articulate how you feel or you’re scared you’ll upset them, if you’re me.

I’ll probably write about this again in more detail. There is so much more I could say about the times that I’ve been suicidal. One thing I will say in conclusion is that suicide is still something a lot of people don’t understand, and maybe they never will. Clarkson, professional troll though he is, is one of those many people. To the rational-minded, it’s crazy and selfish, even cruel. But you’ve got to remember that it is not a thing that can easily be rationalised.

To any of my family reading this: I’m sorry if I upset you.

October 19, 2010

A cross between Alan Partridge and Eeyore

Filed under: fuckwittage,language,stuff what i have read — kankurette @ 7:52 pm
Tags: , ,

When I went to the Latitude festival with the family earlier this year, I met up with my brother and his girlfriend after Belle & Sebastian’s set, and amongst other things, he told me to go and check out a young female poet-cum-rapper he’d seen performing around London. Her name was Kate Tempest, and she was performing in the Poetry Tent. She also, it turned out, is from Brockley, the same area I lived in when I was a baby.

Kate Tempest looked pretty innucuous; she had long, curly blonde hair and was wearing jeans and a sweater, and looked more like a first-year student than a rapping poet, but then she opened her mouth, and I was hooked. She spoke of south London, of teenagers growing up on dismal grey estates where she and her friends would ‘paint rainbows’, of troubled youth, of self-destruction and getting drunk and having a fag and saying and doing regrettable things and then writing poems about said regrettable things on wine-stained paper. Watching her in action was incredible; it wasn’t a poetry reading so much as a tornado of language and sound, and I wished fervently that I could articulate myself so well when I opened my own mouth. I can write poetry, sure, but I totally fail at reading it.

One of the reasons why I blog, and why I am writing this, is because I find it immensely hard to articulate myself when I speak. Some people tell me I’m articulate, but I open my mouth and I hear this sound that’s half Alan Partridge’s daughter and half Eeyore, and I stumble over words and sound like some mouthbreathing Baldrick. I hate speaking to people I don’t know and speaking in front of big groups of people, and although I dream of doing a talk for the NAS, or being an advocate like Chris Mitchell, I worry that I’ll start speaking and utter bollocks will come out, but give me a pen or a computer and I’m fine.

So you can imagine how pissed off I was to hear that – and yes, I know this article is a couple of weeks old – Andrew Marr thinks most bloggers are, and I quote, ‘socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed, young men sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting’. Aside from the fact that Marr actually seemed like a decent guy and one who would surely be above such juvenile crap, I actually disagree with his statement. For one thing, it smacks of the whole ‘hurr hurr there are no girls on the internet’ argument so beloved of trolls. The feminist blogosphere say hi, Andy, as do I. Yes, I am blogging and I am a GURL.  (Also, my mum doesn’t have a basement, and I moved out of her house four years ago, so nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah. Ahem.)

Yes, the internet does attract people with rather…unique views on life. Yes, there are a lot of angry bloggers out there who spew nothing but hate and paranoia. Yes, there are bloggers who are sexist, racist, misogynist, homophobic, eliminationist, and just plain disturbing. But please don’t lump all of us in with them. For those of us who find it hard to speak, blogs help us. They are a way out, particularly when they can be used to help others – for instance, the Mutual Madness blog, where people will post their worries and queries, and Mental Nurse regulars will do their best to answer them. Mental Nurse itself has done its bit to (to paraphrase Zarathustra, the evil enabler / mod) expose all kinds of liars in the medical profession, and also gaps in psychotherapy egulation that jeopardise mental patients’ welfare. Net result: Mental Nurse has been in the papers. People are sitting up and taking notice. It all smacks of the kind of work my dad did in the early days of nuclear power in the UK, and long may they continue.

Blogs are also a great way to learn about other issues, through the eyes of the people they affect, and not all bloggers of this ilk are the kind who insist Barack Obama is some kind of magical space Muslim Communist Jew ninja pirate. I have an American online friend, for instance, who often blogs about reproductive rights, healthcare, fundamentalist Christianity and general politics in the US, and her blog makes for very educational reading at times. Certainly, she links to news, but also to sites such as Sadly, No! and PZ Myers, whose comments are as worthwhile as the articles themselves. As well as the above mentioned friend, I also read the blogs of queer people who blog about their experiences of homophobia, institutionalised or otherwise; of transfolk and genderqueers who discuss transphobia and gender identity; of people struggling with mental illnesses and physical conditions; and so on. Through the internet, I’ve found a good few people who share the same interests and values as me, and corny though it is, it’s reassuring to know I’m not alone. One of them became one of my best friends. (Hi, Chloe, if you’re reading this.) For those of us who struggle with talking to people in real life, the internet is a valuable tool.

I also find it a great form of release. Some say venting is counterproductive, but not always; I feel better when I’ve picked up the phone and ranted to my mum or a friend, but sometimes I don’t want to dump my problems on other people and force them to listen to my incessant whining. So I write them down. If it’s on a public-ish space, I may get comments, and that’s nice if I do, but the main reason is just to get it out of me. It’s certainly more healthy than picking up a razor blade and slashing my arm. It doesn’t always deter me from doing that, but sometimes it does.

In conclusion: please don’t judge all bloggers by a few idiots. Many bloggers are good people doing good work and talking about things that need to be discussed, and which the media doesn’t always touch – and many of us see our blogs as a lifeline. We can’t say it with sound, but we can say it with writing.

August 24, 2010

Rudy Simone is made of win

Filed under: books,childhood,stuff what i have read — kankurette @ 7:59 pm

Last Monday, August 16th, the Telegraph featured an article on women with Aspergers Syndrome entitled ‘Help at last for the “Aspergirls”‘. Notwithstanding the fact that I wish I’d invented the term myself (I love puns like dogs love humping your leg), I was extremely happy to discover that at long last, there’s a book out there focusing on women with Aspergers. It’s called Aspergirls: Empowering Women with Aspergers Syndrome. It’s by a woman called Rudy Simone, who unsurprisingly has Aspergers Syndrome, and apparently you can order it through the Telegraph website, and with any luck it’ll be on Amazon.

According to the article, the National Autistic Society states that women are far less likely to be affected by Aspergers than men – over four times less, to be exact. And yet, in the same article, out of every five people on the autistic spectrum, Aspergers included, one will be a woman. But not everyone with Aspergers is correctly diagnosed. Another woman with Aspergers interviewed for the article, Sarah, states she was originally thought to be schizophrenic, and wasn’t diagnosed until she was twenty-six. I wonder myself how long it would have taken for me to be diagnosed if my dad hadn’t died and I hadn’t started acting up and worrying my family and primary school. I probably would have been thought of merely as just another weirdo, an eccentric loner, no justification or reason needed.

Simone, like me, wants to challenge the old misconception of Aspergers as a ‘male condition’, and to suggest how it might manifest itself in women and how we and the people around us can deal with it. She has a partner and a teenage child, proof once again that people with Aspergers can – like, ohmagawd – actually have families and lead ‘normal’ lives, rather than spending our entire lives in our mothers’ basements playing World of Warcraft and playing with string or whatever it is people think we do. (My mother doesn’t have a basement anyway, but that’s beside the point.) Sarah, meanwhile, is married and is working for BT, thanks to Prospects, a service provided via the NAS which helps people on the spectrum find jobs. I made use of it myself when I was at university.

Simone and Sarah’s stories struck a chord with me because both had similar childhoods and experiences to my own. Sarah admits to having been terrible at sport and badly co-ordinated, and used music as a means of escape. Simone, meanwhile, has habits which I recognise all too clearly as my own; re-reading the same books – something my mother has never understood, since you know what happens – and listening to the same songs again and again, just like me. Even now, on my iPod, I have certain tunes which I listen to again and again and never get tired of, although I admit having album fatigue after listening to Space’s Tin Planet, an album which admittedly hasn’t aged well but which I loved when I was halfway through high school, one too many times. Both women were bright as children; Sarah was even given an unconditional place to study music at Goldsmiths, but dropped out after one year.  Simone is also very sensitive to certain smells and textures, and I still remember as a teenager nearly throwing up after accidentally inhaling the stench of my stepdad’s rancid old dog’s basket, and disliking clothes made of wool because it itched me something rotten.

When I read something like this, it’s hard not to immediately start jumping up and down and shouting, “Me too! Me too!” It’s like discovering someone ships the same weird pairing as you, gets a nerdy cultural reference you make, or was at the same Rammstein gig at the Manchester Apollo in 2002 when American Head Charge and Raging Speedhorn were supporting, and Till Lindemann pretended to buttfuck the keyboard player with a fake dildo and squirted fake jizz over the front row. (Yes, I have met a good few people who were at that gig.) Knowing that there are people out there who grew up with the same quirks, the same problems and the same dislikes and fears and anxieties as you did, caused by the same condition that you have, is in its own weird way a great comfort. One of the most painful parts of the article was when both women described the problems they had fitting in at school, and with making friends with other women. Simone admits to having no close female friends, while Sarah finds interacting with women difficult, what with unseen hierarchies, peer pressure, social niceties and the other subtle little things that come with friendship groups among women, not just in high school, but in adulthood. I’m not suggesting that men cannot be two-faced, deceitful and subtly cruel. One of the worst betrayals I have ever suffered was from a so-called male friend. But I have had far more problems with girls in high school than boys. At least you knew when the boys were being cruel.

I’ve been lucky in that most of my closest friends are women, but they’re not ‘ordinary’ women. They are women with mental health issues, unusual fetishes, eccentric dress sense, intellectual interests such as archaeology and queer theory, good (in my opinion anyway) taste in music (and that includes the one who likes hair metal), tattoos, piercings, baggage, personality quirks, a black and often downright wrong sense of humour. Most importantly, they appreciate me for who I am, and anyone with Aspergers who can find friends, male or female, who genuinely care about them and enjoy being around them are lucky people indeed. However, ever since I was a nipper, I’ve always found men easier to talk to in some ways. I knew where I was with men. With women, I more often than not found myself second guessing.

So Rudy Simone, I salute you. Here’s hoping that you give girls and women with Aspergers strength and hope. I’m probably going to buy the book, and if I do, I’ll review it here. So watch this space. If any readers have read it, let me know what you think.

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