The Hidden Village of Aspergers

April 21, 2016

An open letter to Roberto Martinez

Dear Roberto Martinez,

I’m not going to lie. Until recently, I fucking hated you.

I attributed Everton’s every failure to you. I read Everton forums and tweets and blogs to stoke my hatred. I built you up into a monster and saw you as a thing rather than a person. The very sight of your face or the sound of your voice filled me with rage. I hated you more than I’ve hated any human being, besides the man I call Itachi. And I wanted you dead.

I fantasised about killing you. I planned how and when I was going to do it. I’m not proud of this, but I had intrusive thoughts, like a voice in my head constantly telling me to kill you. Someone or something was telling me, “Kill this man, and you will be rewarded.” I figured that Everton fans would hail me as a hero or a god. Luckily, the opposite occurred. When I told other Everton fans what I felt, they called me crazy and a psychopath and said I needed locking up. I was banned from two Reddit pages and even the most negative of Everton fans told me I’d gone too far.

I have to thank you, because you made me realise I needed help. I saw a picture of you carrying Luella, your daughter, as you walked round the pitch at Goodison Park last season, and for an instant, I didn’t see a thing, a target, a hate figure. I saw a loving husband and father. I saw a human being who loves Jabugo ham and idolises his dad and dances badly to Jason Derulo and watches TV on his L-shaped sofa with his wife. More importantly, I saw a human being whose death would make many people sad, and the thought of your little girl growing up without a dad – just like I did – made me realise what I felt was sick and wrong. Even if the chances of me acting on my thoughts were virtually nil, I wanted to stop having these thoughts. One Friday, I had enough. I broke down crying and got an emergency appointment with a kind doctor who referred me to the local mental health services. I saw them a few hours ago today, as it happens.

I built you up into a monster and stripped away your humanity in order to make you easier to hate. I no longer saw you as a person, but the epitome of everything that had made me miserable this year. It was not you I hated. It was what you represented. Panic attacks, bleeding arms, and my mum hooked up to drips in a hospital bed, the week before I saw Everton lose to Swansea.

When I saw you after Liverpool’s 4-0 thrashing of Everton, any remaining hatred I had for you disappeared. You looked tired and sad, and older than your 42 years, with your rapidly disappearing hair, the lines around your mouth and the shadows under your big dark bloodshot eyes. You looked like a man who knew his time was running out and his job was on the line, that he had become a joke and a hate figure, and had nowhere to hide. You admitted the match was a disaster. I don’t know what goes on in the dressing room at Goodison, but I wouldn’t want to be you right now. I wished I could put my arms around you and say, “It’ll be OK.” Instead of rage and hatred, I only felt pity and sadness. Sadness that it could have been so different. You came to Everton full of life and promise, and we adored you. Now it’s 2016, and things are looking bleak for you. What goes through your mind when you see banners with ‘Martinez Out’ on them, or you hear the Liverpool fans laughing at you and chanting your name ironically? We’ll never know.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think you’ve got what it takes to manage Everton, but I wish you well in whatever you do. You seem like a genuinely nice person, and an interesting one at that, and your heart is in the right place, and I want you to be happy. I don’t wish harm on you anymore. I don’t see you as a monster, but as a flawed, ordinary human being just like me. Because that’s what football managers are – Klopp, Mourinho, Wenger, Rodgers, Derry, whoever. Just flawed, ordinary human beings with wives and kids and lives outside football.

Having obsessive thoughts is fucking shit, Roberto, especially when they turn me into a person I don’t want to be. Let’s hope that you’re the last person I feel like this about.



July 25, 2014

Just a quick update

Filed under: Uncategorized — kankurette @ 4:56 pm

I’m still here. I just haven’t written much due to not being very well lately – my ME seems to be pretty bad at the moment. I’m going to Liverpool to see Space tomorrow so I need to rest up.

I walked the Race for Life with my mate Sarah and her dog Semtex last month and, I’m proud to say, raised over £500 for Cancer Research. I’d emailed a couple of my dad’s old mates to say I was racing in his memory, and they’d spread the word. I got messages both from old family friends and from people I didn’t know, but who my mum did, and all branches of the family left messages of support too. When I did the race and talked to my mum afterwards, she cried. It was one of the few times I’d made her cry in a good way. I was exhausted afterwards, but glad I did it, and Semtex got a lot of compliments from kids for his pink hat.

I may be moving down to Cambridge next year as I am unhappy in Manchester. It’s all conjecture at the moment. I’ve also been working on translating some old letters about seabirds.

I definitely intend to continue with the Space-themed blogs. Hopefully I’ll finish them soon.

Bis zum später!

March 18, 2014

i’m going on a break for a bit.

Filed under: Uncategorized — kankurette @ 10:05 pm

Since I’m going to be busy over the next few days, I’m not going to be posting much, but things will return to normal next week. I’m not going to have a lot of time between work and gigs, and some of the posts are going to need a fair bit of time to write as they deal with difficult subjects.

Thanks for all the kind comments and feedback. I appreciate it a hell of a lot.

March 10, 2014

Avenging Angels

Angel, oh angel, here to brighten up my darkest day
Take me in your arms, protect me from my enemies
Oh deadly angel, oh angel, and when they’ve got me on my knees
When I’m just about to do the deadly deed, you rescue me

The song I chose for this blog post is the song I love the most by Space, because it was written by a man who was very close to his father, who wanted to write the kind of songs his father would like, and who coped with his father’s death by writing Avenging Angels. When I heard the story behind it, it made me feel comforted, to know that a singer I loved understood how I felt. Like Tommy Scott, I adored my dad, Andy Holmes. He was, and still is, one of my heroes. Like Tommy Scott, I feel as though my father is watching over me, from wherever he is now. I sometimes worry I’ll forget him, even with my ridiculous photographic memory, but I won’t. All I have to do to remember my dad is look in the mirror.

Those dark eyes, that nose, that acne-scarred, pockmarked skin (though his was worse), that unruly dark brown hair, that profile – all those I inherited from him. I like to think I got my writing ability from him as well, though I’d be happy if I was only one-tenth as talented as he was – he was a journalist for the Financial Times and edited a magazine called Power in Europe, as well as writing the odd article for Greenpeace on the side, and he was on the editorial team for Brig, the Stirling University student paper.

What does this have to do with Aspergers? Well, Dad’s death was the catalyst for my diagnosis, and to show you just what an impact it had on my life, I have to explain just what a big part of my life Dad was. He was, after all, half of me. I was always quite the daddy’s girl. I used to love playing board games with him and having him read to me and dancing around the kitchen with him to the Pogues. We shared a love of language and wordplay; he got me into Edward Lear’s limericks (the one about the bear always reminds me of him), and we had these characters to help teach me words and shapes. The one I always remember is Snoopy the Snake, with an opera ticket in his hat. He introduced me to greengages. He loved exotic fruit. In fact, he loved his food generally, although, like me, he was a pescatarian (no moral issues; he just didn’t like meat). He used to tell me outrageous lies about how haggises were birds with square heads, and I believed him. He wasn’t perfect. He had off days, just like any other parent. But I loved him. I loved it when he would come home from work and play with us, or when he’d take us to the park to give Mum some alone time, or when he’d take us to the cinema. I always associate Home Alone 2 with him, since it was the last film he took us to before he died. I loved Sundays in Hove Park, when Dad and Jack would play football and I’d mess around on the swings, or the time when Dad took me to his office and I met his colleagues and he took me out for lunch at a Mexican restaurant.  These are the memories I try to keep in mind, not the ones that came later, the hospitals, the cancer, the memory loss, the steroids that made him gain weight, my mum’s panic attacks, the horrible nursing home, the last time we saw him and he was barely capable of speech and had to point at pictures on a card if he needed food and so on. I still find it hard to reconcile the man lying in the hospital bed in Preston with the father I knew.

In Naruto, the manga from which this blog gets its name, Sasuke – the titular character’s rival – has a massive inferiority complex where his older brother Itachi, an immensely talented ninja, is concerned. Sasuke feels as though he is always living in Itachi’s shadow and that he will never feel good enough. Sometimes I feel like that with Dad. It’s not like my family constantly compare my achievements to his and find me lacking. Only I do that. I feel I’ve got to do something, anything, to make him proud of me, though my family tell me he would have been. He never lived to see Jack and I grow from little kids into teenagers and then adults, get our GCSEs, our A-Levels, our degrees. He never lived to see me diagnosed with Aspergers, though he was around when I was in the remedial PE classes, and I wonder how he would have felt if I had been diagnosed before his death. Would he have been in denial that his daughter had something wrong with her? Would he have done everything he could to ensure I got look after at school? It’s one of the things I will never know, so I can only guess. He certainly was never ashamed of me or treated me like a weirdo.

My dad had a lot of connections. He worked for both the Labour and Tory parties, though he was definitely an Old Labour sort of man, and when he died, the likes of Tony Blair sent us cards. I am not kidding. Loads of people – journalists, union reps, politicians – were at his funeral. I had no idea of the impact he had on people and even today, I’m still learning things about him. I watch his TV appearances and remember how I thought very little of it – to me, he wasn’t Andy Holmes, the energy expert, he was my dad. Recently, I went to visit my auntie Chris – Dad’s sister – and she showed me tons of photos of them when they were kids in Greenock. Last year, I went through a box of memorabilia Mum had kept – cards, the eulogy from his funeral, photos. A lot of tears were shed.

He was a warm, funny, intelligent man, a bit of a gentle giant, who loved his family and was loved by many, and it’s twenty-one years on, and I still miss him, but I will always be grateful for the nine years we had together.

March 3, 2014

Mister Psycho

All these people are laughing at him
And although he tries, it’s getting to him
And if he sees just one more grin
He won’t be held responsible
The city’s closing in on him
And everywhere’s getting smaller and smaller…

I might be many things, but one thing I am not is emotionless. I love. I hate. I can be happy or angry. I get excited, although I don’t jump up and down and squeal – I’m more like a human pressure cooker. I am torn apart by sadness. I feel immense loyalty or devotion towards people and want to do everything I can for them.

One thing a lot of us on the spectrum can’t do is read emotions via facial expressions. In Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, which I cannot recommend enough to people on the autistic spectrum and/or their friends and families, the hero, Christopher, talks about how he can recognise basic emotions and the facial expressions that go with them. However, while a simple smiley face is easy for him to interpret, more complex expressions are not.

Sometimes emotions get too strong and I can’t find the words to express myself, or I can’t hold myself back. Recently, I’ve had a lot on at work and I seem to spend an awful lot of time sitting at my desk crying until my head and eyes hurt, while my colleagues generally ignore me. I’m not good at managing stress levels. When things get too much, the floodgates open.

There is a scene in the anime Hellsing where Seras Victoria, a young fledgling vampire, is swarmed by Hellsing soldiers who have been turned into ghouls. Trapped, pressured and terrified that they are going to do something unpleasant to her, Seras snaps. Her eyes turn red, and blood and limbs fly everywhere as she rips her way through the ghouls. Her rampage ends when her boss, Sir Integra Hellsing, hugs her and begs her to stop. OK, so I’m not a vampire and none of my meltdowns have resulted in carnage, but it’s the same principle. Pile too much on me, push me too far, and I snap. Sometimes I just have a cry. Sometimes I hurt myself. I might reach for a knife, a shard of glass or a razor blade and slice up my arms, or occasionally, my face. Sometimes I bang my head against a wall, punch a wall, or – like today – bash myself over the head or arms with a heavy blunt object. To paraphrase Richey James of the Manic Street Preachers – another band I love – I can’t shout or scream, so I hurt myself to get the pain out. Having said that, sometimes I scream until my throat hurts, or until some kind person – my mum, a friend, or in one instance last year, the lead singer of Space – hugs me and brings me out of it.

Very rarely do I attack other people, though when I was a teenager, there were instances. I slapped a guy’s face in a club after he told me, in front of a load of people I thought were my friends, that no-one liked me. I hit and scratched my brother plenty of times. One time I lost my temper in Germany when a guy I fancied snogged another girl, and threw a pretty little shot glass to the ground, smashing it to tiny pieces. When a load of kids ganged up on me during a school newspaper session, I grabbed a pair of scissors and stabbed a guy in the chest, though I didn’t seriously wound him, and went for another girl. I’m amazed I didn’t get into more trouble, but the teachers probably realised I’d been provoked. I got a bit of a reputation for being a psycho. The guy I stabbed threatened to sue me! The funny thing is, I am not a violent person and I hate fighting. I hate being out of control – when I have meltdowns or crying fits, it feels like an out of body experience, almost. I feel ashamed almost immediately after, to think I could behave in such an unseemly manner. I still cringe of how I threatened to stab my brother after one particularly nasty fight, and I made him cry, and when I apologised and tried to hug him, he pushed me away.

Women and girls are taught to be quiet. We’re taught to keep our heads down and not make a fuss, not shout or scream. Keep calm and carry on. It’s unseemly to show pain or anger. Be nice. Be sweet. Be gentle. Do not, do NOT act up in public. Just smile and take it. Sticks and stones, blah blah fucking blah. Funny how words have caused me so much pain, whether it’s them being used to hurt me or my inability to use them when I need to. I don’t suffer from selective mutism like some of my fellow Aspergics, but I can’t always articulate myself and express my needs and wants orally. This is one reason why I write.

Another emotion I have a problem with, incidentally, is love, but I’ll be talking more about that later. I will say, in closing, though, that anyone who thinks people with Aspergers are emotionless is talking out of their arse. We can and do feel. We just don’t always know how to deal with those feelings, and at times, trying to keep a lid on those feelings is like trying to erect a very fragile dam.

March 1, 2014

If It’s Real

Filed under: introduction,Uncategorized — kankurette @ 7:38 pm
Tags: ,

And if I say the wrong words
every now and then I said you wrap me up in chains
I said you wrap me up in chains
And if I say I need some space
every now and then I said you crucify my soul

Let’s get this out of the way: yes, I do have Asperger’s Syndrome.

No, I am not faking it to sound different. I did not do a test on the internet and decide I must have Asperger’s after getting a high score. I do have it. I was diagnosed with it at the age of ten after my dad died, I started acting up in class, and my mum took me to see a speech therapist. I was diagnosed by a different doctor in my teens, though I forget exactly when. My mum probably has the paperwork somewhere. I may have done a degree in languages instead of a STEM subject (I wrote a while ago about the idiot doctor who told me I couldn’t possibly be on the spectrum because I was doing an arts degree), I may not be into stereotypical Aspie stuff like Pokemon cards or volcanoes or trains or Doctor Who (though I do like some of the series), and on the surface, I don’t look too much like a stereotypical geek / nerd, except for my glasses (crap eyesight runs in the family). My voice isn’t the monotone it used to be, though I do have a bizarre hybrid accent.

I’ve come to self-define as disabled. Let me explain why.

I am not visibly disabled. I have no cane, no hearing aid, no service dog, no crutches, no wheelchair. If you looked at me, you would see a short, overweight woman with bad skin, unruly dark hair, a nose ring, an iPod, usually wearing Doctor Martens, a long skirt, a dark coat with a button missing. But if you spent more time around me, you might notice little things that seem off. Talking incessantly about things that might bore the pants off people. Being unsettled by little changes, such as my bus being late. Visibly wincing at loud noises, screaming babies, yelling bouncers, people with harsh voices, people shouting across the room at work. Poor eye contact. A dislike of being touched by strangers. Scratching my face and back without really being aware I’m doing it. And, of course, the meltdowns, the crying fits, the hyperventilating and handwringing when things get too much.

Asperger’s Syndrome, combined with depression and anxiety, does prevent me from doing things a lot of people take for granted, and makes social situations a minefield. Talking to clients on the phone at work? Forget it. They took me off phones after one too many panic attacks. Small talk? I can’t do it. I can’t pretend to care about people who I don’t care about. Crowds? Ugh. No. Airports? Hell on earth. Tidying my house and making sure to tell the council I’ve moved and regularly sorting out things such as my dodgy light in my kitchen? It just doesn’t occur to me. Job interviews? Where do I even begin? Bigging myself up on an application form? I’m more likely to tell you why you shouldn’t hire me. Office banter? I can’t tell if it’s a joke or not and I don’t know when to laugh. Then there’s the stress. Oh, the stress. People tell me I need to relax and stop worrying, but it’s easier said than done. I stress out over little things, and the stress makes me tired, and when I get home from a shift I just want to go online, eat, have a bath, sleep. If I did not have any mental health problems, I daresay I would probably be in a higher-earning job, a cleaner house, I might even have a partner, I’d definitely have more friends and a better social life and I’d still be going to synagogue and I wouldn’t get a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach at Space gigs. Nor would I be sitting on my auntie’s sofa crying because I feel like a failure – at nearly 30, I haven’t done half as much as my neurotypical friends have. They get married, have kids and move on, while I’m stuck in Manchester, in a dead end job, wanting to get out but trapped by my fear of change.

To be honest, I don’t think the social model of disability really helps me either. Sure, it’s great when people understand instead of just laughing or looking at me like I’ve just bitten the head off a kitten, but even when there are people like my mum, my stepdad, my friends, understanding therapists and counsellors and disability support workers, people who have daughters or sisters or friends with Asperger’s Syndrome, and so on who do understand, it only makes things better to an extent. It doesn’t stop panic attacks or hypervigilance or being on edge when something is off or shyness or running out of parties due to panic attacks. I’m lucky in that I can make enough adjustments and try to change, although it’s a slow process, in this breakneck, dog-eat-dog world. A lot of people on the spectrum can’t. Kindness and understanding can and do help, but they don’t make the Asperger’s Syndrome go away. It’s there and it will always be there and I am stuck with it until I die. So the best I can do is try to live with it, and try and whittle my corners away as much as I can so I can fit myself into the round hole – but no-one ever said it would be easy. It isn’t.

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