Creativity to Fight the Pain
Updated: Jun 27, 2020
This weekend thus far has been the most productive in probably a year if I have to say so, or more than most this year. I've managed to do more yesterday and today than I have in the past 2 months on so many different areas, interests of mine and making goals and things to try and achieve.
I've done hours of photography, went to an interesting exhibition that I had applied to take part in, done a lot of photo-editing, exploring, stuff for work, house jobs that have been on my list for a while to do, organising my productivity systems, creating many projects and furthering them massively, creating, planning and organising many projects new and old. Completing creative endeavours that I've been too anxious to do prior and just went out and did them. So it's been a very productive weekend. Writing this on my blog and planning some photography lessons. Not to mention some self-care and also introspection into my conditions. I've still got another day left also! So tomorrow I'm planning on planning, researching and making tomorrow some DIY gear to allow me to take my camera out taking photos in the rain. The good things about productive days like this are if they're taken full advantage of, not for productive work, but creating sustainable systems of productive work, you can continue them long past the 'productive mood' lasts. For example, one thing I've been doing is making more efficient some systems that I could, which involved looking at condensing tasks and automating them more about that later though.
Been inspired this weekend by a lot of thinking, an exhibition, from talking to a friend and introspection into my conditions. Doing photography for a long time which I haven't been able to recently and finding a way of remedying the problem of rain interrupting my photography. Also a lot of thinking about how to keep the momentum of productive systems, something I naturally do, again I'll leave this to another section. A video I watched today on YouTube inspired me with some ideas, while another inspired me concerning my condition.
My Autism I've been inspired by this video. About people with Autism excelling at what they're passionate about, even despite in many cases they being in areas that are highly triggering for anyone with Autism. For example being an actor, not to mention a renowned actor who is quite frankly amazing (much love for Anthony Hopkins).
For so long I've thought, prior to my diagnosis, that I was born in the 'wrong world', that I 'didn't' fit. That I wasn't compatible with the world. Not merely about discrimination against people with mental health conditions which even the UN has admitted to, in a really interesting read. More so, I would say:
Like using nuclear reactor fuel rods in a gasoline-powered car
Like a CD on an iPhone
Like electricity in a horse-powered world
Just a total, complete incompatibility, sometimes I thought I'd fit in more in decades-long past, and studying history most of the aspects I thought I'd 'fit it' more with have been dispelled by myths and historical inconsistencies. So feeling alien in a world not my own (a phrase I've used in another post and on one of my photos). This feeling started from a very, very young age, maybe even from primary school. I know I've always referred to 'humans' in the third person; not including myself in that category.
After my diagnosis came some relief, it wasn't unexpected as I've always known, but not wanted to know because it couldn't be cured. But it helped to explain many things. Many things continue to pop into my memory and make sense related to my diagnosis. The last eureka moment I had about my past relating to my condition was a couple of days ago, I think, when pondering.
Then it got worse, looking more and more at my condition, seeing the world, not merely stacked up against Autistics but almost an impossible game to play because we're playing on a different board, or one we cannot see, and criticised for not making the same plays. It's not merely things being stacked against, but largely also an inability to see how we're hindered: From a lot of research into the condition, I can cite countless videos, papers, articles, personal accounts that also show this.
Something that even over the last couple days has been made abundantly clear to me in general interactions where I don't see something everyone thinks is obvious and causes some criticism, comment or surprise from others at my reaction differing from theirs (although the people I'm referring to aren't reacting like this in a negative way). This doesn't even account for those on the spectrum who receive active, intentional hostility which is commonplace (again, I'm not going to bother reposting videos I've posted many times in prior blogs showing this clearly).
It can sometimes seem to myself and others, that my reaction is merely changing depending on who I'm talking to, which is in-part correct, but isn't merely lying to everyone, but more of an acquisition of differing information from differing people causing a reappraisal and hence different reactions each time. If this annoys you my differing reactions or perception of me lying, then imagine if you have an identity crisis relating to the same phenomenon. It hurts me a lot worse than it annoys you. Trust me on this.
However, the video I have previously linked, inspired me because, I've always known like with my weaknesses and hindrances, my Autism comes with strengths. What many people call Autism superpowers. Ones I either know I have or people have announced their attention to me:
An unrelenting work ethic - an ability to sit in the library for like 10 hours straight and procrastinate for very little of the time and out of choice (this isn't me 100% of the time obviously, but I usually spent little time procrastinating while working). Came in very handy for Uni. None of my coworkers, friends, courses-mates could believe how long I spent in the library or working in general and be 'fine', not exhausted or drained or anything. Just the normal. Even now, I go out taking photos daily if there is any possibility to do so and never get 'bored' of it. I've been writing poems almost daily for the last 3-5 years and still do now. It's largely how I managed to work many hours across my undergrad, masters in addition to my part-time job and also go out lots all at the same time.
"Naturally smart" (not my words, and actually words I hate when used in conjunction) at certain topics. This is common for Autistic people, to have a 'special interest', do you have a friend that can list every date of importance for every English monarch going 10,000's years in the past? (I had a teacher that could). I would debate friends with history, physics, or almost any other topic and I would either be knowledgeable or interested to gain as much knowledge as I could on it. Many times I've chatted history, any of the sciences, philosophy, 'random useless knowledge'
I've always had a passion for learning, I used to, many years ago and still say that 'you can tell if I'd be interested in learning something, if I don't know it, then I would be'. Hence at the start of my Undergrad, I was receiving 100s of new emails every day from educational YouTube channels that I followed and tried to keep up until it got unsustainable watching over 50 videos per day and I had to purge my inbox of them. It took hours and hours over a few days to purge my inbox. And I found some 'recovered emails' from those channels years ago only a couple of days ago hidden on my hard drive.
I'm overly analytical, I analyse my thinking constantly, how to think, how I think, try to predict other's behaviour based on factors surrounding me and information I know about them. Spend a lot of time before doing work on how to do it, helps with my productivity, (I will be getting to this, later and I'm not just saying this). With my overly analytical mind which isn't even intentional, just like I don't spend active brainpower breathing, I just do. And do even when I don't think I am, just in the background.
I can make a special interest out of anything, in part, because I like learning, I can 'rethink' something (I did mention overly analytical right?) over into that category and hence make it a part of a special interest.
I'm very productivity-oriented, in large part because of being overly analytical and also because 'productivity' is a special interest of mine, (I'm a massive fan of the podcast Cortex which is amazing if you've ever wanted to get more done in the same amount of time but don't have any more time that can be allocated to it). I used a lot of their advice long before being a podcast. I've even considered making a 'rulebook for productivity' for years now, I may do it, they're always floating around at the front of my mind anyway.
I can excel at pretty much anything if I want to, because of a few of the other things, for example I may not achieve exactly what I want, for example my university grades weren't as high as I wanted despite all the constant hours I put in, but I achieved a good grade, photography I've self taught myself with a large number of genres in addition lots of 'useless knowledge' I've accrued over the decade and ungodly number of hours watching educational YouTube videos. [For example did you know if you such a liquid up a tube there is a limit to how far it'll go up because it maxes out at the level when the pressure of the top of a straw is a vacuum. Then how do trees that are massively tall, (taller than this limit of liquids going up a tube) get water to their uppermost branches... short answer trees create negative pressures to suck up the water, something that has many intricacies to why it's possible that even they can do that but I digress to make a point.
My very "weird" memory. But I've explained that sufficient elsewhere so I won't detail it here.
I don't tire easily, or at least normally not accounting for mental health issues. I get and function perfectly fine on 4 hours sleep daily, and even after work I use the rest of the day for my own projects or tasks I need to do, rarely I nap, usually it's not needed. Naps are only if I sleep poorly or my mental health is taking its toll, then I sleep most of the rest of the day, wake up in the evening, eat and sleep again before work (both two extremes, no middle-ground, but I know which I prefer).
I've always been good at teaching and explaining, I remember throughout secondary school and the state-funded grammar school (different from English ones I think) I went to both and often when I finished tasks half an hour early after also completing the extra tasks and the extra, extra tasks and the extra, extra, extra tasks (I think I got on the nerve of some teachers for doing the work) that they'd ask me to "walk around and help others". Even courses-mates I helped with dissertations, debated and gave ideas, resources and when in a presentation group in my second year my group all said I would make a great lecturer as I did a better job explaining a topic in 15 minutes better than our lecturer did in over an hour. Hence I'm looking to teach photography as a side-project of mine, to condense my year and a bit of self-teaching to probably a month of training. I've even proof-read the work of many people in my subject and different subjects throughout every year I was at uni, I even remember a friend saying I should actually get people to pay me for it.
Other side of a superpower
But even with what may seem rosy with these 'superpowers', they don't feel as good as they sound, they are also Janus-faced. In an effort to dispel any idea that I'm a person with an over-inflated ego or an idea of self-importance (where anyone who knows me barely could recognise how laughable this comment would be as I'm rather the opposite, but better than I used to be and gradually getting better).
My work ethic can be so focussed and total and consistent that I cannot even tell if I need a break which can be helpful, but it also forced me to work in the library if terribly ill and I just wanted to stay at home and sleep.
People viewing you as 'smart' can be good but also can alienate people and cause people to get aggressive, or worse, self-deprecating which is something I hate and have in the past blamed myself for. I'm known as the 'smart one' of the family. Even my older cousin by more than a few years once said which surprised me asked me to debate him in history and said: "you were always the smart one in the family". It also makes people look at you as a weird alien, make fun of you and so much more I cannot explain. It's one of those things you want until you see what it does and then you want no part. If it's something that alienates you from others? Then it also hurts you more. But telling people this, as I have in the past never has worked. It can cause, a feeling of shame and lead you to hide it all under a guise.
The same could be said about passion for learning, people look at you like you're a freak, that is, unless they're asking you for help, for example I helped a friend come up with a title for an essay of theirs (explaining definitions of the words used, as they're unusual history ones- side-note one of them is my favourite word and what they meant so teaching them so it would be their work and not mine. Again a common occurrence, that person, was the one who emotionally manipulated me, gaslit me and other fun stuff because I always liked to help and try to see the best in people.
Not that it needs mentioning, but being over-analytical causes strife because every moment feels like a million packed into one, a comment someone makes in passing and forget in 3 minutes I can think about for a day or even more, and I remember them much longer and analyse every potential meaning they could have possibly imbued the language they used, potentiality of why they used it, all past conversations analysing for a reason and even subsequent behaviour and reactions to see if I can glean a reason, an exhausting effort, and that's for one of the many interactions you can come across in the day. I can remember a long list of things people have said to me in passing comments going back to as far as primary school. I just try not to focus too much on them now. But they're still there in my head.
Special interests again, can also make people look at you like a freak, the only different one I've ever experienced is with photography (again with my overanalyses probably due to the different unusual techniques, it's a medium that people know and can access on the regular through smartphones and also because of it being visual and replicators people can see resemblance and how manual settings on a camera can be confusing, but this is just a guess, could be anything).
Productivity is looked like something a bit weird to be 'into', additionally many of the methods or my 'rules' actually go against what makes sense, at first, for the results and people often disagree and think I'm talking nonsense and so don't get a chance to test it. But in the times I have been allowed to, few and far between, I've achieved the goal needed in addition to a more relaxed environment for me (a side-benefit). Weird memory is hard to 'prove', except one time I quoted someone at a house party years prior and we later found video proof.
About not tiring, I don't really, however, if I have a meltdown (not that I'm used to calling them that yet) I tend to keep working until my mind just gives up and leaves me a dazed, confused, stressed-out state that I could lay in bed for the entire weekend depressed. When I do get home I can do just that. The low exhausted mood could last longer than the next week after that, and all of this accompanied by the fact that the cause was "minor", merely by a "small" thing someone said or did. They hence remind me, thinking I'm stupid or overreacting and even have me question this and feel shit. Itself fuelling its own cycle.
Being good at teaching or explaining means you get used, people look fondly at you when making use of you and then dislike you for being 'ahead' or being pretentious even if all you want is to help people. It's hard to convince people you're not smart, just lucky and that you want to help them as anyone can learn this if they already are convinced you're arrogant, too smart or too posh. Not to mention distress being caused in your sense of identity being vehemently opposed to people thinking of you in the way they do and wanting them instead to see you as 'just a person who just so happens to understood a topic and wants to help explain it in a better way to you'.
Having a creative outlet, or a few have given me some direction, and some ideas that offshoot from those directions. Poetry and photography have really helped me, have given me an outlet and something I can make and be proud of achieving, something that I can look at the progression from start to end, from no knowledge to my current level, something I can print and remember each photo from the day taking it, to editing it, and associated feelings, memories and more.
I will end in saying, even today, my 'productive work' without procrastination (apart from a bus trip from Falmer Bar to home) on a variety of projects or tasks I've needed to do lasted between 12pm and the time of publication of this post. Much the same yesterday. And even better, this analytical mind for productivity, as people ask me how you should best use a 'productive day', with many answering doing an essay or piece of work. I wouldn't agree, I would and have today, used the 'productive day' to create systems, motivations, projects and others to make more. Much like asking a genie not only for what you want but many more wishes than the limiting 3 you're given.
None of this post is asking for pity, or even empathy, actually it's more analysis for myself really (overanalysing again right? Sums up this whole post). I don't even have functionally severe Autism, I'm functional and can pretend to cover up or hide most areas where I don't. I don't have severe sensory triggers, I can hide it better than many others on the spectrum and have gotten used to shortcuts or techniques to better hide areas I don't understand but its impact on my mental health has been severely for many others on the more 'functional' end of the spectrum.
I guess it's just a case of learning to take advantage of the strengths and how to reduce the impact of the related drawbacks.