Updated: Oct 26, 2019
This is a post, a very personal one, one I intended to go with my photo titled ‘This Is Not My World’, and I wrote quite a bit under the post. I also then intended it on my last blog post ('Beauty Through Pain'), which when writing it was essentially a watered-down version of what I have intended for this post, one I’ve written and re-written over 3 times before.
I have been depressed, since the age of 7, constantly wishing I wasn’t around. Most, if not all of this comes from, the reason why I am ‘coming out’, to steal the term. I am autistic, something not many of you will know apart from a very few people. It’s something that’s affected me negatively all my life, constant anxiety, pain, feeling apart from everyone else, alone and so much more. I cannot even explain it fully, but, if I was to try, I would explain having Autism, in my own experience as something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, something, in fact, I wouldn’t wish on the most horrible human to have ever lived on this planet, I could never wish this on someone no matter what horrible deeds or crimes committed. I cannot. Yet at the same time, I would prefer to have it despite all the pain, again, because I’ve learnt how to cope, if barely, if merely ignoring it, and have ways to do this. Things to do. Thought patterns to rely upon, however I couldn’t wish it on another without having built up these first because it would be an instant death sentence.
To explain, the pain and how it feels? The way I’ve always summed it up for a long time now: Imagine, being alive and watching your family and closest friends burn alive to ash before your very eyes, followed by all other friends, then everyone else you know and then every person left after that on the planet. Then going on to watch every living thing across the planet burn and die. Finally, it’s your turn, but by that point, you cannot cry, feel pain or sadness. You cannot because every tear has already been shed, you have lost everything you have become empty, just watch, and maybe just feel some relief that it may be finally over. What surprised me recently was mentioning how long I’ve been depressed and saw the sadness in their face they tried to hide, I can’t be sad about that, it is all I’ve known, I say it without sadness like saying the sky looks blue on a sunny day.
I a little while ago went to a meeting for newly diagnosed Autistic people (although I went late so I had been diagnosed a little while before everyone else at the time). I remember, being in a room of people double my age, asking me, when I explained some stuff about my own experience, I only talked as I was asked if I wanted to contribute (otherwise I would have stayed silent and just listened as I all to often do). In response to my contribution it was a surreal situation, I was asked, with eyes all on me intrigued like I had given some epic insight, ‘does it get easier?’. Life, human interactions, imagine that people double my age asking if life gets easier. My answer was both true and a lie, wanting to give hope, I told the truth, it never stops being effort but it gets easier, as you compile rule upon rule like an infinite ‘if this then that’ ruleset made from every single conversation you’ve been a part of or heard about or overheard or know of. But at the same time, I lied, because emotionally it’s never gotten any easier. I pretend, try and be happy so not to alienate myself, pretend, by building labyrinth upon labyrinth to trap my mind and keep building as I get through them. But it’s all I know. Depression is all I’ve known. I can’t even imagine life without it, except for one time I’ve ever felt truly happy and content living. A time which was so unusual, I remember walking to work, thinking, totally happy and pumped even before work at 6 am, that “oh, wait what? I am happy, content, with life, with myself, with everything, I am unsure about the future, but I know I can make it all and do anything just one step at a time”. At least it’s hope for me that I can find that again, a feeling that prior I have never known.
Using personalities and emotions like a camouflage gets tiring and I guess it’s finally caught up. It also gave me an existential crisis at the age of 12 pushing all my family away at the time, it was because I was tired, my “being” the clothes I wore, the personality, the camo, losing myself not knowing who “I” am. I broke. I still don’t know. Only really one thing I can point to consistently as “me”, trying, trying to be kind, trying to help, showing empathy and always being there, for anyone I can. I haven’t lied to anyone per se, if you know me, then the “me” is me, but mixed in with misdirection. I always tried to hide bits so no one could build a full picture of the torture and only see parts. Ruby doesn’t even know it all, just more than anyone else. I guess this sums it all up.
In my first year of university, I was very financially stretched, trying to live off of, constantly in my overdraft and didn’t leave it until the end of the year, I never knew how to cope and decided to change something I could, always craving social situations I wasn’t going to avoid going out or spending time with friends, even if I didn’t buy any drinks at East Slope the many nights we went, I instead chose not to eat. I cut it off, ate all the food I had in my room gradually, until it was all gone. An embarrassing story I haven’t really told anyone, I would go into a store to look at the food just to wander around and it would somewhat satiate my hunger for a while. I went from between 1-2 weeks without food at the most. I changed this habit when I once got up from a lecture, felt really dizzy and collapsed back into the seat and sat for 5 minutes wondering what had happened. The worst thing was how the eating disorder which I never considered labelling it as such at the time, developed from something merely financial to a goal, I thought I had looked better, I felt more exhausted but convinced myself as I was getting thinner it was better and good. I also, like with a video game tried to reach a ‘high score’ for how long I could go without food. The few people who know about this may have seen me joke thinking back, but I do so, because I do not understand how my mind changed with such. When going home that Christmas in my first year, my whole family were concerned with my food habits, I have never seen how thin I was back then, but apparently it was clear and obvious, not that I had lost weight but lost a lot.
I remember helping a person who bullied me in school, long after I left. She posted on FB, asking if anyone, absolutely anyone was there to talk. I was anxious but had 2 reasons, the first thing they did in school, I remember (my good memory; drama class year 7, I could point it out and where I was sitting I the room). She pointed something out, a gesture I did because of nerves and said what it meant and I’d be bullied for it. I remembered that single time and also the empathy, so I needed to message. We chatted for hours every day for a week or 2, her bf cheated, I helped, was there. They thanked me and I’ll always remember it. Years after they commented on a post of mine just saying it’s glad I was having a good time partying at Uni. Simple, nothing but meant a lot. Meant something. Another time I asked a stranger on my way home from Uni if he was okay, his face in his hands outside his garden, he thanked me, shook my hand and went inside. I’ll always remember that. I asked a bus driver sitting at a stop outside the bus about ticket prices and he thanked me (I guess for the chat, the distraction) and offered to drive me anywhere along his route. I was only a 2 min walk from home. But I still remember that. I remember a meal I had with friends at my house, a single meal, I dubbed it “helpsgiving” for all the help these people gave me, I barely knew Ruby at that time and look at what since haha. Only had one. A Christmas meal I’ll never forget. I made an apple crumble. I remember that.
I’ve only met a single person who I can say I hate. For what they did. They used me, clung to me as I tried to slip away for my own sake, they admitted to me, they liked me because I’d be there for anything always, and would care even if the whole world turned it’s back. It’s how we first met. They posted on FB about Uni and everything being too much. I messaged having only chatted briefly once before. It started the most traumatic time of my life. Being used to gain, used to not feel alone. Used to pick up people, she never cared and saw how it destroyed me. Ruby and so many others warned me, showed me when I couldn’t see, but I still couldn’t see. Although I’d stay up and chat on the phone, or rush over as soon as I got home back to campus to get drunk together so they wouldn’t be alone after a drunken phone call, to make sure they’re okay. They never cared. I was something to be thrown away when not needed. I always saw it, but didn’t want to and didn’t. And I couldn’t see. I’m not sorry I tried to help, I’m sorry I tried to help them and it backfired. The risk of trying to do good, to live my life. They apologised for it all the last time I saw her. Years ago. Said sorry for all she did. Said I was too kind and caring for this world. And sorry for saying being kind was my biggest flaw.
Imagine the pain with memory, I have a very good memory (even if people remember I have forgotten things, no I don’t remember everything, but very specific odd things that most people will forget). Good memory is mostly a curse. At least for me, imagine seeing every person’s face you know, and seeing every good and bad time, bad memory, the anxiety you’ve felt from what they’ve said or what they’ve done, what you’ve done to embarrass yourself, even for your best friend. This creates a form of dissonance, where you care about them, enjoy their company, but see before your eyes every bad memory as clear as when you had been living them. Trust me, some friends know, I can list the memories all too well. I would liken this, to imagining every good memory you ever have also come with equivalent feelings of the greatest trauma in your life. I can’t answer this, I’m just used to living with it. Or as Rick says from Rick and Morty, the advice I lived long before the concept of the show existed “just don’t think about it”, was my philosophy for life quite frankly, even wanting to die everyday, even as a kid of 7 years old for no particular reason but praying every night when I used to be religious to be die in my sleep, for when I getting stressed I would bite my hand until it bled and only realised in the last couple months that that consists of self-harm, even at the age of 7, before I knew the concept, I knew the feelings, felt the pain.
Autism does come with ‘superpowers’ as some Autistic IGers I follow say, quite a few, memory for one, a rational logic that is sometimes far too overly rationalising, I honestly never really was stressed about Uni work throughout my whole undergraduate or masters. Actually, situations most people encounter daily that are nothing to so many (not without anxieties but still relatively) I would prefer to take an exam on a topic I have never looked at and tested in 2 or 3 days. The latter I know I can do, maybe not as good as I’d like (considering 3 days to learn something) but would be much easier for me. Hence people who knew me at university spent tonnes of the time at the library, tonnes of time going out, tonnes of time working, and little time sleeping. I had the energy to do whatever because I forced myself to prioritise, I wanted to enjoy something even if just to escape my mind, I wanted to do well at university, truthfully, preparing for a future I did not want but hoping I may change my mind. And little time sleeping as the time had to come from somewhere. Another strength for me is a rational mind for processes and efficiency, I can look at a process and given certain priorities easily make the process more efficient as anyone knows I have done at work without additional resources until I did all I could without. I do it naturally honestly, do it while ’daydreaming’, for all intents and purposes it is my ’daydreaming’ or my daydreaming is writing this blog in my head before I have a laptop while at work, or writing a Uni essay in work multitasking while bagging doughnuts. I’ve gotten quite used to writing essays in my head hours before while at work. The biggest consistency in my life. Both a downside or upside is the fact that I am able to see the impact of this on my life acutely, to identify differences, to analyse, to see understand and try to ‘correct’ but also able to see this fact itself.
Empathy causes great pain. Too much as I’ve been told many times. But. Although it can. As I’ve seen. For me it brings all the light, everything good. So for me. It’s an easy choice. I have fucked up the lives of many people unintentionally, and are too many times I’d rather forget, but also not, to remember why, empathy, why care, to be scars, to hold and keep. To try better. Photography has helped, has made it easier to put into images, images which convey a lot more in less, and this has developed a voice in many other areas. A way to speak out about deeper things, the way I think and want to. I guess this is my way to claim, to own, my depression, my Autism, my life, and my story.
I have been and always will be grateful for all the friends I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, even through the darkness that is my life, it’s been tried for those moments and they’ve all made the whole difference. Thanks to Ruby again, I owe her a debt more than a lifetime could repay. Though she’ll deny. She’s saved me on more than one occasion. And I’ll happily, do an all-nighter, to sit with you on the beach if you feel alone and want company, I’ll be there just make sure you’re okay. I’m better at putting my demons away, in order to help someone.
I write this not because I need to share or need people to know me, I’m far used to the alternative. It’s the empathy. Always is. Hoping it may show or help someone or show someone kindness or how it helps. It’s what my photography is about. Was what both my dissertations were about, post-war social change to help those most lost. Even my counsellor said a while back, that one thing they could tell is a high level of empathy, care and help, always looking out. That’s me. It always has been. Pretty much the only thing I can say always has been.
Even this post, I don’t want to, hence wrote it 3 times and deleted. Anxious but have to remember one thing. Empathy. What it could mean to someone, anyone out there. So I do it. Make myself vulnerable, maybe embarrassed. But that doesn’t matter. One thing more than any other gives me the strength and confidence to do anything. Empathy. I’ve always thought, I wasn’t made for this world, hence “This Is Not My World”. Perhaps.
But... So this is me. This is my story.
I have been watching videos about Autism out of interest after writing this, I found a video that summed so much of what I had written, after I had written it, the experiences, aspects, not all are the same but so many which both validated but also scared me, scared me because of the figures cited at the end of the video. But I attach it here if anyone is interested:
This is a site that Ruby sent to me, which meant a lot, Self-taught photographer fights autism ... - The Argushttps://www.theargus.co.uk › news › 17451931.self-taught-photographer-fig...
Here are some other videos I have found that may be interesting, I’ve found them so: