Hello old friend.

I know I haven’t written anything for a while. It’s not that I have not wanted to, or that I have had nothing to write about, it’s just that I have felt a bit detached. I feel like cloud has been following me around for a while, pouring raindrops of self doubt, and anxiety all over me. It has effected every aspect of my life. I have stopped doing lots of things that I loved doing. I’ve stopped writing surveys because a lot of people were abusing it. I’ve stopped playing guitar and other things because I’ve lost the desire to so. It is like I have lost a part of me, and I want it back. Am I mourning my youth? I have always lived in nostalgia and I have a hard time letting go. I don’t like change. It’s who I am and it’s this part of my personality that bother me. My thoughts are always conflicted. I want to be true to myself and I want to be happy but it sometimes feels that I have to fake being happy and this bothers me. However I also don’t want to be seen as being unhappy all the time. Luckily therapy and my amazing loving wife have been the much needed rays of sunshine that keep the dark clouds at bay. This isn’t me saying that I won’t be blogging again, in fact I write every Monday on my myfitnesspal blog. It’s just that when it comes to this blog, the blog I use to share my random thoughts, I need to get my mojo back before I start writing random rubbish again. I know this post has been a bit of a mess and has come out all melancholy, it wasn’t my intention. It’s just me saying sorry for not writing for so long, and that I haven’t forgotten about you. I just wanted get some words down and to say hello.

Why do you follow me?

Since being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome I have had a hard time trying to be ‘normal’. I know I need to accept that I will always be different but when you receive a 4 page report on your diagnoses, it’s a bit like someone pointing out that you constantly pick your nose. I don’t know about you but when someone points out that you do something or act in a certain way, you do your best not to to do it because you have suddenly been made aware of these habits and mannerisms. One part of my diagnoses reads…

“He lacked eye-contact and his spoke with a number of unusual inflections. He had a tendency to include too much detail in his explanations and even when answering questions from me”

Ever since the report, I’ve tried my hardest to make eye contact with people, and to summarise my responses, but it just doesn’t come naturally to me. I know this is because of my condition and I can’t change who I am. But most of the time I just don’t want to come across as weird. It makes me wonder how I come across to people online. I don’t need to make eye contact with people on the internet, and on twitter you can only tweet 140 characters so you need to summerise too. Do I appear normal on twitter?
Twitter can be a strange place, lots of people all talking at once. So many opinions, so many voices. I have always been curious as to why people follow me. I don’t really tweet too often, I am not that funny and I don’t really have anything really interesting to say. I am definitely not part of ‘The Twitter Elite’ as some people call them. My profile says “likes random ramblings” and that’s what I do. I tend to tweet about whatever is on my mind at that moment, good or bad. I would say I am more open on twitter than I am on facebook or even in real life. This can be a bit of a curse at times as I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. My therapist said that most people do their best to hide the darker sides of their personalities or the things that make them vulnerable. I don’t tend to do that because then how will people be able to understand me if they don’t have all information needed.
 Yesterday I posted a question:

“Why do you follow me on Twitter?”

100 people answered my question. It was anonymous so people could be honest. Most people who responded mentioned something about my surveys which I can understand. The survey which started off as my own form of therapy for understanding others has become a major part of my life online, which unfortunately has got a bit in the way of my main twitter account, but I doing my best to balance time between my account and @5urvey. I received a lot of positive feedback. People saying things like…

“I find you interesting, creative, and kind. I like your honesty. You seem open and kind of vulnerable. You rarely (if ever) interact with me but that’s ok. You strike me as needing a cuddle and a pep-talk. You seem to be a good person. Sweet, and loving.”

“Initially because I heard you on the Tell ’em Steve-Dave podcast, but I stay because your funny, post great Instagram pictures and have some similar interests too me.”

“Because you appear to be a nice bloke. You are funny. You certainly don’t deserve all the criticism you get from the twatters. Stay resilient my friend.”

It is always nice to read nice things but I also want to see what else people would write. This would be the chance to see what a lot of people really think of me.

“I follow you because I enjoy your interesting tweets from time to time. However this recent self justifiction bollocks is just needy.”

“At first because you were sweet but the egotism has got ridiculously out if control. See ya.”

I think a lot of these points are valid. I guess I do come across as needy at times, especially at the moment when I am trying to come to terms with my condtion. I don’t think I am being egotisic but I am not the person who wrote that so they must have their reasons too. I think hard part of Asperger’s is trying to understand others.

This response was the one I found the most interesting…

“I’ve noticed that you can be sensitive to certain things, I think it seems to upset you a lot when people unfollow so there’s a little bit of unintended pressure to continue following. Sorry, but you did ask.”

I am indeed a senstive person and so sometimes get upset when people unfollow me on twitter, but it really depends on who that person is. I know that one of the problems I have is to make and maintain friendships, and a lot of people on twitter I consider my friends. I am not too bothered by the number of followers I have. I used to get all excited when I gained new followers and sad when I lost them. I don’t know if it’s down to being on twitter for a while so it has lost a bit of it’s sparkle or since I past my personal goal of a thousand followers, or even down to my condition but I don’t get upset if I lose the odd follower. I only get upset if someone I follow unfollows me, esecially if it is someone I have met, know, and consider a friend. On Twitter I tend to follow people who I can relate too, but I mainly follow people who I can talk and have a conversation with. When someone sends me a tweet and I don’t recognise their picture or name, I normally look to see if follow them and have a look at the photos they have posted. They say pictures speak louder than words and I tend to agree with that. If they haven’t posted any photos then I don’t really have clear understanding of who they are. I am not really interested in food (due to my eating disorder) so pictures of food don’t interest me. The same goes with football or other sporting events as they don’t interest me either. If I see that a person has posted a photo of Star Wars stuff, or their favourite music, comics, sci-fi movies etc then tend to take an interest and follow that person. However I don’t tend to look too much in to what they have tweeted about. I assume we will get on just because we both like ‘geeky’ things. This was also picked up when I was diagnosed too…

“he appeared to choose friends based on the things they owned rather than personal qualities.”

This is not a reference to someones material worth, but if they liked the things that I liked. I have a really hard time relating to people who don’t like the things I like. This part of my condition too. If I don’t follow you on twitter it’s probably because you don’t tick some of these boxes not because I don’t think you are a nice person. I am also sorry if I come across as cold or aloof but it is all part of my condition…

“he can appear to lack empathy and that he is not very good at comforting others or understanding their point of view.”

I try and do my best not upset people but I know that it is impossible to keep everyone happy. It is hard for me to understand others and understand myself so I will always be searching for answers. It is in my nature. I always thought it was due to the scientist in me but now I know it is due to my Asperger’s too. I like order and stucture.

So why do you follow me? Well it’s due all of these things. It is because I am…
‘geeky’, ‘random’, ‘interesting’, ‘cute’, ‘brilliant’, ‘genuine’, ‘nice’, ‘kind’, ‘funny’, ‘lovely’ etc. but also because…

“he is the Morgan freeman of surveys”

and I like that.

Bullies and Buddies

This is probably not the right move and is probably what they wanted, but yesterday I read something that upset me…

burn.jpg

I’m a bit of a sensitive soul, but I’ve been fortunate enough never to really have to deal with bullies. I’ve always had people who would be looking out for me. I remember at school I was friends with a big Scottish boy called Jim. He is probably the world’s strongest man now, but he was one of these kids who didn’t take crap from everyone. I’m sure being friends with him protected me from harm. I still had the odd run in with someone, but that’s school. In fact I was surprised that didn’t get targeted more. As some of you might know I have spastic diplegia which is a form or cerebral palsy. I had to wear an eye patch when younger to try and help correct my eye problem and I was also in a wheelchair for a while because of problems with my legs, so as you can imagine a kid with an eyepatch in a wheelchair is hard to ignore. I always wondered if there was a secret playground code which I was unaware of that scared off the bullies. I remember one of my teachers even had a dressing down from the deputy head in front of half the school because the teacher had told me to stop fidgeting. I guess fidgeting & involuntary muscle spasms are the same thing to some people.

Anyway, I digress. I guess my point being that I’ve always felt protected by someone, there was always someone there to watch my back. As you may know I love making surverys, but before I started @5urvey I knew it wouldn’t be for everyone. In fact the whole reason why the @5urvey account exists is because I didn’t want to annoy any of my followers who weren’t interested in my constant tweets about surveys. The surveys now have their own home, and have proven to be quite popular for some. However the more popular something becomes the more people take notice and this can attract people who like to use this as their way to anonymously express their love or hatred for others who they know will also read it. It will get a reaction and they want a reaction, and I guess this is my reaction.

I’ve seen my name appear a few times on the survey, along with other names that always appear, even if the answers are completely unrelated to the question. Some of the comments are positive some of it negative, but you can’t please everyone. I tried to ignore comment left the other day about someone wishing they were me just so they could shoot themselves. Everyone tells you to ignore it and that is the best thing to do I guess, but the comment above about setting me on fire hit a nerve. I don’t know how others would react but it made me feel uncomfortable. I started to put walls up. I started to question myself. Who is it? What have I done to upset them? Is it someone I know? Should I lock down my account? Should I leave twitter? Is it because of the surveys? Should I stop posting surveys? Etc. On and on… I spent most of the night worrying.

However like I said when I started this post I have always had people looking out for me. My friends & twitter have rallied round me. I received so many nice messages from so many people who worry and care for me. I didn’t really know how much love and support I had before this happened.

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So in conclusion I am not going to change. I am not going to lock my account down. I am not going to leave twitter. I am not going to let this get to me. The surveys will contiune. I am still going to post randomness. I am still going to be me. So to you who wanted a reaction from me, well done you have it…

I don’t know if this is the reaction you wanted.

Change.

I have a real issue with change, I like to do things a certain way and I like repetition. I love collecting things too. I have always been like this. If you’ve read my blog before you can probably see examples of that. I have an eating disorder. My obsession with bags. My enjoyment of making lists and surveys. I’ve always questioned whether I was normal. I just thought I was always a bit quirky. I am a bit quirky.

Last year my issues with change started to really cause me… well… issues. I was due to be married in August… Married! I have never been married before. What do you do? How will my life change? All these worries started to build up in my head. Everyone said I should be really excited but I felt more stress than excitement. Why was I not excited? Did this mean I was making a mistake? Why did I not feel the same as others? I made lists of positive things but I couldn’t get worries out of my head. Friends told me I wasn’t making sense. I had to get away. Run! Run away from the change. I had a breakdown as I couldn’t see anything positive in my future. I saw a therapist who told me it was just cold feet and not to worry and that my anxiety attacks would pass once I was married. This calmed me and I started to look forward to the wedding.

My wedding day was amazing. I was calm, I had no nerves and it just felt right. Everyone I loved was there. It was a great day. It felt amazing to get married. I was happy… for a few days. The anxiety attacks I thought had gone away didn’t. I was putting on a face for people. I found myself feeling like I was going to be sick. I couldn’t concentrate. The structure of my life was falling apart. I just couldn’t function. I fell into a deep depression.

As my wife is wonderful and amazing she did everything she could to help. In October I saw my doctor who put me on a course of antidepressants and referred me to a different therapist. My new therapist noticed strange patterns in my thinking and behaviour and asked me if I had ever been diagnosed with a Autism Spectrum Condition? I wasn’t sure what to think. When I think of Autism I think of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. That isn’t me, but I was willing to be assessed because I needed answers. I needed to know why I think the way I do. I was sent lists of questions to complete and on Tuesday 14th May I would be assessed by a specialist. I spent weeks wondering & worrying about the outcome. What if they said I am not on the autstic spectum? What does it mean if I am? If I am then I guess it would be closure. I would have my answer.

ASresults

The 14th of May was last Tuesday. I’ve had my assessment. I was diagnoised with Asperger syndrome. What is Aspeger Syndrome you might say to yourself? Well here is an easy read explanation.

The more the specialist spoke to me the more I could relate to the diagnosis and it seemed to tick boxes in my head…

  • They find it difficult to understand what other people think, and how they feel. ✔
  • They can have good language skills. But some people with Asperger syndrome think that people always mean what they say. For example, someone with Asperger syndrome might not be able to tell when someone is joking. ✔
  • They may only talk about their favourite subject. ✔
  • They may be very interested in some things. ✔
  • They may want to take part in games or activities with other people. But they may not know how to do this. ✔
  • They may like to play the same game or do the same thing every day. ✔
  • They can have a good IQ and may go to the same school as children who do not have a disability. ✔
  • They may be good at concentrating on one activity. ✔
  • They may find co-ordination difficult. ✔
  • Some people with Asperger syndrome may like to eat the same food every day ✔
  • They may have mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression. ✔

So what changes now? Nothing. It just means that the way my mind works is different to those who don’t have this disorder. I have my answer. I have closure.

You can get more information about Asperger syndrome from:
Autism Helpline: 0808 800 4104
Email: autismhelpline@nas.org.uk
The National Autistic Society’s website: www.autism.org.uk

My Doctor Who 50th anniversary special

I had a dream that I had watched the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special. When I woke I remembered the key points of the episodes and wanted write down them down as quick as possible before I forgot. I then joined these key points together to form the outline of the story. The story went something like this…

There is an unexplained issue with the TARDIS as it tries to land which causes it to phase in and out of time within itself. Past voices of the Doctor echo inside its walls. It’s not just the voice of the current doctor but the voice of all the past doctors. All the voices of the Doctors are saying that there is a problem with the TARDIS, their voices start to overlap one another. The voices become a chatter of noise which seems to synchronise with the sound of the TARDIS as it tries to materialise. The 11th doctor and his companion Oswin try to find the cause of the malfunction, The Doctor says there appears to be some sort of leak from the heart of the TARDIS which is given out a sort of “time radiation”, causing the past echos. The noise gets greater and the Doctor appears to be gravely sick due to the radiation. He starts to regenerate, He knows he is close to death and uses this last chance to patch the leak by stepping into the vortex at the heart of the TARDIS, but as he does so the TARDIS explodes.

DoctorWho50

The explosion is like that of a star going supernova, the TARDIS then becomes a black hole in space and time. The explosion instantly becomes an implosion, sucking all the time and matter back into the vortex rebuilding the TARDIS around it. This implosion of time drags all of the doctors out of their timelines to this one point in time, the time of the explosion. All the doctors being in this one place together at a point of death has had a major effect on them. Instantly the first 3 doctors burst into light as if they are going to regenerate but all the energy and light of the regeneration is sucked into the heart of the TARDIS. We see that all the doctors have aged, they realise that they have aged because they can’t regenerate. They can’t regenerate because their regeneration and future self is also there at that point in time. This is why the first 3 doctors burst into balls of energy as soon materialised because they instantly died of old age. There is a brief funny moment when the doctors talk to each other. They make comments on their age and weight “So if I never regenerated and kept on eating Jelly babies I would have ended up looking like you.” Oswin starts flirting with the 10th Doctor which is also funny. Just as the 4th Doctor is about to make a witty comeback a look of panic crosses his face and he burst into light which then also gets sucked into the heart of the TARDIS. All the doctors feel the effect of the loss of part of them. Dragging them through time has not only aged them but has made their cells unstable, They realise their fate, one by one they too will burst into energy and become one with the TARDIS. They split up and wander the rooms and corridors of the TARDIS trying to fix the issue. Due to the time phasing, the walls and rooms keep changing around them to rooms and consoles of old. The 5th Doctor bursts into energy, then the 6th, and so on as they struggle to find the cause of the leak and malfunction. Soon it is just the 10th & 11th Doctor left. They work together with Oswin in the console room as it shifts and explodes around them. The 10th Doctor knows his time is up and there is an emotional scene were he says his goodbye, “It was great to go on one last adventure!”, he bursts into light and he too is sucked in by the vortex. This just leaves the 11th Doctor and Oswin. The Doctor suddenly stops and gives a knowing laugh as he realises his fate, He and Oswin should have died when the TARDIS exploded but they didn’t, they were brought back to the origin of the explosion which means they themselves were covered in this “time radiation”. It has created a sort of time feedback loop. It was the radiation, and it’s effect on the Doctor that brought his past lives back and why they got sucked into the vortex. He knows the he too is going die but he will regenerate as there is no other version of himself in this timeline. It must have been the 12th doctor that actually patched the leak. He wonders what effect the time vortex would have had on him as a Time Lord. Would that mean that as long as the TARDIS exists so will he? Will he live beyond his 13 lives? He also ponders what effect this might have had on Oswin? Not only her body was covered in this radiation but her soul and essence had been sucked into the heart of the time vortex too. This could mean that her soul and essence could appear anywhere in time and space that the TARDIS has been. The TARDIS shakes again and we are back to where we started. The Doctor is gravely sick due to the radiation. He starts to regenerate, He knows he is close to death and uses this last chance to patch the leak by stepping into the vortex, there is a blinding light and the shaking stops. The leak is sealed. Then out of the light steps for the first time… The 12th Doctor.

The end.

Shaun

My friend Shaun died on Saturday 1st December 2012. We had been friends for 8 years and he had been with me through good times and bad. He had not been well for almost a week and I knew he wouldn’t be with us for much longer, but when he died it hit me hard, which is understandable you would think, a friend passing away. However Shaun wasn’t just my friend, he was my pet. Shaun was my goldfish.

Shaun

It was 2004 and I had just moved into a flat on my own after difficult breakup. I had kept goldfish in the past but they never lasted long, to be honest I wasn’t good at looking after fish. But when I moved I had a girlfriend who worked in a pet shop and she knew a lot about looking after animals and especially looking after fish, so it seemed like a good time to get some fish again. A new flat, and new fish.

A few of the fish at the beginning didn’t last long. I thought I was cursed. I made sure I didn’t over stock the aquarium, I made regular water changes, and did my best to keep them alive but it wasn’t meant to be, however Shaun lived on. He stood out from the other fish for a few reasons, at first it was because he seemed so plain. I had named the other fish because of how they looked. Goldie was named because he was a very gold goldfish; Stripe had a stripe along his fin, which also reminded me of the gremlin with the same name. I even at one point had a goldfish named Hitler because he had what looked like a little Hitler moustache, but Shaun didn’t really have anything special about him. He was just a shubunkin goldfish. Shaun of The Dead was on at the cinema and I was a big fan of the film. As I had no idea what to call the shubunkin I decided to call him Shaun. Shaun the Shubunkin.

Another thing that made Shaun stand out was for the fact that he seemed a lot smarter than the other fish. He would ‘watch’ the TV, and would follow you around room. Now when I say follow, of course I don’t mean he would jump out of the water and flop along the floor behind you, but he would always seem to be facing you if the TV wasn’t on. If you sat next to the aquarium he would swim up to the glass as if say hello. Some people didn’t believe me when I said that Shaun was smart and so I tell them to sit next to the glass. If you moved, he would move too. My friends would bob their heads around in front of Shaun and get excited when Shaun bobbed back. Soon all of my friends became a fan of Shaun.

As the years went by Shaun grew and not only did he outlive his fish friends but he outlived a lot of my relationships too. Girlfriends came and went but Shaun was always there. In 2009 I started dating Sally, and survived the day I moved out of my flat to move in with her later that year. Shaun really felt like part of the family. He had lived to see my relationship with Sally grown from boyfriend and girlfriend to husband and wife.

There had only been a few times that I was worried that Shaun wouldn’t live to see another day and it was when I moved flats and also swim bladder problems. However each time he had an issue I managed to nurse him back to health again. I started to think that Shaun was immortal and would be with me forever. It didn’t matter if I hadn’t changed the water for a while because Shaun would survive it. It didn’t matter if I forgot to feed him for a while because Shaun would survive that too. I was so used to Shaun surviving everything that I would sometimes become complacent.

Last week I noticed that Shaun didn’t look well. I hadn’t changed his water for a while and so I did a 25% water change hoping it would make Shaun better but it didn’t. It was something I had never seen before; he started to spend a lot of time sitting on the bottom as if he didn’t have enough energy to swim. He stopped eating. He then went from sitting on the bottom of the tank to lying on the bottom of the tank. I didn’t know what to do? If I just let him lay at the bottom all day he had no chance to surviving, so I decided to move him to a large but shallow Tupperware container. I transferred most of the water from his tank and got a little pump to oxygenate the water for him. I thought maybe with the container being shallower than the tank he would be able to feed which he did. He did start to eat but he still hardly moved. Soon all I could do was sit and watch his little gills open and close. I started to accept that maybe Shaun wouldn’t survive this time. Maybe it would be more humane to pour vodka and corn oil into the water and put him to sleep. It was late Friday night and I thought that if Shaun had not made any improvement in the morning that I would euthanize him. However on Saturday morning I didn’t want to look. I could see that he hadn’t moved but I didn’t look long enough to check if his gills were still moving. It was Sally who told me that his gills had stopped moving. Shaun had died.

As Shaun was special to me I wanted do something special for him. Maybe make a little cross out of lolly sticks and bury him in the garden? This just didn’t feel right as the property is rented and isn’t our own. Maybe I would let him go in a river and watch him float away downstream? This seamed like a more fitting send off. Sally suggested the canal near where we live so I put Shaun in a little plastic sandwich bag and rolled up the remainder of the bag around him and then sealed the bag shut. It fitted him perfectly. He looked like he was in plastic little coffin. On Sunday morning Sally and I went for a walk down the canal. It was a cold and frosty. The sun was low and it made the frost and water sparkle. We came to one of the benches along the canal with something next to it that looked a bit like a little grave stone. I think it was an old mile marker. It was a peaceful spot and a thin layer of fog across the water made it feel slightly magical. It was the perfect place to set him free. I took his little coffin out of the carrier bag that I had brought him down to the canal in and dropped him into the water. I had a marker pen on me and decided to write Shaun 2004 -2012 on the stone next to the bench. We stayed a while to say goodbye and then headed off to let him float away to the next life.

Shaun 2

He is at peace now and I have a place I can go to sit and think of him. A place where I can remember the good times we had. Keep on swimming little Shaun. I will miss you.

36 things about being Thirty Six

I turned 36 last month. These are 36 things I have noticed about being 36.

  1. Nothing really changes.
  2. I wonder how people much younger than me have managed to acheive so much.
  3. I’ve been on twitter for 3 years.
  4. Losing weight isn’t as easy as it once was.
  5. BBC Radio One is not for me.
  6. It’s harder to keep a willing suspension of disbelief when watching films and TV.
  7. Little things annoy me.
  8. Years don’t feel that long.
  9. My handwriting is still awful.
  10. Teenagers think you are old.
  11. Many people my age have children.
  12. Most of my clothes are over 10 years old, some are even 20.
  13. I have written an online blog in some form or other for 13 years.
  14. Music doesn’t excite me like it once did.
  15. I’m sure some of the girls I went to school with are now grandparents.
  16. I still feel like I am 16.
  17. Having to accept that I’m never going to be a spy/astronaut/ninja/pirate/robot.
  18. Realising that 18 is half my age.
  19. A lot of people expect you to act your age.
  20. I am still useless at spelling & maths.
  21. Bands I consider to be fairly new bands have all been going for more than 5 years.
  22. Things don’t impress me much.
  23. If I was an american I would old enough to be their president.
  24. My diet hasn’t changed.
  25. I am older than Tom Hardy, Zachary Quinto, & Michael Fassbender.
  26. I still look like I am 26.
  27. My short term memory is awful.
  28. I might be immortal.
  29. I am always tired.
  30. When I was 30 I tried to make a mental effort to grow up.
  31. When I was 31 I realised that I was never really going to grow up.
  32. I’m going grey.
  33. Some of the guys I went to school with have gone bald.
  34. I’m old enough to be Justin Bieber’s & Miley Cyrus’s dad.
  35. Being young at heart is better than being young.
  36. Things are always changing.