Where’s RoOkin?

I am not in a good place at the moment. One of the problems with having Asperger syndrome is understanding how others feel and what other people mean. It can be very confusing and frustrating at times. It is hard for me to explain to people who don’t have this condition to understand how difficult it can be.

To help you understand what it is like to have Asperger’s and how confusing it can be let me give you a few examples.

Let’s say there is a comic book character called Wally The Waiter. This is Wally…

wally.jpg

Wally is a clumsy waiter who is always falling over things and getting in trouble. He doesn’t mean to be so clumsy but he can’t help it. Some people are just clumsy. He may be clumsy but he always works hard. He is always busy making sure everyone gets their food and he always makes sure that everyone is happy. He is working hard in the picture below. Can you find him? Where’s Wally?

whereswally.jpg

Now if you are American or from another part of the world you might find this task far easier and less confusing than the British people reading this. I am hoping that the task of finding Wally might confuse you. Not because you are looking for him but because to my English eyes there are two Wally’s. There is my made up comic book character ‘Wally the Waiter’ and there is this guy…

wallyface

So you might be forgiven for being confused. American’s on the other hand might not be as be confused. When I asked “Where’s Wally?” They are looking for ‘Wally The Waiter’, they are not looking for ‘Waldo’ as that’s what Wally is called in America.

This type of confusion is what a lot of people with Asperger’s have to deal with. Something you might find simple to understand, like the Americans looking for Wally, might be really hard for someone with Asperger’s to understand. Just like the British people looking for Wally.

Social interaction can be difficult for people who have Asperger syndrome and because it is not a condition that has any visible signs it can be hard to spot. Like you can’t tell who is a vegetarian just by looking at them. It’s only really when it comes to having a meal that being a vegetarian might have problems. For example…

Imagine you’re a vegetarian. You are far away from home and you’re sat on your own in the only restaurant in town and you are starving. No matter how hard you look at the menu nothing on there seems to be clear if it contains meat or not. There is only one waiter in this restaurant (let’s call him Wally) and he looks like a friendly sort of chap. He comes up to you and asks if you are ready to order. You ask him if anything on the menu is suitable for vegetarians. He looks a bit annoyed and then goes away and brings back another menu. However the menu he has brought back just appears to be the same menu. You find this confusing. Does this mean that he has understood that you are a vegetarian and all the food on the menu is ok to eat? Before you have time to ask him the waiter has gone. So you just sit there wondering what to do. The waiter returns and asks if you are ready to order. “Is this same menu that I had before? So everything on here is Vegetarian?” you ask him. This makes the waiter angry. Instead of answering your question he just gives you a long stare and tells you he will return when you are ready to order. So you just sit there feeling hungry and confused as the only person who can answer your question of what you can order is the waiter. You call the waiter over and ask for something without meat. This makes the waiter very angry and he storms off. Is he going to return with food? Meat free food? Is he going to return at all? You sit there feeling hungry, upset and confused waiting for the waiter to return. You then see the waiter happily chatting to other customers. Maybe the waiter isn’t angry after all and your meal on it’s way soon. You wait, and wait. You try and catch the waiters eye and he finally comes over. You ask him how long your meal is going to be? He starts shouting at you and then kicks you out of the restaurant. You have no idea what has just happened. You didn’t mean to upset the waiter, you were just hungry and waiting something to eat.

So being someone with Asperger’s is like being that vegetarian and dealing with someone with Asperger’s is like being the waiter. They both saw things differently. The vegetarian felt isolated and alone and just needed the menu to be explained to them. The waiter on the other hand just thought that the vegetarian was deliberately trying to make his life difficult, but he just didn’t really understand what a vegetarian was. If the waiter had explained what each meal on the menu was then there wouldn’t have been a situation. The vegetarian would have had their meal and the waiter wouldn’t have been so angry.

Having this condition isn’t something that can be fixed. It is just how the brain is wired. like being left handed or right handed. I am left handed, and no matter how hard I try to write with my right hand it just doesn’t look or feel correct to me. I will never be able to use my right hand in the same way I can use my left.

There are lots of situations in life which can be difficult if you have Asperger syndrome or need to deal with someone with Asperger’s. It can be a bit of a mine field. You think everything is going fine but then one day something just blows up in your face. Social media can be like a mine field. It is full of people who have their own ideas, agendas, and their own way of expressing themselves. Lots of waiters, vegetarians, Wally’s, Waldo’s and you don’t know who is whom. Some people you might feel close to because they say things that you can relate to, they on the other hand might hate you. Some people you might dislike but they think you are awesome. Some people clash, some people connect. It can be very confusing for the average person to navigate the online world of social groups and cliques, so imagine what it is like for someone who has Asperger’s. There are people who find swearing at others acceptable and those who take insults to heart. I find it hard to understand the difference between friends having ‘friendly banter’ and two strangers having an argument. 

I often struggle to understand how my words might be interpreted by others, and as a result can find that I have caused offence when this was the furthest thing from what was intended. I hate to think that I have ever upset anyone. It is never my intention to do so. I don’t like to say bad things about others, I know how horrible it feels. I always feel the need to fix things and make things better but then even that can be interpreted as being meddling and intrusive at times. I have always been a bit of a sensitive soul, and some things said online I will never forget. I have been on the receiving end of abuse there was that person who wanted to set me on fire and dance around my burning remains. I may have problem understanding others at times but I’m sure the person who wrote that didn’t want to be my friend. Either that or they are/were a friend who was ‘just having a laugh’ and this was their idea of ‘friendly banter’. I just don’t know.

Because of this struggle I have with understanding others I have decided to remove myself from some social media sites. Why remove yourself you might say? Why not just leave your account and just not use the sites? I did try that, but I found it hard to let go. Hard to step away. I would just keep going back just to see how people are and what they are doing. I just really need some time off line to sort my head out. Saying that I haven’t gone completely, I still have a online presence, so who knows what will happen. I may return, I may not, I don’t know. But if you look, I’m sure you will find me.

My Wedding

It was the perfect day. I can’t really sum it up with words so I will just show you some of the amazing photos that was taken on the day (click on the pic to make it bigger) …

…It was truly the best day of my life.

Dawn

Dawn was one of my best friends at school. We were in a band together. Sophie sang and played bass, I played guitar and sang backing vocals, and Dawn played the drums. We were called ‘LizardSkin’ and were a lo-fi punk rock band. This was 1993 and Grunge had hit the U.K. We would always meet at Dawns house, whose parents didn’t seem to mind their daughter having a full size drum kit in her bedroom. It was a small bedroom and after the single bed, drum kit and a wardrobe you couldn’t fit anything else in it. As it was so small, Sophie and I couldn’t even fit in the same room. We stood in the landing and played our hearts out, recording our noise into a hand-held cassette recorder. We were as lo-fi as you could get.  We wrote songs about anything that came into our heads, whether it be a song that we learnt in our Chinese lesson (yes, we studied Mandarin at school) or a song about ‘Nuclear Chocolate’, named after the time that we bought a giant bar of Dairy Milk which we then constantly spilt equally between ourselves until there was nothing left, just one atom of chocolate. An atom which we would have to split between us. The chocolate atom bomb. Simple times.

We played lots of gigs in the local area, and even ventured up to London to do a gig at a pub in Camden. It was my favourite band. There was something so naive and innocent about us. We would constantly turn up to gigs without any instruments, borrowing kit from the other bands. I don’t think we would have gotten away with the stuff we did if we were band made up of egotistical pretentious young boys. But we weren’t, we were Riot Grrrls… Well Riot Grrls and Boy. Being the boy in a band with two girls was probably the best thing about being in the band. It was like I had two sisters. Two sisters who I loved very much and two sisters who could kick my ass if they wanted to. It was no secret at the time that Dawn had a crush on me. When she asked me out or got someone else to ask me out I would always say no. I would turn her down by saying that it would get too complicated with us being in a band. It was very flattering. I’ve never seen myself as someone who was attractive to opposite sex and I had no confidence with girls when I could sense that there anything more than friendship. I would never chase after a girl because If I did chase them, then they might know that I liked them. I was much happier listening to The Smiths in my bedroom, whimsically waiting for the day that the girl of my dreams would come along and notice me. Dawn was not the girl of my dreams but had noticed me. Dawn had confidence. She had broken that playground rule that it’s only the boys who do the chasing, and knowing that she thought I was good-looking gave me confidence.

After school, priorities changed. I was now in college and had other bands on the go. Priorities changed for everyone and although we were still friends rehearsals became few and far between until the band became just a memory. In 1998 I left Bracknell and moved to Chichester, in West Sussex. Years would pass but Dawn and Sophie were friends who were burnt into my heart. They were friends who to me would always be my friends and every time I saw them it felt like we had never spent a day apart.  But we had spent time apart and our lives had moved on. Sophie got married in 1998 and I got to be her Best Man/Maid of Honour. They have since separated and Sophie is now with Matt, and has recently given birth to little girl, Dawn had also got married & had two children. Everyone was growing up, everyone except me, as I seemed to living my life in a time loop.  

Earlier this year I went to see the film ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs The World’. The film is based on a comic about a young man called Scott who has to fight against the seven evil exes of the girl of his dreams. This part of the story didn’t remind me of Dawn but the fact that Scott was in a lo-fi band with a female drummer with attitude, did. Dawn had attitude. Watching this film made me reminisce about the old days, and the good times we had growing up. I would chat to Dawn on Facebook now and then whenever she was on but recently I had lost interest with site and something that I used to use everyday a few years ago became a once a month occurrence. The last Facebook message I got from Dawn was on October 25th this year. She was wishing me Happy Birthday.

On Tuesday 16th November I came home from work and found several missed calls on my phone from my brother. There was also a message to say that an old school friend had left me a message on Facebook. The news from both was that yesterday Dawn had been murdered.  It was news that didn’t sink in. I was in shock. I looked on the internet for further information, but there was none, only that a Bracknell woman had been found dead. That could be anyone, sure the photo attached to the article showed Dawns house but just because it shows Dawns house it doesn’t mean that the woman was Dawn. Maybe it was a neighbour and as her house was shown in the article it had people jumping to conclusions. I looked at Dawns Facebook profile. She had only updated it the day before. The day she was murdered. Maybe she is staying at her parents house and she would soon update the page to show that news of her death was a little premature. I was still in shock. I need to phone Sophie, I thought. I pressed the ‘S’ on my phone and Dawn’s name was one of the first names that came up. I still had her down as Dawn Simms and not Dawn Clinton. Simms being her maiden name, and as Simms started with a ‘S’ it was listed in my search. I paused for a moment. Should I ring Dawn? What if I call and no one answers? I decided against calling her and called Sophie. Sophie didn’t answer but Matt did. I had never spoken to Matt before but explained my reason for calling. He too had heard the news but Sophie was out with their daughter and as far as he knew she hadn’t heard. I needed to speak to someone so I spoke Lynsey on the phone. She was the old friend from school who had sent me the message about Dawn on Facebook. I was still in shock. Lynsey confirmed that it was Dawn and that Jon her husband had been arrested for her murder.

That night I couldn’t sleep. I sat at my computer and tried to find more information.

http://www.getbracknell.co.uk/news/s/2082315_man_arrested_after_womans_body_found

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-11763939

When I did sleep I had a dream that Dawn sent me a message on Facebook telling me she was ok, and that like I had thought earlier that she wasn’t at home and it was a neighbour who had been killed and she had only just managed to get online to tell everyone that it wasn’t her. This dream gave me false hope until they finally released the name of the victim. It was indeed Dawn.

http://www.getbracknell.co.uk/news/s/2082434_suspected_murder_victim_named_as_dawn_clinton

Dawn has been in my thoughts ever since.  I had not seen Dawn face to face for almost 10  years but I have this huge feeling of loss. I don’t know how to deal with it, I assumed I would know her forever. I look at her Facebook profile and see messages from friends, and messages from strangers. Is my grief too much? How do you grieve for someone you haven’t seen for years? Someone who was such a big part of my life as teenager but who had little input in my adult years. I have been reading articles about her everyday since I heard. My thoughts going out to her family and friends.

Dawn was amazing. She is part of who I am and my life has been forever changed for knowing her. On Facebook she summarizes herself with these words;

“I will skid broadside into Hell, thoroughly used up and worn out, with a fag in one hand and a coffee in the other screaming ‘Whoa, what a ride’!”

 What a ride indeed. Dawn, you rawk. I love you x

Drum solo!

UPDATE :

 24th May 2011 – Jon Clinton has been jailed for life with a minimum 26-year term after being convicted of murdering Dawn and 2 years for arson, with the two sentences to run concurrently.

BBC NEWS / Bracknell Newsgetbracknell.co.uk )

Face-Off

I am not  really sure how to start this? I have never been good at writing, but this ‘ Typing up words in a blog’ approach is probably the best form of communication for me. I have to stop and think about each word I write and it gives me the chance to go back, correct mistakes and restructure sentences as my thoughts and words all come out in a big jumble and sometimes it takes me a while to focus on a direction. I can really take my time over what I want to express and how I can put my thoughts across. This isn’t a simple task for me.  Looking down at the clock I have already spent 20 mins just to get to this point.  I tend to ramble when I talk and sometimes I feel like I cannot vocally express myself. I get lost for words, stuck. I feel like I have to pause mid sentence as I can no longer remember the next word I was going to use. It’s normally when I am trying to convey an emotion or just making idle chit-chat. I also feel like I have lost the art of conversation. I have lost my confidence when it comes to socializing.

I am not really sure how this has come about? I used to feel like I was good with communication, and at expressing myself. I have what I would consider a good social life but recently I feel like my circle of friends have been getting smaller and smaller. I have lost touch with friends and with that I have lost touch with the art of conversation and I think one of the main causes for this is giving up on Facebook.

Facebook. I have fallen out of love with Facebook. I rarely use it any more. I would say that I log on to Facebook probably once or twice a month. This is mainly because I cannot access it at work and I rarely sit at my computer at home anymore. For me Facebook as gone the way of MySpace. I haven’t looked at my MySpace account properly for well over a year now. Twitter on the other hand I use everyday. I can access it at work and I tweet from my phone all the time. My love of Twitter is probably why I have lost touch with most of my friends, hardly any of them use Twitter. Nowadays without logging onto Facebook I have no idea what anyone is up to without texting them or meeting them in person. I have no idea what ‘events’ are happening any more. A few years ago I would have receive texts from friends about going to see a band or for drinks in town,  that then evolved into becoming an invitation to an ‘event’ on Facebook. The texts soon became a message to say to check Facebook for details of what social event was happening that evening and then soon Facebook took over everything. I would no longer need to make small talk as I had already read the status about what they were up to. When meeting friends in person I could engage with them straight away in conversation about what has been happening and talk about things with them about it in greater detail. People would use their online social life to organise their offline social life. I wouldn’t get a text anymore I would just get Facebook invite. This was great when I used Facebook all the time but as I don’t now I haven’t a clue what is going on. Without Facebook I feel lost. I feel like an outsider.

Before you state the obvious I know this is all my own doing. I have cut myself off from the world by giving up on Facebook. I could text my friends. Tell them I miss them, but I feel like Facebook is a drug that everyone seems to be addicted to. A drug we need to be free from. However when we do find ourselves free from this drug, the world is not the happy and comforting place it once was.  It’s a harder world. A world were you have to make the effort.

Facebook seems to be not only the social network that brings friends together but seems to be a necessity in keeping them as well.