Alternative Reality – Living with Autism without knowing it!

My alternative Life – Before my diagnosis Part 1

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To Neurotypical (Normal) People the definition is:

Alternative: Relating to activities that depart from or challenge traditional norms.”an alternative lifestyle”

Oxford Dictionary

To Neurodivergent People like me, it is the exact opposite – I only visit Normal; I don’t get to stay there…

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Part 1

  • I was born at a very young age on 19 August 1978. It was a Saturday.
  • I grew up in a small town. The bank in our town was only open on Fridays. We did not have a High-School, only a Primary School with a total of 127 scholars.
  • My father was a Dutch Reformed Church Minister, he passed away 15 years ago. We did not have a close relationship. My mother was a housewife, we did not have a close relationship.
  • I have 3 brothers and 1 sister, but I grew up alone. I entertained myself by reading Encyclopedias, this was before computers and the internet naturally.
  • My father purchased our first computer when I was in primary school and I would play Space Invaders. This would start my fantastic lifelong journey with PCs, Laptops, Tablets and Smartphones.
  • In 1991 I was selected to attend a Winter School program for Gifted Children at the University of Pretoria. I was 12 years old.
  • I went to High-School in 1992 in a neighboring town 60 kilometres (37 miles) away and had to stay in the Hostel. This was the beginning of living independently.
  • In 1994 I received Provincial Colors for playing the trumpet in our school band at the National Championships. I cannot read music and play by ear and memorizing the tunes.
  • In 1996 I was voted a Prefect at school and I was voted Head Boy of our Hostel.
  • In 1996 I received National Colors for placing first in Individual Performance in Drama in a National Acting competition.
  • In 1997 I studied Method Acting at the University of Pretoria. I did not finish due to an opportunity to travel to London, England.
  • In 2000 I traveled to London with a backpack and a little bit of cash to see ‘if I can make it’. I knew no-one there and did not have a job or a place to stay.
  • I lived and worked in London for a whole year at a 800 room Hotel next to Tower Bridge.
  • I served Sir Alex Ferguson without knowing who he was. He asked me when he settled his bill whether I knew who he was, I said No. He shook my hand and said that it was the best breakfast he had ever had.
  • To receive large tips at the hotel I would challenge tables to test my memory. They could order food and drinks and I would not write it down. I would only memorize it. If I could serve all their orders without double checking anything, they would double or triple my tip! I made zero errors, and a lot of money.
  • I developed a Shift Roster for the Hotel which they still use today.
  • In 2001 my visa expired, and I returned to South Africa and started working as a Project Manager with my cousins in the Construction Industry. I developed a Marketing Strategy for them to increase their sales and exposure. They still use this strategy today.
  • In 2004 my cousins left the group and started a family business and asked me to join them. We were successful until 2009 when the global credit crunch forced us to shut down operations.
  • In 2001 I started training in Shaolin Longfist Kung-Fu with Master Weng Jun-Yi in Pretoria, South Africa. I received 5 Black Belts and retired as a Kung Fu instructor and a Tai Chi instructor in 2019.
  • In 2006 I was voted Time Magazine Person of the Year!
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If only…

I wish I knew what Autism was back then, we didn’t have sites like:

Autism Speaks: Home

What Is Autism? | Autism Speaks

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We also did not have cool articles like:

3 Saints who may have had autism spectrum disorder

Genetic risk of autism spectrum disorder linked to evolutionary brain benefit

We did not have the convenience of expert advice:

Children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder show unique handwriting patterns: Integrative education system should consider this factor, say experts

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Read more on:

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Day 4 post failed suicide attempt – Autistic Savant syndrome

Morning

I wake up the same way as the previous day, nurse taking blood pressure, breakfast, medication, shower, get dressed, wait for the Psychiatrist.

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I do not join the group activity in the hospital, neither do I partake in the arts and crafts sessions. I don’t feel like engaging with the other patients…

The nurse calls me and let’s me know that the Psychologist is here to see me. Okay, well, let’s take a look see, he may be able to assist me with all the new terminology and conditions and symptoms they seem to identify in me. Autism, ADHD, Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder.

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I sit down in the consultation room and we start talking. He asks me the usual questions:

  • How are you feeling today?
  • Did you sleep well?
  • Are you eating okay?
  • How is the wound on your wrist?
  • How are you feeling about Borderline Personality Disorder?
  • How are you feeling about Depression?
  • How are you feeling about ADHD?
  • How are you feeling about Autism?
  • How do feel about how you feel?

Ugh…..sigh…..

With all due respect, I really do not see where any of this is going? I appreciate what Psychologists do to help other people but it is as if I just don’t connect with this guy. He keeps on trying to be my friend. Making jokes, trying to get into my world and sharing similar thoughts and experiences from his own life to make me feel we have something in common. I’ve read everything online about the so-called Borderline Personality Disorder he thinks I present with and I just don’t see it…

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He’s next question got me thinking though…

‘What did the Psychiatrist say about my suspicion that you present with BPD?” he asks.

‘Nothing.’ I reply, and I watch his face. He seems disappointed. He dropped his shoulders a bit, even leaned forward slightly in a kind of a slouch. His eyes drifted towards the carpet and he held his breath for 2 seconds, as if he wanted to say something, but then decided against it and exhaled.

I got the distinct feeling that he wanted validation from the Psychiatrist rather than trying to figure out why I tried to commit suicide. This struck me as odd.

He started to explain to me that humans are like computers and that the Psychiatrist focused on the hardware and he focused on the software.

I nodded and after a minute or two our session was over for that morning.

‘I’ll see you again tonight and then we’ll chat about your childhood.’ he smiled.

‘Sure, let’s…’ I replied.

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Afternoon

I had lunch. Alone. Not keen to engage with the other patients, my head felt pre-occupied.

The Psychiatrist visited just after dinner. I told him about my session with the Psychologist and he made a couple of notes on my file. He looked at me and said:’ I want to ask you if you are willing to try Ritalin tomorrow morning, just to see what happens with your thoughts and how you feel. Would you do that for me?’.

I agreed and he left.

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I went to take a shower, and made myself some coffee when the Psychologist arrived.

I took my coffee with me into the consultation room. He asked me to tell him about the first 10 years of my life.

I took a sip of my coffee, thought for a minute on where to start and laid out the first 10 years of my life in extreme detail with vivid memory and recollection of sounds and tastes and events and specifics. I painted a great picture of this narrative: The history of my Life.

He listened and made very little comments, he wrote some notes and thanked me after 30 mins of me and my soliloquy.

I took my medication and I fell into a deep sleep…

Trauma recovery after failed suicide due to Autistic Burnout – Feedback to my Boss

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Hi Boss

Just some feedback after my session with my Psychiatrist today:

SUCCESS

Traumatic Grief

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The normal experience of grief is a deep sadness, a yearning for the past, often loneliness and a need to reach out for comfort.

There may be initial shock and an inability to comprehend the reality of the loss, raw anguish, and perhaps anger, at being left behind, or an irrational guilt about being alive instead (survivor guilt).

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Over time, the pain lessens and the sense of loss fades into a realistic acceptance that life must go on.

Feedback:

I can confirm that my Dr is happy to highlight that I have fast-tracked the grieving process which usually occurs after a traumatic event.

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I have the unique advantage that I framed my experience as a ‘new me being born’ instead of my old self remaining intact.

My appreciation for my mental gifts played in my favour and he is convinced that I already let the trauma fade into the background whilst focusing on my new-found appreciation of life.

The scar on my wrist is thus a cesarean scar (c-section) symbolising the birth of the new me!

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NEXT STEP

Self-observation as an agent of behavioral change

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Self-observation is an awareness practice where you turn your attention inward, and non-judgmentally watch what you think, feel, and do.

Imagine that as an observer, you have access to your inner landscape. You observe your thoughts, emotions, sensations, etc. as they occur within you.

These patterns of behaviour are both tenacious and automatic. Self-observation creates a space.

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In that space lies an opportunity for you to make a conscious choice. Is my automatic response pattern the best option for this circumstance, or would another behaviour be more helpful now?

Self-observation never becomes a habit. Just like following a diet, you must develop the discipline to periodically reflect and notice what pattern is presenting.

The good news is that just noticing them relaxes them and makes them less compulsive. Self-observation creates a “map” of your own specific habits and patterns.

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The more you develop your ability to observe your conduct, the more you can bring your unconscious, reactive patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving into your awareness.

Then you’ll be able to consciously choose and control them to best serve the situation.

Feedback:

I must now enter this stage in my personal and professional growth. It will allow me to identify behaviours that are to my benefit as well as to those around me.

This is the next step in aligning my skillset with being successful at home and at work. Exciting!

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MEDICATION

No change, happy to report that we’ll keep it as it is since I function very well.

My Dr is very supportive and confident that I have healthy control over my life right now.

My next appointment is only in March, which is great news indeed!

Take care