Hi, I’m 25 years old, and enjoy playing video games, listening - and singing badly along to - varied genres of music, watching anime and foreign films, reading and writing, exercise, and I’m also Autistic. For the purposes of this article, you may call me Mister J.
|And if you're Harley Quinn-inclined, feel free to call me Mister J anyway|
Yes, it’s a widely accepted notion and persistent myth that every person with Autism is some barely incomprehensible demi-god able to recall vast amounts of information at the slightest whim, but has zero possibility of progressing beyond the social capabilities and desires of a toddler. Information about Autism is becoming more and more prevalent today thank goodness, and the customary Savant label is slowly being diluted and stripped away, like a tattered and worn medal awkwardly awarded to the wrong nominee.
|Actually no, this is much more awkward|
|Sheldon Cooper isn’t some odious TV exec’s stereotype of an socially awkward scientist with Autism? Right, and George Osbourne isn’t a twat. Not that I don’t like the Big Bang Theory; now that really would be strange|
People with Asperger’s are usually located on the lower end of the spectrum and are able to lead independent lives with confidence, having only minimal aspects of the wider spectrum that can barely be discerned, if at all. You may even know someone living secretly with the condition like myself, but do not suspect them whatsoever.
|We’re not closet murderers like Dexter either, as someone on Reddit suggested, but I wouldn’t say no to being Batman. Or Judge Dredd. Or both|
But hang on, doesn’t that sound like something that every supposedly normal person does every once in a while? Apart from my apparently unpalatable collection of Genesis and Phil Collins records (don’t mess with the Collins), maybe we’re not so different after all.
|Here’s a picture of a horse, because I like dead horses as much as I like bad Phil Collins jokes|
But ask me to talk to a girl I like - or if a girl I like talks to me - and respond without sounding like a blathering idiot or effortlessly navigate these many - sometimes unspoken - intricacies and signals, especially over text messages, everything suddenly goes blank. It’s not that I’m totally incapable or don’t want to talk or don’t want a relationship, but the lack of face-to-face and vocal communication is a huge barrier sometimes, especially when I really care about someone in that way.
|This process is much slower in my brain|
|Not that hilarious|
|Except there’s no Wallace Wells and no strategically - and conveniently - placed windows. It’s actually a lot more like Ramona’s disappearances than Scott’s, but without the magical Subspace Bag to hide in or speedy rollerskates to glide away on|
It's probably why I have a nervous tendency to use words such as ,“I”, “felt”, “like”, “imagine”, “but”, “actually”, "anyway", and "obviously” (you’ll see a lot of those here), appear to talk to myself when in conversation with others, seem self-centred and ignorant, and over-explain - and skim over - simple things, and possibly rely too much on emoticons and abbreviations like “haha” and “XD” by feeling the need to add them to every sentence; it’s obviously not abnormal for them to be used if there’s cause, but more the reason why.
|Like trying to make your obsession jealous when he's in love with someone else|
The more confident I feel, the more risk I feel there is of saying something I realise much later was inadvertently stupid or not the complete truth; to be clear, that doesn't mean I compulsively lie, or lie at all, it’s just that the truth is not elaborated on or isn't as expansive as it could be.
|Pictured: Not me|
As an example: I recently mentioned in conversation about video game themes through Facebook Messenger (I apologise to the person I was speaking to at the time if they regret having this splashed all over the internet, even with total anonymity; it was the best example that stood out to me at the time. I also apologise for my awkward manner and for inadvertently seeming ignorant and not being entirely truthful) that - and I quote - “I really like sonic the hedgehog and megaman themes XD do you listen to any others?”
As I was typing that, I was panicking, and I could hear that voice in the back of my head telling me to either calm down or think of something to say quickly before the other person became disinterested, not that that’s a reflection, characteristic, or my own personal view on the person in question or that this conversation was entirely about me.
|But this is a reflection of me|
The response to that was, “anything i think of mostly ...... portal is my fave at the moment”, which is almost exactly what I meant to say, as my videogame music collection is far more in range than simply Sonic and Megaman. I can only surmise I had recently bought the Sonic Generations soundtrack and a remix album of early Megaman stage themes which brought those particular brands to the forefront of my very screwed up mind.
Sometimes I have really thought about pushing everyone away because it would save a lot of pain, but I always come to the realisation that’s that definitely not what I want from life now. I’m not accusing anyone of being the catalyst of my problems; in fact, I believe I am my own catalyst because of the continual pressure I put upon myself to assume a façade of normalness to avoid what I perceive to be fatal judgement. I’m not getting any younger either despite my appearance of eternal youth, and I’m terrified of dying before I’ve truly lived.
I’m also extremely empathetic and willing to listen and council anyone’s problems; some people I’ve helped might even tell you I’m more mature and wise beyond my deceptively young appearance and (dis)ability will dare to allow. Hurt my friends though, and bear in mind I’m pretty adept in martial arts and a worthy opponent in kumite, prone to fits of grizzled rage brought on by everyday injustice, like a drastically less stoic and obviously less awesome version of Liam Neeson.
You may be thinking, “How, with such a (dis)ability, can he be accurately aware of his social strengths and shortcomings?” It’s a fair question, but you have to realise that maturity cannot be defined by age alone; it too is just a label until the realisation and action is there to support it. The same applies to stereotypes: it does not define the person underneath or their capabilities. In base terms, this principle could be best described as “The clothes do not make the man”. Or, to further the metaphor, the label came off in the wash of life, probably because it was a knock-off from the back of a fallen lorry in the first place.
|Ladies and Gentlemen: Fashion|
Living with a (dis)ability like mine is both a wonderful blessing and a dreadful curse. On one hand, you have this incredible vision of what seems to be two different universes - the one where logic prevails and the other where humanity rules and logic sometimes ceases to exist at all - and the constant struggle to keep them in harmony with one another.
If I could liken it to anything in existence, it would be the Sea of Doors from Bioshock Infinite. For those reading who haven’t played the game, it’s basically a infinite nexus of different universes - represented by doors - each one slightly different to the last through major and minor details, but with a recurring theme of a man, a city and a lighthouse. It’s actually not too uncommon to the holiday doors and “What’s This?” sections of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
|Exploring what you perceive to be the framework of your mind painted as a stunning otherworldly vista part of a haunting parable stuck on repeat with fantastical physics is at once both a liberating but very alarming experience|
To me, all those doors are open, and I can see everything, all the time. All the worlds, all the possibilities, all the reasons, all the logic, and I can’t turn it off even if I wanted to, which probably attributes to my tendency of being a night owl - though my pale skin, lithe but strong physique, inherent youth, OCD, and sweet tooth would also suggest I’m a real-life vampire - and difficulty making decisions sometimes.
|Thought I haven't yet figured out how to sparkle in the sunlight|
It sounds crazy - it DEFINITELY sounds crazy to me as I’m typing this, so it must sound totally insane to you the reader - but just imagine not being able to pinpoint exactly why something happened or why someone did something, and having a small buzzing sound at the back of your skull constantly bother and cripple you to analyse and relive particular dialogues and situations until all the reasons are found - if at all the real one - and then try to match that to pure logic, something that virtually nobody is capable of living by all the time. If I’m not even a one on the spectrum, then I dread what being even a two is like, and feel extremely thankful I’m not, and sorrow for those that are more severe than I.
|Many people wondered how sweet Elizabeth could turn into a femme fatale at the end of Bioshock Infinite, but it wasn’t hard for me to understand, even without all of her father issues|
It’s a lot to take in and perhaps fully grasp and relate to, so I’m going to try and explain this in different, simpler terms, not that I’m accusing any readers of lacking the means to understand. One night, I stumbled across persons in my house watching Coronation Street, to my chagrin (everyone knows Neighbours and Home and Away are superior).
In this particular scene, a character named Roy Cropper was in a nondescript supermarket for some reason, and was having a mental breakdown due to the fact that, in his eyes, the packaging of a particular product was extremely wasteful to the environment. His rant caught the attention of the staff, who had to have him removed by security.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it, but this scene involving Roy’s attempted purchase of out-of-date strawberries serves as just as good an example
For those who don’t watch Coronation Street (myself included; I wonder how many more of you there actually are) Roy Cropper is a middle-aged café owner with impaired social skills, and has long been rumoured to have Asperger’s Syndrome, though this has never been explicitly stated to my knowledge.
Anyway, this entire scene is not only horribly evocative of occasional news items detailing the abhorrent lack of care for sufferers of mental conditions, but is also a microcosm for the nature of the pure logic side of Asperger’s and Autism in general.
I’m nowhere near as severe as Roy, and I certainly have never broken down in a supermarket - or anywhere else for the record - over something as small as product packaging or out-of-date food. But I really resonated with Roy’s plight and reasoning, because of one simple word: why?
Imagine that word obsessively reverberating in your head, even over the slightest detail. Now imagine wanting nothing more than to live in a world where everything makes sense, and there is no war, no suffering, and no loss of innocence, like a Disney film with none of the social inequality or pantomime villains.
But pure sense and logic can sometimes breed injustice, and a total lack of humanity. Remember when Richard Dawkins and some other prat from UKIP said that children with Downs Syndrome should be aborted?
Looking at this objectively, there are financial and arguably humanitarian benefits to this - though quite where and how all the abortion resources would be funded and managed appropriately is another quandary - but it is absolutely and unquestionably without a single ounce of mercy, compassion or social responsibility.
|Everybody knows dinosaurs are cool, but surprisingly, Richard Dawkins missed that tweet|
It’s an eternal paradox, and not one exclusively relegated to mental conditions either: to desperately yearn to escape the rampant horrors, injustice, and just sometimes general mundaneness of this world.
Don’t get me wrong: if Andrew Ryan existed and Rapture was built tomorrow, I’d be the first one in a Bathysphere down to the darkest depths of the Atlantic Ocean, despite the dystopian consequences. The same goes for The Walking Dead: I’d jump at the chance to dive in and have a long conversation with and fight alongside David Morrissey’s compelling portrayal of The Governor, even though the character is - for the most part, a villain - and a complex, vindictive control freak.
|And a post-apocalyptic pirate missing only a wise-cracking parrot companion and a wooden leg. Oh wait…|
But as I’ve said, what always makes sense doesn’t always equate to perfect harmony, and that’s the irony at the core of humanity. Turn your back on it though, and you leave everything beautiful this world has to offer behind, and forget why you wanted to relocate in the first place.
|If you’re still stuck, imagine trying to translate an alien language with an incomplete cypher. I probably should have led with that, to be honest.|
My education experience taught me a lot about life today, though ironically it was the hellish experience of actually attending and dealing with abrasive personalities than the lessons themselves.
Eventually I found myself at the end of GCSE - having achieved A* despite mostly playing truant for the duration of Year 11 - and abandoned by my supposed friends (maybe because I didn’t have the internet back then like the cool kids), and the bullies were applauded because they entered higher education fitting their high academic aptitude, but - shock horror - I didn’t, despite my ability, because the system offered no support.
Cue four years of meandering through college, made exponentially worse by the laughably misguided belief that everyone there is more mature because they want “to learn”, gaining a useless IT qualification I can hardly remember, and epically careering through a games design course with all the finesse of an out of control tanker of spirits on an traffic jammed oil-slicked highway in a hypothetical Final Destination film featuring unlikeable lead characters.
|SPOILER ALERT - everyone dies. I almost did for real, but that’s a really stupid story for another time|
My aspirations of attending university then faded in a haze of tears brought about by catching even a passing glimpse of anything that reminded me of those times, which was basically most of my aforementioned interests. Pathetic, I know.
In-between, there are countless years of untreated anger, depression, rejection, suicidal tendencies, manic mood swings, a mental breakdown brought on by OCD, and endlessly dark nights wishing you had someone to talk to and share your interests with, that slowly fuels and poisons your increasingly misconceived actions, and where your thoughts are all that permeate that newly thick skin you’ve had to grow but is never quite thick enough, coupled with probable hearing loss from loud music in an attempt to drown the pain.
When the only other voices that you truly hear and really speak to you are those through your MP3, music becomes a source of great strength and inspiration, and it has definitely helped to mould my personality and personal beliefs.
Although an effect of Autism can be above-average sensitivity to regular stimuli, I’m also blessed with chronic involuntary Synaesthesia - a separate, but related, individual condition where seemingly innocuous words, typography, colours, numbers, shapes, smells, touch and other stimuli (physical, mental and emotional) can provoke strong hypersensitive and associative reactions (also physical, mental and emotional) - and not all positive.
It’s a difficult but fascinating condition and state of mind to describe in a concise manner, and I would love to attempt to explain it better in another article best saved for another time.
My severe form of Synaesthesia means I am extremely hypersensitive to all of the above; it sometimes feels like waking in an living dream where the rules of reality still persist, not that I’m emotionally unstable - though it can, and does, strengthen whatever mood I find myself in - but it hasn’t always been easy trying to figure myself out amongst all my surroundings and the background noise, and it’s probably contributed to my OCD somewhere down the line.
You also don’t have to worry about what words you use when speaking to me, though that’s obviously not an invitation to throw insults in my general direction.
|Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will…probably do the same...|
But its music that has always affected me the most. Essentially all music totally envelops me in endless universes of individual tracks, albums, sections, rhythms, sounds, instruments, lyrics - even the running time - projected as prominent unique colours, shapes, moods, feelings, emotions, concepts, and alien worlds forever surfing across my enthralled mind.
One of my dream jobs is as a martial arts choreographer - I’ve long associated music with martial arts ever since watching and attempting to mimic Power Rangers as a child - and there’s an Indonesian martial arts film called Chocolate which features an Autistic girl called Zen who has Savant-level reflexes and knowledge retention of Tony Jaa films.
In the climatic showdown of Chocolate, Zen must fight the son of the lead villain - who is Epileptic and uses an adopted Brazilian Capoeira style mixed with breakdancing - in a dojo.
Not going to lie: I identified with Zen and wished she was real so much so to the point I developed a massive crush on star Yanin "Jeeja" Vismistananda
Everything in this scene - and anytime Zen is on screen - fills me with bursting pride, because at last someone had acknowledged we were better for something else than counting numbers.
Critics of Zen and the Epileptic son, who derided the film as pure fantasy and an offensive caricature to persons with said mental conditions infuriate me, as they have completely missed the entire point, and are hypocrites to the same people and principles they claim to defend.
I’ve spent many long nights with my own custom soundtracks playing along to favourite TV shows, films, and games, watching them come to life in a completely different way every time the shuffle function selected a new song (or I at least put one on I actually wanted to listen to).
Imagine being the director of the biggest music video or FMV in existence, where budget, time, space, genre and imagination are no issue and you’re halfway there.
Other loose examples include any concept album artwork - Prog Rock or otherwise - Marvel Comics’ heroine Dazzler, Emma - the deaf nurse from Heroes who can manifest sounds as colours - and the below scenes from Scrubs and Spaced. I’m still not sure how I’m alive.
Scrubs is my favourite sitcom; I must have seen pretty much every episode at least five times or more (thanks E4), and the offbeat triggers of JD's fantasies are another loose example
I once got sucker punched on a busy crossing by a speeding taxi, though I wasn't in rave mode like Tyres here, and I had already been given right of way by a considerate lady driving what I remember to be a white van. Luckily, the taxi only clipped my shoulder, and despite landing a few feet away, the only casualties were (funnily enough) a sore shoulder, my non-existent pride, the stationary I was carrying, and the right wing mirror of the impatient driver's hatchback (I believe it was black). To my delight and bemusement, the first name of the doctor who treated me in A & E after this particular near-death experience was Sarah, just like the actress behind Elliot Reid in Scrubs
Tyres is played by actor Michael Smiley, who has also effortlessly portrayed more menacing characters in horror film Kill List and gleefully subversive C4 sci-fi show Black Mirror. I find this to be a fitting comment on the multifaceted nature of my SynaesthesiaIt was - and still is - a great comfort, and add in the fact that within music, rules and logic are made to be broken and be reborn as whatever you wish meant I had found a well-needed - and legal, but sometimes overwhelming and confusing - drug on demand; a one-way escape from reality, a personal Rorschach test, and a focus for my daydreaming and hyperactive states, albeit with a side-effect of procrastination.
The only limitation was the amount of free disk space on my player, and spare batteries I could fit into my pockets, both of which were always too small to satisfy my insatiable appetite for new sounds as windows and doors into other dimensions.
Nowadays the dilemma is finding a socket to fit my USB cable or wall charger; there’s nowhere to do that on a busy train unless you have a laptop or are sat in first class, but my battery powered players have long since been consigned to the bin, probably because I gradually wore them out, like Tony Stark’s arc reactor chips in the beginning of Iron Man 2.
|Alcohol has a strange amplifying effect on my Synaesthesia, making the high - and disorientation - twofold. It’s why I’ve often listened to blaring music when inebriated|
The fear of what might be if it didn’t exist cuts me straight through to the core; at one point, my attachment to music could have been described as an addiction or at the very least, a dependence. I suppose I could liken my connection to music as a series of epiphanies or visions; a set of spiritual, even religious, experiences.
This is just a Genesis music video
The wish and desire to communicate through music instead of badly conceived sentences is one I often hold; the flow, structure, tempo and atmosphere of a piece can get across my true feelings in a pure way that complements my Synaesthesia, and lyrics always seem to put across complicated ideas, thoughts, and meanings better in one verse than I can in an entire essay.
If I were smart, I would have created this entire article as a collection of music links from YouTube to save you all the bother of wading through a wall of text, which isn’t actually a bad idea as a companion piece, or a regular Facebook periodical where I can try to describe exactly what I see and feel from a particular song or piece of artwork (let’s call it Synaesthesia Saturday/Sunday).
Seriously, if anybody has any requests, I’ll gladly have a go; what’s the point of having an entertaining talent if you don’t share it with others?
That’s a rhetorical question in case you’re wondering, but my Synaesthesia is a talent I’ve kept strictly to myself and suppressed in the public eye until now due to the fact it’s a little hard to explain without sounding ever so slightly deluded when you have difficulties expressing yourself in particular situations anyway.
I know the above reads like a huge excuse and a bitter cry for sympathy and justice with control, trust, and self-esteem issues and that everybody’s got a “sob story”, but this is what made me into the person and gave me the perspective to life I have today.
There’s a lot of dirty laundry being aired here, and it’s a lifetimes worth bottled up over 25 years - and there are people who have endured worse and come out alright I know - but there’s no way I could have shined a light on my strengths fully without delving into my weaknesses, and that brings us full circle in the conversation about labels.
So what is the actual point of this article? Who is it really aimed at? Is it informational, an admission, or both?
Well, the answer is unfortunately quite a long one. Prior to my first convention in 2012 at Sci-Fi Weekender (then SFX Weekender), I was pretty aimless. I was still trying to make it as a videogames journalist and getting nowhere fast, due to my lack of contacts within the industry, though I was still the owner of a shiny new press pass. I entered a competition to win tickets to the Weekender through an e-mail sent courtesy of Cineworld, my main local haunt back then, partially due to the fact it’s pretty much always dark and empty, which is actually kind of descriptive of my home town in general.
|My local Cineworld|
To my surprise, I was a winner and - long story short - had a great first con experience, meeting good friends I’m still in contact with today. It sounds obvious, but without them, I wouldn’t have been invited to - and have gone to - certain other cons and made more friends.
Cosplay is a real treat for both my inner child and Synaesthesia; the characters, colours, and human ingenuity is like a living comic book, and if I could describe what it looks like in a very rudimentary and brief manner, it would be the video for A-ha’s Take On Me, but with lots more colour.
Only occasionally do I hear Morten Harket’s glass-shattering vocals on the wind though
It was only this year I started to ramp up the con attendance, and July marked a real turning point.
From London Film & Comic Con, everything seemed to fall into place, as I met cosplayers sharing the same interests, helped to found a Facebook group, participated in photoshoots, went to meet-ups, and (partially) wrote and performed a skit in the MCM Birmingham cosplay masquerade with three lovely and awesome people much more talented at choreography, stage direction, acting, and writing (and probably everything else) than I am.
|There go my aspirations of being the next Gareth Evans|
But why this confession now? Why not at the beginning of attending cons like a seemingly rational person would have done?
Over the past few weeks, I have agonised with the decision to take off this particular mask. I don’t want to wear it any more, even though I’m terrified of being judged, but I can’t and don’t want to take the risk of throwing away this amazing second chance at life I’m eternally grateful for just because I couldn’t face my own fear.
|I feel like I learned something...|
|What I see every time I look in a mirror|
Just when everything seemed to be going my way, I could suddenly feel my whole universe begin to cave in from the period around and just after November’s Cardiff Film & Comic Con. Not only was I meeting a long-time Facebook friend for the first time at CFCC, but I was also planning to meet Ellie Kendrick of Game of Thrones and Misfits again, her first appearance at a con since LFCC, and also the first celebrity I had met at such an event. If I hadn’t ventured through the ridiculously overcrowded hall of Earls Court to get her autograph at LFCC, I would never have met particular people at LFCC and founded the Facebook group with them.
I also probably wouldn’t have had the courage to attend MCM Manchester and the meet-up organised the following week, which lead to me meeting more friends, who introduced me to yet more friends, and scouring the MCM Expo group for recruits to our group, which leads us nicely into MCM Birmingham and the cosplay masquerade.
I know it’s not a strange idea for people from all walks of life to network and make plans for the future, but sometimes, when you feel surrounded by dirt, even the smallest flecks of gold can feel like part of a grander plan.
|Facebook, also known as the “Six Degrees Of Separation”; you might also know this theory by the alternative “Six Degrees Of Bacon”, where Kevin Bacon can be connected to anybody on the planet in five easy steps, but not by 4G|
Anyway, the plan was to meet Ellie, and tell her admittedly self-aggrandised tales of my adventures in the few months since LFCC, and explain how meeting her had had a significant impact on my life. That plan quickly devolved due to a massive panic attack when I was in the line for her photoshoot, the result of which I’m not going to share here, not least because of the fact I believe I look like an exceptionally frightened and malformed deer caught in the glaring headlight of a large professional flash camera.
|Much more worse in person than on screen. The light of the flash that is, not Ellie.|
Afterwards, I must have appeared to be the worst autograph hunter in existence as I nervously paced back and forth along the ground floor waiting for her to reappear at her table. The pacing still continued when she returned and abruptly ended when she left again a little while after to attend a panel, one which I walked into about halfway through and stood sheepishly at the back, because I had difficulty finding it on the packed and labyrinthine second floor.
I had also unwisely forgotten to turn the volume of my phone notifications down in all the fuss, so it obviously went off with a small bang towards the end, which I’m sure gave everyone - including the assembled Game of Thrones cast - the impression of a inconsiderate imbecile.
|Luckily, this guy wasn’t in the room|
When I did eventually manage to muster the courage to approach her after the panel (and balance all my photos in folders in too little hands, both in numbers and size) my ego was put rightfully and firmly in its place when Ellie said she didn’t remember me after I stumbled through a barely comprehensive spiel trying to explain LFCC.
Then followed another round of uncomfortable exchanges of words and signed photos and prints, before Ellie tried to reassure me that she would see me again, a promise I know may have just been made without actual conviction, but one I intend to follow up on with much more confidence next time.
Of course, it was only afterwards that I realised saying I suffered from panic attacks - which I do, but not the entire truth - must have made Ellie feel absolutely terrible and partially responsible for, definitely not the aim I had in mind.
|What I actually envisaged|
Back to my friend: he was not only part of a cosplay duo with myself on that particular Saturday, but is an apparent mover and shaker within the cosplay world (seriously, he knows everybody), and standing amidst these wonderfully talented stars in the cosplay area made me feel woefully inadequate and undeserving, not least because I was just a random guy in jeans and a t-shirt, marvelling in awe at the dedication of months of planning brought to vivid life by hard work, while I had spent all of 5 minutes typing a string of search terms into Google.
|Go to 80’s Tees and TV Store Online for all your cosplay needs! Can I get paid now?|
So, here I was, meeting so many new people my hippocampus spun, and to make matters worse, my already frayed social cues were still in tatters from my meetings with Ellie.
I was doing my hardest to smile, nod along and chime in where I felt was acceptable (which was blurry at best), but I felt even more of an idiot due to my new nervous but obnoxious tendency of telling people where I bought my t-shirt online, especially those who had bought the “unofficial” version (it’s a fully accurate cosplay, don’t you know).
Being around the “popular” crowd again brought back unpleasant memories, and I felt a burning desire and unquenchable curiosity - yet terrible reluctance - to attend the “Cosplay and Mental Health” panel scheduled for the following day, but my own inflexible schedule meant the decision was out of my hands, not that I was willing to argue with myself.
|It wouldn’t have ended well anyway|
Upon returning home, I felt the echo of the mistakes and situations six years ago looming over me as I prepared for MCM Birmingham and the masquerade; the pressure was mounting, and it wouldn’t get much better.
I was sat in my hotel room for MCM Birmingham all alone on the Saturday night, my plans and dreams I had made for the weekend crumbling into uncertainty, and I genuinely did not know what to do.
Staring at my mobile phone stuck wondering between the positive and negative ramifications of contacting certain people against my personal desires and their own, and the two masquerade scripts I had carefully personalised with different coloured pens and motifs I believed befitted their cosplay characters - the third I was still struggling to prose for the same reasons as my phone, and it wouldn’t be done until the following morning, when a lack of time forced my worrying to cease any form of practicality in deep thought - a series of progressively destructive thoughts relentlessly hit me: why am I here? What is the point? Was I foolish to have believed in a dream and put my hopes high? Why did this person do that, and that person do this?
At one point, I actually considered burying my weary head in that comfy Hilton bed for the rest of the weekend and abandoning the masquerade, a selfish decision I would have massively regretted - and would have been disgraceful to everyone I had met so far, especially considering the awesome events of the day past - not that I’m blaming anyone or I had been perfect (I had forgotten on several occasions to take photos of friends, despite having a camera in my pocket); plans change all the time, people have their own, and it’s totally unfeasible to expect them to stick and converge all the time.
Since my first con, I’ve met people who I can see myself being friends with for years, if not life, who are understanding, patient, and actually have time of day for me, something I never thought I’d ever find.
They deserve better, and I (hopefully) deserve to afford some much-needed self-respect and be truthful to myself without pretending I can shoulder all the weight of the world and avoid making a single mistake that might make the mask slip for even the slightest second.
I have the capacity to act completely normal, and it makes perfect sense to carry on as if nothing’s wrong until something invariably is wrong, but that’s the irony of the situation, and my entire life thus far.
There’s a smartly written poem called “The Lantern” by author David Court (yes, that David Court) I find apt about a man who makes a deal with a genie for eternal life, which goes smoothly until he finds himself floating through the endless void of space all alone until the end of time.
|Irony also hits like a Sucker Punch|
I truly believe it’s not the actual conditions and their individual effects, but the pressure of the lifestyle in which I choose to try to be perfect and normal all the time that exacerbates my quirks to sometimes unbearable and uncontrollable levels of self-hatred and regret.
I even hate the words Asperger’s, Syndrome, and Autism; they make me recoil and feel physically sick, and I barely associate the words with myself, if at all, as they have no meaning to me beyond a label.
I don’t need to wear a badge 24/7 telling my condition to the world - not that there’s anything wrong with the badge approach - I just need to be honest and courageous with myself and with others when I feel the need to do so to preserve and stabilise my mental health at its most fragile.
For example: if I’d just had it in mind to tell Ellie my situation instead of being vague with a statement of panic attacks, I’m absolutely certain we would had a full conversation as my friend did - and even more remarkably so when you consider he simply walked up without any intention of an autograph - and not a one-sided one between a talented actress and a glorified - but barely mobile and comprehensible - shelf of flesh and bone.
So, do I want sympathy, pity, understanding, even love? Well, I’m not making myself out to be a Saint despite the glowing self-assessment (still more accurate than an ATOS one) but I can’t lie either: I do want all those things, and in droves, but then again, I am prone to being an egomaniac, obviously.
|Handsome Jack knows the score|
Joking aside (and if you didn’t understand the egomaniac joke, you really need to read this entire article again), all I want is to be accepted by my peers as a normal human being and not treated in public - or in private for that matter - as a social leper, for lack of a better phrase, or be automatically judged for something that has no basis in truth, not that I’m accusing anyone of being judgemental or blaming anyone, as I know not everyone wants to or can talk or be perfect all the time.
I may need a little convincing or explanation to move in the right direction every once in a while, but who doesn’t?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a total excuse - or easy way out - to become lacklustre and let my demons overtake me. It’s a constant running battle of evaluating and questioning my own actions, and how they affect those around me.
Sometimes, I still mess up, but I’m always willing to learn from my mistakes and make things right.
|Pictured: Me from now on (hopefully)|
I suppose this cathartic confession reads like an intense session with a therapist; at least it’s a lot cheaper, and a hell of a lot easier than getting an NHS-prescribed one (one more opportunity to call George a twat).
I would bring this to a close with a quote from a well-known laureate or scientist in an effort to sound the least bit erudite. However, I thought it would more pertinent to remind you that, “We’re all mad here”.
|No-one wants to disagree with Harley and the real Mister J, right?|
Alternatively, the Jeremy Kyle principle of, “I thought my life was bad, but…” may help.
The word count of this article is also approximately 7000 words, which I find extremely profound, and to be without coincidence, not that I’ve been systematically and aggressively controlling the amount of letters typed.
Some of you may have twigged who I am and know me personally. If you have any questions, either about the subject matter or myself or have any comments about this article, please do not hesitate to get in touch; I would love to know what you think. Of course, if you just want to talk, that’s cool too.
Thank you for reading, and I hope I have helped to change your perceptions of not just myself, but of mental conditions and stereotypes in general. Please always try to understand, reach out and ease the problems of those around you, no matter how great or polarising they may seem. The smallest difference can mean the world.