Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Autism

Last night something happened which bothered me a lot. It's also probably something that most people won't be able to understand because they haven't been there. I won't really be able to describe the general feeling of the whole thing.

I'll just start by explaining that I live with autism in the family. My older brother and my father are both autistic. My older brother was diagnosed with it when he was nine, but my father's never been diagnosed... we're just sure of it. If you don't know what autism is, here's a wikipedia article on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism. If my father is in fact not autistic, then he is certainly a psychopath (I don't mean that in a silly way, it's actually a clinical term: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy). My father defies explanation, and I have a lot of negative emotions towards him due to stuff that is old family history. I don't think I can ever respect him as a person, although I can live with him and to some extent tolerate and get on with him. I actually found this in the article on psycopathy, and it's quite troubling:

Cleckley defined psychopathy thus:
1. Superficial charm or intelligence.
2. Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking.
3. Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations.
4. Unreliability.
5. Untruthfulness and insincerity.
6. Lack of remorse or shame.
7. Antisocial behavior without apparent compunction.
8. Poor judgement and failure to learn from experience.
9. Pathological egocentricity and incapacity to love.
10. General poverty in major affective relations.
11. Specific loss of insight.
12. Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations.
13. Fantastic and uninviting behavior with drink, and sometimes without.
14. Suicide threats rarely carried out.
15. Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated.
16. Failure to follow any life plan.

My father exhibits every one of those traits, with the exception of number 14. (not to say that he always carries out his suicide threats... he has never made one as far as I know), and possible exception of number 2.

But my father isn't the purpose of this posting.

My older brother is more classically autistic. He was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which means that he has a high level of intelligence (as attested by the fact that he's doing his PhD) but has no social skills. He gets very obsessive about TV shows, and doesn't exhibit much emotion in other circumstances. He has never been told that he is Autistic, and it wouldn't do him any good to know that now.

So, what happened last night? Well, I was sitting exactly where I am now, at this computer, and I heard my older brother yelling indignantly. A few minutes later I was hit by a wave of tiredness, and decided to go to bed early, so I turned off the computer and went to the kitchen to get a snack of some sort, and my mum told me that my older brother had just yelled at her over something to do with a DVD. Not to get into details, but it was a bad quality DVD, and my mum wasn't at fault for that. As I walked past his room, I told my brother not to get angry at someone for something that's not their fault, and his excuse was that he was 'stressed'. "Stressed?" I replied, thinking maybe that he's under a lot of pressure with his PhD, but no, he meant that he was 'stressed' about the DVD, which was of a series he had wanted to see since his childhood. I explained to him that you can't be 'stressed' about a DVD (Am I wrong, or does there need to be an amount of pressure and/or responsibility falling on your head to be stressed?) and he went off at me saying I don't understand because I haven't seen how bad the DVD is. He said he was trying to watch it for a while, but had to stop because the picture quality was so bad. A DVD is not grounds to be stressed, and I tried to explain to him that he felt 'disappointed' or maybe 'frustrated', but that he can't blame his behaviour on that, and that he needed to take responsibility for his actions. I went to my room to get ready for bed, and he followed me, close to tears, reitterating that I can't understand until I've seen the DVD. I told him outright that it's not grounds to be stressed, and the 'stress' he felt at making himself watch it until he could stand it no more was self inflicted. He looked like he was about to cry and I felt like hugging him, but I thought for a second that a hug would not help him at all (He didn't need a hug after he got bashed on the train for fuck's sake... Mum hugged him then because she needed a hug... I needed a hug, but he didn't). He was still going on about that crap about being stressed and was just getting really worked up. The rest of the family was in the loungeroom trying to watch a movie on TV, and I was trying to go to bed, so I yelled at him "SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!" so I could get a word in edgeways, and the rest of my family, in the loungeroom were telling him to grow up, it's a TV series, he'll see the DVD (in good quality) soon... he can fucking buy it himself. Then I led him into his room and left him there when I went to the toilet. As I walked through my loungeroom it was clear that everyone thought I had antagonised him, and I was starting to think I'd just stay the fuck out of it now. I was really bothered by this whole thing. That meant that it took me a while in the toilet, for only a small job, because I wasn't relaxed, and while in their I could hear him sobbing from his room. Not just sobbing, but really loudly coughing, trying to get attention. I knew someone was going to snap and have a go at him soon, but I just thought "I'll just stay the fuck out of that." But when I walked to the bathroom to wash my hands (we have an oddly layed out house, with a toilet separate to the bathroom), my brother was in the lounge room and he followed me into the bathroom (this following me and getting in my space really bugs me). He told me that he only got upset because *I* refused to understand his stress. So much for staying out of this, because I obviously needed to resolve it. I had to lie to tell him that I could understand his 'stress'... well, it was only half a lie, because I put myself in his shoes - regarding sci-fi TV shows as the most important thing in life. Ok, I couldn't understand the 'stress', but I could understand the disappointment, in a way... but it's not like he'll never see that TV series. I asked him if he wanted a hug, and he just kind of clung onto me like some weird space monkey... kind of extracting a hug from me. I explained to him that he'll see the series another time, and it can be soon, and he said how he'd just wanted to see it since he was a kid, and he was sobbing again, in my arms, in the bathroom. My younger brother called out "Well WE'RE trying to watch THIS now" and my older brother called back "YEAH? WELL HAVE YOU BEEN WANTING TO WATCH THAT SINCE YOU WERE A KID?". That made me really angry... he's still trying to justify his behaviour. So I dragged/carried my older brother down the hallway to his room, still hugging him, trying to get him away and trying to get him to calm down. I explained to him that it's no reason to be upset now, because he can see the series another time, it's not a be all and end all situation. He started up again about how much he's wanted to see that show since he was a kid. ENOUGH! I didn't care anymore, I just wanted him to shut the fuck up... I just said to him "Well, there's nothing you can do about it now, and you're in a state, so please just do something that'll calm you down". So he started watching a Star Wars DVD. I went to my room, where I hadn't turned on the lights, and as soon as I was inside, I just burst into tears, totally silently, but my body was shaking. I curled up in the dark on my bed and just sobbed for about 10 minutes. I let myself cry... call me a Sensitive New Age Guy, or an emotional girly man, I don't care. I'm going to 'get in touch with my emotions' if I need to, so I don't end up where I was a few years ago. That familiar and sickly smell of tears and snot filled my nostrils, and I realised how long it'd been since I'd been crying alone in my room in the dark, drenched in that smell. And I suddenly felt good. There was a huge difference here. I wasn't crying about myself anymore... about how much I suck, how much I hate myself, how much I want to die. That's in tha past. I was crying because I love my brother. I love him, and it's hard to love him. He lives in a different world, where a TV show can make you cry, and being bashed black and blue on a train is only a bit confusing. I don't understand him. I think what hurt the most was that I know I wouldn't even tolerate him if I wasn't a blood relative, and yet people who don't tolerate him MAKE ME SO ANGRY. I'm worried about his future, what he's going to do in his life... how he's ever going to cope in the world. Hell, I'm still worried about how I'M going to do that.

In other news, my friend who got dumped by his girlfriend has been told a lot of bad stuff, and he's even more upset than before. The other night I was drinking with him, and I had to work in the morning. He was drinking Bacardi Oro and Coke out of a huge novelty glass he was given for xmas. I didn't want him to drink the whole thing and get any drunker and more depressed, so I was skulling out of the glass. I don't even remember going to bed that night. The last thing I remember is sitting with him and the giant glass at the train crossing, and in the morning I woke up and I was drunk. Not just drunk, but wasted. I hardly even remember talking to my parents that morning, and next time I signed on MSN I could see that I'd been chatting with people in the morning when I was drunk, which I had very little memory off... but I found the chatlogs. I was actually comparitively sober (acting) when I got to work... I feel like I need a break from alcohol.

Anyway, that's my world for the moment.
Ben

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