Normal is a bitch

A couple of days ago, I got an email notification about a new comment on one of the blogs I follow, Feminist Aspie. Feminist Aspie has written an excellent rant about neurotypical privilege and the constant misconceptions and prejudice about autism that she has to do battle with. Being made to feel like she has to apologise just for being herself is not ever an OK thing.

Someone had found her rant by searching for the word neurotypical, and decided after reading to leave a comment outlining their thoughts.

There’s a lot in there that’s extremely problematic, which is why I’ve decided to re-post it in its entirety. Trigger warning for victim blaming, ableism, and minimisation. And probably some other shit too. I’m not very good at the terminology, I just know wrong when I see it.

Ah dear.. I googled neurotypical and found this blog. I love to complain about my lot, but am only a tiny bit on the spectrum if at all. Also used to scream after loud bangs, managed to get out of it. Then there is the elevated amount of effort required to have (fake) normal conversation and body language. Someone wrote somewhere about how if you’re tired and forget to maintain correct body language there’s nasty consequences.. There is a certain extra effort in things, have never had arm flapping quite but a few other strange body language maneuvers I have had to un-learn. For me it’s not that there’s nasty consequences, just that I will not make new friends/girlfriends or win respect if I’m not conscious and careful with my body language and conversation. With language in particular, I tend not to naturally adopt cool, trendy language. Naturally more formal, but have to consciously and deliberately use certain cooler words eg “wanna go somewhere?”.

Why are all you guys wanting “a diagnosis” ?

It’s a pain.. I think I have been living in the “normal” sphere for ages and not ever acknowledged that it takes me a generally higher effort to do so than those who are actually born normal rather than having to learn it.. Ah well it has its advantages and perks too 😉 faster learning of technical shit and foreign languages so shouldn’t complain too much.. Have to take the good with the bad.

A have a suspicion that these autistic conditions are partially curable, since at 19 you would say I was definitely on the spectrum, but at 35 I have become so normal, it only rarely crosses my mind.

Oh yes.. This anger at “neurotypical privilege”. I do get rather angry when I feel that one tiny body language slip-up and a girl can lose attraction for me, or an interview can go to shit. Thing is, you can turn it around in a sociopathic way and say “if I fake it up well, they fall for it..”. Some people worry about the “judging..” of neurotypicals, but trust me you can outsmart them some of the time 😉 I wish I could do it more often and even the score!

~ Felix – August 30, 2013 at 7:45 am

It’s taken me a couple of days to line up my thoughts about this. My first priority was to write a comment on Feminist Aspie’s blog because my sense of social justice won’t let me get away with ignoring things that have the potential to be extremely hurtful and harmful for so many people. So I wanted to take the responsibility to publicly point out the flaws in their comment and not wait around for someone else to hopefully do that job better than I could.

And I tried to be polite about it, because who knows. They might mean well and simply not realise how much they’ve internalised all the ableism in society, the pressure to fit in and conform. So I tried my hand at validating because validation is important and it’s something I often forget and that makes people angry and less inclined to listen.

If you want to take a minute to read the polite version, go ahead. I’ll wait.

Or you can stay here and read the rude version.

“Ah dear”. SERIOUSLY? You start off by being condescending? OK, you might not be from an English speaking country and not aware of the overtones of the word “dear”. But I’m not from an English speaking country either. And this sounds very condescending to me. People who start any conversation with “Oh dear…” or “Listen, my dear…” are usually about to engage in a heavy bout of ‘explaining of things that should be obvious even to someone who is brain dead’. I should know. I do that a LOT myself.

“Only a tiny bit on the spectrum if at all”. That doesn’t really sound like a professional diagnosis, although I could be wrong because some professionals don’t like using the word autistic and try to explain symptoms away just as much as lay people do. But even if it’s your own opinion and not a professional diagnosis, that’s OK. If you don’t feel autistic, then far be it from me to criticise that. Even though you are criticising the hell out of everyone with a diagnosis all throughout your comment.

This next one is REALLY problematic, though. “Managed to get out of it.” “At 35 I have become so normal.” And the worst one, “A [sic] have a suspicion that these autistic conditions are partially curable”.

Here’s the thing. Brain flash: we are adults. We are not children anymore. Of course we are going to be better at certain things than we were at the age of 4. EVERYONE is better at certain things as an adult than they were at the age of 4. Like holding a f**king spoon. Autism is a developmental delay, not a complete inability to learn. Sometimes the things we experience the most “delays” in are the things that don’t really interest us and so we’re not really motivated to learn. Whoa, another brain flash: being slow to learn something you’re not interested in is true for EVERYONE as well. If you’re not motivated in some way to learn how to fix your own car, you are never going to learn how to fix your car, and you’re certainly never going to be GOOD at it. Autistic or not autistic.

Yeah, I am yelling. That’s because people who think autism can be cured make me want to stab things.

Again, just because we’ve learned how to do things that other people like parents and teachers thought were important for us to learn, doesn’t mean we’re less autistic than the day we were born. It just means we’ve learned to do something despite not being intrinsically motivated, usually because we got punished for getting it wrong. Like forgetting to keep our hands still. Or not looking someone in the eye. Or forgetting to put on deodorant (I still don’t think body odour, mine or other people’s, smells anywhere near as bad as using too much aftershave or perfume. But I’ve learned that other people think it’s important).

Don’t think for one second that punishment always takes the form of corporal punishment or getting yelled at. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting told that an intelligent child like you should be getting it right. Over and over. Until you start believing you’re stupid. You must be. Because otherwise it would be easy, right? Everyone says so.

So yeah. I learned how to do things other people thought were important for me to learn. Most of the time it took me a lot longer. I never got as good at some of those things as the other kids. But I learned. Does that mean I got less autistic? No. I just got better at hiding “problematic” behaviours and better at coping with the demands of the world around me. I realise that a lot of parents will consider that a success for their autistic child, but please, I beg you: always be mindful of how much extra effort it takes us to appear “normal”. And maybe consider putting in at least some of that effort into things that actually help us become happier, less insecure adults.

OK, back to the comment. “I will not make new friends/girlfriends or win respect if I’m not conscious and careful with my body language and conversation.” And later on, “One tiny body language slip-up and a girl can lose attraction for me, or an interview can go to shit.” And you call that no nasty consequences? Are you f**king kidding me? You’re saying you’re not worth getting hired, being in a relationship with, or even getting RESPECT unless you constantly monitor your verbal and non-verbal communication. I’d call those pretty nasty consequences. Not getting a job? Pretty nasty. Not getting respect? Not being treated like a human being? I’d say that is pretty much the CORE of nasty. Everyone is worthy of respect whether they’re the queen of Denmark or a person in an irreversible coma. Maybe you didn’t mean it like that but it’s what you said and probably what you believe on some level. That if you don’t behave “normally”, people will be justified in treating you like crap.

Christ. I’m actually starting to feel sorry for you.

“Why are all you guys wanting ‘a diagnosis’?” OK, not feeling as sorry now, because back to the condescending tone. (What on earth is up with the quotes around diagnosis? Still haven’t figured that one out). From your story I can’t really tell if you’ve ever gotten diagnosed yourself. You are 35 and would have been an adult or nearly so by the time the DSM started including symptoms for Asperger’s Syndrome. You are obviously committed to learning enough social skills to live in the “normal sphere” so I’m assuming you have enough verbal skills and motor skills to not worry about those two areas, unlike some with “classic” autism. So that makes it highly unlikely that you were ever diagnosed as a child. “At 19 you would say I was definitely on the spectrum” would suggest that you did get diagnosed at 19, though. So I’m not sure.

However. Just because you feel adult diagnosis “is a pain” and wouldn’t give YOU any benefits, does that mean that this should be true for everyone? How about some validation that doing some things actually does cost a bit more effort, not because you’re stupid but because you’re autistic? (Those two words are not synonymous, by the way). You’re obviously not expecting any acknowledgment from others that you don’t have it as easy as others, but does that really mean you need to judge other people for wanting a little bit of acknowledgement? Those two things, validation and acknowledgment, are usually at the heart of anyone seeking an adult diagnosis, the feeling of “it’s not my fault”. You obviously think that’s a pain. Well, if your way so far has worked for you, good for you.

Except that it’s turned you into a wannabe sociopath who wishes they could turn the tables on neurotypical people and “outsmart them” more often, so you can “even the score” and get revenge for all the times they’ve judged you.

SERIOUSLY DUDE. THAT IS SO NOT COOL. Treating neurotypical people as the enemy? Talking about outsmarting them and making them fall for your manipulations? Basically treating someone badly just because someone else who you perceive to be from the same “group” has treated you badly in the past? Dude. Not OK. AT ALL.

If that’s the side effect of telling kids to try harder to “be normal” and “fit in” and hide their autistic traits and punishing them for mistakes in body language and other things by insinuating they’re stupid for getting it wrong… Then what are we aiming for when we teach all those things?

A well-adjusted, passing for normal, shiny aspie who dreams of getting even? Or a stimming, smiling, weirdo autistic who is just happy being themselves?

I know what I’d like to be when I grow up.

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Highly verbal even when alone

“There was something I wanted to blog about today. I just can’t remember what it was,” I say to the kitchen tap as I’m filling the kettle. “I should have made some preliminary notes last night.”

I play with the cat a bit, until the water starts boiling. “Sorry sweetie, I have to make water now.” As I walk into the kitchen I tell the kettle, “Make water, silly, I meant make tea. Tea tea tea.”

Then as I’m rummaging around for the tea bags, I lift my head and say to my teacup, “Oh! I just remembered. I wanted to write about talking to myself out loud!”

I’ve lost my marbles… © Johnsroad7 – Dreamstime.com

I think everyone is familiar with the trope of the “town crazy”. We had one in the town where I grew up. An old woman swathed in several colourful coats, shawls, skirts, and other pieces of fabric, walking around town with a small grocery buggy and muttering to herself. Sometimes she’d yell things that nobody understood. The children were usually a bit scared of her but the adults said she was harmless, just out of her mind. The only thing everyone agreed on was to leave her alone and don’t engage her in conversation because… well, you never knew. After all, she talked to herself out loud.

As do I.

I also meep to myself, sing phrases to myself, ummm to myself, shhh to myself, berate myself and laugh at myself. I sometimes do this via my cat because it’s more acceptable to talk to a cat and say “Oh, owner was being a bit silly wasn’t she? Yes she was!” than to directly address myself and tell myself I’m being silly. Out loud.

“You’re silly.” Yes self, I know I’m silly. Now shut up.

It’s funny because I don’t think I’m crazy. It’s just easier to vocalise thoughts sometimes, to get them out of my head when it’s getting crowded in there. Or just random sounds. One of my coworkers was the first to point out that I constantly made small noises while concentrating on a task. I’d never noticed. And while I knew I liked the sounds of certain words, I never realised I would sing them to myself over and over if I went to do something associated with that word.

“Cuppa tea cuppa tea cuppa tea tea tea.”
“Ooooh! Books! Books books books books books.”

(Note: I am actually choosing examples here with words that sound fairly similar in Dutch and English. I can’t make myself use an example where the Dutch word is just completely different, because translating it to English simply sounds wrong. I can’t do it).

So now I’ve described three ways of talking to myself. One is just sounds, meeps, ummms, pompoms. One is probably echolalia, repeating words or phrases (even though I’m repeating myself, not repeating someone else or something I heard on TV, so I’m not sure if that counts). And the last one is fully formed sentences that are a logical representation of what is going on in my head. A one-sided conversation, if you will.

It sort of feels like they all serve the same function. A way of soothing myself, of making myself focus, or helping me think and make concepts more concrete. It doesn’t feel very different to just be pomming to myself or to speak in full sentences. Except that with the full sentences, I become gradually aware at that particular moment that I’m talking to myself out loud and that this is the sign of a crazy person and not socially acceptable. But I don’t really give a damn, to be honest.

I’m still struggling with wrapping this post up in a nice and tidy conclusion.

The thing is, it’s all new to me. Not the talking out loud or making sounds. But the awareness of it. The fact that these are all well-known autistic behaviours. I didn’t even include any of them in the list of symptoms I wrote for my therapist. So other than describing what I do and how it feels to me, I’m at a loss to interpret any of it and give it some meaning. At a loss to embed it in the autistic framework that I’m slowly building for myself.

Never mind the social implications.

Because that old lady talking to herself? She’s just like me.

Got milk

So I was reading this really funny and insightful post on Notesoncrazy.com about trying to get milk from the hardware store. Where milk was supposed to be maternal care and nurturing and how you shouldn’t expect your mother to give you milk when she’s not a grocery store. Or something like that. It was insightful. I’m doing a really bad job at explaining this.

© Nicholas Watts - Fotolia.com

© Nicholas Watts – Fotolia.com

Anyway. I started to write a comment, thinking of making a joke about how I never liked milk anyway and maybe that would explain why I never go looking for milk. Or maybe why I don’t have any maternal feelings. I’ve always said I don’t have maternal feelings. I like taking care of people though. But no maternal feelings.

And then I suddenly got hit by lightning.

Well no, not literally. Just this bright flash of really painful light *inside my brain*. Thoughts connecting. Sparks flying. Maybe some short circuiting going on. It felt painful. It still does while I’m typing this, but for a different reason.

You see, other women always told me that at a certain age, I’d get over my disinterest in babies and suddenly I’d feel those maternal urges welling up. (Or like the men said, my ovaries would start rattling). And then I would be able to think of nothing else and end up having children and love them to bits. Happens to all of us, apparently. And I would be deliriously happy even though it would be the complete opposite of how I felt about babies now.

I turned 30 and those feelings didn’t happen. I turned 33 and thought I wanted to have babies with someone, but it seemed more like a feeling of sexuality and horniness, not maternal anything. And the guy turned out to be a jerk so that was a narrow escape. And then I turned 36 and I sort of felt like maybe I do want children? Because it’s kind of sad that maybe I will no longer be able to in a few years time. But not an urge or anything. I held my little nephew and even though he was the cutest baby I’d ever seen, it didn’t awaken any feelings in me. So I was right, I simply don’t have that maternal instinct. I don’t think puppies are all that cute either. Kitten are extremely cute, but just as cute to look at as adult cats. See? No maternal urges.

I even said of myself I must have faulty brain wiring for not going gooey over babies. Because that’s supposed to be biologically hardwired. Big eyes and big mouth = need to nurture. So I must be faulty.

I made jokes about having a faulty brain.

© MAK - Fotolia.com

© MAK – Fotolia.com

All that based on what other people were telling me I was supposed to be feeling.

And I never considered that maybe I feel things differently from others. Even when I started figuring out that maybe I’m autistic, I still didn’t think that this might mean I simply feel things differently from others. That it doesn’t mean I don’t have emotions. But that how others describe those emotions simply isn’t related to how I feel them.

Until I started making a joke about how I don’t like milk.

The thing is. I think I do have maternal feelings. They just feel different from what I’ve always been told they should feel like.

I want to keep a child safe inside me. I want to know what it feels like to be pregnant and grow and learn new things about my body. I want to feel a child’s first kick. I want to feel the pain of contractions.

I want to keep a child warm and safe and sheltered during those first confusing days and weeks in the big world outside, all the bright lights and loud sharp noises unfiltered and all coming at them at once. I know what that feels like. I want to help them learn how to cope with that.

© annems - Fotolia.com

© annems – Fotolia.com

I want to feed a child and learn what is yummy and what is yucky all over again. I want to see their personality develop in their likes and dislikes. I want to see if they like soft blankets and dancing in puddles as much as me. Or maybe they will like something else and I will discover that joy through them.

I want to support a child and teach them that it’s ok to be curious and enthousiastic and passionate. I will help them understand things without shaming them for not knowing things right away. We all have to learn new things. I want to learn new things as well through teaching and supporting a child in their journey of discovery. I want them to teach me as well.

I want to care and give love. Even if that love isn’t expressed the way some people say love ought to be expressed. I know my parents love me, even though they sometimes expressed it in odd ways. I’m sure a child will know I love them too. Just as much as I love kittens.

I have no idea what to call this feeling.

But I know how to describe the feeling that I’ve always believed myself to be cold and uncaring and not maternal, because I trusted that others knew more about emotions than me.

That feeling is sort of anger and grief mixed up. I think.

And too many tears to count.

Cognitive love

My baby nephew is celebrating his 1st birthday tomorrow. He’s my youngest brother’s first child and so very adorable. But my brother and his wife are both adorable too so I guess it’s a genetic thing. 😉

Anyway. Because I’ve been so fixated on the birthday party being tomorrow (notes in my Google Calendar and everything), I completely forgot that his actual birthday is today. Until my sister-in-law posted a picture on Facebook showing my nephew with a party hat.

Oops. My mind immediately went into social panic mode. Keep in mind that this is my brother, who knows better than anyone how awkward I can be and who loves me regardless. He’s the only person in the family who isn’t socially awkward in one way or another (my father’s pretty good with people as well, but he admits it’s still not entirely effortless and he doesn’t really start enjoying it until after one or two drinks). None of us are diagnosed but my youngest brother is very obviously the only neurotypical person.

I had no idea what was expected of me.

I’m going to the birthday party tomorrow. My brother knows this because he invited me. So should I congratulate them tomorrow? When I’m supposed to be there? Or is the posting of this picture some kind of clue that they’d like to be congratulated today as well? Will they be upset if I wait until tomorrow? Or will they say I’m silly for calling to congratulate them when I’m already coming by tomorrow anyway?

OK. Hold on. Take a deep breath. YOUR BROTHER LOVES YOU. Nothing you can do will make him think you’re any more of a fruitcake than you already are.

And so I arrived at the easiest solution. I called my brother and asked him if he wanted to be congratulated. He laughed and said yes. And also that he liked me calling to ask. And that he was looking forward to seeing me tomorrow.

I love my family. Even if I have to reason it out sometimes.

Smile

I was thinking about how nervous I was about the diagnostic process and her reading my letter. Trying to keep my breathing even. Looking at a painting on the wall. Trying not to fidget too much.

“Do you realise you’re smiling right now?” said the therapist as she looked up from my letter.

I looked at her, feeling confused. “What do you mean?”

She clarified, “Here in your letter it says you often smile at inappropriate moments. So I was wondering if that was what is happening now. You’re smiling. Are you aware of that?”
smile-right2
I started grinning and said I had no idea I was smiling. And then got completely confused about what I am saying because yes I know I am grinning now. But not smiling a minute ago, I didn’t know that. Was I really smiling?

She said she could see that the grinning was a nervous reaction. Those things are obvious to people who can read faces, I guess? And she said she understood what I was trying to say. So I could stop worrying about my words and what my face was doing without me having any control over it. When I had permission to stop doing words I could start feeling. I felt… at a loss for words. That’s how they call it when you can’t grasp a concept, when it doesn’t fit reality. When things simply don’t make sense. I don’t know how to describe my feeling.

I was smiling.

I didn’t know.

Yes, I’m sure

It’s taken me some time to get around to writing this. But I need to write it down, and do it well and concise and understandable and logical and open and as vulnerable as I can bring myself to be. Because this Tuesday I’m scheduled to have my last intake interview at the mental health clinic. Where they are going to tell me whether in their opinion I am autistic enough to get help. Or I should just accept whatever help they are willing to offer me, even if it’s treating the symptoms and not the cause. Or maybe I’m just a big crybaby who should go home and try harder.

To the person doing the interview,

When your colleague called me three weeks ago to tell me that the team wasn’t yet of one mind and that’s why you wanted to schedule another interview concentrating on my social interactions and the possibility of depression, I felt very angry. I understand that you want to be thorough in your approach and I support that. But I am very much afraid of not being taken seriously and not being listened to. That is why I am giving you this letter, instead of addressing these concerns verbally, because I have less trouble articulating myself on paper than I do in person, especially where emotions are concerned. And this is a very important and emotional subject to me. I hope you understand this. I would appreciate it if you read this letter through to the end before commenting, but please be assured that I will do my best to answer all questions and comments you might have afterwards.

Core problem

I am functioning at a reasonable level without any supports, except for the fact that I have been fired or otherwise let go from 8 of the 12 jobs I have held in the past 13 years. I have a university education (although without a degree), which has enabled me to work in professional or near-professional level jobs. I have never had formal or informal complaints from supervisors or coworkers about the quality of my work, meeting of deadlines, or other work-related issues.

Instead, in the cases where a reason was given for dismissing me, it was always along the lines of “stubborn”, “impossible to work with”, “doesn’t listen”, “undiplomatic”, “devious behaviour”, “untrustworthy”, and so on. This was never addressed during my employment, or not in such a way that I saw what was happening and could anticipate and address problems arising at work. Every time I’ve been dismissed, I was taken completely by surprise.

I do not have any problems or complaints in other areas of my life that pose an impairment to my current functioning.

Depression

I understand that you wish to talk about depression. I do believe this is a logical request related to the suicide attempt that I have listed on my intake form. However, as discussed with your colleague in the previous interviews, I do not have any complaints or feelings of depression. My attempt was over 15 years ago, and I haven’t had any suicidal or depressed feelings since. I do not feel it has any bearing on the core problem I have sketched in the paragraphs above. I hope you can see why I feel this way.

Other concerns

As mentioned, I don’t experience other significant impairments. However, there are several traits that I feel might be related to my core problem, based on the official diagnostic criteria for autism and keeping in mind specific development in not previously diagnosed adult women. “Often” in the below context means more than once every two months. “Occasionally” means around once or twice a year.

  • Social interaction
    • I often get told not to take everything literally
    • I often get told how naive I am
    • I often get told that I said something very rude without realising it
    • I often get told I sound authoritarian or overly sure of myself
    • I often get told my spoken and written language is overly correct and formal
    • I often have trouble identifying emotions in others
    • I occasionally get told off for inappropriate copying of other people’s words or mannerisms
    • I often get told to smile more
    • I often get told smiling at that particular moment was inappropriate
    • My mother often told me when I was a child that my face and posture were unresponsive
    • I am often able to repeat an entire conversation word for word, but have no idea what kind of facial expression the other participant(s) had during the conversation
    • I occasionally get confused about who is currently speaking when talking to several people in a noisy environment
    • I often get confused when someone asks me “how are you?”
    • I often have no idea how to maintain my side of a social, informal conversation that does not revolve around the exchange of pertinent information
    • People often have to tell me specifically that certain information is restricted or sensitive or private.
    • I often get told I come across as uninterested in how other people feel or what they say
    • I often get told I come across as intensely focused and interested if the subject of conversation matches my interests
    • I occasionally get told I appear obsessed with people in the early stages of a friendship or relationship
    • I often have trouble maintaining friendships
    • I often don’t realise someone doesn’t like me until someone else tells me
    • People often don’t laugh at my jokes
  • Restricted interests or behaviours
    • I have (and have had as a child) several intense interests that do not match peer or age appropriate interests
      • I never got the hang of colouring outside the lines. That was what the lines were for.
      • I liked calligraphy although I never really got the hang of it. I settled on typography instead. At age 9.
      • I created passports for all my Fabuland figurines so I’d know how they were related to each other. I included imagined genealogies and “passport photos” I’d cut out from toy catalogues.
      • Another hobby from around the age of 10 was drawing detailed floor plans of fictional houses.
      • On holiday, one of my favourite pastimes was to look up German license plates we saw on the road and see which city they came from. We had a list in the back of our German road atlas where I crossed off the ones we’d seen.
      • I collected rocks, shells, bits of pottery, stickers, postcards, pressed flowers, things with cats on them, colouring pencils and crayons, buttons, beads, coins, and stamps. I adopted my dad’s match book and sugar bag collections. I still collect stamps and still haven’t found the courage to get rid of my buttons and beads. Or my foreign coins, come to think of it.
      • I have had the entire script of “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” memorised since around the age of 13. Yes, I made that website. It’s horrible and I made it a few days after I taught myself HTML.
      • When we watched “I, Claudius” at school when I was 14, I made a complete genealogical tree listing all the characters and their relations to each other, for fun. I had read the book by Robert Graves (in English) but I also got Suetonius from the library to use as source material. I took the tree with me to class.
      • By age 16, I knew the lyrics to around 150 Beatles songs by heart, and to nearly all the songs Ella Fitzgerald has sung (and I can sing them, too).
      • When the student I was partnered up with – to do a tour of Bernini’s sculptures in Rome – forgot to make a photocopy of the notes I’d given him, I did an improvised tour instead by narrating the Greek myths the statues were inspired by. I’d watched The Storyteller a lot.
      • I am not a complete Star Trek geek. I just know the general storylines and names of all the main and most of the secondary characters – up to Voyager – and I’ve probably seen most episodes more than three times. I also like to read articles on Memory Alpha for fun.
      • At the age of 35, I methodically and systematically changed my fashion awareness. I bought over 50 pairs of shoes in less than 2 months to make sure I had a pair in every necessary colour and style. Those were not impulse buys to make myself feel good, or behaviour that I was unable to control. It was on purpose.
      • I often get referred to as “the walking encyclopaedia” for my love of trivia and extensive knowledge of facts and figures.
      • I know everything there is to know about ingredient lists and additives and cheap substitutes for proper food and will gladly bore the tits off anyone about nutrition.
      • I need to have my books sorted first by language, then by alphabet. No exceptions. I have held discussions with friends on how to properly organise my books.
      • I have taught myself electrical engineering.
      • I have taught myself HTML.
      • I have taught myself Italian. Although not fluently.
      • In many of the online games I play, I’ll be the one making the list of all the player coordinates on the map. Or the list of quest items my alliance needs to collect. Or the Excel sheets with formulas to track character development.
    • I often have trouble moving on from a project when it’s not “finished” or “perfect” yet
    • I love watching things spin, like the washing machine
    • A visual break in or deviancy from a pattern can make me feel physically uncomfortable. (Especially #3, #7, #14 and #19).
    • I am hyperreactive to auditory, tactile, olfactory and visual stimuli
      • For as long as I can remember, I have twirled or stroked my hair or stroked my own clothes to comfort myself.
      • I can’t sleep when there’s sand or crumbs in my bed. I’ve been told not to make such a fuss by others. Princess and the Pea style.
      • Occasionally the tags in my clothes, or a seam that rubs against my skin, can drive me crazy.
      • I can’t have a conversation while the TV is on or the radio is playing.
      • I often get laughed at for visibly jumping when something makes a loud or unexpected noise.
      • I don’t like bright directional light or overhead fluorescent light.
      • I get very uncomfortable with images shown in quick succession, or with lots of variation in orientation and tilt. Watching a Minecraft roller coaster video makes me feel ill.
      • I am very sensitive to strong artificial scents, like being able to smell other people’s laundry detergent and shampoo – not to mention perfume or aftershave (Axe/Lynx should be classed as a WMD in my opinion). I could do this even when I was smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. It’s worse now.
      • I used to be a very picky eater, now it’s only vinegar that makes me physically ill. And hard-boiled eggs.
      • Even as a baby I refused to drink cow’s milk. My mother weaned me off breastfeeding when I was around 10-12 months old and I haven’t drunk any milk since.
    • I have not-so-good spatial awareness and proprioception
    • I often get called clumsy
      • I drop things daily
      • I often cut my fingers or hit myself accidentally
      • I often walk into things
      • I often have bruises on my legs and arms that I don’t remember getting
      • I occasionally fall backwards without any particular reason
      • I have to be very careful when going up or down the stairs, I trip easily
    • I used to have problems with fine motor skills as a child
      • I have very good handwriting now, but I still hold my pen “the wrong way”

  • Other
    • I often do not hear someone speaking to me when I’m focused on an activity, like reading a book
    • I often have executive dysfunctions in the following areas
    • I’m often anxious about social interactions
    • I’m often overwhelmed by sensory input
    • I have strengths in the following areas:
      • Attention to detail (for example proofreading, I can spot a typo from a mile off)
      • Problem solving and analysis
      • Very good phone voice. I didn’t get a pleasant voice by accident. It takes concentration and practice.
      • Not letting angry customers “get to me”
      • Scripting customer interaction
      • Writing user manuals
      • Highly acute sense of fairness and honesty
      • Very loyal
      • Love to learn new things and apply knowledge in new ways
      • Getting along with programmers

In summary, I don’t feel very impaired by these traits, but I do think they shouldn’t be seen separately from my core problem.

Some questions for you

Yes, you. The person who reads this. I have some questions for you!

I have a little bit of background in websites and internet and that sort of thing. And one of the things I’m always very focused on is usability, the art of making a website nice for the visitor instead of the owner. I mean, I’m not an expert, but I know enough about it to catch the most common mistakes and to help people build better websites. But I don’t have any knowledge whatsoever about blog usability. So, I figured, I’m just going to ask my awesome reader panel. 🙂

  1. Which of the following do you prefer?
    • A homepage with each post having a short introduction and a “Read more” link, which makes it easier to scroll through and see if there’s anything you’re interested in (this is what I have now)
    • A homepage with every post published in full (all information in one single glance)

     

  2. What would you like to happen when you click on a link to another post?
    • Open in the same window or tab, so you have to use the back button (this is what I have now)
    • Open in a new window or tab, so before you know it you have 15 windows open

    Links to other websites always open in a new window or tab, by the way. It’s just the internal links I’m curious about.

  3. What do you usually pay more attention to?
    • Categories and the top navigation menu (I don’t really have one at the moment)
    • Tags and the tag cloud in the side bar

     

  4. I sometimes use smaller version of images and photos inside my posts. How would you like to look at the larger image?
    • Open as a new page, with the top navigation still there (this is mostly what I have now, although I’d like to be able to add the right hand navigation as well)
    • Open as a “pop-up” gallery which you can close with the little X in the upper corner (I have this sometimes for posts with multiple images)

     

  5. Anything else that annoys the sh!t out of you every time you come here? I love honest criticism (yay! honesty! no unintelligible social scripts!) so please take this chance to unburden your frustrations.

I would love to hear from you all in the comments! And to make it even harder to resist, I’m going to call you all awesome again. I mean, look at this. YOU ARE AWESOME. 😀 *doing bouncy happy thing*