Asperger’s syndrome = Loneliness (Long Post)

I usually read a lot of articles and blog posts about the positive traits of Asperger’s syndrome and autism, but the fact is that it’s not always that way. It’s called a disorder for a reason and if it wasn’t then the label would not exist and people who would have been diagnosed with it and have their own autistic pride groups would just be outcast members of society and have no idea why.

So, I’m going to go against popular opinion and start to discuss some of the more negative traits of autism.

Enter the Australian music scene. For many years I’ve felt alone and socially awkward when I go to see a live band on my own and often have hidden behind my camera just to be able to get some relief from the anxiety I feel. Some scenes aren’t as bad as others. I used to blend in well with the emo/punk crowd but as I got older I spent some time away from the scene to listen to a variety of different music and when I returned it was very hard to feel comfortable again. We are talking about a demographic of people where it’s hard to tell if they are 18 or 25 and so the whole dance floor feels more like a school playground and yet again I am the lone wanderer who gets looks from small groups of people all hunched in together, but instead of a canteen selling flavoured milk with a cartoon picture of a dinosaur on it they are selling us alcohol.

Let me just talk about my experience at the last two gigs I went to. My emotions from social awkwardness was actually 10 times worse because I was under quite a lot of stress, some related to the gigs and some wasn’t.

It was my first time going to a gig in 3 months and that includes not taking any photos of bands so I was feeling down about that. I was still looking forward to going out with a friend to see some bands I wasn’t a mad fan of but they seemed to me iconic names from the emo scene I used to be a part of. Now it’s simply called pop punk/punk. I had been listening to their full album catalogue all week and getting more and more excited.

Sometimes when you have bipolar you can get too excited especially when manic and it’s never a good thing to have very high expectations when manic because sooner or later you’ll hit disappointment and that can trigger a very agonising depression. You can never control it though. So everything is going super great awesome fun times (manic translation for ‘great’) until someone drops a bombshell and it completely flips you into another mood. For me it was my friend telling me she wanted to get to the gig early to get a place down front and maybe meet one of the bands. To any rational thinking person this makes sense, especially as the doors were to open at 7:30pm. But to me I was still in a state of mental preparedness like I am when I’m about to go to pub gigs or just 18+ local gigs: I rock up at 8pm, have a few drinks inside then go and watch/ photograph the band. There are hardly any lines or security checks or anything like that. So, I wasn’t really prepared to go to an all ages gig where three extremely popular international artists would play. I remember looking at how long the line got and thinking ‘surely all these people couldn’t fit into the Hi-Fi.’

All of my confusion above seems to be caused by my autism or ADHD or something else that makes me unable to see things any differently than what I usually experience.

My reaction to my friend’s words was immediate anxiety, but I held it together and said I would take the bus on my own, which I didn’t think I was capable of so I was feeling anxious about that too. At this moment I was getting angry that my friend couldn’t see that things like this cause me a lot of anxiety and I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to really grasp what was going through their own mind.

I was upset about us both being at the same gig yet not together and for some reason thought she would be meeting up with more of her friends. I was very angry and depressed but not at all anxious when I took the bus to the venue which was a much simpler journey to take than I thought, even if it took five of those buses coming to the bus stop that would take me to my destination before I decided to jump on one.

When I made it to the venue there was a small line but I really wanted to have another drink. Earlier I had nicked one of my housemate’s beers at home when I ate dinner. It seemed to make me more motivated to go to the gig as my depression was making me feel heavy and tired but still angry.

I was still fuming when I made it to the venue that I crossed the street quickly and walked passed all the people lining up, didn’t look at them, didn’t even text my friend that I was there and stormed through the doors of the nearest pub. At this moment I was starting to realize I was doing things without thinking. Earlier that day I had been running back and forth from my house to the grocery store, ATM, and post office without having much control of my body and feeling very anxious at the same time about it. I would feel anxious if I wasn’t doing it and anxious about doing it. This continued throughout the night and by the time I lined up outside the venue at the end of a very long line I was beginning to regret my decision to ignore my friend and drink at the bar alone. But I couldn’t really turn back time and I wasn’t ready to go looking for my friend and through escalating angry texts we were both digging ourselves deeper. She has bipolar disorder and I suspect I have it. In my mind I thought that just because she is on medication, has more friends than me, isn’t autistic and has a job that she should be doing better than me. I was angry that she didn’t seem to give a thought at all about my anxiety. And it took me a very long time to start to empathise more with her.

I was able to just ignore the situation helped by my frequent trips to the bar and I just enjoyed the bands. I enjoyed hearing Alkaline Trio play the songs I had been listening to all week and some days later think I became more of a fan. My thoughts really had become manic when Panic! At the Disco took the stage. I don’t think I’m ready to divulge the content of such thoughts yet. Then Jimmy Eat World were on and I only really enjoyed the songs I could recognize. I had listened to the most recent releases and wasn’t really into them but I think with time I could grow to like them more.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the bands but was glad to be able to see people like Matt Skiba, Brendan Urie and Jim Adkins perform live – people I had heard a lot about in my early adult years, which in autistic speak is like being a teenager. To me at least. I felt pretty damn immature back then.

Unfortunately my friend wasn’t able to ignore her anger at me and didn’t have a good time. She took to Facebook and blamed me and a security guard at the venue for ruining her night. I really wish she could not let people get to her so much. I know how hard it is to put people that have hurt you out of your mind but sometimes it’s the only option I have. So now she is not talking to me even after I apologised when I started to see things much clearer and began to empathise with her more.

Some of the things she said hurt me deeply but when you know people with bipolar disorder it’s very hard to know what to take seriously and what to take as just being related to a manic or depressive or combined mood. You have to learn to not take everything they say so personally and tell the difference between manic and being generally angry. You also must forgive them as you must forgive yourself when you notice you have said and done the same things. And it is not always easy to forgive yourself.

I felt bad for ruining her night but there was nothing I could do and I had a hangover to recover from so I could go to another gig the following night. The second gig did not go well for me and this is where the loneliness I feel at a gig was made 100 times worse.

The band was AFI and the main support act was Crosses and the singer, Chino Moreno, was my hero from when I was 14 years when he fronted a band called Deftones. This time I felt immense anxiety about having to take the bus to Marrickville. The venue was The Factory Theatre and I’ve been there a few times before but I just don’t feel safe there especially given a few crimes I’ve heard happen there on the news. My PTSD had got to such a severe point that night that I left the main room of the venue and went into the toilets to calm down, but there were lines of people everywhere so it was hard to relax.

Before that though I had to line up outside. I was better prepared for it after realising I had to do it yesterday evening. Still, I started to feel socially awkward and that awkwardness turned to anxiety and that anxiety a type of indignation of the people around me. At one time they would have been my friends but now they were strangers, and were really starting to get on my nerves.

I continued the tradition from last night of drinking beer to feel better, but it never happened. It just triggered depression and made me feel worse. I was trying hard to control my thoughts but struggled. I began thinking about my friend and about dangers that could happen to me. When Crosses started to play I relaxed a bit, even laughed at some of the mannerisms Chino made. At one point it looked like he was walking backwards on a conveyor belt. He was the same Chino I admired in my youth and even dressed like, though back then his pants were so baggy they would be falling down to his thighs and he would have a utility belt on and be so skinny that one part of the belt would hang down low. And his hair, God, was it ever brilliant. Crosses played different music than Deftones but they still sounded great and Chino now had a beautiful singing voice, and could still scream like when he was 26. I really wanted to take his photo. It wasn’t fair that I had to miss out because my editor chose someone else. If I had responded to the e-mail asking for photographers to cover the gig I would have doubled my chances at being chosen. They have sent me to City and Colour and gigs like that so I know they trust me enough to put my name down for these types of shows.

I have taken photos of AFI before so at the time I was ok to not take photos of them. Davey Havok wasn’t wearing that white jacket like he did in 2010. I was still taking the occasional trip to the bar but really having a lot of space between each drink I had so I didn’t end up with another awful hangover the next day, but I left my spot close to the stage and so during AFI was much further back. I could still see the whole band and it was good to just stand back and watch them and note how they moved so I was better prepared to photograph them next time. Their set list was brilliant. This band has so many albums that all sound very different but they managed to include some very old material in between the most recent releases. It was so very well done.

But there were times where I looked around at small groups of friends chatting to each other, some being extremely loud and animated  which might have had something to do with how much they drunk, that I started to feel so lonely. This wasn’t just the regular loneliness I felt. As I overheard someone talk about bands like Brand New I thought that these people could be my friends. They are talking about the bands I love yet never get a chance to talk about. Even now I feel the tugs at my heartstrings over it. Here we all were massive fans of the same band yet we were strangers and I think I felt that more strongly than most people. People even commented on my facial expression which in bipolar depression just sags low. You’ve got this flat effect and can’t much feel much of anything, though at times I felt immense sadness and then anger.

The next day when other photographers were posting photos they took from both gigs I attended I felt these deep stabbing jabs of jealously. I knew it was just my depression because later on I looked at those photos and were happy my friends got to take them. I really wanted to have taken the photos myself but this time I missed out. I always knew I could go to both gigs if I took photos at just one of them. It exhausts me so much and my very precise editing takes a whole day’s worth of effort. I would never had made it to the second gig.

After I got through that very deep and long depression I thought back to when I went to gigs and knew most of the people there: for one I was taking photos of those bands and we all went to similar gigs so we knew each other. Then, there were bands I loved so much I joined their online community forums and met people through them. Most of my friends are You Am I fans and we do meet up at YAI gigs or bands with a similar sound. So, given my poor ability to make friends or even approach people I think I would need to put in extra effort to meet new people. I even think I should go to a comic convention and talk to more people online. I don’t need to feel so alone.

I did have one friend at the AFI gig but my depression was so intense and she was busy taking photos that night that I didn’t go and look for her, and given the situation with my current close friend I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in myself to keep talking to people and build on an already existing friendship.

I’ve now decided to be less desperate about going to more gigs and take photos of the bands. I probably won’t see bands like Jimmy Eat World or AFI unless I have some friends going with me that don’t appear to hate my guts or I’m just there to take photos officially. There’s probably four local bands that I’ll always go see as soon as they tell me they are coming to town. OK, they are Davey Lane and his magical band of mystery (or just the Davey Lane Band), The Ape, Dallas Crane and Darren Middleton. Possibly You Am I but I have seen them an awful lot so they’re kinda getting a bit repetitive. And now all my friends are gonna throw something at me. Hmm, funny how my writing style changes as soon as I mentioned You Am I. There are still international bands that I will always go to see, namely, Bayside, Anberlin, Funeral For a Friend and Brand New but I’d really love to photograph them. That isn’t always a possibility and I’ll still go see them even if I can’t take photos.

I’m not sure what will happen between me and my friend. When things like this happen I’m at a complete loss about what to do. My social skills are really bad when it comes to working out issues like this. It will be a real damn shame to lose such a great friend that I’ve had so many awesome memories with but I’ve had to give up on friends before, and it hurts but I move on. I’d like to think that people come into your life for a reason. They help shape you into a better person and then they sort of fade away and you take what you learned into the next relationship. It’ll still be a damn shame to see this one go so quickly though. My anxiety and other symptoms have given an abrupt end to a lot of relationships and they just claimed another victim.

I’ve been through quite a lot in just two weeks and it’s hard to not get down about it and still keeping going, but it’s what I must do. I think I’m lucky that I have a tremendous load of willpower even for someone with issues with impulsivity and depression. Even when I’m manic I have more control than other people who are manic. I’ surprised by myself sometimes. I suppress more emotion than I let out too and though it feels crippling there’s not much fallout left in the wake of it.

Next week I’m hoping I can see my GP and get a referral for a psychiatrist and psychologist. I plan to medicate the anxiety and depression first, and if it doesn’t throw me into mania then I’ll work on getting my ADHD better managed with medication. But if it does throw me into mania then I’ll need mood stabilisers as well which should control my mild seizures. I call them mild because I don’t lose consciousness. They can get as severe as a secondary generalized seizure, which is basically grand mal. I’m hoping I can get a thorough assessment down and I don’t care if it’s bipolar, borderline, PMDD or anything else. I just need to be treated. I’ll take all the recommendations my psychologist will throw at me: mindfulness meditation, CBT, DBT, EMT, etc. I’ll even eat a little bit healthier but I’m not going to completely give up on the food I love. I really hope I can find someone that knows about Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome and will take my anti-social thoughts seriously, just not seriously enough to lock me up.

For now I’m getting back into my interests. I’ve been reading my Marvel Fact Files again and might decide to read another comic book. I’ve got my sci-fi to watch and other shows, or I can always read a few books. I’m thinking about getting into physics again, or learn about air force planes. And of course I’ll take some time to work on my screenplay. I think I should keep practicing my band photography so I’ll take my sister up on her offer of photographing her friend’s bands playing live. She should get that bass fixed so I can keep practicing on it too. Apparently I have the attitude of a bass player which might mean moody, depressed, embarrassed, socially anxious, avoidant and completely hiding the fact that I am, because that was my emotional state when I got that compliment.

I guess what I mentioned above is the more positive side to autism; getting absorbed into your interests so you can forget about your traumatic social experience and realise you can quickly pick up knowledge and experience in the arts and have a damn good memory for facts. Because I’m smart and curious and a really good artist – so why should I try to fit in with people who take my time away from doing that?

I Don’t Fit in Anywhere

It’s not that I don’t fit in a certain music scene. I don’t fit in anywhere. I’m too oppositional; even when people welcome me in I will always defy. I may not defy to the point of being a danger to society but it’s harming my own personal relationships.

I may have been drinking tonight but it’s clear to me that I don’t fit in anywhere. I’ll always try so hard to be different without realising it, so what’s the point?

I have been dealing with extreme anxiety with daily suicidal ideation. I just can’t adjust to a new situation and pretend everything is ok.

No one understands it. Everyone expects me to be able to chat and be merry. Well, I can’t always do that. I’ve been dealing with so much lately and I can’t even explain some things. I don’t even know how. The nature is so very personal and unusual I don’t know how people will take it.

So maybe tonight I risked yet again another friendship due to this illness. I just can’t keep fighting it and pretending everything is ok.

I just shouldn’t even have friends, I guess, if I keep ruining my relationships with them.

Why Does She Look Like A Boy?

When I watch my young nieces play with fairy toys and show off their latest little dresses I sometimes wonder whether they had a choice in liking fairies or dresses at all. Sure, the oldest one loves her princesses and unicorns and the younger one, well, I’m not quite sure. She reminds me most of me. I know she loves cats at least.

I wasn’t given the choice, not at first. I was put in dresses I hated wearing and by the time I was old enough to dress myself I stopped wearing them. During those years I still had the girly stereotype pushed upon me as though the way I chose to dress and style my hair was wrong.

These days I look around at people who watch me or talk to me and I don’t get the usual feelings I did when I was a kid, ones where I felt judged for wearing jeans, a t-shirt and had short black hair with a wispy little fringe. And the two dozen or so hats I owned. These days girls can dress how they want and people don’t give them as much grief as they did in the early 90s. At least, that’s what I’ve gleaned from my observations. I haven’t set foot in a school playground for a long time. I would begin to raise eyebrows if I did.

I’ve been told all my life to act more lady-like in some of the most ridiculous ways. It was hinted to me that I should want to have a small fluffy dog instead of the large wolf-like breeds I often wanted. I even got told that girls drink wine and guys drink beer. Not being one to back down to social conventions I stood my ground, called the person old fashioned which was received as an insult – because telling a young woman she’s acting more like a guy because she chooses to drink beer isn’t insulting enough – and then returned to the drinks cooler and picked up another beer.

I have heard snickers from strangers about me being gay but I’ve taken it upon myself to only be hurt by the truth. Just because I dress a certain way and keep my hair short doesn’t mean I’m gay or want to be male. They’re just clothes and a haircut. I come from a family of three girls and one boy and I looked up to my brother because he was the less bossy one but I was still intimidated by him a bit especially in his teen years. According to some I worshiped the ground he walked on and what he was into I also wanted to be into.

Even earlier than that I was deeply absorbed in children’s films and related most of the young protagonist who was often male and when I like characters I tend to dress like them, mimic their accent and mannerisms and feel like I am them. Because of an isolated childhood of having my own voice stuck in my own mind because of a severe social anxiety disorder called selective mutism and autism that made me feel comfortable in this isolation, I spent many hours in front of the TV watching such films, from The Never Ending Story to the Home Alone films and The Three Ninjas and hell, even Small Soldiers in my teen years.

I really do believe that early in life we’re influenced about how to dress and act by the people around us and I ignored a lot of those people, had absolutely no interest in fitting in or sharing with them and was influenced most by the films and TV characters I watched.

Androgyny is a word that often has a negative connotation attached to it in Western society because if you don’t fit society’s view of what a girl or woman should be then you deserve a label such as tomboy, something I was called quite a lot in my childhood and teen years. It never really bothered me much being called that because I liked being different but at the same time knew there were others out there like me. To be honest I see nothing negative about being called androgynous.

I’m very comfortable with the way I am, the way I dress and my constant need for a messy mop of hair that tends to stick out. It must have first come from my desire to look just like an anime character. Then, in my early 20s I seemed to fit snuggly into the emo scene and now I both watch and photograph a lot of rock bands with unkempt hair. There’s also the whole writer thing; if I’m spending most days locked in my room in front of a PC I really have no need to keep my hair tidy. Seems a waste of time to me too as I seem to just end up running my hands through it in frustration over having absolutely no focus on the topic at hand be it writing a few new scenes or reading a physics or mental health article someone posted on Facebook.

There was a time where I tried to dress more ‘girly.’ It took a great deal of effort to do that and I was often tired by the time I had to go out. I couldn’t keep up with the changing fashion nor did I have much variety in my wardrobe, but what made me finally decide to stop dressing up was that it made me feel like a fraud. I was even uncomfortable in clothes. The thin material that seemed to stick to my skin often itched and I was just aware that I was wearing it. On every corner of my body I could feel the itchy suffocating material like my body was inside a vacuumed sucked bag.

I wasn’t even dressing up for myself but for other people and that didn’t feel right to me. It was just one night to dress up and hope males found me attractive and then it would be over. I saw no point in it and had better luck with guys who took me in all my emo garb.

The truth is I feel more comfortable in my variety of geeky $10 t-shirts with an opened buttoned down long sleeved check shirt (also, to avoid a skin allergy flare up) and cargo pants. Not to mention the Captain America belt. Even skinny black jeans become uncomfortable to wear, though I still force myself into them whenever I go see live bands. As for shoes you can’t beat a pair of Macbeth Elliots. I’ve been wearing them for over ten years. I tried another type but it just didn’t work out.

I’ve even made it quite clear that I will not wear a dress to my sister’s wedding later this year. Instead, I have put my hand up to be the official photographer. I just so happen to have some camera equipment worth a couple of grand and 10 years experience in photography behind me. And all it’s costing me is a couple hundred dollars worth of travel insurance to avoid wearing a wasps nest for a dress. No photographer that doesn’t usually shoot weddings would offer their services for free, especially a band photographer, but I’d rather not face the day itching, fixing up my clothes and walking like a zombie or robot for most of the day. My clothes should feel like an extension of my skin. Anyway, it’s no harm to my sister because I’ve already driven most of my family crazy with my little anxiety related freak outs over travelling overseas to go to this wedding.

I had to get through a childhood of being mocked for having air force (which is awesome, by the way) short hair, striped shirts and hoodies and classic 90s blue jeans. And the latter I still like to wear. These days I get less of that and I breathe a sigh of relief for the other girls who don’t have to be teased by their peers about looking like a boy or being gay or have people seriously tell them ‘you can’t do that – that’s what boys do.’

And I know my brother and my sister in law. They are intelligent and opened minded people and I’m sure if their girls decided one day to drop princesses for pirates they’d be met with a lot of support.

 Shanti

ABC1’s KIDS ON SPEED? Reviewed

KOSscreen

Kids on Speed? is a 3-part documentary airing on ABC1 in Australia that focuses on the very controversial issue of over diagnosis of ADHD in children with problem behaviour and prescribing medication such as Ritalin as a quick fix for that behaviour. It is well known that doctors don’t always thoroughly assess a child properly before giving a diagnosis of ADHD and are soon to start them on stimulant medication without explaining or planning other methods of treatment with the parents, or even exploring other possibilities for their symptoms. At first the trailer and title alone makes you feel like this is just more negative media spin attacking Big Pharma and blaming the parents. Instead, it serves as a meeting ground for all sides of the debate to discuss a very important issue that has for far too long given the spotlight to the opposing side of the debate, who have the children’s best interest at heart but are missing the bigger picture: the fact that these children are struggling to control behaviour they don’t understand and the parents are trying to do what they think is best for them all the while shaking off ignorant criticism about the way they raise their children, from how they discipline them to what they feed them and how much time they allow them to watch TV or play a video game. And at the heart of it all is a very differently developed brain that struggles to keep up with the demands of a society that was built to cater for the average processing capabilities, what we living with a neurological disorder call the ‘neurotypical brain.’

Kids on Speed? is part documentary, part factual intervention and part social experiment. It brings together three experts, Prof. Mark Dadds, Prof. Michael Kohn and Dr. Samantha Hornery, and four families with five children with challenging behaviour. As well as trying to teach good behaviours in these children the experts, headed by Prof. Mark Dadds, also use a revolutionary system of retraining parents on how to deal with the problem behaviour.

In the first episode we are introduced to five playful charming and bright eyed youngsters with uncontrollable hyperactivity and poor impulse control leading to defiant and unruly behaviour. We meet Seth, a rambunctious six year old who it seems can barely sit still or focus for longer than a minute. He argues with his mother Emma and will refuse to listen to her and often ends up shrieking at the top of his lungs to have himself heard. Both his parents are frustrated with his behaviour and at a loss of how to control it. His father worries that he may have passed his ADHD onto his son. Seth’s poor ability to focus and willingly follow instruction is also leading to him falling behind in school.

The experts suspect a sleep disorder is leading to Seth’s mild ADHD but he also has oppositional defiance disorder (ODD), a behavioural disorder with a compulsive need to argue and disobey orders. The experts don’t recommend Seth take any medication.

Next there is brother and sister Samuel (6) and Emily (11) whose rough playing often ends up with one exerting too much force and hurting the other and a violent fight erupts from this. Both children are slipping behind in grades which is a worry for Emily especially because she is about to enter high school and some of Samuel’s threats to other children at school are disturbing to his parents.

Both Emily and Samuel are diagnosed with classic ADHD as well as ODD and medication is recommended.

The oldest out of the boys being seen by the experts is James, a big 10 year old boy whose explosive meltdowns mimic those of autism. Indeed, doctors had suspected it in him but he was diagnosed with ADHD. When he is not screaming and running about the place like most children in the program he is quietly spoken and seems to show a lot of emotional immaturity.

James is thought by the experts to have ODD instead of ADHD and emotional immaturity. He is the most puzzling case though and medication isn’t yet recommended.

Lastly there is 7 year old Corey, an only child who is dealing with more than the behavourial issues of ADHD. He has anxiety on top of his ADHD and past medication for it made him threaten to kill himself and other children. He was taken out of school and homeschooled by mother Kathryn who gave up a successful career to help him.

The experts all agree that he has ODD, ADHD, anxiety and also suspect autism. They recommend he go back on medication but start on the lowest dose possible.

It’s interesting that all of the children are given the diagnosis of ODD; their defiant behaviour seems to be out of frustration of having no control over their impulses. The ODD doesn’t seem to have manifested in their personality yet and hasn’t led to such conduct issues we often see in teenagers and young adults with the disorder who end up stealing, starting fires and engaging in other illegal activities.

Between each segment we are show newspaper clippings of often negative rhetoric about ADHD, headlines stating such things as ‘The Ritalin generation’, ‘Pillpoppers: 32,000 Kids Taking Drugs,’ and ‘Has Normal Childhood Become a Disorder?’ The ominous undertone probably acts to serve as a balance between describing facts of ADHD such as how changes in the brain of people with ADHD leads to problems focusing, organizing and controlling behaviour and from what we see the families deal with which is their everyday, but I think the balance is never truly reached and instead flips between explaining ADHD in a factual way and yet again casting doubt on the need to diagnose and medicate children confusing the audience to the aim of the documentary. But the simple fact here is that they tried to reach that balance.

samuelhornery

In episode two the treatment begins. The children on medication are beginning to show some promising results. They’re all doing their school work and are acting out less until the rebound effect hits Samuel and Emily after school. Corey is able to focus better but the Ritalin is making him too tired to continue on with his studies. The anti-anxiety medication will take time to work but already he seems calmer.

For the two children who medication wasn’t recommended for their behaviour seems a lot harder to control. There are moments where they seem to listen and obey but then act out again. This is where the new parenting strategies really come into play. It’s found that James progress depends on his parents getting along better and agreeing on parenting strategies. Seth’s sleep study is delayed and Prof. Mark Dadds has noticed that his mother Emma has not properly implemented the strategies they have discussed in their meetings but she acts like everything is going fine when in her follow-up meetings with him. By the final episode he really confronts her about it and it turns out she has her own demons to fight about her own childhood; when she is emotionally frustrated she begins to mimic behaviour that she picked up from her mother. But we see her trying her best to control her emotions around her son and he begins to show more progress.

Continuing into episode three we see even more improvement from Samuel, Emily and Corey. Corey is having a massive turnaround but is still finding it hard to socialise with other children and is not yet ready to go back to school. Seth is making some improvements but his poor sleep is affecting his overall behaviour the following day. Samuel and Emily are acting out after their medication wears off and parents take turns in putting them in time out. James’ family has to band together to help make things easier for him, literally. Father Stewart starts a family band and it’s good to see James being calm and focused while playing the drums. Even without medication both Seth and James begin to show improvements which does show that medication doesn’t always have to be necessary for children with ADHD. James is started on medication for the family meet-up retreat but reacts negatively to it and is taken off.

At the retreat the children take turns to talk about what they’ve learned from the course. Everyone is happy and smiling and the children are getting along well. In the first episode many of them – or all of them – couldn’t sit still or focus and were often disrupting, now they sit calmly and are attentive. None are fighting or complaining or wandering away. Even though we see that more work is needed for each child seeing this much improvement over just nine weeks is a good note to end on.

What does this documentary mean for ADHD Awareness? It’s a start to calm the waters between the overdiagnosing and overmedicating debate. It has offered information about ADHD in factual and unbiased ways. We’ve been given 3 hours’ worth of footage of everyday families trying their best to do the best for their children that require a different strategy of dealing with the challenging behaviour. These children have a different chemical make-up in their brains and won’t respond to the usual methods of parenting like most of their non-ADHD siblings can. We see glimpses of non-ADHD siblings as being calm and not exhibiting the same defiant behaviour which should make people realise that ADHD or ODD has nothing to do with poor parenting otherwise all the children in the family would show symptoms. It defies all logic to continue to blame the parents after witnessing that. We also witness the quick results in behaviour and learning after a combination of medication and behavioural strategies are used and the persistence of parents to implement those strategies in the absence of medication which took more time but eventually started to show some results.

ADHD Awareness in Australia is still in its infancy which seems a bit ridiculous because it’s been around a lot longer than Asperger’s syndrome and even removing Asperger’s from the DSM hasn’t made people forget about it. Most of this setback of awareness could be blamed on the media stigma that has somehow linked medication that helps these children with later on drug addiction that while is similar to speed at the same time turns children into zombies (because anyone on speed is a zombie, right?) and recent stigma that sees most children in schools as being shoved into a box and any child that exhibits the slightest difference is diagnosed and labelled and medicated into mediocrity. While I won’t deny it’s happening, it’s not the case for many families dealing with ADHD. As we have seen in the program children with ADHD are difficult to manage and the disorder left untreated affect education and social skills and as Prof. Mark Dadds says in the last episode will lead to these problems in adulthood which does include breaking the law and occupying our jails.

Kids On Speed? serves as the perfect building ground to kick off awareness more beneficial to those suffering with ADHD and raising a child with it. As was briefly mentioned in the last episode of KOS was that a well-known brain disorder is not receiving the kind of government funding it deserves that similar conditions like autism get. Instead, parents and individuals with ADHD must deal with the symptoms themselves.

And once better understanding is made of classic ADHD then we can move onto the non-hyperactive cousin of ADHD: the space cadets of the disorder. ADHD-Primarily Inattentive is still overlooked in children and though less obstructive in behaviour, the symptoms are similar yet manifested is different ways often leading to the same learning and social issues. The children are often introverted and low on energy. Their ability to focus is blinded in a fog rather than being unable to calm themselves down to focus. It’s like everything takes great effort as the child or adult affected moves through life in a half-awake state and this affects every area of their life. They are more prone to depression as those with hyper-impulsive issues are more prone to anxiety. The issue here is that ADHD-PI is almost never picked up in a person until adulthood and already they’ve got a lifetime of problems related to going through life without a diagnosis or even awareness of their symptoms which has a disastrous impact on their own self-esteem.

This October is ADHD Awareness Week and I usually write something for it. I’ve been going at it all wrong though; focusing on classic ADHD and ignoring the PI in my diagnosis because of my own hyper-impulsive issues related to more bipolar symptoms. But I have had 24 years of PI symptoms and the absence of hyperactivity and I think it’s an issue the public need to be more aware of. KOS was a very eye opening documentary even for those who know a lot about ADHD already but it’s focused on just classic ADHD and if we really do want to change people’s perspectives on ADHD then we should get our focus solely off those hyper-impulsive symptoms and begin to look at ADHD symptoms as a whole. We need to see ADHD as a brain difference that leads to many impairments that affects behaviour and is not simply a behaviour disorder.

Shanti Roy

Note: The author has suffered severe side effects from taking the stimulant medication Ritalin due to a trial of medication before diagnosis and lack of information about the small percentage of people who react negatively to stimulant medication; people with heart problems, a predisposition to mood regulation disorders and epilepsy. She does not blame the pharmaceutical industry for the harmful affects but accepts that the medication was wrong for her and is committed to changing how doctors diagnose and medicate ADHD by making sure they do a full family background check so no child or adult has to go through these life shattering side effects again.  

For more information and sample videos on the documentary KIDS ON SPEED? visit ABC’s website

A Small But Lonely Age Gap

I’ve never written a post while depressed which is pretty dangerous. It makes me dwell on these thoughts which might make the depression last longer and make me start to believe a feeling that is completely false. But sometimes depression makes true feelings that are often so mild they exist only in the subconscious into something that when it enters the conscious mind it completely takes over you and your emotions. Your whole world shatters around this one thought that was there all along but it’s just too painful to deal with so you hide it at the back of your mind. Allowing the thought to come to the surface and exploring what it might mean can trigger a full depressive episode lasting days.

For some time now I’ve felt a deep and painful loneliness when I go to see some of my favourite bands. It’s just the people I’m surrounded by – either musicians or fans – are considerably older than me and my younger age and inexperience and lack of knowledge about their favourite bands makes me feel left out. To be honest some of them aren’t even that much older than me. I’m in my late twenties and most of them are mid to late thirties. Now if I had a lack of interest in them I’d be fine but I have this longing to belong, to just chat about the types of things they chat about and have the same musical tastes. There might be some people there around my age maybe even younger but their whole musical background is significantly different.

I just feel left out. Even my good friends have more in common with these bands because they’re closer in age and it’s just not similarities in music taste but almost everything. It’s like how most people around my age all grew up either playing SEGA, Nintendo 64 or Playstation One or watching the same children’s shows or even the lame kid’s movies we used to watch. Or basically listened to Triple J in the late 90s. How could I ever compete with that when I wasn’t even aware of much of my surroundings at the same time my older friends we’re pretty much growing up with the same experiences?

At most of these gigs I go to I just sit alone and slowly sip my beer as I wait for the opening act to start so I can start taking photos and be distracted from my insecure thoughts.

I can just see myself sitting at the bar at one such gig, turning to gaze longingly at a crowd of people I desperately want to know but have no idea how to even go up to and say hi or what I’ll say after, so I look away, turn back to my glass of beer and as I stare into it trance-like I continue to dream about the life that I so long after, happening just a few feet away from me.

I have made many attempts to meet the members of my favourite bands and sometimes they’ve been friendly, sometimes they’ve been overly friendly and sometimes they just downright reject me. I’ve had to face rejection from my peers many times over the years and by now you’d think I’d just be used to it but it really does leave a deep painful scar when a musician you’ve looked up to since you were very young shows no interest in even talking to you. If the pain doesn’t recede or comes back with a sharp sting every time I think over the situation, sometimes the only way to move on is to give up on that person and liking their music.

I hardly know anyone around my age in every friendship circle I have. I really don’t have much to say to them except for the chance I happen to be taking photos of a band they might know. I’ve found out the hard way that having high intelligence at gigs especially it hardly matters. All my knowledge in physics, film, science fiction and even naming types of aircraft isn’t sought after and people rather I didn’t talk about it at all.

I do have a friend who is older than me but has been listening to the same music as me for years. The emo/punk/hardcore scene was the only music scene I actually felt I belonged in but the scene as I knew it is over and I can never go back. At least, what is around now is somehow different or doesn’t feel the same, or maybe I no longer need to feel a part of it because when I did feel anything for it was at a time when I was making that transition from a twelve year old (a lil bit of  a jab to my emotional immaturity and youthful look) to adulthood, and it helped get me there. Within this scene I was finally able to make friends on my own. No being dragged around by my siblings and their friends and no forced play dates.

My somewhat oppositional tendencies make me an involuntary enemy of the anything that becomes too common and I seek out anything different to the point of never being able to accept that I like something at the same time as the majority. I constantly argue, constantly contradict myself and reject those things I would usually love just to remain the lone wolf.

So maybe I deserve to feel this isolation, or maybe the isolation is a result for seeking out people completely different from me whom I can never fit in with. Either way I probably deserve it.

But like I said I have just one friend to share my similar music tastes with; wolves run in packs, small ones. We share many other interests too despite there being a rather large age gap between us. But she can’t be at every gig with me and distract me from my insecure thoughts. I wish like her not knowing much about the music our favourite bands are influenced by didn’t faze me, but it does.

I spend a lot of time isolating myself from the world, not on purpose though. Lately I’ve been underwhelmed by local music news and I hardly have any interest in the tours being announced. Things are picking up but for about three months I’ve been finding new things to occupy myself with while I wait. I’m working on a screenplay and writing a whole bunch of blog posts as the ideas come to me almost daily, sometimes three separate posts come at once. I have to stay at home and write or else I’ll go insane with so many thoughts and the feelings attached to these thoughts going around my head.

As much as I know that I’ll never fit in with these certain types of bands and the people who listen to them I’ll still find myself going to shows, taking photos and hoping to get some feedback from the fans and bands.

I don’t know why I have to torture myself by dwelling on these thoughts and why I still continue to see the same bands. Yes, I love the music and yes I am a photographer but I can’t give more than that. I just end up watching other fans going up to bands and talking to them as though they barely thought about it, at least as not as much as me. I know I shouldn’t dwell so much on it or even have those thoughts at all. Even if I’ll never fit in I’ve got strengths in other areas. My writing and ability to soak up every fact from the Marvel Universe is a place to start, or even my passion for science. I’m not a bad photographer or artist too. I could be wrong about them as well. Maybe they don’t hate me as I suspect but are waiting for me to go up and talk to them. It’ll never happen unless I push myself and that never seems to work out for me.

That’s really one of the main reasons I don’t want to go out to a gig at the end of the week; I don’t belong there at all. I like the music and I think I could take some good photos, but my usual anxieties about going to an unknown venue away from the city and the fact I’ll just have that longing to belong all night long, is making me think I shouldn’t go at all.

However next week the next gigs for me are Jimmy Eat World/Panic at the Disco/Alkaline Trio and AFI/Crosses and I have applied to take photos of AFI. And even though I no longer feel a part of the emo scene I can at least relive the memory of my few short years of living in it by watching the same bands as I would have all those years ago. It doesn’t even matter if I don’t end up taking photos of AFI – although I would be pissed off at first – just seeing them alive with a new group of black clad kids with similar haircuts will be enough. I even get a chance to see Chino Moreno in Crosses. He was my hero when I was a fourteen year old Deftones fan. I even started to dress like him.

I won’t often write something so personal and emotional but it was on my mind and I just wanted to see if I could write something while going through a severe depressive episode. After I’m done writing this and posting it the episode should be over.

Hopefully, I can work on my ‘Kids on Speed?’ review and update you all on my screenwriting progress.

A Screenwriter’s Journey – Week 3, Post 1#

It’s been three weeks since I started to write my screenplay, a modern day science fiction set in Australia and well, Space. I wrote eight pages last night and have now drafted forty-seven pages in all. I think it’s a good pace for me even if on average I’m only committing two to three days a week to the script. But now that my blog writing career is about to take off again, especially the in depth review I plan to do for ‘Kids On Speed?’ part II, I think I deserve a break from now and then.

I can’t tell you too much about the plot on a page that is accessible to the entire web because I don’t want my idea taken. I’ve put four years into a novel and have gone from a story with a very brief outline to a world so sophisticated and full of detail and background that it seems more real to me than the real world. Really, there’s only one person to tell this story and if my idea was stolen not only would that frustrate me but it will also be put together quickly and completely miss the point I’m trying to make here.

What I can tell you is that it deals with an on and off hot topic in the media and gives it a real sci-fi interpretation. I want to put some autism self-advocacy in there but I’m aiming for the script to be no more than 120 pages. My first draft should be no more than 200. I’ve already cut chunks out of the novel and changed things around for the screenplay, so it can translate better onto film. Funny thing is to write the novel and include all the descriptions I saw in my head as a predominately visual thinker – what I see in my head I assume all can see so I don’t bother writing down the details – I had to learn to write like a verbal thinker, and now I have to cut down on my descriptions. Anyway, I was very successful in writing what I saw down into a few descriptive sentences people could make sense of. I have a bit of a cheat: I can mimic the writing styles of my favourite authors perfectly. I had to stop reading Asimov and Pullman for that reason and read a tonne of books in the Ender’s Game saga.

I think I was able to pick up on the structure of screen writing for the same reason, but after reading about 4-5 scripts one issue keeps coming up: I have no confidence about how to properly structure an action scene. I think after reading through Elysium I picked up more of the structure and seemed to know exactly how to put in the ‘cut to’ parts – pity novice screenwriter’s are discouraged from putting those in – but when you write really fast paced and exciting actions scenes you must capitalise words or a couple of words at a time to grab the attention of the reader. It seems common to capitalise nouns or just names and words that seem to jump off the page basically. It’s still very hard for me because I think the writer has to choose what to capitalise and not have to follow strict instructions down to a t – and it’s that last part that I need.

I plan on reading through The Matrix: Reloaded, maybe Revolutions and Man of Steel to hopefully get this structure stuck in my head. Right now I’m having difficulty reading over the last eight pages of my script. In fact I’m having difficulty focusing on doing anything but writing this post. This is all very normal for me. It was the reason why I was medicated. Now I just take fish oil. Yesterday I pushed the dosage to 6000mg and did eventually write as I have mentioned but then I didn’t sleep at all. They increase my focus and energy and sometimes the energy just doesn’t stop. I’ve only taken 1500mg today and all I can do, apart from impulsive spending, is write this post.

While it’s good for me to have a break from working on my script or even thinking about future scenes playing in my head like my own personal cinema, when I think I’ve had enough rest trying to get back into the flow of thinking up scenes, writing, structuring and even jotting down notes, can be incredibly difficult.

Sometimes I need to push everything else aside and that includes people. I hate to have to do it but I need 100% focus on this little story in my head that’s been entertaining me during sleepless nights, long car rides, and boring TV shows for four years.

I’ll probably not continue onto the next few scenes – though last night was a sleepless night that made me think up at three more scenes and I still couldn’t sleep – because I found that while writing last night the words were so spontaneous that the whole scene lost consistency. So, I need to structure the whole scene in point form notes. Note taking is something I haven’t done yet. I have hundreds of notes from the novel because of all the detail and scientific knowledge and other research involved. I even wrote the paragraphs like they were scenes and the chapters were long and rich in description of everything; character development, locations and even common everyday objects. And oh God how I hated to describe face expressions. I hardly can interpret them properly anyway so it was a real chore.

But I went out and bought myself a notebook just for this script and one more for this blog too. So, I’m becoming more organised the deeper I get into this script.

A problem I ran into with writing chapters of the novel was that when I didn’t have perfect structure I didn’t think I was of capable writing like that so I kept going back and editing, then I would change my mind about something and go back and change that and to keep the story canon I had to re-write several other chapters completely too.

So, I won’t do that this time. It’s hard though especially when I’m struggling with the action scenes. I think as long as I have the changes written in my notebook I’ll be ok. I wrote my Doctor Who fan fiction in the same way – the way you’re supposed to – and just went over and fixed it all up when I had finished the first draft and it worked out. You can read my fan fiction online by the way. I’m not really sure if you should though. My grammar was horrible back then.

I gave up on the novel because once I went off medication the task of writing a whole novel which I wanted to continue as a trilogy was just overwhelming. Even on the medication I would get a few hours in then become way too impulsive and go off and start ranting at people and committing to photo projects I could get done in a couple of hours. I’m better without it, sort of, and script writing seems to be just the right amount of work I can handle.

I wish I could tell you about some of the themes but again it might give too much away. What I can tell you is that I’ve done a lot of research into video game development. I was interested the psychology of gamers and how developer’s exploited this. You have to do it to sell a product. I’m interested in this type of marketing. I’ve not just played a lot of video games, especially those using augmented reality and have come up with new ways to experience gaming, but psychological articles and even paid attention to downright negative stuff. I’ve studied everything really short of learning my own code but I know what goes on in an average video game development company.

Then one day I came up with a revolutionary new console and way to play video games and during the more depressive phases of writing or not writing my novel I would get drunk and tell my friends all about it. They probably have forgotten about it but to me I was revealing a government secret to them. I’m proud of it even if the technology is maybe decades or centuries away. I just really had to make this a great piece of sci-fi technology. My problem is I’m a very literal person and I thought most of the technology was just five years away or even in development. In fact, I found many articles about technology that I was writing about. The good part was I got more of a scientific explanation; the bad part was it was no longer futuristic.

The console has evolved in the last couple of days too. I really like where it’s going. Originally it would take up a few paragraphs, then a chapter and now it’s become a greater part of the story.

Anyway, that’s enough spoilers for you. Now I have to go out and buy more FPS games to do some more research.

I’ve been in love with films since before I saw the inside of a school classroom and during a very lonely childhood my wanderings of the schoolyard at lunchtime turned into vivid fantasies of all those films I loved but I could change how things happened, how I think they should have gone. Over the years I would begin using a protagonist, a withdrawn boy – like in many of the children’s films I loved – and he would star in many films over many years; as I grew he grew and the stories he was in started to change and become more sophisticated the more I continued to watch a variety of films and began to get ideas from them.

After a brief break when I attempted to be a normal person I went back into my world of film and now had hundreds of real films memorised that I could build my stories from. I started to develop more characters and then gave more care to imagining the background scenery.Admittedly, I became more influenced by the screenwriter’s of Doctor Who like Russell T Davies and various Canadian sci-fi such as Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly and The 4400.

Now I’m back to studying film but still learning from TV shows too. One thing I‘ve really learned over the years from science fiction in particular is how to better pick up on people’s emotions and why they do the things they do, such as lying to people. And then I began to appreciate teamwork for the first time. It was the military sci-fi where they fight hoards of aliens when Earth or other worlds are in threat of extinction or being enslaved by this technologically advanced species who see us only as puny primitives. Although, I really like when we the human side of aliens in which the word ‘human’ used as a descriptive word in this case becomes redundant. We get to see their issues are just like ours and they care about the survival of their species as much as we care about the survival of ours, and they’re not just trying to obliterate us for no real reason. Most of the time, at least.

That was a long post. I promise you the next one will try to stay more on topic. I just thought some background history was necessary.