Videogames and Regression

I’ve categorized regression in autism into 3 severity types. Type 1 happens when an autistic person is under a lot of stress from a significant change in their environment that causes them a lot of distress which makes them regress into an earlier child-like state and they may preoccupy themselves with an activity that makes them feel safe and comfortable, and returns them to a state of order in an otherwise chaotic situation.

Type 2 is what I have dubbed ‘The Second Regression’ in the past which is a more serious and long term form of regression. It’s usually referred to as cognitive regression or a shutdown. Shutdowns in autism have their own terminology and have their own spectrum of severity and it’s something I won’t get into now because it will just deviate from the original point of me writing this post. This Type 2 regression usually happens when an autistic person pushes themselves beyond their own limitations and can result in a loss of developed skills. Since doctors don’t know much about this condition and even go as far to say it’s psychological hysteria they can’t do a lot in terms of treatment. Instead, the autistic person must re-learn all these skills over again. When their family members notice they’re a bit slower in communicating their thoughts, social understanding and basic skills they may have no choice but provide some accommodations for their struggling child, sibling or spouse.

Type 3 usually happens when a baby is 18 to 20 months of age and begins to show symptoms of autism for the first time. They may have already developed speech and hit their milestones on time or early but for reasons not clear to scientists their skills begin to regress.

I’ve gone through Type 2 regression around four times so I’m hesitant to push myself when I begin to feel anxious. I don’t ever want to feel helpless and dependent on others while trying to re-learn lost social and life skills which I’m all always trying to build more of. Recently though I experienced Type 1 regression for maybe only the second time. They may have been more but I feel so socially developed for an autistic person that this little set back really made a huge impact on my self-confidence.

It all started when I found out that my house’s lease was being terminated and my sister whom I was living with at the time had previously been looking for somewhere else to move, which I protested. But then we had no choice. We had to move. It probably took a week for my sister and housemate to agree to move to Katoomba but I resisted. I tried to find someone else to live with on Flatmates.com but after a few weeks of not really finding anything suitable for me and my small cat Lyra (not many places allowed pets) I started to lose confidence that I could move in with strangers at all. Eventually, I came around to the Katoomba idea but I was still anxious about it.

I was working in Western Sydney and I knew I had to stop working there days before moving to Katoomba. I’m also a gamer and around this time Quantum Break, a game I had been waiting years to come out finally did and I become wholly absorbed into the world of Jack Joyce, the main protagonist. I searched through every nook and cranny of that game world to uncover more of the story. It had become my new reality. Yes, time was breaking down and I had these cool time powers and Dominic Monaghan was my brother. There were these moments in the game called stutters and I guess I played the game for so long I started to see them outside of the game. There were TV episodes in between the levels or acts and I felt like I lived through every character in the show and game. When I was half-way through the game I started to take days off work just to play it, even after my flu symptoms started to dissipate. Then it was choosing playing that game instead of seeing Craig Nicholl’s from The Vines play a solo show at Newtown Social Club. I’m a live band photographer and go to quite a lot of gigs and consider myself part of the Australian live music scene so not going was even a shock to me. Craig also has Asperger’s syndrome so he’s probably the only person in the music scene I can relate to. My friend wasn’t impressed that I didn’t go to that gig. In truth I didn’t want to go out and risk getting sick again. I had already missed so many days of work it was impossible to catch up without risking a collapse. I’ve had chronic fatigue since I was 13 and last time I pushed myself I became close to passing out. It happened after I went to shoot a gig, spent two days editing the photos and went straight back to another gig. When things like that happen to me I become anxious about it ever happening again.

Another reason I was hesitant to go to gigs might have had something to do with feeling anxious and even suicidal at previous gigs I went to alone. The feelings lasted as long as I was alone and didn’t talk to the band members if I didn’t know them. Fortunately, at those gigs I did know some band members. These feelings were new and unusual and they may have also had something to do with my stress over moving.

When I was close to finishing Quantum Break a free Destiny update came out so I gave the game another chance and I enjoyed it a lot more. I was one of those year 1 players who got sick of it and vowed never to play again, but the loot and upgrading points were very rewarding so I stayed. I entered into a new reality, a futuristic dystopian world in which I and other players were the last hope of humanity’s survival.  I became my Titan subclass throwing fiery hammers, ground pounding groups of enemies into oblivion or helping my team mates out by erecting a void shield. I dominated the Crucible (multiplayer) for a short while employing underhanded tactics to defeat my enemies. I played for full days to slowly upgrade my light level so I could play the final challenge. But it was all cut short when Starfox Zero came out and packed up my Xbox One and set up my Wii U. Three days later I wanted to throw that game and Wii U into the Sun. I also played a bit of Alan Wake: American Nightmare on my Xbox One in between Quantum Break and Destiny or whenever I couldn’t connect to Xbox Live.

Next was Ratchet and Clank I think so I set up my PS4 and packed up my Xbox One. Around this time I was beginning to suspect that I had grown some sort of a psychological dependence on playing videogames. I would never buy so many games in a matter of weeks. Usually, I would play a videogame to distract myself from depressed and suicidal thoughts. So, it was a form of therapy for me. I discovered this when I was anxious about going to a gig and I found playing Batman: Arkham City calmed me down. Since then, playing videogames works better than any psychiatrist’s advice ever has.

Not only did I have a psychological dependence to play videogames I also stopped hanging out with groups of people. People would come over to the house all the time and there was even a birthday party but I just didn’t care about socialising. It may have just been another way for me to cope with my stress. But in my head I came to the decision that I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

I did want to go to Good Game Live though but I felt nervous about meeting fans of Good Game Pocket show, the ‘Pocketeers.’ I’m not really good at meeting people and becoming friends. I’ve been bullied and trolled by people who were meant to be my friends so I was hesitant to go. When I sort of told one of my friends she made it sound like I wasn’t making an effort. We had a big row, a big big one. She told me I was making excuses even for my PTSD and this is from someone who has a mental illness themselves. Emotionally I couldn’t deal with it and I didn’t know how to handle the situation so I did what I always do when I hit a social brick wall – I tried to get her out of my life but she kept trying. Through my sister I realized she missed me and it was something that never occurred to me. I don’t often miss people. I can spend 6 months without seeing people and as long as I’m preoccupied with an interest it’s enough for me. I did try to make an effort to hang out though. I was going to go to a gig in her town and asked to stay the night but I was never really given an answer. I deliberately didn’t go to two gigs I knew she’d be at. Although, I had no real motivation to go. This was You Am I and Davey Lane – they were usually unmissable gigs but I just kept playing Ratchet and Clank and Modern Combat 5.

It took about a week but things are good between me and my friend again. I think. I’m not very good at keeping friends.

Then Uncharted 4 was released and yep I bought it day one. Now I was Nathan Drake, a thief/ adventurer in search of pirate treasure. Once again I was completely absorbed into the story and became so accustomed to the combat it began to feel like muscle memory. I would shoot one bad guy, take his gun, grapple to a rope, swing on that rope to another ledge, shoot another bad guy while still swinging in the air, land on him and take his gun and continue the process until the area was cleared of enemies. I felt so athletic while playing it even though I had barely gotten up and gone for a walk. I never wanted to stop playing it. I wanted to stay in that world forever.

I might have spent between 6-10 hours playing it daily and completed it in four days. I’m not the best player but I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing as Nathan Drake. I enjoyed the cinematic driven story so much that when I played DOOM on my Xbox One it felt boring but I eventually got comfortable with it. It was hard to feel like I was in the DOOM world so I tried to read up as much of the lore as I could but the days til I moved were getting shorter and I had to stop playing DOOM and pack my Xbox One into a moving box. I also really wanted to see Dallas Crane and I felt I had to completely put away my game console so I could be sure I could go to that show. I put N.O.V.A 3 on my phone and played it before the show. The A.I that was supposed to help me was buggy AF though so I eventually gave up on it. But I am glad I went to the Dallas Crane gig. I got to hang out with the guys, talk mostly about videogames with the drummer Steve and take some good photos despite having no confidence of my skills after months off photographing bands. I even forgot the differences between fast and slow shutter speeds.

Then I was going to go see Olympia two or three days later, so I hastily edited the Dallas Crane photos, ignored the support act photos and was off to another gig. Then some more symptoms showed up. I completely lost my appetite yet still felt hungry; I just didn’t want to eat. The kitchen was a mess because of the move so that may have been one reason why I couldn’t eat.  I ended up surviving on Shapes and crackers. My sister was convinced that Olympia went to our church when we were kids. I didn’t really believe her.

The night of the Olympia gig I had some anxiety about getting in at all because my sister had my ticket but it passed and I met up with my sister (not the one I lived with) and we got together to excitedly talk about a house that we were approved to rent. I ate a meal for the first time in days and I was looking forward to seeing my friend Pat at the gig who plays bass in Olympia.

I was distracted and unfocused at the gig. Maybe it was because I kept talking to my sister when I’d usually be alone and hyperfocused on what was happening on stage. I yet again had zero confidence in my ability to take photos but I eventually remembered what a slow shutter speed does to photos taken in low light, so I corrected that. It was a good night. I got to talk to Pat and meet Olympia and my sister asked her if she was the same person that went to our church as kids, and she was and it was kind of strange but nice. I was an extremely quiet and weird child and I’m so different now that it felt good that someone knew me back then. It’s like that child actually did exist. I didn’t really have much to talk about because I had been playing videogames obsessively for the past month and being around a 35 to 40 something year old crowd I didn’t want to make myself seem any younger by mentioning that.

So, despite all the stress and weird regressive symptoms and anxiety about everything and near starvation I still had a good time and took some great photos and just got to do what I had been missing out on for months. It was enough for me to want to do it again. A couple of weeks ago I had feelings of giving up on my photography because I just couldn’t get out to the shows, and also those suicidal feelings. Every now and then I think about giving up on my band photography anyway.

I hastily edited my photos of Olympia too because I planned on seeing The Matches that night. The Matches were amazing and energetic as usual but I didn’t feel like I belonged in that scene anymore. And that was once my scene. There was a time when everyone knew about my photography and at least two people at that gig knew me. I met the guitarist of The Matches but it didn’t go as great as it did at Olympia.

I’m in my new house now and I haven’t played a video game for about two weeks, maybe more. I’ve been watching a whole lot of Good Game Pocket and following gaming news. I’m waiting for a gaming monitor to be delivered and DOOM is sitting on a desk of dresser drawers in the lounge room waiting to be finished. I don’t think I’ll become dependent on videogames again, not to the extent I was. I think it all had to do with the stress I was feeling over moving. Sure, I’m going to be picking up a controller when I feel deeply depressed or even anxious but I don’t think I’ll choose it over going to a gig. I’ve been trying to work on my social skills – AGAIN! Sorry, but this is like the fifth time. I pretty much know what to say to people but don’t say it. It’s going to take time and practice but it will happen. The nervous impulsive speaker will return.

I still enjoyed my time playing videogames. I felt like a gamer for the first time. I’m not saying they’re as broken as I was. No, they seem to be able to balance playing games with work and socialising in a way that I never could. I’ll still continue to play games but I won’t have much money to buy them day one or pre-order collector editions ever again. They’re still the best therapy I can ever get and the only way I can make friends, outside of the music scene of course.

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Autism and the Videogame Community

April is Autism Awareness Month and if I’m lucky today is the 2nd of April: Autism Awareness Day. I’m taking this time to not just write one but a couple of posts dealing with issues faced by those with autism, instead of my usual spotlight on myself and talking about what autism is like for me. It’s my 8th Autism Awareness Month so talking about that stuff does get tiresome. The first post will be about autistic people in the videogame community and the second about the state of the autism community and its many divisions within that community.

Recently I made the decision to quit playing in multiplayer worlds such as MMOs and spending a long time in game forums. I felt like it wasn’t a very supportive environment and not an ideal place for someone still learning social skills and dealing with serious mental health problems. I was let down by the fact that the game community and most social online communities are not really about making friends and supporting each other. I’m not saying it should change. I would love it to change but I’m not pushing anything here. It’s just not for me and I don’t think it’s for people with similar issues.

That said, I’m still going to play the DOOM beta later and if I run into the same obstacles I will try my best to get through it. Obstacles, you say? Yes, these obstacles are often the mindset other gamers have when they are looking to team up with another person. They expect you to already know what to do and be just as good as they are. If not they will accuse you of not trying hard enough, even being lazy. They just don’t see that two people may not be alike. It’s actually very autistic. OK, I deserve the abuse I’ll get from saying that. But it’s very true. I had to learn all throughout my early adult life to remember to think of others and even had to pick up in other people how to empathise. So, it’s something I’m always trying to keep in mind, yet others seem to be losing this innate ability.

I don’t play as much as other people. I have many other interests, all of which will individually take my complete focus for weeks and months on end. I can’t really commit to two at a time. At the moment I seem to be trying to juggle writing with my band photography with playing video games with reading comic books so I’m not putting much time on any one thing at all, so I haven’t got that intense attention to detail autistic people are famous for. I expect some abuse thrown at me from playing DOOM because I haven’t played anything like DOOM for years. I’m off my game, as they say.

What I’m really trying to encourage here in my speedy jumpy-brain ADHD writing style is that I wish gamers would open their minds up to the fact that not everyone who is playing with or against them is exactly like them. You never know what kind of stress someone is under or what their challenges are. Most of you don’t care but I believe there’s a minority of people who will still give consideration to a minority of people once they’re made aware of it.

The reason I play video games at all has a lot to do with my poor performance playing platform games on SEGA, PC and Nintendo as a kid and proving to myself that I’ve gotten better since. I have. I use my brain much more now than when I was a kid. The second reason is because back when I wasn’t even playing games but was sorta interested in them thanks to the invention of mobile gaming that I started to research game development to help me write about VR technology in a science fiction novel I was writing. Funny thing was I didn’t actually know another company was creating the same type of technology under the label VR Roaming. Anyway, tangent. Point is my research turned into playing the games and living in the communities and then I got so absorbed into the playing side of the research, I became a gamer myself. Then when I was going through a lot of anxiety over going to see live bands cause of a PTSD issue I found that playing Batman: Arkham City calmed these nerves and maybe beating the hell out of bad guys felt kind of empowering. So, when I was struggling to deal with crippling depression and suicidal thoughts (oops, trigger warning) I would make myself play a game at the very beginning of my depression and the feelings would be alleviated and I wouldn’t go on online rants and lose all my friends in the process.

Now the fact that I was in these mental states while gaming meant any slight abuse hurled at me was deeply felt as my mind wasn’t even seeing the world properly – both depression and anxiety put thoughts in your mind that often do not reflect your current situation, but are both paranoid and delusional, in a mild non-psychosis sense. You’re self-critical, sometimes hating everything about you and losing hope about your future. You start to hate everyone and everything around you too. What were once little annoyances are now the most irritating things in the world. And you believe them, you always believe them. It doesn’t matter how many times you try and put positive thoughts in place of them, they will always sneak their way back in. At least for a little while. Dealing with toxic people in the gaming community just becomes more of a burden when in that state of mind.

Now back to autism. I believe it’s tough being an autistic gamer because our symptoms may lead to playing badly, though sometimes an autistic gamer that has gaming as a special interest can have the upper hand. The old term used by psychologists was ‘little professor’ – it was the fact that a child with Asperger’s or high functioning autism (they’re basically the same thing) could become interested in something and soak that knowledge, mostly facts, up like a sponge and when they talked about it they sounded like an expert in the field. People with autism can teach themselves to do anything this way. I used to read a lot about physics, especially astronomy and spit out facts I memorised here and there and people thought I was a genius. I understood what I was saying but I’m far from a genius. We have a high attention to detail so can pick up on things people may miss. Try to pick up an object with a lot of detail with it and try to pick off every little detail on it. This is what we do naturally. It’s actually a good coping mechanism. When we look at the whole picture (environment) we’re easily overwhelmed. Most of us have extremely sensitive senses (take note Bungie) and need to detach from the world and just focus on one thing. As a result we memorise all the details. I’m just saying, a player like that on your team could be an asset.

We’re also very good problem solvers. Despite thinking mostly linearly, like it says in the diagnostic criteria, some of us can think of unconventional ways to solve a problem. A big problem I have with video games is that there’s usually just one way to play the game. I was once doing a raid in Destiny playing the Dark Below DLC. You have to take down a Hive Prince called Crota. We all pretty much knew the drill. All six of us have to touch a stone, then you gotta fight the Hive minions and there’s just a very set way to go on from there. But there was this one time where Bungie servers were being little buttholes and glitching the whole raid up, so we were impatient to finish the game so we broke protocol. It was only a slight deviation from the plan but we defeated Crota a lot faster than we usually would. So, maybe having a less than conventional member on the team could not only make a boring rinse and repeat raid more interesting but may lead to quicker victories. And I just think if there were at least 3 or 4 possible ways to complete a level then it would make for much more exciting game play. I really like emergent game play where you take over some dialogue decisions and it affects the outcome of the game. Developers need to make the way players actually get around the environment and the decisions they make within be as varied as the many choices of dialogue in story driven game play.

Autistic people may be able to learn a lot of information quickly and rehash that knowledge as though they’ve been into that subject for ten years when really it’s been two days, they may see other things people miss and they may want to shake up the linear way in which you play games, but there are also some cons. One of the most noticeable shortcomings about someone with autism is their poorly developed social skills. I’m here to elaborate on that. When talking to someone with autism it’s best to talk in a fairly straight forward manner and leave the phrases and idioms at home. They also cannot process too much information at once so it needs to be done in step by step intervals. For me, I don’t like too much banter while in a raid. I need to be able to focus on the mission at hand and really focus on the team leader’s directions. I simply cannot hear two different types of dialogue at once. I always have to pause a TV show when someone comes into the room talking. I can no longer follow what’s going on TV. I feel so frustrated I feel like throwing the remote at the people talking, but I know they don’t understand why I can’t hear the TV. They can filter out unwanted noise and focus on one thing. I and most people with autism, can’t. And always remember, people with autism cannot deal with change. A very helpful and awesome person will help them slowly transition to change by revealing that something different is going to happen and a most unhelpful person will just drop that information 2 seconds before it happens. The difference is a calm and contended person eager to do some team death match or a very angry person who is going to rage quit anyway, and blame you for it. Might rant on Facebook about it. Maybe.

One thing to keep in mind is people with autism just want to be understood but still be treated like everyone else. We don’t want pity. We’ve been handled with kid gloves for most of our lives and to be treated that way in your teens or adulthood is degrading and patronising. There has to be a balance between not being an ableist coont and not treating us like we’re in damn kindergarten.

I think one of the big problems facing people with autism and is probably the reason why they remain unicorns to me (hard to find in the gaming community) is because of the fact that autism is used as an insult throughout the gaming community and social media as a whole. Now, I’m not going to tell those people to stop. I know how much gamers hate having to change something about themselves to seem less offensive. I just don’t think autism should be used as an insult. For one, there’s nothing in the diagnostic criteria that says people with autism have an intellectual disability. Anyone who would make fun of someone with an intellectual disability have voided their humanity and are not subject to the same rights as declared in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights in my book anyway. They’re monsters and not worthy of a second thought. Hmm. I may be compartmentalising here..eh. People with autism are not mentally handicapped; it just co-exists in those with severe autism. In the psychological world we call that co-morbid. Like my ADHD. The symptoms of autism are to me personally a set of behaviors developed within the brain as its own way to cope with the chaotic world that the differently connected neural circuits within the autistic brain cannot cope with. But go ahead and think of autistic people as all retarded. It just shows how little you really know about the condition. It’s probably one of the very few mental disorders that give special skills within the frustrating life experience limiting symptoms too.

There are other autistic gamers out there who face the same issues as I do in the online community. I can’t be the only one. I wish to find them and give us a safe place to exist in the game community. If you’re on Xbox One send REDMENACE85 a message. If you’re a troll you will be ignored, reported to Microsoft and name and shamed by the international autism community. If I ever get back into Destiny I’ll make a clan just for us.

Life Goes On

Here’s an update of sorts on my life. I’ve had way too many thoughts to come up with a single subject to write about this time.

Lately, I’ve not been doing much aside from playing Mass Effect 3 for a few hours a day. On Sunday I clocked over 4 hours which to hardcore gamers is nothing but to someone who likes to divide their time by doing a variety of tasks I was beginning to feel a bit…non-functional.

You see, I have this problem where I can get stuck on doing just one thing and then forget to take care of my basic needs, like buying food and making my own healthy meals. I showered today, right? Yes. OK, good.

So, as I was saying I’ve been playing a lot of Mass Effect 3 and getting pretty far with it. It’s always surprising when I’m actually good at a game. I’m expecting to get so stuck soon that I’ll just quit the game in a fit of rage.

Something interesting to note about playing through ME:3 is that during the dialogue scenes where you get to choose what Commander Shepard says and decide where the game gets to go, I’ve not only been learning that my decisions have some real consequences but I’ve also picked up some extra social skills along the way. I’ve noticed how Shepard does take care to speak warmly to people even when you just select ‘goodbye’ as a piece of the dialogue. He doesn’t just say ‘bye then’ but will gently reveal that he’s going but will try to reassure the other character he still cares about their situation. If it was left up to me I’d probably just say ‘bye’ and leave it at that. Another thing I picked up which could help me with my erm, defiant reactions, is that I’ve learned not everyone will be pleased with the decisions I made within the game even if a few others might. For example I helped a race called the Krogan get more power by having them cured of the genophage; it sort of limited their growth as a species. The Salarians weren’t impressed with that. Even my own General Hackett wasn’t impressed that I freed a creature created by the Reapers, our enemy. Maybe I was a bit naive in believing her when she said she’d help fight them. At least I didn’t free a psychopath or work with a ruthless gang just to help win the war. However, I think I made a bad call not letting the Grissom students join the fight. Fortunately, I have saved my game on several slots and I can replay the mission to see what having the students fighting alongside me will be like.

Yep. A video game is teaching me social skills. Add it to the list of emotional family drama shows and science fiction which have also helped me develop socially.

Ever since I came back from seeing and photographing The Ape I feel like I’ve lost the spark of life. At least I had been. I don’t do very well with transitioning from one thing to another and once it was over it was over. I really wanted to meet them and my anxiety seemed to resurface at the moment the opportunity arose. It was a fine mix of social anxiety and avoidance that made me decide neh, I don’t want to do this. I was so set on going to Free Comic Book Day the next day that I thought it justified making a quick exit. Plus I had to work on the photos. Enough excuses, kid.

Then I felt incomplete and for several days just wanted to go back to try again. But I have to wait a really long time to get that chance again. My main aim of the night was to take certain type of photos of them, particularly what I call ‘rock moves’ which I kinda aced, but I missed out on few good shots, mainly because my lens wasn’t wide enough and the one lens I needed I decided to leave at home.

Leading up to the gig I had this whole theme of loneliness surrounding me. I had been struggling to talk to other MARVEL comic book fans and knew that I would literally know just one person at the gig who I also couldn’t go up to talk to. But fans did start talking to me. I had never realised that just hanging alone by the stage with a drink would make me appear to be so isolated. I guess I do look that way but I’ve got one aim: take the best photos at all costs, and that is what I accomplished that night. I even spent two days post processing the photos and was glad I sacrificed all that time to produce some pretty damn good looking photos.I kind of wonder at times whether using flash was the right call. The Ape’s lighting has always been challenging to work with and when I used the flash I barely noticed it. Actually, I think I was too over focused. I barely noticed anything going around me.

It took me awhile to get back into my interests or to even want to keep living my normal life. There’s a lot coming up but at the time I didn’t want to do it. I basically have two functions: zero motivation or extremely excited about my life and everything. So, I may just have been lacking motivation again. Then I made the decision to start playing Mass Effect 3. I didn’t think I could even get past the first cutscene because it was so damned long and then there were so many options I felt like pulling my hair out. But I was able to focus for a bit longer this time and carefully selected how I wanted my soldier. I’ve clocked about 15 hours of gameplay so I’m pretty happy about that. I even want to play a few more games.

I was still having trouble motivating myself to keep going to gigs and taking photos, mainly because it was hard enough to get the clearance to take photos. I can’t always rely on one helpful band member to get me in to take photos. So, I resigned myself to the fact that I’m probably just going to have to risk taking in my camera to Dallas Crane and I no longer felt like going. Then the support band, Greta Mob said they could get me in and ask me to take press shots of them. Nervous, excited and so very ambitious I decided to take them on. Then, I hear back from Pete Satchell from Dallas Crane. Sure, we could get you in.

Now the spark has returned to me, though it does wane at times. I’m pretty good at thinking the worst about a good opportunity. For now, I’m just waiting to see what happens on Saturday. I’ve kind of put myself into quarantine to keep me hidden away from the masses of sick sniffling and coughing people who carelessly spread their germs on someone who can’t affect to get sick.

Still, it’s hard to get through each day. Not long ago the only thing that could bring me happiness was the prospect of playing Mass Effect 3 for a few more hours a day. Could be depression or it could be that I don’t really care about anything except going to this gig. I was like this with The Ape, although with less anxiety. I was looking forward to Free Comic Book Day too. Then on the day I had extreme anxiety and then depression (thanks beer) but you know, I got over that. It might have taken a week but I got over it. I was a little ashamed of my behaviour that night and some thoughts I had that were just ridiculous to have because things turned out to be the opposite. Life goes on. And can I be any more vague than that?

But I do have things to look forward to. Tomorrow night (or tomorrow – depends on my patience) new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D premieres and it’s the season finale. I also have my S.H.I.E.L.D Origins comic book to read. Are you detecting a pattern here? Plus I’ve got new Big Bang Theory to watch as well as a few re-runs of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Tomorrow I’ll add Parenthood to the list. Yeah, don’t ask. Two characters have Asperger’s syndrome in it – we could be best friends! They make me feel normal, like Sheldon Cooper does. Ray Romano surprisingly makes a good autistic character.

I seem to be the kind of person who has to constantly give themselves things to look forward to do to keep my motivation going. I think it’s got to do with my ADHD. My mind is often struggling to focus while my thoughts are racing so to give myself some few minutes of stability I will just come up with a variety of things to do. When I don’t do this I get bored, under motivated and become easily depressed, empty, longing for something that I can’t see. I jump at any opportunity when my mind finds that focus, even if it’s just for an hour. And I’ll stick with it until exhaustion.

And after Dallas Crane there’s WAITS to see who are made up of ex-members of After the Fall including my buddy Mark, so I can actually talk to someone at a gig again. Then there Charles Jenkins and the Zhivagos. Such band members include Davey Lane and I’m always going to go up and say hi to Davey.  During this time I should also get more prepared to go to Portland. At times it’s the last thing I want to do but it could be a good experience for me. Also, I get to see one of the more likable members of my family. I’m kidding of course. I do miss my big sis though. And I want to become best friends with her pug.

I’ll miss seeing my Australian bands. That’s why when I’ll return I’ll be seeing The Used and Taking Back Sunday. Heh. I’ll at least get to see Darren Middleton again. I just love Australian music more than any other type of music. I still love my welsh rockers Funeral For a Friend and Thursday/Bayside/Jawbreaker/Cursive/Anberlin/etc who all come from the US, but my loyalty lies with the Australian music scene. People in my family have been hinting to me falling in love with Portland so much when I’m over there I will move there, but I won’t. I want to move to Melbourne, or Wales. Or Canada. Nah. I’m not that obsessed with Stargate anymore.

As I’ve been getting older my music taste has been changing so I’ve been going to a lot of gigs where the music and music scene is quite new to me. Sometimes I neglect to listen to the bands from the old scene. I kind of feel a bit left out about not knowing much about the history of the Australian rock scene or most bands people talk about. I can make more sense out of Star Trek than I can Rockwiz, but I am learning. At times I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot, but then I’m glad I never just stuck with one genre or sub genres throughout my life. At different parts of my life I’ve been pretty obsessed with a variety of music. As varied as emo/punk/hardcore is. I also like folk music and recently I’ve been getting into You Am I, Dallas Crane, The Gin Club, etc. I still listen to bands like The Used with a sense of guilty pleasure and I listen to bands like Jawbreaker, Refused, Thursday and Brand New as though I’m experiencing something incredible few people have, because I hardly know people who listen to them anymore. Basically put those bands make me experience far deeper emotions than most of the Australian rock bands can. Scientists say that we always feel nostalgic about the music we listened to as a teenager and because I’m autistic and a few years emotionally delayed my teen years were experienced more in my early to mid 20s. Some of those songs made up the soundtrack of what was happening in my life at the time. At least two or three were break-up records.

I’m an analytical person and much like Data from Star Trek or Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory study the behaviour of people to get a better understanding of them, I’ve decided to focus on the different demographic of music fans and how it manifests in them, i.e teenagers probably get the most obsessed. They have posters on their wall, frequent fan forums, wear the band’s merch and learn pretty much all they can about the bands. I’m partly still in this demographic though I’m not really into the hero worshiping thing like they are. I’d rather have a drink with a band than get an autograph. I’m over collecting 10,000 set lists too. Then, I wondered how the older fans (40+) differed from this. I’m still conducting my research so I don’t have much to put forward yet. But in time I might be more capable of articulating my thoughts on this matter. One can speculate they spend less time in fan communities and being obsessed and their love of the band is pushed to the background as they work, raise children and whatever else they do. And gigs are a place they can unwind. They stand back in the crowd and watch from afar. Unless they’re my best friend. But I’m basically looking for a general picture here and not the exception to the rule.

Moving on.

It’s disappointing to me that the bands I used to always see and photograph have become difficult to get photo access to. Anberlin are playing one last show ever and I probably won’t get to take photos. I’m seeing Taking Back Sunday and probably won’t get to take photos. All I really need is the Dwarf to send me an e-mail asking people to apply to take photos at those shows and I’m in. But at least now I can rely on The Ape, Dallas Crane and You Am I to get me into take photos. And depending how much Matthew Davies wants to help me I might get some photo access to Funeral For a Friend.

So, life goes on. It goes to Portland, returns to buy video games and read more comic books. It goes to more Australian gigs (and a few overseas ones as well) and takes photos. It reignites and loses the spark to enjoy everything that comes its way.

Eventually it will get a job and on some medical treatment plan.

When Some Things Are More Important to Me Than Other Things

I’ve stopped caring about Autism Awareness Month. I see a new article plastered all over my Facebook news feed each day, sometimes several in a day, and I just don’t feel that fussed about clicking on the link. I may just be feeling let down about the lack of feedback on my last blog. Maybe it was too long and didn’t explain autism enough. Maybe it wasn’t what people wanted to read. Or maybe it’s because I no longer want to reach out to the people around me because they seem to be understanding more than I had thought. Whatever the case I’ve completely turned off from autism acceptance or even bothering to keep reading other people’s posts about it. How do I keep writing posts for Autism Acceptance Month when I just don’t care? So this next post will be about my fear of chan…on second thoughts, I don’t really want to do that.

I haven’t really been caring about much lately. I keep avoiding going to gigs even though I really like those bands. It’s just makes me think: is this really what I want to do? If so then why am I not even the slightest bit motivated to go out and take a few photos? Why do I cringe every time someone suggests I take photos?

My camera is currently inside a box covered by several other boxes, for safety reasons but I also think there’s more to it than that. I think I’m bored and looking for something new and novel to do. It happens to those with ADHD. We hate to just stick to one thing because repetition can make us feel underwhelmed. We like excitement and challenges, not just the same old same old, day and day again.

But I also haven’t been taking photos of bands for about four months now so instead of growing tired of it I think I’m just in a kind of inertia. I’ve lost my flow as a band photographer. I probably still have the skills but I’m just under prepared. More under prepared than just not organised, but it’s like if you haven’t driven a car in 6 months. You get a bit rusty, start making mistakes, don’t feel as comfortable behind the wheel, or something like that. I don’t drive at all but I can imagine it’s like that.

If I don’t do something in a long time especially something as specialised as band photography then I just don’t remember enough of how I was to know that I’m very good or all the tricks I developed to deal with the chaotic sensory environment.

It’s more than that though. It always is. My on/off depression and ever present anxiety affects how I see myself and relate to the world around me too. I’m dealing with some heavy things that even missing out on my favourite band or artist matters little to me. Unless it’s that band I’ve mentioned several times in this post.

The next gig is a paid shoot so I’ll give it my all and I’m sure I’ll do great. I might actually get that spark of life ignited inside me again and might be more enthusiastic about shooting the next gig. To be honest though after I see The Ape on the 2nd of May I’m not planning to go to anymore gigs until mid-August and no band has even announced a gig for that time too.

It’s not like I’m just sitting around doing nothing though. Actually, I’m starting to feel just like a person with autism feels when they get absorbed into a special interest. Outsiders would call it an obsession because to me they just don’t get that passionate about many things, but to those people with autism the interests just become our whole world and we may forget about what’s going on in the actual world and hardly care because these interests just bring us so much happiness. They’re like a drug. And we also become experts in whatever area the subject is in very quickly. They don’t call us ‘little professors’ for nothing.

My drug of choice has been focusing more on Marvel comics and Marvel films, especially since Captain America: The Winter Soldier was just released in cinemas which I’ll see pretty damn soon. Going to the movies costs a lot in the city. And then there’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to see sometime next week too.

So, I’ve been selecting certain comic books to read from my house mate’s humongous collection. I’m disappointed by the lack of Captain America comic books but I can get my fix with some New Avengers graphic novels. I’ve read a couple of Amazing Spider-Man graphic novels and I’m now planning to re-read Civil War again because it’s amazing, and then going back to Avengers: Dissembled because I have some Cap comic books from that era.

I have spent many months collecting Marvel Fact Files too and read 10 in one week. That took a lot of effort. Fortunately I had very minor depressive symptoms during that time and was pretty high on life.

I’m also trying to watch as many Bruce Timm Batman animated series episodes as I can manage. It was my favourite show when I was as young as 8 or 9 and I think it made me stick with Batman for all these years, despite being mostly a Marvel comic fan, but I’m open to more DC super heroes now.

I miss playing Batman: Arkham City only because I got stuck on one level and rage quit, but I suppose I can go back to it. I still think about Mass Effect 3 too. I just don’t like playing video games when people are around me because it throws me off my game. No offence to other people but I’d rather be alone.

I’ve started on my sci-fi story too but the structure isn’t right and I know I that shouldn’t bother me now. I should just keep writing. But before I could just write in a single stream and keep the structure perfect. It’s a fun story to play in my mind so I’m hoping it translates just as well on the page.

The band I’m most forward looking to see and photograph is The Ape and because of the narrow focus I get for certain things they are all I can think about, which is probably why I can miss out on seeing Tim Rogers because everything is just a distraction for me at the moment. There are good distractions that make time pass faster but there are bad ones that make me care more about another band instead of the one I’ve been waiting so long to see.

I’m not obsessed. Much. If I’m obsessed about anything it’s seeing Captain America: The Winter Soldier and just Steve Rogers in general. Andtheape. Just don’t tell them.

So, I’m basically all about Marvel comic books during the day and watching science fiction at night – I’m re-watching all 10 seasons of Stargate SG-1 all over again, – blowing my money on highly priced movie tickets to see my favourite Marvel super heroes in action, reading The Hunger Games trilogy to get the structure of novels down and working on my own sci-fi novella, and hopefully remembering that I’m seeing The Ape in May. I need to stop avoiding going to gigs because…I don’t even know anymore. Maybe it’s anxiety. Maybe I just haven’t been doing it in so long that it’s no longer a part of the routine. And maybe it’s got a lot to do with how I felt when I went to see AFI on my own. Whatever the case I hope this one gig goes right for me.

Here’s the problem with having autism and ADHD. One of the problems. If I just had intense focus in one subject I could become an expert and base my whole career around it, but because I have ADHD and get interested in a lot of subjects, I will jump back and forth between each one, several times a day, gain some new interests as well as revisit old ones, and I’m not spending enough time on one so I’m not becoming as knowledgeable as I could be and if I was trying to reach a goal, like publishing a novel, then it becomes almost impossible to stay on task. There are distractions, in the environment and in my own head too. So, people look up to me like I’m this brilliant genius destined to succeed but the truth is no one can achieve so many things at once, especially if they have ADHD and have to manage their often disabling symptoms on their own, without the aid of medication too.

So, I have the worries about my ADHD symptoms to contend with while I spend time on my interests with the little window of focus and motivation I have.

Then it’s back to worrying about my trip to America as the day of the flight draws closer. I get moderate-severe anxiety over the mere mention of the trip, so it’s no wonder I’ve turned back to my special interests to keep me distracted.

It can be very hard for me to get excited for something other people all get excited about, like say a wedding which I may or may not be going to with the whole family when I go to America. That’s the curse of the special interest. I struggle to describe my feelings for them in words. Nothing I say will can accurately describe the state of euphoria I’m in when I spend time on them. All I can say it they are all I care about when I’m spending time on them or constantly thinking about them and they actually make my life feel like it’s worth living.

I probably seem really self-absorbed right now but at least the people around me can forgive me for that. I’m just hoping I can still manage to feed myself and keep myself looking presentable, as well as getting enough sleep so my moods and ADHD symptoms don’t get too hard to manage. It does get to a point that I get so absorbed into a special interest that I will neglect to take basic care of myself. I’m literally envisioning myself now as being sucked into the interest, which right now is The Marvel Universe, so that we are no longer separate entities but have become one.

That’s it, young lady. No more comic books for you!

I’m not even sure if I can correctly explain why I’m acting the way I am because I don’t understand it myself. All I know is I am obsessed about certain subjects and I’m putting all my attention into them to the exclusion of all others, and probably have failed to empathise with people because of the amount of intense focus I’ve put in just a few subjects, which by the way, bring a type of ecstasy for me that you just can’t replicate.

I might try later to completely explain what having a special interest feels like to me, in my staggering poetic language too.

An Introduction

Help! They Want Me To Socialise is a perfect coming together of my mental health issues, my extreme dislike of the mainstream and my most relatable feature: just your common socially awkward geek with a love of comic books, science fiction and videogames.

It’s the perfect description for me and tells you all at once everything you need to know about me. I’ve had a lot of blogs over the years but they’ve been about very specific things and I could never deviate from a certain theme. The problem is I constantly think up things to say that I can’t condense into a couple of paragraphs. They come and they go and even though they kept me up all night or entertained me during the day they never get written down. What a waste of a couple of hours of thought!

This blog will mainly cover these topics:

1) Mental health advocacy; autism, ADHD, bipolar and anything else I feel like talking about. I need a place to post my annually autism and ADHD awareness day/week/month posts because my Facebook friendslist is not a big enough audience to reach. I’ll try my best to not make the posts too personal and emotional and I’ll try to use them less as labels. I have so many diagnosis’s and suspected ones that jumping between the labels when they suit me seems kind of ridiculous.

2) The journey of writing my first screenplay, which I should be spending time on now but after four days of failure I started to take a break from worrying about how much of a damn struggle it is to write.

3) Some passing thoughts about video games. I study them while I play because at one time I was doing research for a science fiction novel that never got completed and then I just sort of became addicted to them. I also want to continue my article series titled ‘In Defence of the Videogame’ that responds to criticism about them being mind numbing and creativity stifling to children.

4) Band photography. I‘m most known as a band photographer and despite this depressing three month break I might just go out one night and take some photos of bands. I’ve been taking photos of bands on and off for about 10 years. I’ll share some photos here and might attempt to write a live review. I’m a big supporter and contributor to the live Australian music scene. So, it makes sense that the next two gigs will be headlined by Jimmy Eat World and AFI.

5) Everything else. Any thoughts I need to let loose that I can’t explain in less than three pages.

Now don’t be misguided by the blog’s title – I do like to socialise – but I find it both confusing and frustrating. Saying ‘hello’ isn’t so hard but I have never once in my life followed that with ‘how are you?’ and I keep trying but nothing comes out. Then, I have to try and keep the conversation going when all the answers I end up giving are either ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know.’ Then I say things without thinking which isn’t always the worst thing for me. It’s not my ideal way to communicate though because I want to say what I’ve given great thought. The next frustrating part of socialising for me will have to be the fact that I don’t always find a lot of people interested in what I have to say. That’s not a lack of confidence on my part – you’ll find I can be very passionate when talking about my interests and when people dare to mock me for liking something deemed too nerdy to talk about, I’m not embarrassed at this so-called faux pas – I’m enraged.  These topics are my life and how dare people just stand there looking smug as though I should know that they are too unpopular to talk about and be appropriately embarrassed by bringing such a topic up. I disagree with such a notion and wish people would give me a chance to talk about such things and they’ll find out my communication style changes from awkwardness and appearing to not to feel confident about anything I say to self-assurance and with so much confidence it borders on arrogance. OK, I am arrogant at times. I admit it.

In short socialising is tough on me and I hardly ever walk away feeling satisfied. I seem like I’m easy to get along with but I keep my true feelings hidden. Fact is, socialising to me is a waste of time and energy and I really only do it for two reasons: 1) to practice my skills and 2) to make people happy. Perhaps I’ll add a third: to better develop the characters in my stories. I at one time wanted to understand human social behaviour but what I found I didn’t like and I wouldn’t mind being clueless about it again.

I love my friends even though I really only get along with one really well but I just don’t think I get enough out of it. I at times need to be intellectually stimulated and so go to my books and then think over what I’ve learned and then I write about it. Not even watching movies or writing a screenplay is enough stimulation for me.

I don’t really understand what so many people get out of socialising. Whatever it is it’s something I’m missing – as in missing the ‘want’ of whatever this thing is. I’ll do the social thing occasionally but I don’t require it to be happy. In fact, I’m happier when I’m not doing it because when I do socialise I tend to get pissed off with people. Although, I need to socialise enough to not regress those few skills I already have and futilely try to build on.

Maybe I’ll post about this issue more. It certainly would make the blog title more relevant.

So this is me. This is finally a blog that goes over every area of my life. I hope you like what you see here.

Stay tuned.

Shadro