High Functioning Autism and OCD

High Functioning Autism and OCD

So I was driving back from the nearby town in one of the work vehicles and didn’t bother changing the radio station. Now I usually try and keep the cars how I find them as there is someone who has to drive it home and put up with all the setting changes and stuff being moved around. In saying that I don’t mind Radio National and that is what was on. There was a story that really got my attention and I could relate to rather closely. It was on the show called Conversations with Richard Fidler that had a story from Lily Bailey and her escape from OCD. Now I’m not saying I have anywhere near the struggle or anything to that extreme. However I could relate to a number of things.

Lily not only had a friend in her head but had many strong tendencies and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or as everyone knows it as, OCD. The friend would make comments that were not generally nice and were lewd. Until Lily was able to find that humour was a way to get past it and make it not important. And with the obsessions it was a similar thing, just needed a way to make them not important and then it is not as much of a problem. By putting it off for 30 minutes, an hour or longer and eventually it is no longer being thought about because it has passed, gone and not important. As mentioned it isn’t necessarily these points that I related with but there were some things that I really did.

Now I am on the spectrum for High Functioning Autism, or as I prefer to call it, Asperger’s. It is not debilitating or limiting and I honestly have done very well learning how to overcome issues. But there were some realisations that I had come to or things I had learnt to cope with it which Lily had done so as well. Now it isn’t just some random “oh that’s nice, we both thought of the same thing”. It is more that Lily has done research for her book and that she has dealt with a very severe case. This just verifies that the logical analysis I have done on my own mind is both very capable and within the ball park of the truth.

Not only did I relate to this story but it also motivated me to actually write about my experience which is coming below and to also talk about it in this video [coming soon]. I had no idea what was going on at all when I was younger, I just thought that everyone was the same and that I was no different. Thinking back on it though it is easy to remember examples of Asperger’s and how my mind thinks a little differently. Like in grade 1 or 2 at school the teacher was commenting to me about my performance and said to “pull your socks up”. Considering I had not heard that before, the logic looked at it simply and I literally pulled up my socks. Later on there were definitely times that I started to question what was wrong with me, what was wrong with my head. As I had noticed by then that I was different. These thoughts were obviously because I wasn’t sure what exactly was different or why. I even thought it might have been a tumour pressing against my brain. But I got over that and forgot all about it. Now as I said I am not high on the spectrum, but enough to notice it. It was in 2011 I think that I spoke to a Psychologist and was told what was actually going on.

The way my mind works is logical, extremely logical. And I have even noticed times when I didn’t know what to do with my emotions. I literally did not know what emotion I was meant to feel and what I was feeling was a flooding from one emotion to another. I had not experienced that situation before and I had no pre-determined logic on what to do or feel. But that is how it generally goes for me, my days are about 30% If-Then-Else, 60% routine and 10% just being random. And life does not go that smoothly that you will never find new situations. But I have found coping mechanisms and ways to deal with new situations, ways to create new If statements. However there are definitely things I struggle with. There is some mild OCD which is actually subsiding but is simple as just having to sit down at the table from a certain direction and having to correct it by getting up and walking around the table. Comparably it is not that bad and is manageable, unlike some other things.

Socially is where I struggle the most, not usually with friends although it can happen. But when I am out around a lot of new people, it is those initial conversations or even getting the confidence to go up to someone for fear of those conversations. I have gone out before to a nice pub with the intention to talk to someone new and try and confront this. It took about an hour and a half of walking around and standing awkwardly by myself staring at people. But this takes time to figure it out and learn. Another thing which is actually pretty funny is that my memory is also affected by my Asperger’s. For some reason my brain understands that some things are very important to remember. Unfortunately it is not peoples names or important dates, it is most of the events or conversations that you have had with them, or their stories. Even around my friends I can forget their name or mix it with someone else’s.

Half the time when I have a conversation with someone I don’t know who it is so I avoid having to say their name. But the conversation can continue as I remember everything else about them in most cases. I started listening to Lily’s story partway through, but the first thing that clicked with me is when she mentioned the support group and that finding the hilarity in things really helps. While at the same time knowing that not everything is funny, there are times when it is almost impossible to laugh at the situation or events. But this is definitely something that I feel is at my core, I do generally try to make everyone around me laugh and also try to see everything I can with a positive spin. Next was the Goldfish analogy, that it will grow larger in a larger tank. This was in reference to boredom and OCD, in which rings very true for me. I pick my nails, eat and watch videos online for hours on end and lose track of time which can all be started by boredom. It isn’t just the boredom of not doing anything, I find that generally I need to be very mentally stimulated while at other times not very much at all. Even right now while writing this I am watching something on TV.

The best way I find to relax my mind is to give it a number of ‘mindless’ tasks all at once. I find my peace driving a car around streets I know, listening to my favourite music, usually singing along. And sometimes I am thinking about things I need to solve or work through, or even holding a conversation in parts around my favourite parts of a song with someone riding along. It is all about finding balance between routine, doing stimulating activities and also finding things that can distract you enough to let you relax or give you a chance to think about what you need to. But also this is something that I constantly need to work on. I don’t always stay motivated and active with both keeping to routine or introducing stimulating activities into my day. So then the OCD comes back and rules my routine again. It is a constant battle, all be it a small one in the grand scheme of things.

One of the things I have realised is I need to put effort into reducing how this affects others. I try to make it known that I am trying and do not expect others to change what they are doing just to suit me. And in doing that I also try not to let it be a thing that annoys me or that I need to react to. And if it is something that I feel like I need to react to, I try to modify how I react. And thus making it something that is not that important, something that does not need to be done. The final thing that I really agreed with and I need to apply in a different way is to think about what the OCD will do in 10 or 12 years if it was to continue. This doesn’t apply to me in that sense, but in the way of comparing my current actions and path in life and seeing if that is something that I think I will still be happy continuing in 12 years. Whether it is something I need to do something about now to make a real change in my life. Rather than just letting my current self continue as is.

I will talk more about this in a video [coming soon]. And for more information on Lily’s story you can listen to the 57 minute talk from ABC’s Radio National http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/conversations-lily-bailey/8519436

If you have any questions or feel like you need to reach out, please leave a comment or refer to the below contacts for someone that you can talk to who will understand and is there to help guide you.

These are taken directly from the ABC website:

Lily Bailey’s book Because we are Bad is published by Allen & Unwin
Richard’s 2016 conversation with Dr Jessica Grisham about treating OCD is here
Help is always available
Lifeline 13 11 14 offers 24 hour counselling
SANE Australia – helpline, online, forums 1800 187 263
Beyondblue – telephone and online counselling 1300 22 4636
Suicide Call Back Service – 24 hours -1300 659 467


2 Replies to “High Functioning Autism and OCD”

  1. James
    You’ve come a long way, and we’ve learnt to accept you for who you are. For many, James is this hyper active person who can be very childish. All of your close friends see the real James, someone who can be serious when needed, and is happy to provide comic relief, even though it can be a tad inappropriate.

    You have good friends around you that are understanding and are always happy to listen and assist. You’ve got a long journey ahead, and I am happy to be there helping you along the way and enjoying the journey.

  2. Thanks James for giving an insight into your personal journey in a way that is easy to understand and so very intriguing 😘

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