Autumn is making way for winter. It’s getting cold and the air has the smell of snow in it. I love this time of year. I love hats, coats and gloves and scarfs and feeling the cold on my face. I also love being inside with a hot cup of tea and a great film, cuddling up under a blanket.
One of the things that people associate with autism spectrum disorder is special or intense interests. If you have experience with people on the spectrum, or if you are anything like me, odds are you’ve already seen it for yourself. I have seen it in others just as I see it in myself.
To me, and others like me, it’s not just that we can dedicate a lifetime to the study of one particular subject and positively obsess about it in the same way others seem to feel when they are deeply in love, no, it’s more than that. Sometimes I feel like that about a single thing, a simple thing. Not everything can be turned into a career or even qualify as a hobby. Sometimes it is just that we obsess over a film or a book, or maybe a song, a drink or a special dish.
What makes it special is difficult to explain, it hardly seems logical to me half the time. It just feels…. right.
I have many such things. I love coffee, I actually worked as a barista once, but the social aspects of the job made it impossible for me to stay there, although I enjoyed making coffee very much. I still make coffee and I still love it. Now, I don’t personally think that I obsess about it. I really don’t.
It has been mentioned to me that I do, though. In my opinion, I don’t have the skill or the knowledge to feel comfortable talking about it in detail, but I know enough that I can distinguish a badly brewed coffee from a good one. When I pay for coffee it had better be good, otherwise I ought to just make it myself.
It worries me that people think or feel I’m obsessing about something when I don’t feel like that myself. If they think I’m annoying when I discuss something I don’t feel that I’m all that passionate about, then what might they not think when I talk about something I am obsessively passionate about? I dare not think think about it.
My point here is, just because something feels like or looks like an obsession to outsiders, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we ourselves feel like we are really all that interested in the subject. We might like it a bit and then that’s the end of it. Nothing more, no special or keen interest that exceeds what we think of as exceptional.
When I’m really, really interested in something – to the point it borders on obsession – then I generally know. I am very aware that it’s an interest that I care too much about to talk about and still seem normal.
One of the most horrible feelings I can have is when I’m looking at someone and I realise I talked too much about something. I get caught up in my own excitement and forget to work on deciphering the other person. I don’t intuitively read other people and when I’m caught up in something I’m passionate about I forget I have to work on that too.
At some point in my monologue (which I guess ought to be enough for me to understand that pure lack of interest of the other person, but trust me, it’s really not) I remember that I have to try and read the other person and then I see it; all the signs are there and they stare at me like I am quite possibly insane.
Worse yet is when they just smile and nod as if they pity me.
I hate talking about things I am passionate about exactly for that reason. I wish people would stop me sometimes, tell me that they can’t follow what I’m saying or that they don’t really feel they need to know so much because of whatever reasons they have for that. I also hate the idea of people stopping me, because then I’ve already gone too far. I talked too much and feel embarrassed they had to stop me.
The only solution I ever saw for myself was simply and effective: I stopped talking about things that matter to me.
Over time, it became a shameful secret and then, in the end, I started avoiding things I’m passionate about. If I couldn’t talk about and couldn’t think about – the latter for fear of accidentally talking about it – then the best way to avoid it was simply to avoid the things themselves altogether.
Lately, however, I’m less afraid of talking about things I’m passionate about. Or, perhaps, I should say I’m afraid about different things now. I’m less afraid of the embarrassment of talking too much about things people don’t care about and more afraid of people thinking I’m not good enough. That they’ll see how little I know or how stupid I feel.
The solution for this is quite the opposite of the solution I came up with for the first problem. In this case, letting myself be obsessively passionate about something will make me more knowledgeable. Feeling that I know what I’m talking about will make me less afraid to talk about it, I think. I hope.
What I really wanted to talk about here though, is that being passionate about something is not what people sometimes believe. I can be deeply passionate about a movie or a book or something like that.
Before my surgery and everything that happened after, I would force myself to not repeatedly watch the same film if I felt I wanted to. I was ashamed that all I wanted could be, as an example, just spending several days in a row watching one film over and over again.
People thought it was weird, so I was afraid it was. Maybe it is, but really, I don’t care enough now.
What’s wrong with watching a great film several times if I want to?
Nothing. Nothing is wrong with it. So what if people call me boring? I might be in their eyes, but I won’t be happier just because someone doesn’t think I’m boring. I don’t mind being boring. I just want to be happy.
Why force myself not to just because I’m worried I’m doing something weird? I don’t even know. It’s not like anyone would ever find out. Well, of course they might find out now, because I’m writing it here, but that doesn’t matter.
When all I want is just to watch a specific film again and again then nothing else can make me feel relax. Nothing compares. Every time I force myself to watch a different film, read a book or play a game when all I can think about is that one film, then the only thing that makes me relax is watching that film.
It’s the same with other things like PC games and books too, it’s not just films.
If I want to re-watch old films several times I will.
You know why?
Because it makes me happy.