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Tick Tock Ka-Ching

This month isn’t too bad actually, in terms of work load. But I’m still anxious and unsettled. I’ve been living off my savings for the past 3 months so there’s plenty of catching up to do (most of it goes to paying the rent) and work for coming months is yet uncertain.


Numbers and figures, hours and dollars
Time is ticking, time is money
Tick tock, ka-ching

Busy is good, busy is great
Busy with work and clocking hours
Busy looking and applying for jobs
Busy keeping track of time and busy fighting sleepy bugs
Busy counting balances and calculating expenses
Numbers and figures, financial planning and mathematics
Trying to work out the sums oh what a headache*
Busy worrying, stressed and scared
Will I be able to pay my rent?
July August September
Safe for the time being but what about next?
It’s not just rent but utilities too
But more than that, I’m busy hoping for a holiday
Busy wishing I can afford that
Because right now I’m just a slave
Keeping busy to pay my rent
I rather be busy planning for my holiday
This is the reason I keep myself busy motivated
Because I need a break from this crazy busy
(And what if my loved ones are falling sick
I don’t even dare to think about it
Maybe I have just jinxed myself
Gosh I can be so superstitious)
Busy keeping my executive functions working, busy to stop my mind from wandering
It’s hard to struggle between low and high functioning
Busy fighting depression
Not all hope is lost (and repeat a 1000 times)
Busy fighting anxiety
Keep calm and move on (and repeat a 1000 times)
Busy fighting exhaustion turns out to be a real hard battle
And on top of it all, busy pretending I’m fine

Numbers and figures, hours and dollars
Time is ticking, time is money
Tick tock, ka-ching


*Loser earns $X dollars per hour.
Loser pays $Y dollars per month for the rental.
A vacation trip costs $Z dollars.
How many hours does Loser need to work per month/day in order to pay the rent?
How many more hours does Loser need to work and save per month/day in order to budget for a vacation?
Assuming Loser works the same number of hours or more each month, when is the earliest time Loser can afford to go on a vacation? No wait, Loser can’t assume. The question to ask is what is the probability of Loser getting the same amount of work or finding new employment next month?

I actually prefer the acoustic version but this version matches my current mood better. Nothing arrived but keep on busy.

Featured image from http://www.pexels.com

Welcome to my neighbourhood: A sensory simulation

“…I am starting to find life in this crowded city unbearable to the extent it is making me sick. I am overwhelmed by the sounds of busy packed streets, the incessant chatter and hordes of traffic, human and vehicular, which seems to be bombarding my senses from all directions.” 

I gave you a virtual tour of my neighbourhood earlier this year, I thought I’d do a video this time. I hesitated to post it because of the poor quality (I was just using my cheap phone). This is my first attempt and I thought maybe I should get a stabilizer and try filming a few more times before posting. But then I changed my mind because hell, I don’t want to do this anymore, walking around the busy street with a phone/camera and a stabilizer, filming a scene that irks me. The quality isn’t good and it made me feel dizzy but then it isn’t meant to be nice. My hands were shaky but then they always are. They are not added effects. It is a reflection of my anxieties which I try to hide. It reflects my stress that comes with being out on the street. It is as it is, raw and unfiltered. So there you go, turn up the volume and enjoy one hell of a ride! *Warning: May Cause Dizziness

Do you hear what I hear?

When I went back home to my parents few weeks ago, there were two flats undergoing renovation at the same time. I was still trying to grapple with the onslaught of emotions then and the renovation works weren’t helping at all. To make it worse, the government is constructing a new subway line in the area where I live so there are major construction works nearby although thankfully our apartment is not in the direct vicinity. The picture below shows a construction site which lies directly outside a block of public estate. I feel so so sorry for the people living in these estates, especially the ones at the lower storeys. Imagining waking up everyday with all that dust and noise and not seeing the light of day for the next 2 years, at least. I could die, seriously. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched. I wonder how many families are going to be affected by the construction, not just physically but psychologically and mentally. How are they going to stand all these pollution? I’ve lived in the area since I was a child and the existing bus network was convenient enough so I wasn’t at all impressed with the plan.

On the topic of auditory sensitivity, Temple Grandin wrote:

My hearing is like having a hearing aid with the volume control stuck on “super loud.” It is like an open microphone that picks up everything. I have two choices: turn the mike on and get deluged with sound, or shut it off…I am unable to talk on the phone in a noisy office or airport. Everybody else can use the phones in a noisy environment, but I can’t. If I try to screen out the background noise, I also screen out the phone…Autistics must be protected from noises that bother them. Sudden loud noises hurt my ears like a dentist’s drill hitting a nerve…I still dislike places with confusing noise, such as shopping malls. High-pitched continuous noises such as bathroom vent fans or hair dryers are annoying. I can shut down my hearing and withdraw from most noise, but certain frequencies cannot be shut out. It is impossible for an autistic child to concentrate in a classroom if he is bombarded with noises that blast through his brain like a jet engine…Even now, I still have problems with tuning out. I will be listening to a favorite song on the radio, and then realize I missed half of it. My hearing just shuts off…” Temple Grandin, An Inside View of Autism

Luke Jackson describes his auditory experience as follows:

I have a strange kind of hearing and can only concentrate on listening to things if I know I am meant to. Distinguishing between background and foreground noise has always been a problem, so however loud they shouted I would have presumed that it was background noise. This is a difficulty of AS because I get told off so many times…” Luke Jackson, Freaks, Geeks & Asperger Syndrome

There are other examples which illustrate how auditory sensitivity affects individuals on the spectrum but what really impresses me is the vivid insight these autistic individuals possess regarding their own sensory experiences. They demonstrate a high level of self-awareness in describing their experiences, something which I seem to lack. In my diagnosis report, I mentioned having a low tolerance to noise. At the time of assessment, I wasn’t aware that sensory sensitivities are a characteristic of autism but growing up, noise has always been a problem for me. I can’t talk on the phone because the background is noisy; I can’t work in the library because I can hear people whispering; I can’t concentrate at home because I can hear my neighbours’ footsteps; I can’t hear what the lecturer was saying because other people were talking at the same time; I hate going to the malls because it’s noisy. However, if you ask me why, I’d say it’s noisy. I won’t be able to explain nor describe nor tell you I can’t talk/hear/concentrate etc. because my ears have difficulty filtering the background noise from the foreground noise, or if I screen out the background noise, I also screen out the phone. Hence, I was really impressed by the insight these autistic individuals display, not just of their own autistic experiences but the insight they have of how the NTs function too.

When I read biographies written by autistics, there are times I can relate as well as times I don’t. It bothered me for a while because just when I thought I found my ‘tribe’, I realise I don’t actually quite fit in. In Aspergirls, Rudy Simone quotes a girl with Asperger saying:

What really makes me uncomfortable is when Aspie campaigners couch that “leave us alone” argument in the myth that all AS people are super intelligent mathematician science savants and some sort of master race. That makes me feel, as an Aspie who doesn’t have any of that, I’m a double fail – I fail at being normal, and also fail at being AS.

For this reason, I personally don’t see the world out there as NTs versus Autistics. I’m reluctant, if not averse, to framing issues or debates as NTs versus Autistics; or Us versus Them. I have problem with human beings in general, NTs and autistics alike so I don’t discriminate between NTs and autistics in this respect. However, I’m not saying that differences don’t matter ~ I like to know how NTs and autistics differ in terms of their biology, functions, behaviours, responses etc. This has to do with me trying to understand myself better, it is my attempt at self-awareness. My intention is not to pit one group against the other. And as I grow older and my desire for solitude increases, I have less desire nowadays to identify myself with any group nor wish to belong to any tribe. Ultimately, I am not you, I’m just one person you met with autism. However, we can still be kind to each other even if you do not hear what I hear.

The good, the bad and the ugly smells

Reluctantly, I was travelling in a packed train the other day. I was back home again with my parents and we were on the way to the hospital for my dad’s surgery the day after. I cursed as I walked down the stairs to the train station, fully aware that it was peak hour and anticipating a hell of a ride. We were in the last compartment and after a few stops, I was lucky enough to find a vacant spot in the corner between the emergency exit and seats where I could fit myself in and stand without getting into physical contact with others. Before that, we were in a bus loaded with students who smell of sweat like milk turned sour. With its tropical climate, heat and humidity, Singapore is a city where things, even people take on a bad smell easily. That weekend before, we had dinner in the mall and as we walked into the busy restaurant, I sensed the lack of air-conditioning and the smell of stale air. I didn’t smell the aroma of food, I smelled the body odour of the people in the restaurant lingering in the air. It was off-putting but I tried not to let these unpleasant sensory experiences overshadowed the family time although I sometimes lose my temper.

When I say I’m sensitive to smells, many people can relate on a level, my friends complain about the smell of body odour on public transports too. I get it, most people would agree that body odour is unpleasant, there is nothing unusual with my aversion to smell in this respect. But I’m not just talking about unpleasant smells. I caught the morning bus to the hospital the next morning. The bus was full with commuters to work. A passenger took up the seat in front of me and immediately I felt the blockage of air flow. It was a different kind of smell to the after-school/work transport but I was equally put off by the smell and here I’m talking about smells like perfume, deodorant, shampoo, body wash ~ smells that are pleasant to most people, even smells of products that I use.  The thing is a smell may be pleasant on its own but when it is mixed and overloaded with the smell of hundred others, it turns bad and so do I. Sensory issues are common amongst autistics although I do not know enough about the research in this area to explain why. But if you ask me what is it about smell that I find disturbing, other than they are unpleasant, I’d say they are unpredictable and intrusive. Perhaps they stem from my needs for space and solitude. The same can be said of noise and unwanted physical contact. The smells are distracting and an intrusion of my space. I always bring a travel size perfume with me or a scented lotion or hand sanitiser. When I have too much of the smell of others, I sniff or sprinkle a few drops of perfume. I know adding more smells into the environment is hardly the best solution, I’m likely to end up overpowered by my own smell but this is me trying to assert some control over the environment. Sensory sensitivities and sensitivity to smell isn’t necessarily just about the bad and ugly smells but the good smells too.