Hateful me

It was hate that knocked you down
and it pinned you to the ground

I’m a hateful person and I’m not proud of that. I’m hateful of the society and so-called civilisation. I detest the fact that people care more about social hierarchy than social (in)justices. The modern technology of communication has further stripped people of their basic manners and decency. Life has become a show business.

I had a strong sense of social justice since I was a child, what I didn’t realise then was that injustice was so close to heart until I became one of the marginalised group myself (autism). When I was at school, I would make friends with classmates who were ostracised either because they weren’t doing as good academically or they were often absent due to sickness. I wasn’t tough enough to stand up for them but I can offer my friendship. I knew how it felt to be singled out and excluded. Although I never experienced physical bullying, I was set up and accused of doing things that I didn’t, my quietness was taken as a sign of guilt and weakness, on the other hand, I wasn’t given a chance to defend myself, my only response was to cry out of helplessness. Since then, I became wary, even defiant, of people in authority (teachers, prefects, class monitors) because they were culpable for perpetuating the power imbalance. I started to build up my defensive protective mechanisms and even till now, I get triggered into a defensive mode easily because I wasn’t defensive enough when I was a child.

2014 was the year of my autism awakening (I got my diagnosis earlier before 2014 but I wasn’t fully aware of its implications then – it is very characteristic of me that I’m always slow to react). I gave myself two years to do everything I can to get myself out of the country and move to Australia. 2016, I started this blog and gave myself another two years. 2018 came and went. Whenever people ask about my progress, I struggle to answer. To tell the truth, I don’t know how. If someone could just tell me that to move or get a job in Australia, I’ve got to do A, B, C and D, or A, Z, E, Y and J, that’d be easy but it doesn’t work that way so I’m looking over round the places searching for answers. I tried the autism advocacy route because it is the only area I can think of that I’m interested in and can make meaningful contributions to and thus, demonstrate my skills and worth. Of course, it could work against me if autism is seen as a deficit that would make me an unwelcome burden. Let’s just say my self-advocacy plan hasn’t worked out well so far, it’s a fierce competitve world out there and autistic people are not immune to competition.

When I was in Brisbane to present my poster last year, there was another conference participant from the same country as I am who presented a poster about teaching students with special educational needs. In the poster, she mentioned about getting employment offers from schools in Australia, I took down her contact details and sent her an email recently to find out if she could share her experience with me. I sent out a ‘proper’ email (as I always do), by that I meant beginning with “Dear so and so”, ending with best regards. I introduced myself as an autistic researcher and ended the letter apologising for the questions I have and saying there is no need to worry about responding immediately if she’s busy. I asked her several questions, such as what was her degree, what courses would I need to take to qualify, how did she get involved in special education and if she can reveal the name of the school that hired her.

In her reply, she said I can do a postgraduate degree in education. Whether special schools employs me or not, it depends on them. Two sentences, that’s it. No dear or hi, no best wishes or regards. It was cold. I wasn’t expecting a detailed career history from her but whatever happen to manners? Am I expecting too much of human courtesy? After all, she did reply, didn’t she? What more can I ask for? I mean those “dearest” and “yours sincerely” were a bit pretentious anyway, weren’t they? I remembered sitting through lessons in letter writing when I was a child and thinking why should I address a person “Dear” when I don’t even know them? Do teachers still teach that in schools today? If her brusque response in anyway reflects her mental health state or quality of interaction with her students, good luck to the students. She is probably burnout too. And on that note, I am sorry that my “mental health affirmations” did not bring any sort of comfort, might it be mis-interpreted as a mockery? I need to further reflect on this.

A rather more disturbing thought I have is would her mannerisms changed if I was someone higher up the social hierarchy? The conference organizer? A well-known autistic advocate? A professor? I attended a conference on children’s rights few months ago at the university. After the conference, I stayed to talk to one of the presenters who is involved in a disability advocacy group and who I know is on the autism spectrum. I wanted to introduce myself for if I ever get to do my research, I would like to involve the local autistic community. He was a really friendly person but while he was happy to talk to me, it was obvious that he was more interested, at that moment, to go around, talk, take pictures with other presenters, including the international reputable speakers so I told him I’d wait because obviously, I am a nobody compared to these other famous high-ranking people although what have they practically done to help the development of children’s right, I can’t say for certain. Call me sour grape, I’d admit I don’t get impressed by fame or social hierarchy. I would hold more respect for these people if they use their fame to empower people to speak for themselves. Again, I suspect I’m asking too much. I don’t know these people well enough to be judging them. My bad. I’m sure my perspective would change if I ever join the league of famous people but I fear that would not ever happen and that’s probably a good thing too, I might become a different person.

I fear for my future as well as this city’s future. On my way to work one morning, I spotted my neighbour ahead of me and as I was about to overtake her on the narrow stairs, she turned around and gave me this stern furious look but when she realised it was me, she immediately softened and smiled a little. I didn’t blame her. This city is already overloaded beyond what it can handle and people are overworked and tired, they can’t even enjoy a moment of peace while on the stairs.

I’m not proud of who I’m. There is too much hate in me at the moment. I don’t like that. The environment isn’t helping either. There are renovation works going in my building, construction works at my workplace, even construction works along the nature trail where I walk. There’s noises everywhere, madness everywhere.

Sorry but comments are closed. I’m not really looking for comments unless you have any practical advice on moving to another country. I’m not looking for comfort so I’d spare people the trouble of coming up with words to comfort. I hope that doesn’t make me sound cold or unappreciative but I am thankful enough that you are even spending your precious time to read my post. And that, having my thoughts heard and vented, is good enough. People are always welcomed to send me a private message if they want to keep in touch. Thanks for reading.

It was hate that knocked you down.
and it pinned you to the ground,
you swore you’d get up again,
and you’d get through this

The curse of the Maneki Neko: Haunted spirits in the dark

This is part two of a two-part post on my autistic dilemma, describing two separate events (mundane details of my boring life) that took place on the same day, 28th of March 2017. 

My heart longs for a place where I can be left alone to enjoy my solitude undisturbed. It is just another way of saying my heart longs for a place where I can enjoy the company of people. 

I used to hike every weekends in a hiking group for 1-2 years. When I first joined, there were around 10-20 people in each hike. Gradually, the group expanded (working my magic again) and the number of hikers grew. When I left, it wasn’t uncommon to see more than 40 hikers in a hike, it was getting too big for my liking. I was known then for being a fast hiker and I thought so too but after leaving the group, I realised that was an illusion. I appeared fast because I didn’t stop to engage in small talk, I pushed myself to go fast so I didn’t have to be stuck in between hikers where I’d be forced to listen, if not participate, in their conversation. Moreover, with a big group like this, there was bound to be politics and as the group continues to grow, the (moral) pressure to socialise increased. It wasn’t about hiking anymore. We all wanted to have fun hiking but my idea of fun does not include socialising. Eventually, I removed myself from the group because our objectives no longer matched, I wasn’t enjoying myself and people were starting to wear me out.

After that, I hiked on and off. There was a period for about a year or so where I’d hike with a friend every Saturday until there came a point I felt the trail was getting more crowded by each week. The feeling was mutual, it wasn’t my hallucination. During one of those hikes, the human traffic was exceptionally heavy. I was going uphill and short of breath which meant I was stuck in the middle of the traffic and couldn’t go any faster myself. When I finally hit flat ground, I sprinted my way down, playing repeatedly in my mind the chorus to Helen Reddy’s Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress) ~ “Leave me alone, won’t you leave me alone…” After that traumatised experience (nope, no exaggerate, I was traumatised), I stopped regular hiking again. It takes too much effort to head outside (for any reason), it feels like entering a war zone, my mood fluctuates so much being constantly in a fight or flight mode, I’m wreaking havoc on my mind and body, I decide my priority is to avoid the trigger. Even if I can’t avoid people completely, the best I could do is to reduce as much stress as possible associated with leaving the house. I became a hermit. And to certain extent, I did feel better, my mood became more stable (although subject to the ‘cooperation’ and considerateness of neighbours) and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not going out. I enjoy the comfort of an indoor lifestyle as much as I enjoy walking in nature. I hold a record of not leaving the flat for 15 days and I’m secretly proud of it.😁

More recently, I have a new found hobby, or more accurately, I’ve found a way to engage in and enjoy hiking again, or so I thought. I discovered the joy of night hiking. On a ‘good’ night, I could climb up to the top of the peak and find myself alone, smiling and thinking this is true bliss. The night is quieter and louder at the same time. It is louder because without human distraction, I’m paying more attention to nature, the frogs croaking, the squeaking bamboos, the ever changing clouds, the colour of the sky etc, sounds and sights I’m still discovering which I have overlooked in the past because I was always either too busy trying to get away from people or in a haste to get back home before the rush hour. The night not only brings a new perspective but also brings me closer to nature.* And each time I write about nature, I’m putting my writing skills, vocabulary and knowledge to test and shame, my words (and pictures) can never do justice to her beauty.

The week I came back from Singapore, I was looking forward to be back on the night trails. I was disappointed when I saw someone else at the hill top but the beauty of the night was so alluring, I wasn’t ready to give up my new found hobby just yet simply because I saw one individual on the top. On the evening of March, 28th and after my grocery trip, I went back up the trails, starting at an even later time, hoping the later the lesser people. Weather was good, even though there were clouds, I could still see a few stars. I reached a spot where I saw joss paper lying around on the ground. Then I remembered that the Ching Ming Festival is just around the corner (a Chinese tradition paying respects to their ancestors). I let my imaginations run wild, thinking of the dark spirits that must be following me. I’d soon realise that I’ve jinxed myself.

Before climbing up the peak, I stopped to take some photos. Being a novice inexperienced photographer, I spent a considerable amount of time, trial and error, to take a decent photo. About 10 minutes later, I saw bright lights and heard noises approaching. It was happening again. They have found me and were coming after me. Soon after, they appeared and my fears were confirmed, not just one or two of them, they were in a group, there must be at least 10 or more. I wanted to scream. They just won’t leave me alone, won’t they! I thought I found the solution to avoiding the day crowd. I was wrong again.

I wasn’t going to climb the peak in that condition so I escaped and returned to the site with the joss paper where I could be on my own and hopefully, remained undisturbed. The thought of spending time with spirits might even sound more appealing. There and further down the trail heading towards home, I was finally on my own, as I watched in amaze the night sky, the moving clouds and the intermittent stars. It was a beautiful night. But at the same time, I’m starting to appreciate bad weather ~ those cold wintry windy evenings and rainy misty days which might deter some hikers. It reminded me of those days in school, I’d talk to the rain like I’d sit and admire the sky now. I was known amongst my classmates for walking in the rain. People leave me alone when I walked in the rain. Walking back home, I started humming, not because I was scared, my mood turned for the better, I was actually happy. I’m measuring happiness by the amount of time I got to spend on my own undisturbed by the sound, view and sight of people. I’m not sure if there is such a thing as an overdose of dopamine but when I was back home, I was hyper and elated.

29th March 2017 – Is this alexithymia?
I woke up the next day confused because I wasn’t sure what kind of a day it was and how I felt about the day before. I can describe the events and how they made me feel separately (angry, annoyed, anxious, stressed, happy etc) but as a whole, I’m confused. I can’t forget the panic at the supermarket and I can’t forget the annoyance at the bottom of the peak but there was also the elation towards the end. It was a day of extreme mood swing, I’ve lose my equilibrium.

Autistic Dilemma
I feel torn between two lovers ~ the comforts of staying in and the healing power of nature. Time and again, my interest and solitude is interrupted by people who get in the way. My heart longs for a place where I can be left alone to enjoy my solitude, undisturbed by people. No doubt I love my solitude but I didn’t become a recluse because I love my solitude so much I want to remove myself away completely from people. I become a recluse because the world outside is too loud and populated for me to enjoy.

When I say my heart longs for a place where I can be left alone to enjoy my solitude undisturbed, it is just another way of saying my heart longs for a place where I can enjoy the company of people. 

*Postscript: After posting this, I read a news article about Henry Thoreau. It brought a smile to my face when I read the following, which is exactly what I was trying to describe:

Thoreau’s idea of walking was to be totally immersed in a place, really paying attention, getting to know it well,” says historian Jayne Gordon. “He wasn’t out to make speed records or to exercise as we know it. He often walked the same routes and felt you can always find new things to fill you with wonder if you allow yourself to slow down, be awake, present, and alive.” 

Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress), Helen Reddy (chorus begins at 0:40)

Related posts:
The curse of the Maneki Neko (March 30, 2017)
First a wishy-washy then a pantywaist (November 13, 2016)
Supporting a sensory and solitude friendly environment (October 31, 2016)
Walking in the rain (March, 7 2016)

Related news report:
Upturn in hiking has a downside, as solitude becomes increasingly hard to find

The curse of the Maneki Neko

This is part one of a two-part post on my autistic dilemma, describing two separate events (mundane details of my boring life) that took place on the same day, 28th of March 2017. 

For a long time, I suspect myself to have some kind of superpower. I seem to possess the ability to draw crowd to places I frequented, attracting people like magnet. I could be the Maneki Neko in human form, the beckoning cat commonly found in shops in Japan and parts of Asia, which is meant to bring good fortune and business. Either that or it’s a conspiracy theory, I’m paranoid about people following me wherever I go (I imagine people talking behind my back, “She loves this place/She loves going there, let’s start doing the same to annoy her!”“I knew it, the world is out to get me!!” Superpower or conspiracy, it seems I’m haunted and cursed! (If only I have the power of the Hulk, there is so much anger in me I could turn that rage into something useful.)

If you are autistic or have a family member who is autistic, chances are you’ll appreciate that shopping (in malls) is hardly therapeutic at all. To avoid the stress and sensory overload, you’d have devised a set of guidelines covering details such as where and when to shop to help plan and make your trip as stress-free as possible. When is the best time to frequent the malls and grocery stores? What are the means of transportation? How long does it take to get there? How much time do you have? etc. Some hours and days are to be avoided at all cost. Some places are to be avoided at all hours. In essence, “to go out or not” is a decision that warrants thoughtful consideration, a cost-benefit analysis. These are planned carefully and purposefully.

I’m fortunate my present job doesn’t require me to be confined in an office from 9am to 6pm. Most days, I can arrange my own time. I tend to make use of this flexibility to run errands during office hours on weekdays. I rarely go out on weekends anymore. I do my grocery shopping on weekdays and there are certain times I’ll avoid such as the morning hours when it’d be populated with housewives and domestic helpers preparing for the day (I’m not even a morning person to begin with), the lunch time hours and the after work hours. I tend to visit between 2pm to 5pm. Occasionally, it turned out to be busier than I expected but was still tolerable. While there are several supermarkets near my place, the one I preferred and most frequented is the largest one and the only one that provides self-service checkout counters, which would come in useful in the event there is a long queue for the manned tills. I notice that most customers here prefer and would rather queue for the manned tills, hence the self-service counters tend to be empty (which provides a quick escape).

I was out during the day to pick up something from the campus and to mail a letter, and I might as well make use of the day to do my grocery shopping. On my way to the campus and in my anxiety to overtake the cigarette smoke of the pedestrian in front of me, I forgot about the letter I was going to mail and missed the posting box but no big deal, I will walk past again on my way back.

Leaving the campus to the supermarket, it was around 4:30pm. The first thing I noticed was the exceptionally long queue at the manned tills. My initial reaction was bewilderment and my first thoughts were, “Is it a public holiday? Easter? No it can’t be. Is it a school holiday? What’s the special occasion?” I haven’t been to this particular supermarket for about a month but I’ve been here countless times in the past at around the same time during the weekday and it has never been that crowded. Even the self-service checkouts which tended to be empty were in use (although there was no queue for that). The moment I saw the line, my heart sank, my day was ruined and panic started to set in. I have a habit of calculating the expenses in my head as I shop but at that moment, my mind started to shut down and all I could think of was an escape plan (Grab, Pay, Go). I quickly grabbed whatever I saw and needed, pay at the self-service checkouts and dashed off go.

JUST A REGULAR WEEKDAY? Sorry for the quality of images, they were taken with my cheap phone

Leaving the supermarket, I can’t wait to get back home. When I reached home and opened my backpack, I saw the letter that I was supposed to mail still tucked in my bag. Anxiety and stress can make someone forgetful 😂

Autistic Dilemma
After this incidence, I’m starting to contemplate online grocery shopping although I have the following concerns with online shopping and delivery. First, quality concerns especially fresh food. Second, I would have to buy in large quantities if I want to save delivery costs. Third, if I have a large quantity of food in my flat, I will be tempted to indulge myself in binge eating or comfort eating. Fourth, I hate not knowing the exact time my goods will be delivered. If I’m told that my goods will be delivered between a certain time period (say between 2-6pm), my fidgety mind would be pre-occupied from the morning of the scheduled delivery date, anticipating the time it’d arrive and looking out for any missed calls. The lack of control with online delivery is another kind of anxiety. Shopping doesn’t come easy when you are on the spectrum! To be continued…