Am I sick?

By Friday, I’m usually on the point of explosion. I’m exhausted, frustrated and overwhelmed after a week of repressing my emotions and temper. Despite having many ideas, I am having difficulties structuring my thoughts and to write coherently so the way I’m going to do it is to type a transcript of an imagined conversation with a fictitious character, Sosighewwty (so-sigh-eww-ty).

Sosighewwty: Are you sick?
Me: No
Sosighewwty: Can you work?
Me: Yes
Sosighewwty: Can you work under pressure?
Me: I try my best
Sosighewwty: Can you work under tight deadlines?
Me: I try my best
Sosighewwty: Can you work as a team?
Me: Yes… if instructions are clear
Sosighewwty: Can you communicate well?
Me: Can you? I think communication goes both ways.
Sosighewwty: Can you work in a noisy environment?
Me: …
Sosighewwty: Can you handle the phones ringing?
Me: The phone ring is really loud and piercing.
Sosighewwty: … and people walking about, whispering, talking, discussing about work, chattering?
Me: I really hate it when people talk especially when they do so at the same time. It is also very annoying when people suddenly break into a loud laughter.
Sosighewwty: So let me ask you again, can you work?
Me: … can I work from home?
Sosighewwty: No you can’t, we don’t want to create a precedent.
Me: (thinking about my daily walk along heavily polluted road and the above challenges) I’m starting to feel sick. I think I need to see a doctor.
Sosighewwty: What’s wrong?
Me: I am autistic.
Sosighewwty: Don’t be silly, you can’t get sick leave from being autistic.
Me: No of course. I mean I’m feeling overwhelmed right now. My autism means I’m hypersensitive to sounds. The environment makes me anxious. My head is about to explode. I’m depressed.
Sosighewwty: Are you on medication?
Me: No.
Sosighewwty: You need to be on medication to get a sick leave.
Me: Let me get this straight. I am not allowed to work from home despite being capable of working full time but you will excuse me from work if I get sick leave for my depression?
Sosighewwty: Yes. This is pretty much how I work, or for that matter how any society works.
Me: Very well…I think you are more sick than I am.

Directions: Repeat above conversation at least 10 times daily. For better anxiety and depression effect, repeat 100 times daily.

Take a rest, go to sleep, dream of paradise (I know I just shared this song in my last post but the official video just came up this week. When it seems that no one close around understands you, you find comfort in song(s) that captures your thoughts and takes you on a journey into the woods and outer space searching for the ultimate peacefulness.) Have a good weekend. 

Featured image:


Keep walking

This is where I was a year ago today, my first solo overnight hike in the Blue Mountains, Australia. Lately, I’ve been thinking how much further I can walk. I just keep walking round and round in circles, I don’t have a direction, I’m tired. Tomorrow is another week, I dread returning to work, I hate not being able to do anything to advance the interests of the minority, I hate it when my needs are not being taken seriously or considered less important, I hate being helpless. Don’t mind me, I’m just tired. Have a good week.

Paradise, Daniel Trakell

Tired eyes and thoughts that scatter, I’ve been so restless for a while
Lost the course with no direction, Missed the target by a mile
While I dream, I dream of when the days of holding back, And all this talk can cease
Oh I dream, About a place where time it goes to rest, And we can be at peace

Ooh paradise

Roads that curve and bridge too narrow, For the both of us to fall
Water seed and soil too shallow, For anything to grow at all
So I dream, Dream of when the days of holding back, And all this talk can cease
Oh I dream, About a place where time it goes to rest, And we can be at peace

13 going on 30

When you hear someone with autism describes their childhood experiences, you are likely to hear something along the line of “growing up, I knew I was different”. For me, it is the feeling that I never quite fit in with my classmates despite my ‘normal’ outward appearance. I still feel this way towards most people and have accepted that I’m always going to feel like this in the company of others. At school, I just don’t click with most of my classmates. Is it simply due to my ‘quiet and shy’ personality? I’m not sure. I have always felt older than my classmates despite our same age. I guess the weirdest thing about me at school was I love to walk in the rain and get myself soaking wet. I read books of a genre most people (in my culture) don’t read. I was a little odd too for my music choices.

I grew up in the 90s listening to Chinese pop music. There is nothing uncommon about this. Many (if not most) of my classmates were also into English pop music but I wasn’t into it as much (both my parents are non-English speakers so there was a bigger Chinese influence in my reading and music choices). Instead, I love English oldies from the 50s, 60s, 70s, songs my parents listened to when they grew up. Once we were asked to bring an English song that we liked and its lyrics to class. I remembered just getting my first CD box set of golden oldies and without hesitation, I knew I would pick a song from that box set. There was a melody I liked particularly which had been stuck in my mind and the lyrics which I thought was somewhat bittersweet. Even then in my adolescence years, I’d pay attention to songs with lyrics that I relate to or lyrics that convey strong or mixed emotions like lost love. I guess this is why autism in girls are harder to detect because girls are able to demonstrate more complex emotions. The entire selection process had been personal, I simply picked a song I liked most and I haven’t thought about anything else. That day came when I went to school with the precious cd in my bag. I thought I made a good choice and had been happy with my choice until I heard what my classmates brought in their discussion amongst each other. Names like Savage Garden, Michael Learns to Rock, All-4-One etc, the most recent in English pop. It wasn’t until then I realised I never gave a thought to the social or age appropriateness of my choice and that my choice will only make me stand out as different and weird from others that would invite laughter/teasing. I was getting embarrassed. In the end, it was a relief that we weren’t required to display or play what we had brought so when my classmates asked what I brought, I just said I forgot about it.

About two decades have passed and every time I thought about it, it’s accompanied by a sense of guilt, the guilt of feeling embarrassed about my choice, the guilt of lying and being untrue to myself. This post is about making amends. And if you haven’t guessed from the clue on the featured image, this is the song of my choice.


Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
They asked me how I knew
My true love was true
I of course replied
Something here inside
Cannot be denied
They, said some day you’ll find
All who love are blind
When your heart’s on fire
You must realize
Smoke gets in your eyes
So I chaffed them, and I gaily laughed
To think they would doubt our love
And yet today, my love has gone away
I am without my love
Now laughing friends deride
Tears I cannot hide
So I smile and say
When a lovely flame dies
Smoke gets in your eyes

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So far so dark

Writing has become more difficult lately, not least because I’ve been busy clocking hours to make up for the lost income over the past 2 months but also the topics I plan to write about are somewhat painful. Since June, I have sent out 22 job applications but only one interview. Even though I’m getting more work from my existing 2 employers, hence there is less urgency in finding a new job now, the fact that I haven’t got any positive response from my job applications has put a dent in my confidence. The only one interview I had, I was asked if I’d have any problem working alongside a team of people younger than me. I thought it was a strange question, I never thought about that before, then it hits me that I have reached a stage where my age might start to pose a problem, especially given the type and rank of positions I’m applying for, and of course, the fact that I’m quite directionless in where I’m heading in terms of my career.

There is a reason why I take remarks like “things will change for the better” with a pinch of salt. Almost 8 years have passed since I got my psychological assessment report. Back then, I used to hike with a group of people every weekend. Compared to now, it’d seem that I’ve changed a lot ~ my intolerance to noise and crowd means that I’m now hardly out of the house unless necessary and work location is a factor I take into account when applying for jobs. How did I change so much since? How was I able to deal with the daily commute? How was I able to tolerate all that chaos back then? I keep questioning myself over, wondering if I’m using my autism and sensory sensitivity as an excuse, whether I’m not pushing myself enough. Every now and then, I re-read my assessment report because it’s amazing how much I’ve forgotten and that I needed to refresh my memory. And so it is, I found the answer I’ve been questioning myself in my report. Contrary to the fact that I’ve changed so much, it strikes me how little has changed over these years. The following words ring truer than ever.

Currently, she works 2 part-time jobs to support her living… [she] described herself as a loner since she was very young and lately, she found herself more unwilling to interact with other people. She had low tolerance to noise and became easily impatient with people in the street. As a result, she rarely wanted to leave her apartment…”

I said that almost 8 years ago, before I heard of Tony Attwood, before I knew that sensory sensitivity is a characteristic of autism (I thought it was more of a tolerance issue than a sensitivity issue), before I stop hiking in a group, before I stop leaving the house unless necessary. Almost 8 years ago, I have (unconsciously) foretold what’s going to become of me now. I didn’t do anything to prevent it. I let it happen.

First, I haven’t always worked 2 part-time. In between, I have had full-time jobs. I knew I was lucky but I didn’t realise I was that lucky. Most research grants have only adequate funding for a research assistant post for a year or even less. I’m also increasingly seeing part-time or shorter time period. If it is only for 3 months, this means that I’d have to start looking around for another job the same time I start my new one. I guess the employers don’t realise how bad this is for morale.

Second, my noise sensitivity has always been there, it’s not something I grow out of, it’s not something I got used to, it’s merely something I’ve tolerated and the thing with tolerance is, it runs out gradually.

And so it is, contrary to the fact that I’ve changed all of a sudden and rather than saying ‘little has changed’, change is slowly taking place in the sense that my tolerance is running out. And this is worrying me because 8 years from then, how much more can I endure without the prospect of a change in environment? I fear I’m reaching my tolerance limit.

“Here I am thirty-four years old, and yet my life is almost wholly unexpanded. How much is in the germ! There is such an interval between my ideal and the actual in many instances that I may say I am unborn. There is the instinct for society, but no society. Life is not long enough for one success. Within another thirty-four years that miracle can hardly take place… My spirit’s unfolding observes not the pace of nature. The society which I was made for is not here. Shall I, then, substitute for the anticipation of that this poor reality?”

—Henry David Thoreau, July 19, 1851

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.

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