Friday, 1 April 2016

Autism and Me

A sculpture of myself in 'autistic energy' made with coloured wires
It is funny to call myself the Autistic Naturalist and only talk about nature and wildlife, but not talk too much about the other subject in my title. So today, I have decided to open up and tell you what its like being autistic. First of all, autism is not a disease, it is a behavioural problem where I find it hard to socialize with other people. Though, if you met me in person, you may think there is nothing wrong with me. To you, I am like a normal person. But actually, I am a complex person. I see the world in a completely different way. The art work you see here were created by me during my college years and back then, I used my autism as inspiration to create them. I often refer my art as 'autistic energy', full of tangled masses of lines that appear as scribbles or a tangle of wires or string or as a congealed mass of paint where the colours merge and layer over each other. This reflects my mind, a confusing tangled mess inside my brain trying to escape via my actions. Sometimes the stuff inside my autistic mind is amazing, but it can also be frustrating and hard to understand.

I was diagnosed with autism when I was about 9 years old. I went through all sorts of tests and went to a couple of schools which taught children with special needs. But it wasn't until high school when my autism really got out of hand. The thing with autism is that any tiny change can cause a lot of stress. High school was a noisy, stressful place for me. The other students were often talking noisily to each other during class and I couldn't cope with these levels of noise. I would often breakdown, shaking violently, banging my head on the desk and throwing things. I still wanted to learn and was interested in subjects such as science and art, just being with so many other people made it hard for me.

Self portrait/relief (2008) The face and cap was sculpted using layers and layers of paint and glue!
When I left school in 2003, I went to a special needs college in Grimsby for three years. I found it hard to cope at times, but eventually I got used to the change and made friends with other students with special needs. The college taught me independent life skills, as well as some social skills. I am grateful for them for this. Today, I am a lot more confident in talking to some people. I still find it hard to communicate with people, including my parents, but it is a lot easier than before. I still prefer to listen to my music rather than to chit-chat about boring subjects. I do from time to time get irratated and a bit snappy if someone keeps talking to me for too long or I will talk continuously if it is about wildlife or a subject I really care about.

After my three years in Grimsby were up in 2006, I went to another college in Norwich to study and create art. At this point, I was able to make friends easily, though I still felt isolated at times. It was my relationship with paint and other materials that I began to struggle with the most. For the first two years, I was happy to create art work, but then I hit the wall mentally. I was running out of ideas of what to do with the art equiptment and then one day I started to write poetry instead during class. I was falling out of love with one art form and gaining interest with another. I went on an extra year-long art course, but by this time I was writing more poetry than actural paintings or sculptures. During the year of this course, I created a poetry book online called 'My Autistic World', which I believe you can still buy online if you look it up. Here is one poem from it called 'My Mind Monster'...

My mind is a monster,
My Mind Monster
As big as a planet trapped inside a small box,
Wanting to be free from its cramped space,
The beast smashes its impenitrating walls,
Like an earthquake created by two rubbing plates,
It plans to erupt like Vesuvius with flame and flare.

The beast occasionally breaks free of its prison cell,
Creating chaos and nightmares,
All this doesn't last long,
As beast is dragged back by chain and cell relocked.

When I'm gone,
My imprisoned immortal demon will drag down with my soul,
It is my burden,
My secret friend,
And most of all,
My Monster!!!!

Today, my autism is still an issue. I live alone and I find it hard to find love. My autism makes it a bit awkward to form a relationship and I pretty much shy myself away from doing anything about it. But while my love life is non-existant, my love with wildlife is growing from strength to strength. Since I was a child, I had always had a fascination with wildlife, birds especially, and I always try to incorporate it with everything I do. This is why I volunteer at Strumpshaw or create this blog. This is what I am all about and I get frustrated when I miss out on seeing something new. Being with nature calms my autism for at least a short while. It is an escape from the real world and I feel like I can't live without it.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sean, thanks for this. It is hard to open up sometimes, but you have done so in a articulate and moving way. I certainly would never have known you were sometimes struggling but I guess that's because I only really see you at Strumpy. As the RSPB says - isn't nature wonderful! See you soon when hopefully the spring migrants will be buzzing all around.