Facial blindness

Blank faceI’m suffering from a mild form of facial blindness. I’ve understood some Aspies does, but I also think some of the cases are linked to my ADHD.

My case is not as bad that I can’t figure out who killed who in a movie, but there are cases where I’m drawing a complete blank on a person’s face.

In my case there are three scenarios with regards to facial blindness:

  1. I know the person’s face but I can’t figure out their name, or sometime where I’ve met them.
  2. Someone talks about some person, I don’t know who it is, and I don’t see a face, and when they point them out I did know the person’s face, but just not their name (basically the same as 1).
  3. And finally, I have the person in front of me, I can’t place them, and I don’t recognize their face… until they tell me who they are or I just get things sorted in my head. And then I realize I know this person quite well.

Number 3 is the only really real facial blindness scenario, as I’ve interpreted it.

A variant of 3, that I haven’t stumbled upon too much, is when you watch a movie or TV-series and get people mixed up.

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

In the first one I’m at the supermarket and a strange person in a hat comes up and looks funny at me. We stand and look at each other for a while until I realize it’s my best friends dad. I’m pretty sure the hat – some kind of felt-wide-rimmed-almost-cowboy-thing I’ve never, ever seen him in before. Funny thing was, he didn’t recognize me either, until he looked up, but then I was still drawing a blank. I think I got who it was when he smiled and said my name.

The second example is really funny. I’m arriving at work and a person I think is a colleague parks his bike outside. Hi, I say and he says hi back. By then I’ve realized it wasn’t my colleague, but it seems the other person may have thought he still knew me, because when we got to the elevator – I’m heading for floor 2 so I use the stairs – he calls after me to get in the elevator.

I think this example may have to do with stress or morning tiredness or something to do. I know the spontaneous “hi” was an ADHD thing… or in combination with Asperger, perhaps. The person I thought it was used to come to work by bike…


Science and facts

microscopeEven though I like to talk about my own experiences and discuss things from a personal perspective, I also want the scientific side of things.

For me scientific means things that has been peer reviewed and conclusions from experiments where I can study the method and figure out if there was any problems with the experiment.

I’ve come up with this category to keep my personal view and the more scientific discussion separated.

As of right now, the scientific outlook is a bit bleak… there are no posts yet… part from this post.

Crayfish – no thanks!

Crayfish ... or what's left of them after they've been chomped on by a Swede!

Crayfish … or what’s left of them after they’ve been chomped on by a Swede!

So, we have this tradition in Sweden. We eat crayfish… yeah to whomever, non-swede out there that knows what animal I’m talking about, this is like eating locust… Hey, wait… just look at the image… those are the … remnants of the sweeties we like to crunch down on…

Aliens! You have no chance in Sweden! We’ll eat you in August! 😀

Okay, to be honest… I cannot stomach this creature… not because it looks like such an evil thing, it’s because of the smell… Then again, I’ve felt foul smells on places where I can only assume no one else feels them… why on earth would people otherwise be sitting around eating lunch under the thick, black cover of an… odor.

Well in all honesty, it’s just a very faint scent of … rotten. Not like children would cry and people would call 112, or the morgue. But I have places, whole food courts, where I just cannot see myself eating. Unless they get rid of the stench.

Some investigation (and the unfortunate purchase of high quality “cow” meat) have lead me to believe the stench, in fact, comes from cows and burgers… umm veggies for Hoakzie?

Perhaps that’s an Aspie thing… (I’m fairly certain it is…) As I’ve heard it people with Asperger might feel extremely sensitive to light, or – in my case – smells. On the other hand, it’s just certain smells I’m sensitive to… but then I’m really sensitive.

The man who can keep a secret may be wise…

“The man who can keep a secret may be wise, but he is not half as wise as the man with no secrets to keep.”

/Edgar Watson Howe

Fingers_Crossed_by_SouthwestI love this quote, because it tells me honesty is the best way to go.

Of course, there are such a thing as too much honesty. When being honest it’s important to take political correctness into consideration, keeping from telling a good friend or family member exactly what you think in situations that doesn’t matter… on the other hand, if someone is doing something really dumb, it may still be necessary to tell them so, in a diplomatic way.

What I find to be nice in this quote is more about being really dishonest. I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to lie, manipulate and do a lot of really idiotic things – it never ended well. Today I’ve, mostly, gotten rid of the people that lived the kind of lives that seemed to require those kinds of lies and that dishonest conduct.

I always feel bad when I cannot be my very best, but unfortunately there are lots of situations where that’s impossible. Just in order to get most things in this world done in a timely manner you have to compromise, and will most likely end up with something that isn’t the best it can be, but it is ready when it needs to and you have to settle with “good enough”.

For instance, my job. Working in the IT-business, you’ll have to accept most solutions is a hodge-podge where sellable has stumbled on buyable, and you’re actually doing something, far from as good as it can be, that someone wants to buy. I fear half measures, white lies and over sells are just a natural part of capitalism. But hey, as long as you get paid… right?

The tricky part for me, is that I cannot always be honest about this. Most of the time, at least in professional situations, I’m asked to overlook the flaws and underline the good instead. Unfortunately I have, more than once, scared the life out of customers and others when being that honest, and I can see I’m not living in a world where 100% honesty is wanted or appreciated…

That genuinely sucks, but being that honest seems to not be part of good communication, and well… trying the be the best I can be… being a good communicator is also an important thing…

So anyway. At least in my writing I can settle for nothing less than my very best, which of course is a best-for-the-day… after all, if I wrote the best book I could write today, then tomorrow I could go fishing instead, because I’ve already written the best book I could… no use trying to write another one…

Aspies have to think, all the time…

I feel I have to spend so much time thinking in social situations (and many others). Is there a reason why Aspies have to think all the time? Perhaps even an evolutionary one?

I had a really interesting thought a couple of weeks ago: Whenever I’m in a social situation I always have to “figure things out”. I have to think, analyze and make almost calculated guesses about what’s going on – and I still fail to catch some things anyway (and I actually hate guessing as well). As far as I have understood, when you are an NT (Neurotypical – normal, I think I have used and explained that term before…) you don’t have to analyze and intellectualize so much, you just “have a feeling” and go on your “gut instincts”.

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Pieces of the Asperger puzzle

Pieces of a Puzzle.

photo by INTVGene on Flickr

When I look at people I believe I can see a bit of both Asperger and ADHD in almost everyone. Persons that talk a bit too much, or take a bit too long to solve a problem, or gets stunned by things happening too fast around them. But they don’t seem to have this so much that they have a real problem. It just seems like it’s part of their personal make-up or something they do like an Aspie or a person with ADHD (a Dampie?), they just don’t do it so much it becomes a problem.

I have come to a conclusion about all this. I have no hard scientific fact to support my thoughts but I have figured out this much; both Asperger Syndrome and ADHD are based on genes, but they are far from as simple as the classic “will my kid get blue eyes” question – or any question of eye color, hair color etc. When it comes to Asperger and ADHD it is most likely a combination of genetic factors that lays the ground for a diagnosis (and as I learned while studying psychology, both psychological and environmental factors will play into how pronounced these genetic factors will be and how many problems they will cause – or even if they will be an asset).

My conclusion is that most people has traces of both Asperger and ADHD in their genes (and a bunch of other psychological disorders). I think you should look at any disorder as a puzzle, with many pieces. The pieces being the genes, and the clarity of the puzzle – can you see what it depicts with the pieces you’ve got? – decides if there’s a diagnosis hiding behind the persons behavior, or not.

After all, in most families Asperger, ADHD, OCD, bipolar disorder, etc just didn’t pop up from nowhere. When you have someone with a diagnosis you can, in most cases, trace remnants of the disorder – or in fact precedents – back in the family tree, so that, for instance, the father might have it almost, but not the grandfather, but perhaps the grandmother on the father’s side has a really strong personality, but no real disorder, and so does the grandmother on the mother’s side, but not the grandfather on that side. However, when all these strong personalities and “almosts” comes together in a grand child, suddenly there’s a diagnosis… or two…

Mindfulness at the dentists and other “problematic” places

I had a dentists appointment this morning, and I thought it would be a nice place to try some mindfulness.

I figure you’ve basically two main strategies here. Either use mindfulness to distract yourself by focusing on some place other than your teeth (e.g. Your feet), or focus on what’s happening with your teeth here and now.

I should mention that there was no drilling involved in this visit, but I usually has a lot of tartar that needs to be scraped off, and I have very sensitive dental necks, so it’s usually not a walk in the park.

I started to focus on what the dentist (or actually hygienist) was doing with my teeth, and I very quickly noticed that it seemed to hurt more if I lost that focus. When I really experienced the things she did to the teeth with a kind of curious interest the pain became much more tolerable.

I think for two reasons: I was really there, feeling what was happening, not what I anticipated would happen, and I accepted what was happening – it was almost as if I was involved in the actual “poking around.”

So, the link to Asperger and ADHD?

Some experiences and situations might feel a bit like a dental exam to an aspie, and if using mindfulness on those situations, I think they would become much more tolerable..

Mindfulness and morning sleepiness

I’ve started a treatment (for Asperger Syndrom, and it’s actually experimental, but I am pretty sure this one’s here to stay), consisting of CBT and mindfulness (I’ll try to write more about this), and using the mindfulness I had a revelation (almost in the literal sense) this morning about my morning sleepiness.

When I wake up I am almost always “hammered” (no not drunk, but it’s not far from it). Sometimes I am so “heavy” in the body I can hardly walk straight, and I am so light sensitive even a candle makes me whine and want to hide under the cover again.

This morning, like many others, I was sitting at the toilet, almost falling back to sleep, knuckles on the floor, chin on the bathroom sink, eyes crossed. And just for the fun of it, or if it was a newly acquired instinct or what it was, I said to myself: “I feel tired…”

For those who have no idea what mindfulness is, in short it’s about learning to observe your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations from a distance, going from letting them define who you are to viewing them as separate entities in your mind. That is, going from “I AM tired” to “I FEEL tried”.

What happened this morning was pretty amazing. Imagine a bridge (like one of those you see in an Indiana Jones movie) breaking in two and collapsing. That was what happened to my tiredness. It just fell off.

I was amazed and shocked, but it made me think.

My conclusion, so far, is that I’m heavy in the body from residual sleep paralysis (what keeps us from rolling out of bed when we sleep, or perhaps more evolutionary correctly, falling out of the tree ;o) and I am light sensitive, well because I’ve had my eyes closed for several hours. However, the tiredness is something I’ve probably learned to associate with these two feelings. It may be a made up feeling …

Sure, I am probably tired some mornings, I’ve almost fallen asleep more than once although I’ve already left bed, but I suspect that might also be a bi-product of me being heavy in the body. I mean, after all, most people doesn’t faint from tiredness, they go to bed and fall asleep long before they do that, a little like eating before you get hit by “hunger panic”… kind of.

Well, knowing that I might have to deal with being heavy in the body and light sensitive in the morning instead of just being tired might help a lot when it comes to getting up (and avoid snoozing, did I mention: I’m a snoozer! :o)

Update: well, I’ve actually had mornings where I was really tired, and didn’t had the above effect, so… I guess the situation is that I can use mindfulness to lessen the effect of being tired, but what I really should have done is using it to get into bed at a good time the night before… (in spite of any thoughts about how hard it will be to fall asleep or how meaningless it is, or how strange – I mean, sleep: you lose consciousness for 6+ hours, hallucinate wildly and wake up with more or less, total amnesia…)

Living in the Moment…

I remember a forum discussion where an Aspie was talking about his problems when living in the moment. Someone else commented that living in the moment sounded like a great idea and they wished they could do the same.

Yeah, haven’t we seen the movie/read the book and envied that wonderfully crazy guy that was living in the moment, improvising his whole life and just having a laugh all day, not a worry in sight?

I used to live in the moment, sometimes I still do, and I’m working hard not to.

You might ask why on earth I would go and do such a thing, aren’t living in the now supposed to be fun?

Sure, when you get into the zone, has flow, create faster, better, cooler than ever before, get everything right and the only thing existing is that wonderful thing called the “Now and Here”, then living in the moment rocks.

But when you drop out of “the zone” hungry, just to realize you forgot to do the grocery shopping, and whatever, there’s no clean plates anyway, but then again – oops isn’t it about time to head for work, and what happened with sleeping, and why the hell didn’t I do the laundry in the weekend as I had planned to… then living in the moment suddenly isn’t so hot anymore.

Living in the moment actually means living in the moment, not just paying it a visit whenever it’s fun to do so… However, I am pretty certain I have a huge advantage here, and all I need to do is learning to control it (or well, at least learn to leash/unleash it…)

I believe both the controlling and unleashing of the moment is important. You could just ride the wave, forget about food, sleep, clean clothes, work, family, economical independence, etcetera… or you could tie it down with ropes and chains, controlling it so hard it won’t even be able to wriggle an ear, and you will probably lose something potentially creative, productive and really powerful in both cases.

I believe, the key is being able to decide when to be in the moment and when to be in the “future”.

I think one way of doing that might be by using mindfulness. At least then I can decide when to start, or not, by creating distance to the impulse to enter “the zone” long enough to allow myself to make a conscious decision about to enter or not. It would then be interesting to see if I might be able to use the same tools to leave “the zone”, or keep in touch with time while “in there.”

I hear what you’re saying!

This Tuesday I participated in an education for health professionals. I was actually being a “test subject” for a diagnostic test for Asperger Syndrome, the professionals were learning to use. They were watching over a CCTV when I took the test. And, even though I went on with my life after the test was done (yay, work) I am sure they discussed it as well.

The test was pretty different from the Asperger test I took when I got my diagnosis. More of an interview than a test, actually.

Anyway, the curious thing about this test was a question about halfway through. Where the tester says, “imagine I’m from another planet and know nothing about anything earthly… now I’d like you to tell me how you brush your teeth.”

So, the first question I had (and I am sure any Aspie has a similar thought) was, “so, how much theory on chewing, teeth, food, and hygiene do you need… and … Oh I have an electric tooth brush… how about electricity….?”

Of course, it turned out that, nope, this alien that knew “nothing” only needed to know about the tooth brushing per se. (I bet the impreciseness was the real test!)

I’ve heard people working with Aspies say they had no clue how imprecisely they were communicating until they started talking to Aspies. Trust me, I cannot agree more! 🙂

I don’t let people get away with fuzzy or imprecise language. Sure, if it’s lunch time and we’re discussing a movie, I’m fine with having an idea about what they are trying to say, but when it’s talk about how to perform some task at work or in any other project, precise and clear language is a requirement. In most of the cases, colleagues actually appreciate when I make a salesperson, project manager, or other person explain what they mean.

Here’s an example, not from work, but from a course in every day communication. The teacher talks about how a person with AS gave the advice to “scan for their interests when they meet people.” Guess if that one got me started? The very first image I had was of a bar code scanner… like people would have their interests bar coded in their forehead or something just as stupid… Okay, I quickly discarded that one, but still felt the need to clarify this “scanning” business. Do the person ask people if they too have the interest, or do the person listen to what people say to see if they are talking about something “interesting” or, what?

Of course, in this case the word “scan” is supposed to vaguely include everything from listening to asking questions to test what happens if you steer the conversation to topics about the interest to checking for word usage, heck even mannerisms, etc etc.

This, of course, doesn’t always work, like when I used the phrase “going from clarity to clarity” in a mail to a customer and got back “so, are you going to watch the race on Saturday?” It turns out the phrase I used is also used by a Swedish commenter in formula 1 racing…

I’ve noticed that people are very content with not understanding everything they are told. Which of course is very frustrating if you are trying to give someone instructions, get an “ok, I get it”, just to see them walk off in the wrong direction (and not just because there was a mixup in respect to left and right :)).

I also think people with AS are sometimes afraid to ask because they assume they are to blame for not understanding… Which in my experience is an incorrect assumption. By all means, communication is a team work between two or more people. It takes work doing both the “sending” and “receiving”, but that just means that if the sending is sloppy and the reception is poor… both sides have to improve.

So, communicating with an Aspie (well, at least this Aspie) requires precise language, or – hopefully – you’ll get an earful of clarifying questions.

Another thing I’ve observed, in myself, with respect to language and the meaning of words, is that I interpret things literally. This isn’t really something I strain to do, rather the opposite. Hearing language like “cutting to the chase” or “that something boils down to something else” gives me images of knives, running, boiling kettles, and melting “somethings”, and although I get what’s trying to be said, I sometimes get stuck trying to untangle the imagery, losing whatever comes after.

Sometimes I simply don’t get what the image is supposed to represent, or it takes that extra moment to interpret and I lose focus, or I’m tired or bored and I get these “humorous” thoughts like, “sure, let’s cut everyone between us and Chase, and we’ll meet virtually no opposition getting to them!” or “cutting to the chase? you mean chasing to the cut… because most sane people will run as soon as the intended cutting becomes obvious…” or “I’m guessing that ”something else” is a pretty hot topic, from all the boiling?”

Or how about the other day, when we had Kangaroo stew at the lunch restaurant… we were “jumping” at the opportunity, but unfortunately the meat was a bit “bouncy” and the seasoning lacked that extra “kick” you’d expect from Kangaroo stew… (And there goes the vegan audience… ah well 😐 hehehe)…

Sometimes, just listening to people is a chore in itself!