Eral, aged 18, is a member of Voice for Autism. He writes about one of the many challenges of being autistic
By Eral Akman
I became a member of Voice for Autism because I like that it’s focused on young adults on the spectrum. We are a community that is often overlooked in all the discussions about autism.
I also like that its mission is to give a voice to those that often can’t speak for themselves.
I can speak for myself. But autism means my communication skills are poor and this leads to great anxiety.
I am diagnosed as high-functioning autistic. I have a part-time job and I speak and read and write. I know I have it better than non-verbal autistic people who are trapped in a world of silence, but communication is still one of my biggest challenges
I’m not trapped in a world of silence but I do find myself trapped in a thought process or obsession that I can’t shake off, which consumes me and is all I can talk about.
I know it’s frustrating and annoying to others to listen to me, but it’s frustrating and annoying to me as well.
I get obsessive about particular cars, or people, or baking. It’s all I can think about or talk about and starts from the minute I wake up. I often feel like I’m going insane. I’m on a hamster wheel and I can’t get off.
People often mistake these obsessions as “interests” and try to encourage my interests with the best intent, not knowing I am desperate to get off the wheel.
“Seeing as you like cars, why don’t you study mechanics?”
“Seeing as you like to bake, why don’t you go to catering school?”
The answer is because I don’t want to spend another minute trapped in this manic world I cannot escape.
There’s a difference between a healthy passion and an obsession. The obsession hijacks my brain and it’s not a choice. I try desperately to stop talking about Mini Metros but my brain is ahead of me. I can see that people are uncomfortable and then I get embarrassed. It’s as difficult for me as it is for other people.
I’m working on trying slow things down and to control myself. I also remind myself that I don’t need to say something and silences can be a good thing. These days I make a conscious effort to do more listening and less talking.
I try not to repeat myself and tell myself “this person is really not interested” but then I get into a vicious circle of obsessing about my obsession and start to self-attack, mad at myself for “silly” and “irrational” behaviour.
I have self-hate issues and this often sends me into a spiral of self-loathing and despair. I often feel stupid and worthless. I compare myself to others and wish I could be like them. I don’t like being different and I’ve always been desperate to fit in.
I’m currently obsessed with old British cars (Ford has a special place in my heart) but this obsession often turns into a fixation and it cripples me in social situations. Firstly, it’s all I want to talk about and, secondly, my fixation makes me mentally and emotionally rigid. I can’t see another point of view.
I’m working on this and trying to change. I know I will be a lot happier and calmer if I can conquer this challenge.
Communication is hard when you are autistic whether you speak or not. It either doesn’t come out at all or it comes out in a very manic manner. I am a very proud person and I want to be liked so it paralyses me to think others see me as odd.
I currently work part-time in a lovely local cafe where everyone is very nice to me. I like the family atmosphere and love to clean (another obsession). I love comedy and hearing different talented and wonderful comedians not just on stage but talking about their lives. This gives me different insight into people’s lives.
Of course I love classic cars and own a 1984 Austin Mini Metro. My dream is to pass my driving test and go to vintage car shows.
It’s fantastic that Voice for Autism has allowed me to express myself.