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The present’s so bright… I gotta wear shades

For those who know me well, what follows may be no shock. For my new contacts though, here’s seven facts you might not know about me…

1.      I was born in the same hospital, in the same year as Robbie Williams. I understand he’s always struggled to deal with the comparison. Don’t worry Robbie, it’s not your fault.

2.      I spend most of my time writing and training across a wide range of subjects from financial planning to management and personal development.

3.      I used to do a lot of martial arts – for a while I did MMA (what you might know as cage fighting). I even have a massive tattoo from my fighting days.

4.      I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro twice – I got seriously ill the first time so I went back for more. You have to show these bits of rock who is boss.

5.      I used to have a grown-up job and looked after up to 300 people.

6.      I was once on the Blockbusters TV show with Bob Holness – it did not go well.

7.      I’m autistic.

OK, that was a long-winded introduction to the last point. Yes, I’m autistic. I always have been and I always will be. But what does that mean? Well, on the one hand it means I can do things that others would struggle with. I’ve got five degree-level qualifications, I am a Fellow of three (soon to be four) professional bodies, and I can write six or seven thousand words of technical material in a day without pausing for breath. When I’m in, I’m all in. Yay me!

On the other hand, it isn’t all roses. I struggle with some things you’d find easy…If you see me outside, you’ll usually see me wearing sunglasses. If there’s too much noise, I may excuse myself and leave. Whilst you might find light or noise annoying, I experience too much of either as physical pain. If we met in a coffee shop, you’d have to pardon me for not hearing a word you say – I have limited ability to filter out background noise. From time to time I even become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of ‘stuff’ going on around me, leading to a meltdown and a rapid retreat to my bed for the rest of the day.

Where human relationships are concerned, you were born being able to drive the car. You simply get in, press the start button and off you go. Before you know it, you’ve arrived at the end of the conversation and you don’t know how you got there. I arrive at the same place, and over my 46 years I’ve learned to do this at the same speed as you. The difference is that behind the scenes I’m running more mental processes than you are. Things that use very little brain power for you, use up more of my processing power and so more of my energy. I’m prone to being ‘people’d out’ when I’ve spent lots of time with other people and I’ll be quiet at home. I’ll lose myself in a book for a few hours.

Of course most people have no idea I’m wired differently. And that’s kind of the point…

Whilst my diagnosis helps me to understand myself better and to look after myself, I refuse to accept any label of being ‘disabled’. At most I’m ‘alternatively-abled’. Everyone has things they do better and things they find harder. Everyone has something that makes them different. If you offered me a ‘cure’ I’d politely decline. You may have certain preconceptions when you hear the world ‘autism.’ I’m asking you to look again…

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