28th July 2020
Yesterday I spent all day hyper focused on one of my ‘special interests’. Now, I don’t like calling them ‘special interests’ because it sounds unbelivevably patronising and degrading. So I will call them obsessions, because for autistic people, they are more than just hobbies. So, yesterday I was obsessed with doing my art, and I got so hyper focused on doing some new experimental digital art pieces, so much so, that I managed to stay in one position for most of the day, just doing this art non-stop. Most neurotypicals will have hobbies, but autistic people tend to take their hobbies that one step further. It can be an esacpe from reality, a way to socialise, but sometimes it can become damaging. I often have to manage my obsessions. Before they become unhealthy, I have to force myself to stop, or another member of my family, or my boyfriend, will have to step in. If I become too hyper focused then I will carry out my obsession at the cost of everyday necessities, such as food and water. Yesterday, while I did manage to keep it balanced enough, I wouldn’t have eaten much had it not been for my mum placing food literally in front of me. I know today I need to take a step back otherwise the obsession could become unhealthy. The key signs of an obsession becoming unhealthy is if it is impacting on your mental health, interferring with your day to day life, it is causing distress, anxiety or depression, or you are unable to independently step back from the obsession. The most important thing is making sure that it doesn’t impact your mental health. Therefore, it is important to take breaks. Many parents and teachers have attempted to suppress some autistic peoples’ obsessions, but this is just as unhealthy as becoming too obsessed. The obsessions give autistic people a break from reality, allow them to be relaxed and happy, so suppressing this is also damaging.
These obsessions can be lifteime obsessions or they can be more fleeting. I have had obsessions in my childhood that I have grown out of, some that have stayed with me, and some that I have picked up. My main interests are art, literature, animals and crime/law. I often interchange my intrests. If I am taking a break from one, it is likely I will pick up one of the other interests. It is rare to see me doing absolutely nothing. Those main interests are ones that I would say have been lifelong. However, more recently I have picked up other obsessions, such as psychology and funnily enough, autism. Having an obsession with autism, I have recently found out, is fairly common for neurodivergents. I suppose for me, autism is something I can relate to (obviously), and it gives me a sense of understanding of myself. So it’s fair to say, this blog has probably become an obsession. Also, the art piece I was doing yesterday (now on my instagram @unmasking_autism) is a depiction of autistic masking, so I managed to combine two of my obsessions into one, and it was brilliant, I loved doing it. My interest in psychology also relates to understanding myself. I have spent some time doing lots of online courses. I am currently doing an online level 4 course in psychology, purely because I like doing reserach into psychology.
Having these obsessions has helped me, in some ways, throughout my life. I have always enjoyed researching, and when at school I would often research and watch documentaries (I love documentaries) about whichever topic we were studying. This did make me fairly nerdy, and people thought I was weird for enjoying learning. The social sides of uni and school have been unbearable, and I am quite poor with my attendance. But I love learning, and if it wasn’t for that, I probably would have dropped out a long time ago. Doing a degree in literature, which is one of my interests does also help a lot. I have also been viewed as intelligent all my life, due to my obsessions. This is probably because I am very good at hyper focusing and researching, so I love to soak up new information. But it has meant that my brain is overloading almost constantly, so when I get praised for being ‘intelligent’ I am sort of like, well its actually not fun, so thanks, but I wish I wasn’t because my brain hurts. It also does not help me with day to day activities which are the things I struggle with.
Anyway, I have rambled on because I’m good at that. The main point is, autistic peoples’ obsessions are more than just hobbies. They can become quite damaging when your brain can literally not switch off. I have often said my brain just needs a switch. BUT, despite the possibility of these obsessions being damaging, they should not be suppressed, only managed. Do not stop autistic people from having their obsessions, only help them to stop if you can see it is impacting their mental health.