Impairments in imagination:
1. Lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play appropriate to developmental level
2. Inability to tell, write or generate spontaneous, unscripted or unplagiarised fiction
3. Either lack of interest in fiction (written, or drama) appropriate to developmental level or interest in fiction is restricted to its possible basis in fact (e.g. science fiction, history, technical aspects of film)
The above is part of the criteria used for diagnosing adults with Asperger’s Syndrome. In my diagnostic report it says that all three of them apply to me (only one is required for a diagnosis to be made), though fails to explain to my satisfaction why that is. Unusually for me I can’t recall what the person in question said at the time, I can remember that I argued vehemently against this, I was insulted, I argued that I’m creative, I can write fiction and I like reading fiction. I can’t disagree with the first one being true, but at the time I definitely thought they had got it wrong on the other two.
With my interest in film, it’s not so much restricted to its possible basis in fact as it is to my current special interests which do tend to be based in fact. For example I like to watch films about Nazi Germany or the DDR. Large chunks of my film collection can be traced to a special interest of some sort. It’s not so much that I have an interest in film itself; it’s more that films are merely another aspect of my special interests.
I didn’t have the understanding of myself and the self-awareness that I posses now to see that they were dead on. They saw what I didn’t or didn’t want to see. Sure I like to read fiction, but I if I were to look back over the books I read recently, not only would I see a definite bias towards non-fiction but I would see that every single piece of fiction I read is directly connected to a special interest. Not only that but certain books connected to a special interest get re-read too many times to count.
I recall fondly my Star Wars books (my first foray into fiction) and how battered and beaten they were. I probably could have recited them word for word. Yet despite their terrible condition, I would not allow them to be replaced with new copies. They would look the same but they wouldn’t be the same, they wouldn’t be mine. That liking for familiarity again, both in holding on to those books and in re-reading them so often, it’s no wonder I quickly progressed to reading to myself as a small child. Besides the fact that no-one ever went fast enough for me, they were probably sick of reading the same book over and over again.
On the subject of writing fiction, it was not only I who disagreed with this characteristic applying to me.
A good friend disagreed with this as well, pointing out that I had lots of great ideas for stories and scripts. Then somewhere in the last year, for the first time they actually got to read something that I’d written. Their first comment was “too many references.” It seems I am worse than Tarantino on that front. But I can’t take out the references, without them the piece wouldn’t exist. If someone knows my interests and reads something I’ve written, they’ll be able to connect the dot and see all of the not so subtle influences. My English teacher thought I had a fantastic imagination and said so at parents evening; he changed his mind about this somewhat when we got talking one day about all the TV shows I liked to watch. Then he knew where my fascination and knowledge of law enforcement came from and where all those wild tales involving rogue FBI agents, prison breakouts and drug kingpins came from.
How I could have ever argued against this being true of me is a source of amusement now. I mean, my words, phrases, gestures and mannerisms are “borrowed” from other people, why wouldn’t this apply to everything else as well?
I’m not saying people with AS lack imagination, not entirely. I just think that it must work differently on some level. More real than real is what I always say about my special interests and alternate universes. In the book Multicoloured Mayhem, his mother said that Luke once called AS “a more extreme version of real life.” I get that in a way, everything is louder, more powerful, feelings and passions are stronger. Like with special interests, a strong passion in a NT becomes an all-consuming desire in an autistic person. The ironic thing is that the one thing that isn’t real to me is reality. It doesn’t feel real at all. Maybe because there’s too much of it? I don’t know, but I like what Ben said about in Young, Autistic & Stage-struck:
“Asperger’s in a few words, widens your imagination, sort of widens your brain power but it also severs your fantasy-reality bond severely”
I don’t know if he was talking about AS or his anger but he said that he felt like something had a hold on his soul and wasn’t letting go, or words to that effect.
I feel kind of the same way, that something has a hold of me. There’s a line in a film, Ben X, I didn’t like it when I first saw it, now I see the line is perfect. Ben (in the film) says I had autism, or rather autism had me.
It’s not the autism I feel owns me, just the obsessions, but then they wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for that, so it does in a way. I used to say obsessions were a good thing, they keep me occupied, they fill the space that should be taken up with social stuff. Do the obsessions exist because I can’t connect and make lasting friendships with people, or is it the existence of obsessions that prevent that from happening?
Some people would no doubt misinterpret what Ben said, maybe they would be thinking of some kind of mental illness that involves delusions or delusional thoughts. That’s not my problem. I know what is real and what is not. It just doesn’t feel real to me. My problem is that fiction and my alternate universes feel more real to me than reality does.
It does bother me a little, how disconnected I seem to real people. It’s been pointed out to me, how little I appear to care for other people’s feelings and the fact that those people don’t know if I even feel anything for them. I want to explain to them, I do, but I have no idea how and what good would come of it.
There is one person I talked to about this once, I said bluntly to them “I like you, I enjoy your company, you’re my favourite person in this dimension to talk to, but I’m happier in my alternate universe with alternate Christoph” (this was during my Inglourious Basterds/Christoph Waltz/Quentin Tarantino obsession) and their answer was “if someone else had said that, I would take offence, but knowing you, I don’t, I know what you mean.” I wonder how they knew what I meant, or if they really meant that, because as usual I had no idea what I was saying. The thing that scares me is that this doesn’t scare me, or at least it didn’t until recently. I think with this recent interest in Joachim Löw and the Bundesliga I may have gotten a little too close to reality. I have a special interest for the first time ever that is not rooted in fiction. There are no characters to obsess over and analyse, there are only real people.
I also think that getting too close to reality thing may have something to do with the impulse I’ve had lately to start digging things out from my childhood, as if I want to go back to then, when obsessions and everything else were much simpler. When I had zero or close to zero self awareness. When my world consisted of Pokemon, Championship Manager, the WC 2002 PC game, video games in general, Star Wars, riding my bike and playing football. Back to when I had so little interest in other people.
It’s funny that I’m writing about imagination right now, since I just got a new idea for a story which has the working title of “Zwölf kleine Fußball Spieler.” It’s about a set of football figures (the kind that have tiny bodies and oversized heads) that come alive at night. The set of course comprises of Jogi und die Mannschaft. There is one of Hansi too, but he is introduced later, he’s not one of the original twelve. There are additional ones as well, the subs bench, Roman Weidenfeller is there of course. But there are twelve for a reason, it’s a special number.
The idea of course is partly inspired by The Unbeatables and Toy Story. I have for a long time wanted to write something inspired by Toy Story, acutally I wish Toy Story were real, but of course I wish the toys would be alive in the presence of humans, I would like someone to talk to sometimes. The title is a reference to a very funny song Everything is from somewhere else.
The video that served as a source of inspiration:
This probably is somewhat rambling, maybe even more so than usual. It’s a combination of being unsure of exactly what I’m writing about, a lack of sleep (partly because of the impending government visit and partly because of a Löw related crisis – well not a crisis exactly but something of that nature, the documentary Die Mannschaft is released in cinemas in Germany today, and well all I can say is, it’s one of those days when I am extremely unhappy that I am not a German – to the point where I feel like I would rather not exist than not be a German) and being in a somewhat hyper state.
I think a quote from another abandoned show (Criminal Minds) and former special interest sums up all of this quite well though:
Spencer: I know what it’s like to be, to be afraid of your own mind.