Archive for January, 2014


Outside the Spectrum

In the middle of last December I went for an appointment I had been waiting a while for. It was for an autism assessment. In the run up to it I was nervous beyond anything. I’d managed to get the day off work, which proved a sensible move. On the day I was a wreck. Sitting, waiting to get called through, even I was surprised by how much I was trembling.

Walking into the room the first words that were said went along these lines:

“Hi I’m *name I can’t remember* and this is *another name I can’t remember* and we’ve both been doing this for nearly twenty years so the buck stops with us. Whatever diagnosis we give you is the end of the line.”

Looking back on that opening statement, it comes across as arrogant beyond belief. Way to put someone who is nervous as feck at ease. But at the time, I put my trust in of the two ladies with their notepads and pens. After all, they had far more experience with this stuff than I did, as they were so eager to let me know.

The whole thing passed by in a bit of a blur. I answered questions, they asked my partner questions, they ‘hmm’d a lot and looked at me quite oddly as they jotted things down. They asked these questions in a semi-chronological manner, the basics about myself and what lead me to seek a diagnosis, then family, then schooling…

I laughed when they said the section about ‘family’ should be relatively quick and easy! Ha! We’d only barely touched upon primary schooling before one looked at the other and one said “Do you know?” The other nodded. “I know.”

It was at that point the assessment technically ended.

“You do not have classic autism.”

I can’t explain the feeling when they’d said this. Somewhat numb, a little shocked, still nervous.

“The reason why, and we asked this question a few times over to make sure, is because you were aware of other family member’s emotions when you were growing up.”

Oh. Okay then.

“And you may have dyspraxia. But there’s no tests for that.”

Oh. Great.

“There were plenty of things that could lead us to believe you have autism. The hyper-sensitivity to noise, your difficulties with functioning socially, etc. But here’s the details about an optician in Ayr that has been conducting research into different coloured lenses in glasses, and has found that sometimes helps with dyspraxia.”

Erm. Okay.

“And we’re going to write to your doctor and suggest psychotherapy. You seem to have some attachment issues.”

Now, the reason I haven’t written about this assessment until now, or even mentioned the outcome to anyone bar some very, very close friends, is because of that word.

‘Psychotherapy’.

When that was mentioned the little part of me that had been saying “They’re just going to confirm what you already know, you’re just fucking crazy and that’s the end of that!” punched it’s hand in the air, said ‘ner-ner-ner-ner-ner’ and stuck it’s tongue out at me.

That sounds fucking crazy in itself. But I think you might get what I mean.

Stupid thing is this. Psychotherapy is simply another word for counselling, something I had previously wanted the GP to get me onto. But then hearing someone else saying it got my back up. It’s akin to talking about your own shortfalls in a derogatory way. It’s perfectly ‘acceptable’. But if someone else, an outsider, dares to say exactly the same thing, then that’s an insult of the highest order.

‘Attachment issues’? ‘Psychotherapy’? Because I have a memory box, a few guitars and rather large CD collection? Seriously?! I could think up far better reasons (which were never touched upon) to have lead them to that conclusion, although the attachment issues was a new one for me!

I went away, stuffed my face in a restaurant, went home and nursed a mammoth post-stressful situation migraine.

A few weeks later, the GP that had (somewhat begrudgingly) set up the assessment had been trying to get in touch with me. I could only assume that he had received the letter about the outcome of the assessment and was wanting to talk to me about it.

“What’s the point?” I said. “He’s only going to say, ‘told you so’!” (He’d previously told me that because I was capable of talking in a pre-arranged doctor’s appointment, he didn’t see how I could be autistic. Oh, and for all the other stuff here’s some more anti-depressants!) And so I ignored the phone calls.

So, where am I left now?

Well, I’m not sure!

There’s a whole load of issues that are swirling about just now. Job dissatisfaction. General dislike of the human race. The first two often intertwine… Brain frazzles starting up… again! Feeling distant from my family. Losing all fondness for living in Glasgow with its bloody miserable weather. This could all be a case of winter-borne depression. It probably is. Do you know, we don’t really see the sun up much up here. Maybe a few hours a year…

BUT it’s not all so bad! I’m thoroughly enjoying writing and editing, especially now I’m back working on the ‘2014’ project after a (slightly too long!) festive break. I have a few ideas for a project I shant say much about until I’m ready to get it underway… I don’t want to create a beast I can’t quite see through!

And, at the very least, there’s still cake and gin! 😉

Stephen V. Ramey review!

Steven V. Ramey has written a nice little (and quite insightful) piece about my contribution to Pure Slush’s 2014 January anthology! He’s reviewing each story on a day by day basis, hope he can keep it up for the whole year as I’m enjoying reading his thoughts!

http://stephenvramey.com/2014/01/13/2014-january-12-you-cant-choose-your-friends/

In the midst of the festive season I neglected to mention this guest blog here! Sorry Vic Watson!

http://elementaryvwatson.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/shane-simmons-reviews-his-2013/

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Well, I’ve been a bit quiet of late, but I thought I’d come back with a little post about Pure Slush’s mammoth anthology, ‘2014: A Year in Stories’!

Some of you may already be aware of the premise of the project. One story for every day of 2014 penned by thirty-one writers, each with one set date to flow their story on throughout the year (mine is the twelfth, so my stories take place on January 12th, February 12th, March 12th, etc). And one man, Matt Potter, is pulling all these stories together.

January‘ and ‘February‘ are already out there in print and eBook, and I was happily given my copies for Christmas!

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So, how did I get involved?

I’m not the best at getting myself ‘out there’. Mid-2012, Gill Hoffs, whom I’d come into contact with through the Glasgow Writers Group, suggested I submitted a piece to Pure Slush for their upcoming ‘real’ anthology. After much nail-biting and brainstorming, I gave it a go. Remember, at this point I’d had limited contact with the writing community, barely shown anyone my scribblings and most certainly never got in touch with a publisher, let alone contemplated doing so. But I did it, and that put me in touch with Matt Potter (whom I had previously ‘met’ at the book launch for Gill’s ‘Wild’ anthology, but was so intimidated by his sheer confidence and outgoing personality that I shied away from making conversation!)

Roll forward a few months from the publication of ‘real’ (which contained my first published piece, “A Curious Fellow”) and I noticed the call-up for an upcoming Pure Slush project through a Facebook post. After finishing up at the day job I took myself to the café in Waterstones bookstore on Argyle Street, Glasgow, pulled out my laptop and began drafting ‘January’ and ‘February’ there and then.

And then I got nervous and started doubting whether I could pull off twelve pieces of fiction. No really, up to that point I could count on one hand the stories I’d barely completed to first draft level, so I was genuinely unsure of myself. It’s an ongoing theme in my life.

So I saved the drafts and left it a little while before I plucked up the courage to message Matt. And sure enough, I’d missed the boat.

But a few months later I got an email inviting me to get involved as there’d been a drop-out. The drafts from earlier in the year were still sitting on my laptop, so I pulled them out and gave them a dusting down before passing them onto Matt. I was given the ’12th’ as my date, which was odd as it was the date I’d pencilled in when I originally looked to get involved (the 12th is my birthday and I consider it a ‘lucky’ number, in the loosest terms of the word ‘lucky’…)

I didn’t have all twelve pieces planned out, so I began sketching in the ideas for them. As Matt and myself began editing each story on a one-by-one basis, I found myself somewhat glad that I hadn’t constrained myself (or the overall story) by locking in any plans. I’ve always preferred having a vague idea that fleshes itself out as it grows in its ‘own’ direction.

As we worked through one month’s edits, the next month would begin to shape itself in my mind and on the page. One thing I like about writing this way is that, as the writer, there is still an element of surprise in it for me. Knowing from the word ‘go’ exactly what twists and turns are coming up unfortunately bores me to tears. I’ve always wanted to enjoy the writing experience as a reader, by not quite knowing what’s next around the corner… Even if I am the one at the driving wheel.

And now that the first stories are out there I can reveal a few things about my contribution to this project!

Most of the stories are based in South-East London, the place I was born and lived for the first twenty years of my life. Despite living in Glasgow for over twelve years I can clearly picture many a street which the characters find themselves on as they’re only few minutes from my childhood home!

Sandra’s flat is that of an ex-friend of mine (the ex-friend was even more complicated than Sandra is!) It was a place where much discussing, eating, drinking and over-emotional moments occurred. Sandra herself as a character is an imagined amalgamation of various people I have known or simply heard about through others. She’s a very fun character to write due to her dramatic nature and she’s quite the polar opposite of the unnamed protagonist of the stories. Wherever she goes she brings with her a touch of soap-opera!

One thing that I’ve not mentioned before is that some of the characters have been with me for many years, and that elements of the back story come from ideas I’ve played with for well over a decade. I find it rather satisfying that these characters and their stories are coming to light for a very interesting project indeed, and my only hope is that I can finally do them justice!

But that’s all I’ll say for the moment… There’s another eleven months to go!

Links:

2014 – A Year in Stories

For a taste of each month, click on the links below:

a taste of January 2014 Vol. 1

a taste of February 2014 Vol. 2

a taste of March 2014 Vol. 3

a taste of April 2014 Vol. 4

• a taste of May 2014 Vol. 5 

2014 January Vol. 1 – Print
2014 January Vol. 1 – eBook
2014 January Vol. 1 – Kindle

2014 February Vol. 2 – Print
2014 February Vol. 2 – eBook
2014 February Vol. 2 – Kindle

Contributing writers are as follows:

1st Guilie Castillo-Oriard

2nd Townsend Walker

3rd Derek Osborne

4th Gloria Garfunkel

5th John Wentworth Chapin

6th Lynn Beighley

7th Andrew Stancek

8th Rachel Ambrose

9th Gill Hoffs

10th Susan Tepper

11th Jessica McHugh

12th Shane Simmons

13th Michelle Elvy

14th Len Kuntz

15th Michael Webb

16th James Claffey

17th Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz

18th Stephen V. Ramey

19th Gay Degani

20th Sally-Anne Macomber

21st Mandy Nicol

22nd Margaret Bingel

23rd Darryl Price

24th Teresa Burns Gunther

25th Matt Potter

26th Gary Percesepe

27th Nathaniel Tower

28th Kimberlee Smith

29th Vanessa Weibler Paris  (11 stories)

30th Joanne Jagoda  (11 stories)

31st h. l. nelson  (7 stories)

Stephen V. Ramey is reading and reviewing each story on a day to day basis on his blog! http://stephenvramey.com/2014-2/