For those who know me, I’ve made no secret about it on the Internet in the years I’ve produced content, that I’m on the autistic spectrum. Full disclosure, I was born with a disorder in my speech and language when I was three and diagnosed with Asperger’s when I was 16.
I never really spoke about it openly with anyone until the day after an old Google Hangout show I used to do called “Around The Corner”, and what inspired me to open out about it was when Sir Stirling Moss came out and said that women “lacked the mental aptitude” to be racing drivers. As someone who actually has a mental health disorder, I found him to be ignorant as all hell, especially given that HE RACED AGAINST WOMEN HIMSELF.
Anyway, later, I did a “Dre Talks” episode, talking about what it was like growing up with Asperger’s, and the most daunting part of all, the fact that I didn’t even know I had it for the majority of my teenage life.
I’m a lot better in handling all this now than I was when a teenager, but there’s still those irritancies you get on a day-to-day level. I slur and stutter my words a lot. I tend to talk very quickly. I struggle to make eye contact with people. Certain words I just am never able to spell properly without a checker, like “irrelevent”. I repeat phrases and words A LOT. From a social standpoint, some jokes can still go completely over my head. I am TERRIBLE at getting reads on people, and sometimes, can only handle blunt conversations. Like, all those subtle signs a normal person might pick up on a lot, I just can’t do. Like with dating experiences, I’ve told people straight up: “You’re better off telling me directly, I won’t take offense, it’s because of my brain.” I generally lack empathy towards people.
My school life wasn’t normal for the reasons above. I was yanked out of many Maths lessons, which upset me, so I could learn social skills, like how to start conversations, or keeping eye contact. I used to shun all my learning support staff at school because I felt ashamed to have them, and that I didn’t need them. And of course, I wasn’t very good at making friends either.
Asperger’s kids tend to have obsessive and often restrictive tendencies. Mine was numbers when I was growing up. I was making like, 20 x 20 multiplication tables in my bedroom when I was Age 6. I also watched a stupid amount of sports. F1, MotoGP, Football, the NBA… all by age 7. I loved sports, they made me dream.
I got bullied a LOT at school. I almost left my high school at 14, because I was sick of all the Australian accent jokes I got, the lack of friends, and I just snapped all the time because people loved winding me up to get a reaction. I never took a second language, but I was yanked into a “Key Skills” class, with what I think many would call the “problem” kids.
I got lucky. It was at 16 I discovered making videos, and that was my outlet, and it made me a much happier person.
Looking back now, I deeply resent a lot of my early childhood, mostly because I was obsessed with trying so hard to be “normal” and trying to reject who I truly was as a person. That breaks my heart now because I couldn’t be happier with who I am now. I take pride in myself, something my teenage me would never have done.
It still shapes who I am now. I never had the confidence to anchor a Podcast until I learned from Louis doing Bike Live on Downforce, and I still am nowhere NEAR as good as he is! But I’m me, and that’s part of the reason you’re probably reading this.
But please, don’t hide from your disabilities. Embrace them. Be proud of them. They make you who you are. Your imperfections are you and trust me, someone out there loves you for them. My Asperger’s doesn’t hold me back like it used to, it reminds me that I can do anything I can set my mind to if I want it badly enough. Sure, it’s harder on a basic level, but it makes overcoming that hurdle that much more rewarding.
It’s saddening because of a lot of time in society, we shun what we don’t understand, and we have SO MUCH work to do when it comes to mental health in this country, and in the world. I come from a Jamaican background, and black family, and much of culture still just straight up doesn’t “believe” in mental health. Which makes it that much more important that we talk about it. And not just on #BellLetsTalk day… everyday. If this world is ever going to change, guys like us who are on the autistic spectrum have to be that change.
If you’re like me, don’t ever be afraid to talk about it. And if you’re dealing with someone like me, please, listen and be understanding. It’s compassion like that, which can make a massive difference. See you guys tomorrow.