Monday, 27 October 2014

New Cartoon

As cartoons go, it's not much to boast about but this is the first gag cartoon I've drawn in... Well, I hate to think when I last scribbled something.

In fact, now that I go back and look, I see what happened. In February, I drew my 'Great Figures of State' cartoons, including my George Osborne picture which I remember thinking (egotistically I know) the best thing I'd ever drawn. Except no other bugger seemed to like it and clearly I began to lose confidence. By March, I was struggling to draw 'Arse Fangs'  and then on 19th March I drew 'Chubby Hammers' . I remember feeling really blocked and it's unsurprising that they were my last two cartoons.

One of my biggest faults is that I can be too damn precious about what I do. Somebody sniffs the wrong way in the direction of something I've done and I'll happily destroy it. I've written off novels for precisely that reason. When my confidence ebbs, it can take months to build it up again. People often scoff and I find it hard to explain why I feel this way. For a time, back in primary school, I suffered terrible bullying, which I've never been able to explain. Perhaps others thought I was odd or perhaps it was just my turn to be the victim. Perhaps I still live with the scars of that time or perhaps I'm just the hyper-sensitive man that strangely gentle child became. I know I'm hard to figure out, though recently, I began to suspect that I might not be as odd as I'd always feared.

When I was at school, there was a name for people like me. It was a word that scared me as a teenager. It's a word I haven't heard in a long time. That word is 'loner'. There was a time when the newspapers were always filled with tales of 'loners' going on rampages or 'loners' keeping a meat locker filled with body parts. Only in recent years 'loner' has been replaced by 'Asperger's', a word I discovered to my enormous relief. I only discovered it when somebody close to me (and knows me as well as anybody) said she thought I displayed most of the key characteristics associated with people with Asperger's Syndrome. Since then, I've learned that it's a phrase that's fallen out of favour with psychologists who prefer to refer to the 'autism spectrum', with Asperger's existing at the mild end. It's a shame. Asperger's pretty well described me to the last hair and it came as a great relief to realise that there wasn't 'something wrong' with me, a phrase I've heard throughout my life, usually when I've not conformed to patterns of behaviour that other people follow.

Looking back, I realise I do have some very peculiar characteristics which have never made much sense, such as my thing with carpets. Ever since I was a child, I go loopy if I hear the sound (or feel the sensation) of something rubbing against carpets. I feel physically ill if I hear somebody actually brushing a carpet. In fact, I'm getting goosebumps just typing this. I'm told that when I was baby, I'd cry hysterically if my mother brushed a carpet. I can still let out a yell if I hear that godawful noise. I'll often rush from the room, fingers in my ears. It's much more than a phobia. It's like a physical pain and I have to grit my teeth until my brain moves on to thinking about something else. Walking in socks on carpet does the same thing. Brushing a hand against certain materials too. It's bloody weird and I've never understood it but acute noise sensitivity is apparently quite common among people with Asperger's. I don't have any particular smells that irritate me, but bright lights can make me feel distant and hyper aware of my body to the point where I can begin to panic. I hate rooms that are evenly lit, with ceiling lights, for example. I live entirely in rooms which have one strong single light source and plenty of darkness.

Of course, all this is self-diagnosis and there's supposed to be nothing worse than self-diagnosis. Is it helpful to think my personality might not be my fault? Is anybody even to blame for personality? It's not as though having a term for my character gives me any sense of grand meaning. Yet I know it's been helpful to realise this about myself. I'm far from the worst example but maybe there is a reason why I'm as clumsy as hell, something I've often attributed to my height but, on reflection, is down to my being as clumsy as hell. Perhaps that's why my handwriting is the worst of anybody I've ever met, to the point at university I was told I needed remedial help to fix it; why I find it difficult to look people in the eyes, and often feel uncomfortable with people touching me. Maybe this is why I get fidgety and agitated if my routines are broken (certain things in my day are ordered to the minute) and why I totally misjudge situations such as when people ask 'how you doing' and I foolishly tell them. It only occurred to me in recent years that I'm supposed to mumble 'okay, fine' even if I'm feeling like hell. Most of all, I hate being around people. Not that I hate people but it takes me a long time to get comfortable being around people. Consequently, I hate social situations to the point that I've destroyed many career opportunities that lay before me simply because I was useless in social situations.

I know I have these things relatively mild, which makes me lucky. Sometimes -- most of the time -- I just hate being me but I think I've finally begun to understand my peculiarities. It also helps me understand the better side of me and why I have ridiculous levels of patience. I often won't quit until I've done what I set out to do, to the point that my nearest and dearest think I'm crazy when I spend four or five hours trying to unknot some cheap necklace they've got tangled. When I can get absorbed in something, I can forget to eat or sleep, and that's especially true when computers take hold over me. It's why I stopped programming for years and only recently have I returned to it only to discover that I can pretty much do it for entire days and nights. Programming this game in Unity has been great fun but I know it's also been feeding a part of me that sometimes shouldn't be fed.

Cartooning, I suppose, is a way I find to escape it and I'm really happy to be drawing cartoons again. Comedy has always been my escape. I'm not completely anti-social -- I genuinely like many people and having contact with people but always on my terms -- and I will sometimes (but not always) stop being me and become the clown. That other me can be so funny and charming. It's the version of me who wrote all those letters that went into my book. That other me sometimes shocks the real me. I could never flirt with Jacqueline Bisset but that other me is charming and will ask or do anything. The real me stupidly didn't do the publicity to sell the book. I never understood why, until now, and I regret it terribly. Perhaps that's the version of me who writes this blog, though I suspect it's really the deeper me who is always crying to get out and then rudely offends people when they ask to meet me.

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