My reflection on Chris Packnam: Asperger’s and Me

I’m not usually one to sit long enough to watch a television program since university but my Dad encouraged me to give Chris Packnam’s documentary a go. I had it on in the background while working and before I knew it I had watched the entire thing and hadn’t completed a single brush stroke on my painting.

Chris was incredibly honest throughout the entire show about his experience with autism and it was truly a breath of fresh air. What especially captivated me was his intense emotional connection to his Falcon and looking back on my own life I can completely relate to those feelings. Once again it breaks this misconception of autistic people not having any empathy. If anything I care way to much over things I can not control.

The way he talked about being unemployable at the time of him finishing university also hit hard. Having an incredibly specialised skill makes it very difficult to find work and especially when that skill is such an intense focus. For me I was always drawn to three outlets throughout my life. It ranges in and out what takes the forefront but Art, games and music take up a majority of my knowledge.

Hearing Chris talk so openly about how he would want to talk about a subject made me realise how that is me. I often know that someone won’t be interested in what I have to say but I continue to share my enthusiasm. When it comes to talking about my art and its themes I could go on forever about why its important to me and how interesting I find working with processes. When I find new music that I enjoy I want to share it with everyone but they rarely hear what I hear. The worst contender of them all has to be games.

Video games have always had a weird place in society and they are slowly becoming that bit more accessible to a wider audience. For me its an obsession to say the least. I have never called myself a gamer because I haven’t touched most of the titles out there. When I refine it down I can say that the three franchises I played the life out of are Pokemon, Halo and Destiny.

My mind is filled with statistics and information about these games. I can’t get enough of them and my enthusiasm for the same game rarely dissipates. As a teenager I watched everyone around me lose interest in Halo Reach and start playing other games while 2 years after its release I still played avidly. I never got how people could lose interest so quickly and Chris’s documentary allowed me to understand a little more.

I currently play Destiny 2 on a nearly daily basis, inserting it into my life the best I can around my work and relationship. I could happily play it everyday but I know my constraints. It’s interesting that that enthusiasm for that game can be related to my autistic brain. In Destiny one over its three year life I racked up 139 days played. That’s not hours but days. In three years nearly five months of that time was me playing Destiny. My day consisted of Art,eat, Destiny, Sleep.

That intense focus stems from my Asperger’s and I still used it as fuel to bully myself. Calling myself sad and a weirdo that has no interest with spending time with other people. My excessive play time in Destiny got me into the top 1% in the multiplayer using weapons that were out of the ordinary. I spend hours figuring out how to use the less loved weapons and making them work for me.

Since Destiny 2’s release I have continued this same philosophy using a weapon dubbed by the online community as “The worst weapon in Destiny history”. Only a few days ago I went into the multiplayer and returned with no deaths and twenty kills using this “bad” weapon. It’s that feeling I get when making something out of the ordinary work that keeps me coming back. I get excited when talking to people about this game and bore them to death over and over.

I guess this tangent comes down to a thank you. Thank you Chris Packham for making me feel a bit more normal. I don’t want to always feel out of place and his honesty made me realise that my mind is just different. Despite hearing that I’m just “different” many times before seeing Chris being himself like that allowed me to ease up on myself. Even if it was a small amount of easing I’m grateful for him coming out publicly.

The real hero in all of this reflection is my partner Kami. When I get excited she sits and listens. When I want to show her new music she takes the time to share it with me. Without her in my life I wouldn’t be able to be me. I know she would deny it all if I said she has helped me be me over these past three years but she has. I’m grateful to have someone in my life that accepts me for all the weird quirks and pain in the arse attributes.

Chris Packham has been incredibly brave to put himself out there in such a vulnerable way. I admire him dearly and hope that one day my own honesty can make a difference just as his has. He is a role model the autistic community needed and I’m glad to see the positive reviews and feedback online that it so deserved.

Now I should get back to writing that two paragraph bio that I should be working on…..

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