I love information. I relish sinking my teeth in to a new topic, learning everything there is to know about it – reading books, listening to podcasts, scanning journal articles, and talking with other people about that passion. I enjoy falling so deep in to that information that I feel like I know enough about it to almost be an expert. I never go so deep that I am an expert. But deep enough that I understand what the experts are talking about.
I love diving deep enough in to an interest that I can notice patterns, and start to make connections between other subjects or skills or interests of mine. Ahh, how I love that! So satisfying. So grounding.
People call this deep-diving autistic people do a ‘special interest’. I’m OK to go with that, although I also use other words like ‘passion’ or ‘fascination’ or ‘hobby’ or ‘love’.
Often I ‘catch’ a passion from a friend. They’ll share something with me, and in an effort to connect, I start to research their hobby or passion, and before I know it, I find that topic fascinating and jump right in there with them. Special interests are deliciously contagious like that.
I can track my current and recent passions by my kindle and podcast lists. These mediums suit my impatient need to devour every word, every idea, every piece of knowledge about a topic. I like to understand and know not just the pure data but the various viewpoints and perspectives in that field. I like to know the different thought leaders in that area, and listen and read to all of them. I like to explore that topic from every possible angle and viewpoint. It’s most satisfying that way.
Most of the time I have a few overlapping interests. This year my kindle and podcast lists speak of fascinations with Star Trek, Buddhism, meditation, feminism, unschooling, nutrition, addiction and technology. Alongside my thirst for knowledge, I tried my hand at crochet, a first for me for a passion to be completely skill-based rather than information based.
Recently, a restless anxiety was consuming me. I looked at my podcast lists searching for something to listen to on a long car trip. I felt repulsed by every single podcast there. I had somehow saturated myself on every topic, and the thought of another chirpy unschooling podcast, motivational wellness podcast, or reflective spiritual podcast made me feel sick.
Later I noticed my kindle was full of unfinished books that I couldn’t bear to read.
I had two crochet animals for my twins that I was ‘stuck’ on for various reasons.
I had work to do, but it wasn’t grabbing me and filling my soul up with calming energy the way my passions do.
Nevermind, I thought, winter is approaching, and my living room felt sterile despite the fire. I needed new cushions and a rug. What furnishings would hold up well to children? And so I researched, and read design blogs, and looked at pictures late in to the night. I visited IKEA three times (I hate shopping and especially IKEA). I talked obsessively to my wife about it.
A hole had been temporarily filled.
But now sitting in my now cosy winter living room in front of the fire, that desperate need for good input to occupy my brain had returned. Having quit social media, all I could find to fill up my mind was the news – news of nuclear weapons, homicides, political points won and lost, refugees, and celebrity weddings.
This is not a good place for me to be in.
I am living in that dreadful space between special interests.
I never realise until I am there. Until I find myself feeling sick with disgust at my old interests and desperately seeking something to latch on to.
If you know an autistic person, adult or child, know that the space between our passions is always terribly unsettling. Sometimes it feels bleak, for there is nothing to be excited about, nothing to dig in to. Sometimes it feels lonely, for we have lost our way of connecting with other humans. Sometimes it is scary, because we have taken away the only thing holding our mind tethered, keeping anxiety, or mania, or paranoia, or depression at bay.
Please be patient and kind to us. This space between special interests is a horrid place to be in.
I’ve never found a fast way out of that place, for me or my children. It seems that the only thing to do is to try to hold the terror at bay and follow every information trail in case it is the one that will spark a passion. Right now I am enjoying reading young adult fiction, and have started looking up authors of young adult fiction, and researching different fiction genres. Maybe this is the beginning of something new? (Certainly my week-long IKEA-fest wasn’t!)
Wish me luck!