How my autism feels

Noise affects me greatly, bad music or bad singers annoy me so much that I have sometimes to leave. I unconsciously identify the birds I know by their songs. Certain very quiet noises (machines, coil whine) bother me even though most people can't hear them. If the music is loud in a bar, I can't understand what other people are saying. If I'm reading and there's music or people talking nearby, I get these signals and can't absorb what's in the book. Whispering drives me crazy.

I can smell things that people are often unaware of. I can't stand bad smells and bad breath.

The fabric of some clothes worn by many people is uncomfortable, too rough, not supple enough.

I'm constantly blinded by the sun, so much so that my eyebrows are always furrowed when I'm outside.

I need to see information in text form to retain it, otherwise I concentrate on the details of my surroundings or the face, clothes, gestures, posture of the person giving me instructions, and the harder I try to concentrate, the less successful I am. The trick is to take notes and watch explanatory videos or interviews with subtitles, or read the transcripts of podcasts.

At school, I found it difficult to keep track of odd and even weeks or to remember which classroom to go to, and I regularly missed lessons or arrived late.

I dissociate from my vision when someone has my full attention.

I question almost everything I do that involves other people. I never know whether I have talked too much or too little, whether I have brought up the wrong subject, whether I have been too strict or too relaxed about a subject. It is difficult to know whether I should be more reserved or more intimate with people. Although I know that some people are easily offended because of their lack of maturity, it's not in my interest to alienate them.

I have to make an effort to look people in the eye when I'm speaking. I'm 37 years old and I still don't know how to dress in a way that is comfortable and doesn't break dress codes.

Getting on a bus puts me under a lot of pressure because I know I'm being watched by passengers who want to see who's coming into their space.

I don't like bumping into people in uncrowded spaces because I have to calculate the right distance to say hello.

In conversation, I can get so caught up in my own thoughts that I can't remember what I wanted to say 30 seconds ago. Or I stop talking because I'm thinking about so many things at once that I don't know what to say first.

For 25 years I was in a cycle where I spent my days gathering knowledge but never applied it. So I would quickly forget that knowledge and the cycle would start all over again. Today I try to focus on what's useful to me and spend my time in nature or with people rather than in front of a screen.