Aut-Ish: Episode 12 | Special Interests (Special Guest |Christa Holmans)

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Accessibility notice and Intro Music – 00:00-00:25
For more accessibility, feel free to read the transcript as you listen. Available at: https://autish.wordpress.com

Onikage
Hello, and welcome to the Aut-Ish Podcast. My name is Onikage, and this autism podcast, like my blog provides various autistic content. I am autistic myself, and I want to promote acceptance and to explore various stories and personalities from the autistic community. This podcast will feature guests that are involved in the autistic community in some way.
Today we’ll be talking about special interests. Special interests can be misinterpreted as obsessions and a bad thing. However, special interests can help an autistic person, and it can lead to wider opportunities. for example, an interest in trains could lead on to an interest in engineering, but that’s just one loose example based on a stereotype. We will continue to talk about the pros and cons of special interest very soon.

Today’s guest is Christa Holmans. Christa has a blog and Youtube channel called Neurodivergent Rebel and writes all about autism advice and her own experiences.

Would you like to introduce yourself?

Christa
My name is Christa Holmans, and I am a late diagnosed autistic. I run the Neurodivergent Rebel blog, because when I was diagnosed at 29, I felt a very strong disconnect with the information that I found when I typed autism into Google, versus you know what I had read, because my diagnosing doctor recommended books by autistic people and other things and my own experience. And so I kind of start- well, I did, I started my blog as a way to combat all of the gloom and doom that was in Google because it just didn’t seem accurate to me.

Onikage
Awesome *laughs*, It’s great to have you today.

Christa
Thank you.

Onikage
No Worries! What is considered your special interest or interests?

Christa
Yeah, it’s funny because I think that a lot of it’s been evolving since I was a kid. And, you know, if I think about it, it’s all kind of tied to, you know, as a kid, it would be behaviour. And it started with animals. Because when I was little, you know, I really, really wanted to be able to understand animals. And I really wanted to know what they were thinking. And I’ve always just been really convinced that animals are a lot smarter than people give them credit for. And I feel like they would have a lot to say if we listen to them, or we give them the opportunity. And I’ve just always felt really strongly about that. But then because they couldn’t tell me what they were feeling, it was a lot of like studying their behaviour and trying to decode them. And then as a teenager, you know, it evolves it’s like the same thing from being like a very small elementary school kid into middle school, I started to have more trouble with my peers. And, you know, the interests in animals broaden to kind of studying human behaviour from the background, you know, studying and trying to figure out the whys behind my peers because sometimes they just seem so irrational to me. And, you know, in my 30s, I would say it’s evolved further now to kind of more like psychology, you know, both animal and humans, and therefore diversity is in there too. And then, you know, marketing is kind of in there too, psychology a little bit. And so all of these things have kind of evolved from being this little girl who just wanted to talk to animals, you know, so it’s come a long way but it’s all like one interest that’s kind of broadened, like this big widening circle through the years as I’ve aged and matured.

Onikage
Yeah, that’s why I like about special interests, even if some can come and go. It can be connected in some sort of ways. For me, If I remember correctly when I was very young, I always liked cartoons, video games and video games has always been a big interest for me even to this day. Even though I’ve kind of lost track of playing games, I’m slowly catching up now. But everything I was interested in that connects from then to now is media, video editing, photography, drawing, but when it comes to other forms of media like art, it’s like cartoons I wanted to be a cartoonist when I was a kid. Animation, cartoons, anime. Anime was like a big thing when I was like a teenager, I liked a lot of Japanese things, I was really into it, and even if it’s not a specific interest, it can be specific, as you say of animals it can be like, learning about them and observations. For me it was like- more like specific characters. When I was a kid, I liked the bad characters. My first favourite character ever was Angelica from the Rugrats. I’ve always been interested in like the characters with the flaws, and the ones that are considered bad. it’s like you like to know why they’re bad and what’s redeemable about them, and what’s not redeemable.

Speaking of flaws, what are the pros and cons of having a special interest or even just a specific one?

Christa
So I would say the pros would definitely be just how much joy my interests bring me. You know, finding a new interest really is like falling in love, but that also can be the con okay, because I’m so in love with my tasks, skills, hobbies and areas of interest that I can become just completely preoccupied and forget about the people in my life who actually do love me back. And it’s hard because you know, on one hand, you know, my ability to fixate and obsess over things, ensures that I become an expert in almost anything I enjoy doing. And I put my mind to, and that’s really great. It’s a great skill, but my obsessive nature and that tendency to ruminate, and, you know, not be able to let things go, it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows especially, you know, if I’ve fixated on something that’s destructive to my mental health, like a fear or phobia, or a problem I just, I can’t solve it’s an impossible problem. It can really put a strain you know, on your relationship too, you know, I can be so focused on my interest or a thing that you know, time it ceases to exist. You know, most of the rest of the world just melts away and vanishes. And I almost forget everything when I’m you know, in the zone and I’m just far, far away from like everyone in this world here. So I’m in my own little time and space bubble. it’s hard for the people on the outside. And then you know, when I come out of my bubble, people are like, gone because I’ve been in my bubble too long. And I’m like, Oh, where did my friends go, Oh, they gave up on me? I was in my bubble too long. So that’s a real struggle.

Onikage
Yeah, that’s a definite con when it comes to special interest like you’re in that zone. Even know it can be a fantastic feeling when you first discover it, and it’s amazing. But when you’re like deep dive in it and it does take over. One example I can think of made may or may not be a special interest to some, but it’s a good example. For example, if someone plays World of Warcraft, for instance, and they love it, they get into it. But it can take over their life and it’s hard to get out and you lose people and such because of it. But special interests can do that in some way. And it can be obsessive, in some way. Even though, it’s not always just pure obsession. but I’ll speak more into that later on, the definition, contrasts between special interests and obsessions.

What should be done to promote embracing special interests in society?

Christa
So, parents and adults really need to support kids and help them foster their interests and skills, even if they may not understand the interests. Interests do tend to grow and evolve slowly over the years and they become you know, more wide and less narrow. An interest you know, the wheels can involve into an interest of cars, mechanics and then beyond, just like my interest in talking to animals, you know, it could have led me in many different directions. Maybe I could have been a vet or a lot of other things I never would have imagined it would have led me the direction it has. But thank goodness, I didn’t stop. And the people around me encouraged me. Because, you know, those interests, really are a part of you and It really hurts when people are like, oh, that thing you like to do is weird because it’s like, wait, I like that. That’s what I like, I can’t help what I like, you know, it hurts. And so I’m glad that I wasn’t made to stop and then got to kind of pursue that because there’s a little weird girl talking to animals is something that could have been squished easily by adults. So, I think that’s important.

Onikage
Indeed. I definitely think there needs to be a better attitude towards special interests or obsessions. Or even weird things in general, cuz I was the kid that always liked weird things and things that people didn’t like. It’s like “Oh, you like Japanese music? That’s weird. Or you like Japanese cartoons? That’s weird. Or you like weird fairy things that’s weird.” Oh you like this character obsessively. That’s weird.” And it’s always been weird things. I embrace the weird now but I was- it was always an insult, and kids can be so cruel or even teenagers at worst, and adults. My family didn’t understand it either. I got taken the mick (mocked) by my family, and “not so” friends and it was not fun. But sometimes when you’re a teenager and you like something weird, it’s like to rebel. It’s like, I don’t care. I like this. Who cares? It’s like when I had a gothic phase at one point.

That was my experimental fashion, but I always enjoyed the aesthetic and even the music and things like that. it’d be nice if there was a better attitude towards it, and as you say it could like, lead into something more productive in someone’s life in a good way.

Do you believe that special interests are just obsessions? Could they be useful for life skills?

Christa
Yeah, so, definitely, you know, like, in my case, I’ve made careers out of my interests. And it can help you to have life skills because I learned to drive even though it’s probably the hardest thing I do, even now, some days like, ugh! it’s difficult, but I learned because I wanted to so badly, you know, because I had that- I was on it I was determined to do it, but it’s a fine line. Like I said earlier, it’s It’s hard sometimes because I have laser focus, and I can see how people would call them obsessions. It’s not far off sometimes. But that word, it just brings a lot of negative ideas to my mind. And you know, my interests. They bring me a lot of joy I said earlier too, and they’re how I recover and how I recuperate from the world burnout and my troubles. So you know, obsessions, I have those too, and they tend to be thought of as unwanted thoughts that get stuck in our head. And those are really an unpleasant thing. And those bring me frustration more than joy. So I see those as kind of distinctly different, not that they might not be related in some way. I’ll admit to sitting in my chair for hours upon hours, you know, working on my laptop without eating, standing up or going to the bathroom, you know, and then I’ll realise how neglected my body is only when I come to finally like a stopping point, and then I suddenly get up and I realise I’m starving or about to pee my pants and I’m going to run because like, I have, like, tuned everything out because I was just in the zone. So it’s like that fine line and I see where there’s the confusion, but you know it really it’s not, you know, an obsession, like I said, it’s like a something that brings your torment and like my interests. They are like joyful, good, happy things in my life. I need them. They balance out, you know, the bad so, yeah.

Onikage
I can definitely see a distinction between the two. When it comes to obsessions. I think when it comes to like, bad obsessions, it’s more of the fact that I’m quite paranoid and I over worry about things, and if I over worry about a scenario in life. It can be a manifestation as something else, like example, a picture of someone and then it makes a made up scenario and then it makes the whole Oh you feel so and so you feel this and that and I don’t. It’s the whole manifestation trying to play on my brain, and it took that unspecified one. It took me years to get out off and I had to find coping mechanisms to stop, and the coping mechanism I had to do was repeat words over and over and over, or repeat a certain word over to myself for it to stop- to stop the trigger of overthinking, and nowadays, I have my own new one that’s unrelated to that previous manifestation. That’s pretty much over, it’s not a daily thing anymore, but I use it for if I’m worried in general overthinking about anything. And it’s actually a quote from King of the Hill from Luanne. She tries to remember the words British Thermal Unit, but she keeps thinking it’s bacon and so she goes, *imitates voice* “British thermal unit” and whispers ”no bacon, no bacon, no bacon”. So to myself. Every time I can’t think or get a paranoid thought. I whisper to myself. no bacon, no bacon no bacon, and it works every time, and I do it now. Or I whisper it to myself. and it kind of looks like a tic but actually helps I just go no bacon, no bacon no bacon to myself. So I just pinched that quote and use it as a thing for that.

Christa
That’s Great!

Onikage
When it comes to life skills. What special interest has helped your life skills the most besides driving? for me, it’s anything to do with media like video and audio editing. I first done it as a hobby. And now I do like audio work for this podcast. I do video projects for my photography and now for Aut-Ish. That’s one example for me.

Christa
I was very creative too, when I was younger, Art and all of that stuff was one- but I’ve always really liked computers like in general. And the internet is an interest of mine as a whole, like the internet, because it kind of came around when I was a kid. And you know, I’m older. So the generations now they’ve had internet on their phones their whole lives. I had like a giant computer that was set up in a little dining room. And it was, you know, a chat room. And it was really a different world when I was on the internet, (O: Yeah) and Google wasn’t even, you know, a thing back then. And I love just seeing how much our lives and technology have changed since that. And so in high school, I took like web design and web classes and media classes. And so all of those, you know, that’s actually the only college credit I have is in web design and media. And that class like I literally would go only two days a week I would go on the first day and do my assignment all in the first day. And then because I already was living on my own, the teacher didn’t count me absent. So, I would just go back on Friday and then pass my test for the week on the lesson. And then I would literally only go to like class two days a week in high school, because like, I could do all the work in one day, and then I would go in and pass the test. I use it now, like obviously, like my website, I build my website, I edit videos, and I do Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator and all of those things. I learned in that class. And I use that so much and really, you know, I didn’t go to university or college, I didn’t do things the traditional way, because school was so traumatic and hard for me. It’s just ironic because I really loved learning and I love education, but the public education system, in my opinion, at least, you know, where I went through it was broken. And so I couldn’t- just the idea of going to more school was just a terrifying idea. And I was like, there’s no way I’m wanna go to university so I didn’t go to university. So everything I’ve done, I’ve had to go kind of in a long, roundabout way and I’ve self taught myself. and I wwe my ability to self teach things to being autistic very strongly.

The past few companies I’ve worked at, I’ve been the only person there without a college degree. Now you know, I’m the VP of Marketing for my current organisation. And I’ve taught myself all these marketing skills, I don’t have a marketing degree, it’s just because I’ve, that interest and that knowledge and like, you know, has evolved because I also had those graphic design and design skills and how to put together a website and I knew social media because it’s like the internet computer, thing piece that let- that just kind of naturally led me to marketing and communications, which is wild because it’s not the route that most non autistic people would take. But I’ve I know quite a few autistic people that have gone about things in very non traditional ways and we let the work speak for itself more than like traditional resumes and accreditation and metals that say, “oh, i know this” you know, it’s like, let me just show you I know instead of me listing all these accolades that prove I know it, you know?

Onikage

I definitely agree with the whole self taught thing. I did go to university after college and after high school, high school was a bit naff for me, I preferred college but that was like to find out what I’m doing and get a few qualifications from there, but then I decided to do photography and then I went to university, got photography and then I’ve done a masters in creative practice, which is mixture course, which was more my level because I like the multimedia. And when it comes to self taught, I do things that I’m self taught with. Art, music, I guess video editing and Audio editing as well, that was self taught as well. And I used to do amateur voice work in my teens for fun. And that helped me learn about editing and stuff that was kind of like a special interest in a way. And that’s one of those special interests that I’ve kind of come and gone, maybe not gone completely but I’m not active in that kind of scene anymore And that actually is perfect for the next question, it’s like, What special interests have come and gone in your life?

Christa
I hinted earlier that I used to be a lot more into art and music and things like that. And, you know, a big one for me is, I sang in choir for about seven years, and I had private voice instruction for another three years, I would think through two, three years, probably. And I was a soprano one, like it’s really high screechie voice And I really I thought back then I would have a career in music. And this one, you know, I got sick. And I lost my voice in the summer of sophomore year. And, you know, somehow, you know, I had like the flu or whatever illness it was left scarring on my vocal cords. And for then, you know, six months after that, when I spoke, I had a raspy voice, like a heavy cigarette smoker, like for six months, and then probably for the next year and a half, maybe two years. When I would try to sing, the only thing that would happen was like scratchy little painful noise would come out. I couldn’t make a note it wouldn’t, You know, I physically could not sing. And it really, truly destroyed my dreams of pursuing music. And I remember when I was in choir that one year, senior year and the choir director for graduation, he let me stand with the choir and I got to lip sync with him because I still you know, that was over a year later, I couldn’t make a note come out of my mouth and I was just trying not to cry, it was so hard and you know, eventually you know that dream was gone and the hoarseness went away and my voice was, you know, forever changed, it’s much, much lower and I have less range. You know, it’s not the same instrument I had trained for all those years and you know, I mourn the loss of that interest much like I mourned when a close friend of mine died because you know, something inside me died too when that dream died. It was a piece of me and you know, now I just sing badly to my car, you know, alone in my car by myself, and I don’t sing in front of people almost hardly ever because it’s not comparable and you know, it hurts because that was like, all I did in my spare time was like memorise and read music and I was a stereotypical choir nerd like as stereotypical as you can get *laughs*.

Onikage
That’s pretty sad *laughs*.
I have lost a few interests over the years, unfortunately not as traumatic. But it’s more of a one of those eye opener kind of ones. When I was a kid, I loved drama. I loved acting. I loved singing. I think I love singing more than acting, but I liked them both. And then I got to do some drama in college. and I learned the hard way that it’s not just about your acting or your singing, it’s the politics behind it. And that’s what I didn’t like about it. And also the whole cliques and separate groups and bitchiness that goes behind it. And when I applied for the next qualification for it, I didn’t get in. I just bombed. And to be fair, there was Shakespeare and I hate Shakespeare, so I think that was another reason why I bombed. So, and it felt like it was an eye opener because at the time, I was Iike oh no! What do I do what do I do. And then I got suggested by family member to do photography, and I thought why not? I didn’t really do much photography, and photography is the thing I’ve done on a whim. And it’s ended up as one of my favourite things to do artistic wise and possibly, maybe career wise, you know, one day, you know? But yeah, with drama, it was just no, It didn’t work out in the end, and I’m quite glad I didn’t.

Christa
Well, it lead you in a totally different direction.

Onikage
Yep. There are times I do miss it. When I look into like Stage shows and performances, not so much musicals. I’m not a musical person. I’m like the complete- I’m the complete opposite of your typical drama student. It’s like, Oh, you do drama, you must be jumpy and hyper and such and I’m like, I don’t like musicals. Because when I’m surrounded in a room full of drama students, I cringe. It was worse at university when I sit in the cafeteria, refectory area, and there’s like another table full of drama students and then the and they all just burst into song like they’re in Glee or something and I’m just like, oh my god, you’re not in Glee. Please stop. I’m like the complete skeptic drama student. But hey, at least they can sing.

Christa
Yeah. It’s fun!

Onikage

And finally, any other comments?

Christa
Oh, no, I don’t really have any other comments. We’ve went through a lot. This has been so much fun. I hope we can do it again. I would really love to do it again. It’s always a pleasure talking to you.

Onikage
Yeah! That’d be good. We can do another topic, wherever else we can think of, there’s so many topics out there.

Christa
I know we just get to pick one and info dump. Yes!

Onikage
Yes, all the infodump. People be like oh! they’re rambling But hey, podcasts are good for hearing ramblings like, usually I listen to podcasts when I’m tidying up and such. And it’s just good. It’s like you’re just listening to the conversation. It’s great. I just hope my podcast has that effect.

Christa
Yeah, well, It had that effect on me getting to interact with you today. So hopefully, the listeners will enjoy it as much as we enjoyed putting it together. But I really had so much fun and thank you so much for having me.

Onikage
No worries. It was nice having you here. Thank you very much for participating.

Outro.

Thank you for listening to the Aut-Ish podcast. If you like more blog information, please access autish.wordpress.com. Thank you for listening and stay tuned for future episodes. This is Onikage from Aut-Ish, signing out.

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