Author Archives: Forrest

Living With Autism Part 3: What Is Empathy?



According to our best frenemy Google, empathy is ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’.  Despite this very clear and straightforward definition, I can’t say that I really grasp this concept fully.

Why do I say this?  Because empathy never comes to me naturally when it’s supposed to.  If someone has something on his mind and is going through something difficult, I’m pretty much all ears (at least about 80% of the time, but it’s not because I don’t care).  I may not be able to understand or share the person’s feelings, but I’m willing to listen.  The funny thing too is, I analyze a person’s feelings but I don’t actually feel them.  Also, if the problem that the person is facing doesn’t directly affect me at all, I don’t really feel much.  At least not at the moment.  It’s normally a moment of realization while I’m analyzing a person’s feelings, and even that takes a long time to come to.

The Art Of Forgetting - I’ve been told by people before that talking to me or trying to reason with me is like trying to negotiate with a brick wall.  There would be no emotion or any hint on my face that indicated I was listening when someone like my Dad or a family friend I lived with for a while tried to tell me what I was doing wrong.  I heard what they were saying and was able to process a lot of what they were telling me, but I would just beat myself up most of the time for my own failure to understand the weight of my actions or sometimes my lack of taking action when I needed to or when it would be considerate.  Most of the time the people I lived with would tell me how to do things a certain way such as how to get the dishwasher started up, what was supposed to be recycled and what was supposed to be thrown away, and collecting my laundry from the dryer (I still suck at staying on top of that), but I would almost never remember the instructions or I thought I did and I still screwed up in some way.

I know what you’re thinking.  Why not write the instructions down?  Yeah, that was talked about.  I even did it at one point when it became brutally obvious that it had to be done or tensions would rise.  Even after I wrote the instructions down in a little notepad I bought, I neglected the notepad but the instructions became ingrained in my head because I was able to remember instructions better once they were written down.  After the diagnosis, I thought about the fact that one of my greatest strengths was remembering things that were written.  Considering that and the fact that I have such a deep passion for writing, it made me tear up at the thought that the written word has such a powerful impact on my life.  It seems like the written word is here for me to have the ability to remember, and when I read it, it’s hard for me to forget.

Lack Of Motivation And Understanding - When I forget something like simply taking my laundry out of the dryer and I’m confronted for it, my mind doesn’t try and think up any solutions to possibly prevent something like that from happening again.  When I was younger and in school, I never understood the effects my grades would have on my transcript, I only thought about the fact that my parents were angry at me for my lack of motivation and lack of good grades and how it upset me that they were mad at me, but I didn’t understand the actual significance of the situation and how it affects me.  The only time I ever felt truly motivated to do better and improve was if my parents threatened to take something that I really loved away from me, and if that thing was taken away, I worked hard to get it back, but once I got it back my performance levels dropped back down to the way I normally worked.

Not Funny - To address an additional thing regarding my lack of empathy, I had trouble as a kid understanding why it wasn’t a good time to be laughing at something funny that crossed my mind while my mother is crying about something at the dinner table, and I had trouble understanding what was meant to be funny and what wasn’t.  I remember laughing at a few serious moments in serious movies, and it wasn’t like they were cheesy movies in the first place.  I love laughing, but laughter is something that’s gotten me in trouble on multiple occasions.  Even today, once in a while, I still have this problem, though I’m better at holding it back now than I used to be because I’ve gained a better understanding now regarding when the right time is to laugh and when it’s not.

Before I finish this one though, I have to say that it doesn’t matter how much I’ve accepted my position on the spectrum and how much I’ve accepted who I am, I think there will always be a small part of me that feels sad that I can’t feel the same level of empathy that other people can.  I feel a little, but not what would be considered the ‘correct’ or ‘typical’ amount.  It makes me nervous because of the thought that others will think that I don’t care because I don’t show it most of the time, or because I can’t conjure up the ‘others-minded’ feelings often enough.  I want people to understand that I care for others a lot, I just can’t always display that when it’s expected of me.

By the way, if you guys want to shoot me an email for any questions or comments, my email address is


Living With Autism: My Typical Worship Service Experience

This is a short post in between Part 2 and 3 of my Living With Autism series to give you a glimpse of what my experience is like with my mind in a particular setting, told in a narrative form.  Hopefully this is informative enough.

My mother tells the congregation to stand, which includes myself.  I stand, feeling rather jittery as the words to the first song pops up on the two flatscreen TVs on both sides of the front.  I concentrate on the worship team, my eyes bouncing from each individual team member to the next.  I look up at the screen on my left, which makes sense because I’m left-handed.  I barely look at the screen on my right.  One part of my mind knows that it’s time for worship, and transmits some vague thoughts about God and Jesus.  My lips are moving and I’m (kind of) singing, but there’s no passion or emotion in my voice.  My thoughts of God can’t completely dominate my thoughts.  My mind is scrolling through too many other thoughts and pictures.  I can see glimpses of one of my favorite web shows playing themselves in my head, and many individual thoughts from many different sources play out in my head, and my mind will sometimes go back to previous ones obsessively.  All of them are thoughts of fiction and sometimes made-up scenarios involving myself and other people in my life.  I look around at the other people singing.  I look over my shoulder at the people singing behind me and I glance at the clock on the wall.

The tone of the music shifts, and the worship team has moved on to slower songs.  My mind processes the change of tone in the music and my thoughts slow down at will, but they are still not fully concentrated on the purpose of the moment.  My mind forms images that reflects my imagination for certain stories I’m currently working on.  My mind decides it’s time to continue brainstorming, but because of everything else going on around me, it can’t make any progress.  So I’m basically too distracted to worship but I’m also too distracted to think clearly.  I shoot a look (sometimes a long one) at the people walking up to the front to take communion.  I look every person up and down and my thoughts continue wandering on their random parade.  I shut my eyes to try and concentrate on what’s happening presently.  It’s worship after all.  But when I shut my eyes, it doesn’t shut out my long string of thoughts.  In fact, they can be seen clearer now, causing me to submit to them and cut myself off from reality.  The only thing that’s noticed is the tone of the music, which determines the pacing and the mood of my thoughts, which run rampant, each visual lasting about one second before moving onto the next one and the next one and so forth.  There’s too much noise.  Everyone around me is singing and I can’t concentrate on my own singing.

Worship ends and I think back on it later feeling disappointed and somewhat sad.  I take a walk or sit in my room listening to worship and singing again.  I can sing with passion then.  I can feel a greater connection with my Creator at these times than I ever do in a worship service.  In a worship service, I can’t concentrate and I want it all to end.  I want the worship to stop so that I can sit down and not have to wrestle anymore.  I’ve tried, believe me.  This is a struggle I face every Sunday when I’m in ‘big church’, and has been the case for years.  I consider myself to be a private worshipper because I feel like I get more done that way.  If that’s the way it’s meant to be for me, if that’s how my mind works, then I can’t continue to feel sad or feel disappointed with myself.  I’m grateful that there is at least some way I can connect with God, even if it isn’t in a public worship service.

Living With Autism Part 2: Overcrowded Mind And Obsessions

I'm complicated I know


Quick Note: I finished the rough draft of my short novel, which is called At The End Of The Day. I’m so excited to get into the editing process and make sure the book gets just the right treatment so that other people can read it.

Here’s the problem with trying to explain my own autistic habits.  It actually takes a long time to figure out exactly the right way to explain them.  Having been given an official diagnosis only almost two months ago, I’m still trying to figure it all out.  I plan on writing a book on my experiences some time in the near future.  So, given that this is a blog post, I have to summarize.  For this post, I’d like to talk about my overcrowded mind and my obsessive behavior, and how the two are connected.

I spend so much time in my head whether I like it or not that I lose focus of my real surroundings and it becomes difficult to pay attention and listen when I have to.  One of the most common phrases I say is ‘I forgot’, because it’s very common for me to forget things.

There are two different ways my mind can run.  My mind will either have the same image playing itself over and over and over again while I’m actually thinking about something else entirely or something similar, or my mind will race through dozens of different images like rapidly flipping through TV channels while I’m talking to myself or someone else about something entirely different.  Most of these images are photographic memories of my absolute favorite movies and TV/web shows.  So for the future, know that when I’m talking to you about something, I’m actually visualizing something completely different or perhaps similar only in the slightest, which runs the risk of me becoming distracted or zoning out to sink back into my thoughts again.  When I sink into my thoughts and zone out, my hand normally automatically goes to my ear and plays with it.  It’s an obsessive habit I’ve had for as long as I can remember, and today I relate it as an obsessive habit I have when I’m lost in my own head.

And the crazy part about the constant visual loops?  I never get tired of them.  I have some of the exact same images play themselves over and over in my head for a week and I never start to feel hostile or sick and tired of those images.  It’s possible that I get used to it.  Another thing about my visual thoughts I’ve noticed is that when I’m recalling a memory of a past event, I also end up thinking about the visuals that were running through my head at that time that the event or time was occurring.

For instance, when I think back to July of 2013, a time when my family was doing a complete media fast, I remember the visual thoughts about the first Hobbit movie that were running through my head at the time.  I had just recently seen that movie several times and had fallen in love with it, so the memory of it was flying around in my head a lot in the ‘repeated-visuals’ phase.  Here are a few things to add regarding my overcrowded mind that I feel are very important to mention:

Obsessive Tendencies - I’m also obsessive.  I go back and rewatch favorite scenes in movies, show episodes, and favorite YouTube videos and still feel the same level of excitement each time.  I either go back to analyze certain aspects of the scenes, or sometimes just rewatch funny YouTube video clips to laugh again.  I also have the tendency to listen to the same song over and over again (heck, I’m doing that right now!).

Overthinking It - A lot of times when people tell me to not overthink something, I respond by saying ‘too late’, because it really is too late.  My mind may be overcrowded to the point that it’s suffocating, but it collects information instantly if I’m listening and it goes through the endless cycle of being thought about and analyzed and pulled apart, and when there’s nothing else about it to analyze, it just thinks about what’s already been analyzed.

So, with all that being said, despite my simple outward appearance, if you were to open my head and take a look inside my mind, it might be more than enough to make you pass out.  It’s complicated, and it’s even messy at times, but its the mind I was created to have, with a certain level of depth that even can’t understand, even though it’s mine.

Final Note: I will be posting an example of a scenario on either Thursday or Friday regarding what goes on in my mind in a particular setting at a particular time to give a clear picture.

Living With Autism Part 1: Journey To Acceptance



As I said a few blog posts ago, I was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum.  I have high-functioning autism (so basically Aspergers, a word that’s not used anymore in diagnosis procedures).  I spent some time after reading the report feeling sort of devastated.  My parents already suspected I was on the Spectrum long before I got the diagnosis, so they thought I would be relieved to finally get clarification on what I had, what was a part of me.  Imagine their surprise when they found out I spent long periods of time thinking it over and rereading it as if I couldn’t believe what was actually written.

I learned later that the problem wasn’t actually the report itself, it was the way I chose to take in its information.  The truth is, that report was probably one of the greatest things ever given to me, but I was too absorbed in a negative perspective to see it that way.  I saw it as an obstacle, a hindrance, and a reason for depression when I should’ve seen it as a new opportunity to better understand what to do moving forward in my life, and obtain a better understanding of myself. I don’t mean for the report to define me as a whole, but I choose to embrace it as a part of myself like I should.

I feel that an intro to Autism would benefit greatly if I give the definition.  Autism is a developmental disorder or mental condition that’s characterized by difficulty with social interaction, obsessive interests, and repetitive behaviors, among other things.  This is something that has affected one in sixty-eight children in America today according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  It’s a part of a lot of people that is unfortunately disregarded and not given as much attention as it should be getting.  What may appear to be a serious hindrance in the lives of the people that have Autism can actually be a great advantage for that person.

Sometimes I envy people that have accepted themselves for who they are earlier than I have. I’ll confess I’m behind on certain bits of knowledge or information or ways of thinking and talking that many people younger than me already know, but you know what, I’m honestly okay with that.  Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be doing a series regarding Autism and the ups and downs involved in it that has made an impact on my life, with the final part being an article about God’s role in my life regarding my Autism, and what His role may be in the lives of others who are Autistic.  Now, given that I tend to start a lot of things and never actually finish them, I’m hoping this series makes it through.  Sorry this one’s so short, but it’s the intro.

In Recognition Of World Suicide Prevention Day: Helping Someone Who Needs Help


Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, which given some of the things I’m passionate about, is like my kind of day.  I’ve wanted to write a post on suicide for a while now but wasn’t sure how to approach it.  Given what day it is though, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to bring the subject matter up.

It would be obvious for me to say that that suicide is a very serious thing, but I think even though many other people have said, I’m going to say it too, because I know it’s a serious thing myself. Having struggled with suicidal thoughts before and having known people who’ve attempted suicide (thankfully I don’t know anyone personally that actually succeeded in the act), I know a good portion of the pain that suicidal people go through.  It is such a hopeless feeling that needs attention.  Things like World Suicide Prevention Day gives me hope because it shows that people are aware of this serious issue and are doing everything they can to help.

According to the World Health Organization, 800,000 people die by suicide each year and is the third leading cause of death in the world for people who are 15-44 years old.  Depression is also the leading cause of disability worldwide, and according to the WHO, depression will outpace cancer, stroke, war, and accidents as the world’s leading cause of disability and death by 2030.  To me, this is enough information to motivate people to take action.

I spent a year living with family friends before moving back in with my parents so that I can live in a more ‘positive’ atmosphere until I move into my own apartment.  I went through depression ‘phases’, struggled with suicidal thoughts, and consistently thought of myself as worthless, and having absolutely no meaning or purpose on earth, even calling the Suicide Prevention Hotline at one point. Yeah, I’m a follower of Christ, but that doesn’t mean I’m invulnerable and it doesn’t mean I’m confident all the time.  You can believe in an all-powerful, all-loving God and still be plagued by depression.  I’m not afraid at all to admit that.

So what I can say to you readers about how to help people who need help?  I can share with you what to do based on my own experiences.  Experience brings us knowledge after all.

1. I’m going to boil it all down first to explaining a simple phrase: “It’s okay”.  Simply saying those two small words to someone makes a world of a difference to someone who’s hurting.  Not only does it show that you’re assuring someone that everything will be okay, you’re also assuring the person that you’re there for him, and that makes an impact too.  Most people who are depressed or suicidal typically feel alone in their struggles, and you have to let the person know that you’re there for him.  Saying ‘it’s okay’ also helps the person believe that the place he’s at in life is okay, and that he doesn’t need to strive to go higher right now.  I myself had to learn that where I’m at in life right now is where I’m supposed to be, and that more will come at the right time.

2. For Christians, do not take comforting a suicidal person as an opportunity to preach.  It is at this point in the person’s life where he’s questioning everything, so it’s very unlikely that he would just willingly and immediately accept the concept of a loving God.  Also, the person wants to know he’s loved by someone he can see (like you), not someone he can’t see or may not believe in right now.  Being with someone who’s depressed doesn’t need an elaborate speech or anything professional.  You’re just two people talking, and making one of them feel cared about and accepted. Keep it at that.  For me personally, someone can tell me that God loves me until he’s blue in the face while I’m going through a serious depression phase and it makes very little of an effect on me.  I just want to know the person is there for me, not trying to get God to do the job.

3. If you have to, take measures such as calling the Suicide Prevention Hotline or call 911 if you think the person is in a crisis.  Yes this has been said many times by many other people, but I feel this post wouldn’t be complete without this, so I’m saying it now.  If you’ve tried talking to the person and listing alternatives to help the person and the person only seems to be getting worse, call for help.  Having called the Hotline before, I know that they take their job very seriously, and will be more than willing to help.  Do it if that’s what needs to be done.

To finish off, I will be lighting a candle near a window tonight at 8 PM to honor World Suicide Prevention Day, and I encourage you to do the same.  Helping those who are depressed and suicidal is a passion that has a special place in my heart and will stay there probably for the rest of my life.

If you’re in a crisis or know someone who is, please call the Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255

The Power Of Uniqueness Over Feeling Like Something Is Wrong With You


I really don’t know why I chose this picture, just roll with it.

Just the other day, I gave my diagnosis report to my parents to hold onto and basically keep away from me so that I can’t read it again.  I’ve already reread it over and over again.  To explain briefly, the diagnosis report stated that I was on the Autism Spectrum, as well as explained different things about me they figured out through the psych testing I did a few months ago.  Some of the things mentioned in the report had taken an emotional toll on me, because they were very negative, and it discouraged me and made me depressed.  It talked about my anxiety, depression, and the feelings of hopelessness that parades through my mind from time to time.  To make matters worse, I was reading those sections more times than I think my psychologist even expected me to.

I finally talked to my psychologist on the phone earlier this week to get some clarification on certain areas of the report that I didn’t quite understand, which meant revisiting the report.  Again.  The uncomfortable transition from one mood to the next (from positive to negative) made it crystal clear to me that it was a bad idea to keep looking at it.  So, after getting some feedback from a few friends and even getting the same advice from my therapist, I finally handed the report over to my parents to hold onto.  This doesn’t mean I’m ignoring what the report says and pretending that what the report says is not true about me.  It’s my way of making my own statement, which says: “that report doesn’t define me.  My own person is not what the report describes me to be”.

With so much focus on the negative listed on the report, it was becoming harder to focus on the positive things about me.  Also, I believe that some of the negative things about myself can be used for good somehow, but I wasn’t thinking about that aspect while reading and rereading the report.  I was only asking myself the question, “what’s wrong with me?”

Nothing’s wrong with me.  I’m human.  We all have our flaws.  We’re all born with traits that make us unique.  I would also like to point out the fact that as a believer in God and a follower of Christ, I need to focus on how God sees me.  If you yourself feel like something is wrong with you and that you have problems, remember that you’re unique and you’re special and, if you believe in God, you know that you’re loved by Him.

Nothing in the report should’ve surprised me, given that most of the information was stuff that I had suspected about myself for a while now anyway.  Yet somehow, seeing it all put down on a piece of paper was almost like a solid confirmation and it deeply affected me.  So I gave it away.  There’s no way that report should discourage me.  I’m special, unique, and loved.

Five Things To Expect In My Fiction Writing

Blog Post Photo

Every fiction writer has his or her own habits and traits when it comes to their own stories, and I’m no exception.  I have my own odd habits when I write stories and hobbies that inspire certain ideas for my stories, both in terms of original fiction and fanfiction.  Here are five things to know about my fiction writing.

1. When I’m trying to weave ideas together in my head, I listen to a particular song over and over and over and over again.  The lyrics and tone would remind me of a story I’m trying to figure out how to tell and it helps me zero in on that idea in my thoughts to flesh it out and put it down on paper effectively.  One song I’ve been listening to repeatedly lately is “How To Save A Life” by The Fray because of recent ideas forming in my head.

2. I don’t sugar-coat.  I write things exactly as they are.  Being a believer in God, many other Christ-followers would expect you to write stories that are free of most kinds of inappropriate content.  If you look at Christian movies like God’s Not Dead and Do You Believe?, they are typically free of most kinds of inappropriate content such as intense violence, sexual content, and language.  Most characters in my stories are not Christians to begin with, so I don’t expect them to behave like Christians would expect themselves to.  I don’t go over-the-top or graphic with content, but I do intend on being realistic.  To Save A Life would be a good example of a Christian movie that isn’t afraid to have some inappropriate content in it in order to serve the story and present its message.

3. I’m never afraid to kill characters off.  Maybe Lemony Snicket inspired that part of my writing in me, but know this: if you catch me listening to rap, I’m most likely thinking about killing off a particular character and the “fight scene” or incident when that unfortunate fate befalls the character.

4. I don’t believe in the “happily ever after” ending.  If I have a complex story to tell, the ending is not Disney-happy by any means.  Most of the time, I shoot for bittersweet endings, so that you can feel happy for the characters but also feel a little sad about the events that had transpired throughout the story and feel a sense of loss for the characters that had died (refer to #1).  I also don’t like ending stories that have a 100% sense of finality to them.  I like leaving a few things open-ended, not because I always want to write sequels (though in some cases that does happen), but because I want to let the reader know that the lives of the characters are still continuing on.

5. I don’t write to entertain.  I write to inform.  Sure my stories can definitely be entertaining, especially if the genre involved is something the reader really enjoys, but I don’t write stories simply for the purpose of entertaining someone.  It may be fiction, but I write stories to make people think.  I love philosophy and psychology, so issues of morality and consequences of actions are big themes in my stories, and they either have good outcomes or almost tragic outcomes depending what I believe is best for the story (and also depending on my current mood, I’ve been noticing that).  I don’t write to make the reader feel happy or sad or angry or anything.  I write to make the reader think, and any emotions the reader draws up as a result of his thinking is entirely based on his point of view.

Different Is Good, But Different Is Hard


The last ten days or so has probably been one of the most painfully confusing times of my life.  Last Wednesday, I got my diagnosis report from going through psych testing a little over a month ago, and I realize now that reading all fourteen pages shortly before going to bed was probably not the best thing for me to do.

I have been diagnosed to be on the Autism Spectrum, on a high-functioning rate.  While this honestly didn’t come as much of a surprise to me or my family, it wasn’t easy for me to read the report.  For some reason, diagnosis reports are written in such a way that it sounds very dramatic.  Being that I’m a dramatic person myself, I took the “drama” of it pretty seriously, and some of the information in the report got me thinking which led to overthinking, which led to a lot of anxiety and in some cases, fear.  I already analyze myself more than enough as it is, so it wasn’t very pleasant at all to start doing it even more than I already do.  I went through mood swings and experienced a lot of emotional stress that affected the way I viewed myself and my purpose in life.  Hence why my previous blog post about having vision in my life was meant to be more for myself as a therapeutic practice than it was to be for anyone reading.

Multiple people have told me to not allow the report to define me for who I am, and to all those people you have my deepest thanks.  I knew pretty quickly that allowing that to happen wasn’t the way to go, but my mind takes a frustratingly long time to reach decisions, so it took me a while to get myself grounded in that.  I’m happy to say that I’m there now, but the journey to reach that point was difficult and stressful.  It’s not that I didn’t want to tell myself not to let the report define me, it’s that there was a part of me that was having a very hard time resisting the idea of defining myself in a very negative way.

I’ve always known that I’m different, and that I’m not like everyone else, and for some reason that was a hard truth for me to accept, but different is good.  It makes me unique and it makes you the reader unique.  Different is good, but different is also hard because we’re constantly pressured by the culture to be a certain way, which can cause us to wander off in directions that would be damaging for us.  I am me, and there’s no one else like me, and that makes me special.  I know I probably sound like a pretty insecure person, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I definitely can be, but I’m working my way up from that mindset.  God has a plan for me that involves my talents, some of which I may not even have discovered yet.  I guess if there’s anything I really want to “preach” in this article per se, I would tell you to accept the fact that you’re different and embrace that.  I’m sure that lesson has been used to the death, but given what’s been going on in the last week with me, that’s the lesson I want to give this week and that’s the lesson I’ve been learning myself.