Thursday, October 17, 2013

Interview with Brandy Nightingale-Autism Acceptance Day


I am interviewing Brandy Nightingale, who has recently written her memoirs. Links to the memoirs are below.

Name: Brandy Nightingale. Age: 38. Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 2010. Though I’d always been curious as to what planet I'd migrated from and seriously questioned the inconveniently lengthy wintering period, I had no idea I had autism until my social anxieties and sensory overload pushed me to seek a diagnosis. Before then I’d worked behind the scenes on feature films such as Evan Almighty, The Last Airbender, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. I’d done stand-up comedy for eight years, worked as a personal assistant to two well-known actors, trained dogs, and lived a semi-normal life. I recently completed my first book, EVERYTHING’S HUNKY DORY: A MEMOIR, a sometimes humorous, sometimes shocking exploration of living with and attempting to rescue my alcoholic, drug addicted mother from self-destruction—through the eyes of an autistic child.

What is your life like as an Autistic person?

From the outside, my life looks fairly normal; I live in a house in an artsy town with my husband, three rescued dogs, and two happy hens. I grow my own veggies, own a pet care business, write, travel. What others don’t see is how I need to be alone after a visit just to breathe and reclaim my identity; how I have to fight daily to stay on a schedule so as not to completely overwhelm myself with my work, writing, random studies, and attempting to keep my marriage intact and friendships from disintegrating. Getting people to understand I need time to process large amounts of information can become really frustrating. A quiet walk on the beach with my thoughts is all it would take; yet others sometimes demand answers straight away.  

What is the most joyful, fun, exciting thing about being Autistic?

I absolutely love that I can research any subject I fancy in a matter of hours and come out quite the expert. I love that I can use my natural instincts to build trust with animals. I love that my brain is so consumed with learning—the greatest natural high. I love that there are others in the world I can relate to and connect with thanks to Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/everythingshunkydory), Twitter (@bnightingale11), Wrongplanet.net, and the many blogs I’ve discovered.


What is the most difficult about being Autistic, for you?

For me, relationships are the most difficult aspect of having autism. I require a lot of alone time and others don’t understand that concept so take it personal when I need to take a break. I don’t read between the lines and I don’t have the capacity to play emotional games, but others do and I often don’t catch on or am accused of playing them myself, which is always a shock. I am fascinated by people’s minds, experiences, and spiritual lives, and often my intrigue is taken as flirtation and either becomes rather uncomfortable or I never hear from the person again. That is the worst, as I’d love to have friends that I can have fulfilling discussions with. Chit-chat and I never did get on well.

How has the Autism Acceptance Day/Month effort over the past three years affected you personally? If you were not aware of it until recently, what meaning does Autism Acceptance Day/Month have to you now? 

I only recently learned of Autism Acceptance Day/Month, and was instantly100% on-board with the idea. Truth be told, I went from being elated with my diagnosis in 2010 (ah, relief!), to ashamed (who will hire me now?), to acceptance (OK, so I’m an introvert to an extreme.), to more recent confidence (I’m, like, totally stalking myself on Facebook . . . OK, well, maybe I need to tone it down a bit). In the past few years I’ve had to learn to accept me. I’ve always had respect for those I’ve met and read about on the spectrum. Many of these people are my heroes. But somehow, at certain points in my life (such as being jobless for two years) I had become ashamed of my social anxiety, ashamed of my sensory sensitivities and my fear of meeting new people in an interview setting. Somehow along the way I forgot about my extreme organizational skills, my loyalty, my attention to detail, my knack for finding solutions others hadn’t been able to find. Now I hope to continue on this journey of self-acceptance and share what I’ve learned with others on the spectrum, as well as with parents and teachers. 

What is one thing about acceptance that would make a difference in the world?

I believe acceptance of Autism in the workforce and education system would bring about a complete change in the way the world is run. We’ve had years of experiencing the wonderful multi-talented, multi-tasking generalist. I believe Autistics are specialists—specializing in whatever gift or interest they’ve acquired. The world has very specific needs now, with issues in the economy, with climate change, with the creation and storage of energy, with finding new ways to power and simplify our lives. This is where the specialist comes in. The need for finding specific, innovative solutions to today’s problems is critical. Those who can sit down, in silence, and think outside the box by utilizing their genius can give us fresh results.

Do you have children or other family members who are Autistic?

I am the only person in my immediate family who has been diagnosed, though I have had my suspicions. My grandfather (who is now retired) worked as a computer geek for NASA. My brother is a musical savant. He’s also an incredibly talented artist with a brilliant mind. Mum and I had our differences throughout life—she was an addict and never seemed to want to be a mother. She was a David Bowie impersonator, artist, and paranormal investigator. After I received my diagnosis she took an online AQ test and scored almost as high as I had. I pondered us sharing the same migratory period and what fun it might be to be floating in a tin can, far above the world . . . ॐ
Links to Brandy's sites:

Everything's Hunky Dory: A Memoir 

Everything's Hunky Dory- Blog

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