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The Wife Speaks – long read

The husband who can’t be named for whatever weird reason he’s decided has asked me to write this, a memoir of our relationship, the discovery of his autism, the stuff that I just used to think was a bit ‘odd’. So, I shall do my best. Disclaimer: I am not a writer, I am not very organised and I am also brain damaged thanks to a brain haemorrhage I had when I was 34 (6yrs ago) so this may be a bit all over the place. Sorry, not sorry.

I shall call the husband ‘Biffin’ because I once had a dream were I was screaming at him to stop shouting at me like a “fucking Biffin” (Fun Fact: A Biffin, according to Urban Dictionary, is the part of the male anatomy between the bollocks and the arsehole. Or a red cooking apple if you go with the proper dictionaries. I prefer the first).

I met Biffin at an Irish bar. He was very tall and asked me out. I said yes and on our first date he went to the wrong Wetherspoons, got mugged and when he finally found me, he nodded and said “you look nice” he then proceeded to feck off ahead of me into the pub. Chivalry was well and truly dead or was this a little snippet of his life on the spectrum? During the date I found him somewhat “immature and distracted. Giddy and eccentric”. This was probably due to the fact that most of my previous dating experience had been exceptionally short lived or with people who were just about qualifying for their free bus pass. Despite my initial judgemental attitude, which has yet to leave me, we persisted and here we are nearly 17yrs later.

I didn’t notice the autism. I just thought Biffin was a bit odd, scatty and unthinking at times. When I look back, I realise now what these behaviours were indicators of. I shall list them for you now:

Biffin’s Oddities:

  • There’s Actually Nothing Special About the Top of My Head – He’d constantly look over the top of my head. There was zero eye contact. I’ve wasted hours of my life staring at the top of my head in pub mirrors trying to figure out what was so fucking special about the top of my head. I’d be looking round thinking “is he perving at another woman?” but a lot of the time it was just a wall. I thought maybe he was looking at the TV. Boys and their football. So, I would strategically sit so that he would have to sit with his back to the TV and yet he’d still do it. I’d tell him “stop staring at the top of my head” and he’d reply, “I’m not” and I’d say, “you are”. This would go on for a few hours at time. I realise now, poor Biffin genuinely didn’t realise he wasn’t making eye contact and was trying his little best. But fuck me it was weird.
  • Posh Words – He once described me as “scantly clad” and I was impressed by the old-fashioned, educated style of words Biffin would often use. Some mistake this for him trying to sound clever and feel he is belittling towards others because he uses words like “ergo, thus, pardon, may I, hence” and other words that wouldn’t be out of place in a Shakespearean play or a Politics Now show. He’s not trying to be clever, quite the opposite, he often dumbs down his intelligence due to chronic low self-esteem and self-worth. The classic traits of a Perfectionist. Biffin is just erudite. That’s what he does. He reads. A lot. Like all the fucking time. Some people get one who loves Physics, Astronomy, Maths etc etc. They become prodigies and millionaires. I got one who likes books. Sometimes I have to say, “I don’t know what that means” and Biffin will have to mansplain to me the definition of some word no fucker has used since Elizabeth I didn’t wear lead makeup. It can come across as belittling and to this day it sometimes bugs me. Especially since my brain injury. I can no longer read for fun, and I used to love reading, especially history books and we often had long conversations about life in Tudor history. Now, I have to be very conscientious about what I use my cognitive energy on. And sadly, I can’t use it on being interested in what Biffin’s new special interest is this week. It’s hard to explain but those who’ve experienced fatigue should get it. I find myself often thinking, “I am no longer intelligent enough to hold a conversation with this man” and feel I’ve let him  down. In many ways, I am not the woman he fell in love with.
  • Social Situations – these were limited. We were poor and lived in a different country away from most of our friends. We’re both introverts. I can be sociable when the needs are there. Biffin can also be social and talkative, but he can also be very awkward and inappropriate. I often go into social situations worried that he’ll say something offensive and have, on occasion, had to say to him, “no, just no. Jokes about AIDS and Jimmy Saville aren’t appropriate when were at our son’s school and speaking to people we hardly know”. I found it really hard at times to fit in with Biffin’s family and friends and often felt like a stale fart people had to pretend wasn’t there. Biffin’s behaviour at times didn’t help. I’d often be in conversation with someone about something like, I don’t know Mental Health in Children from an Impoverished Background and Biffin would pipe up with some “did you know Glen Little once had a roast dinner without roast potatoes?” OK, that conversation never happened but you get the gist. Biffin would just bounce in with something completely irrelevant to what I was talking about. I honestly believed he, 1) was bored of what I was talking about and 2) felt that others were not in slightest bit interested in anything I had to say despite me being the one who was on topic. Hence this reinforced my beliefs that I wasn’t good enough. Thanks, Biffin. One of the most hurtful times he did this was at a New Year’s Eve Party – 2016, 5 months after I suffered the brain haemorrhage. Biffin boldly supped his way through 3 quarters of a bottle of whiskey and when I was talking to someone else, I’d often mention the brain haemorrhage. It was a big thing that happened to me and I was (still am) extremely conscious of how if effects my behaviour. Biffin would hear me talking about this, he’d stand up, wave his arms about shouting, “woah, woah, woah, woah, woah, YOU’VE HAD A BRAIN HAEMORRHAGE? REALLY? NO? WOW, BECAUSE YOU’VE NOT MENTIONED IT FOR 30 FUCKING SECONDS”. I’d well up and look at him, pleading, silently screaming at him, “please stop, you’ve no idea how much this is hurting me”. He didn’t stop and I’ve never been so ashamed of myself and angry at him. What I see now is that 1) it was traumatic for Biffin to have his life turned upside down and his wife nearly die and his way of dealing with such things is to ignore it and 2) he’s autistic so was utterly blind to my lachrymose appearance and silent pleas to cease and desist his comments.
  • Panic Attacks and Emotions (or lack therein of) – On the topic of emotions, Biffin hasn’t really ever had many. We joke that he has 6 and a half emotions which is a major achievement as when I met him, he had 4 and half. These being: 1) Hungry, 1.5) Not Hungry But Can Eat, 2) Sad, 3) Excited, 4) Confused, 5) Tired and 6) Anxious. That’s it, his entire range. Oblivion is a wonderful state of mind but not when you’re Biffin and bottle up all the little bits of emotion. The price of Oblivion will inevitably be severe depression, anxiety and melt-downs. Biffin has had a handful of panic attacks. The first one that comes to mind is “Panic Attack at The ASDA”. We went shopping as is what people do at the ASDA. I threw a jacket in the trolley along with a plethora of other shite we probably didn’t need. Headed to the scan and go area and I’d forgotten to get a birthday cake. I asked Biffin was he ok dealing with the trolley stuff and he replied “yes, you take Harry and I’ll sort this”. Me and Harry got the cake and met Biffin just as he was checking out. As we walked towards the door I specifically asked him “were there any tags that needed to be taken off?”, “no, I checked”, “did you check the clothes?”, “yep”. Then as we walked through the exit doors we heard it, the dreaded alarm. I casually walked over with Harry to the security guard. Shit happens and all that. I turned and looked at Biffin and there he stood, frozen like a rabbit in the headlights, like Gary Glitter handing his laptop into Currys. He couldn’t move and I ushered him over and all hell broke loose. The receipt was at the bottom of many bags and Biffin proceeded to throw the shopping here there and everywhere. Bottles burst, orange juice everywhere, a vinyl record stomped on, Harry wandering off to god knows where and me and a security guard trying to get a sweaty, shaky, shouty Biffin to just breath and ground himself. Now, I am a nurse. A mental health one to be precise, I was even once a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist before a brain haemorrhage pissed all over that. I know how to deal with someone having a panic attack and I was in full blown nurse mode. Biffin knew this and I’d get “don’t try to fucking CBT me, I’m not one of your patients”. He wouldn’t listen to the pleas and reassurances of me and the security guard. And then it came…the blame game. Biffin often does this especially when apologising, I’ll get “I’m sorry but”. For example: he once received a speeding ticket. I got the blame. Was told I must have distracted him. On a side note, I was not in the car or even speaking with him on the phone when he got this speeding ticket. And I got the blame at the ASDA. “If you hadn’t fucked off for birthday cake this wouldn’t have happened”. I parked that like the bitter resentful little bitch that I am ready to throw at him later on with my “I did as you fucking told me”. We eventually found the problem, there was a tag on the jacket I’d bought, that Biffin assured me he checked. But admitting you’re in the wrong is hard so I have to make conscious efforts to always tell Biffin when he is in-fact, wrong. And I am very good at it if I do say so myself. Biffin has had a few more panic attacks and melt-downs since then but he has worked and continues to work on recognising his emotions and managing them better and he’s doing a bloody good job. They’re not nice to witness so I can only imagine how difficult it must be to experience them.
  • Responding to emotion – Biffin doesn’t. Or he does but in a “non-typical” way. Our son is autistic, and he can have the occasional emotional melt-down. Harry’s melt-downs are tears and yes they are sometimes over something that we perceive as quite trivial. To Harry, it’s the end of the world and I just try my best to empathise and reassure. Biffin will poke and tickle Harry and annoy him more. Not because he doesn’t care, he’s a doting dad and would do anything for our boy but he just doesn’t understand the emotion, to him it makes no sense and if it doesn’t make sense he doesn’t know how to deal with it. Harry has noticed this and when it used to hurt his feeling’s we’ve explained it to the point he gets it. Harry understands now and knows how much he is loved and not to take it personally. Not going to lie, it was frustrating before the diagnosis but it’s something we’ve adapted to. When people react a certain way and Biffin doesn’t it will re-enforce the ‘outsider complex’, the “I’m different” and I can see that it puzzles and frustrates Biffin.
  • Lost Possibilities – Biffin takes things very literally and often misreads a situation. This has led to many a lost possibility, namely with women. Countless times I’ve witnessed some whore trying to flirt with my man and Biffin naively chatting along. The hair flicks, the giggles, the shoulder tabs, the licking the lips, the feigning an interest in badgers, I’ve seen it all and Biffin does not notice. He told me stories of his past were I’ve said to him “there goes another lay that could have been”. One of my favourite stories is that of ‘Bucket O’Chicken Chick’. Biffin was at a house party and on the stairs sat a lady ‘Chick’ and in her hand was a half full bucket of fried chicken (KFC, the best kind of fired chicken). She asked Biffin, “would you like some chicken” and he replied “yes”. He then proceeded to take the whole bucket and fuck off running with the bucket clutched in his hands like Gollum and The Precious. Biffin proceeded to demolish the contents of the bucket in a corner grinning like he’d escaped the mob and police with a suitcase full of cocaine. His mind was blown (and unfortunately for Biffin and Chick that was the only blown object in this situation) when I explained women don’t offer their fried chicken to anyone. Poor Chick was indeed, flirting and instead of getting a snog and a whatever else it was she was looking for, she got her bucket of chicken ripped from her pretty little hands. Legend has it Chick now lives in a bungalow, alone and terrified of stairs, hoarding buckets of chicken and cats.  
  • Being a Pedantic Prick – Biffin is pedantic and is a man of routine, things need to be in order of colour or number and if not Biffin gets irritated by it. You pronounce something wrong, he’ll correct you. You get a fact wrong, he’ll correct you. He doesn’t think he’s above you in any way, he just wants to share his knowledge and he does it a lot. Only a day ago someone mentioned Barry White on the TV. I’m not a fan of Barry White, I have zero interest in the man and yet Biffin proceeded to spit out a load of Barry White facts for the next 35,425 hours. It got to the point where I had to say, “I’m sorry but, I really don’t care and also, how and why the fuck do you know so much about Barry White?” He does this a lot, people will be talking about something quite random and Biffin will pip in with a complete history of that topic. It’s confusing and impressive at the same time.
  • Biffin doesn’t like breaking a routine or any acts of impulse. He sticks to same meal deal and was genuinely a little anxious and uncomfortable when Ready Salted crisps were in a shortage and don’t get me started on what happens if we’re at a restaurant and they don’t have what he planned to order. Countless times I’m the one who organises activities for us and Biffin will piss and moan at me until we’ve arrived at the destination to return home and say, “that was a lovely day”. I used to see it at laziness. It isn’t, Biffin is a lot of things, he most definitely isn’t lazy. He just doesn’t like breaks in his routine or doing something without a plan. So that’s what we do, we plan. Problem solved.  
  • Flowers – Funny story, Biffin sent me flowers when I passed my master’s degree. The note read, “congratulations on your degree”. Didn’t even put who they were from, the thought that he’d be asked such a question as: “what do you want written on the card” just didn’t occur to him and he panicked. He also has a habit of just leaving and not telling anyone where he’s going. He’s left friends at a club, lost a friend in the city centre and once pissed off for a burger when we were out together. Another time we were watching a tv show (Taskmaster, I think) and having a lovely chat about it. He got up to use the toilet, didn’t pause the show but was gone for a while. Must be a shit I thought. I then looked out the window to see Biffin off walking the dog. To this day he doesn’t understand why it’s etiquette to tell people if you’re leaving.
  • Coasters – Biffin doesn’t notice some things, mess and clutter will often go over his head. On time he brought in a cup of tea and put it on the table. Also on that table were 6 empty coasters and he noticed not a single one of the fuckers.
  • Stimming – We have a few stimming behaviours. Rubbing his toes together, the leg going berserk, scratching his head, bringing his shirt over his nose, clicking his knuckles and general fidgeting. Thankfully the chewing on non-food items has stopped. Frustratingly however, Harry has developed this habit (aka – PICA) and it’s cost us a small fortune in zips, tv remote controls, pens and video game controllers. They can be occasionally annoying but are also a useful little indicator that Biffin is feeling uncomfortable or anxious.   

And there you have it a chaotic poorly written snippet into life with my autistic Biffin. I’m aware that it may come across like he’s a bit of a dick and that I don’t like him very much. That’s because, he is and I don’t. Obviously, that isn’t true. We wouldn’t be together if we didn’t get on and didn’t like each other. He is actually a very loving and caring person and is an amazing father. His mum once said, “you two are made for each other, you’re so well suited”. I describe us as two mushrooms growing near each other that eventually morphed into some weird fungi that’s inseparable and we’re just trying to figure out this autistic stuff together.



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