[Title reads “Caught In A Storm” with each letter taken from the font used by Bastille in album artwork etc; a distinguishing feature is that the As are triangles.]
Contributor Bio: Georgia (cis woman, she/her pronouns), 19-year-old law student from England.
Content warning: mentions terminal illness (not graphic), mentions death (not graphic)
Some allistic people try and pathologise every interest or hobby an autistic person has into “special interests” which, as well as being annoying, is wildly inaccurate. There is a massive difference between liking things and having special interests. Personally, I like Sherlock, but Doctor Who is a major special interest, on a completely different scale, with completely different feelings. That’s not the special interest I’m going to discuss here, though. I currently have several, in addition to the many obsessions that have come and gone as I grew up. My sensory issues are mainly auditory and I love music so most of my special interests, past and present, are various bands.
That’s where those triangle-shaped-As in the title come in. One nauseatingly hot day back in July, I had “Laura Palmer” stuck in my head for some reason. By the next day, I knew. It’s happening again. And I love every second of it.
Bastille are a UK based band (NOT A SOLO ACT, media, thank you very much), best known for “Pompeii”. If I go any further than that you’re going to get a whole rant about the album, the covers mixtapes, the remixes, the assorted B-sides and collaborations, and Dan Smith’s solo work pre-Bastille, and it probably wouldn’t be that interesting for you to read, so I’ll just leave you with the really basic background information.
It starts off with the realisation that there’s so much knowledge to gain, so much to consume and so much boundless enthusiasm about consuming it. That enthusiasm doesn’t fade in the slightest, even months afterwards. Although I’ve been there, done that and got the T-shirt (literally, in many cases) countless times before, I still started out being weirdly shy and self-conscious about it, mainly keeping it all online then very slowly introducing the idea of yet another shiny new band obsession to people in real life. As you can imagine, they quickly figure it out anyway! Maybe that’s just to “ease them in” because from my point of view the whole thing happens really suddenly with no obvious trigger, or maybe it’s because I’m 19 now and I’ve probably internalised a lot of ableist stuff about special interests being childish. Maybe it’s something else, I don’t know.
This one seems to be presenting itself in a fairly “stereotypically autistic” way; just sitting, staring blankly at a screen or into space, watching and listening and consuming anything I can get my hands on (which, thanks to Tumblr and YouTube, is a lot!), over and over again, and stimming. SO MUCH STIMMING. For example, I tiptoe virtually all the time anyway, and I’ve always had a habit of pacing around to music in my room. Now I do that around the house generally, though still only when I don’t think anyone can see me. It feels (and probably looks) like I’m about to randomly break into cartwheels on the kitchen floor, though if I actually did that I’d almost certainly end up breaking every bone in my body!
Yes, I do see special interests as a defence mechanism, even escapism on occasion. In that respect, the whole Bastille thing is perfectly timed. Back when it started, I thought it was just about getting me through a heatwave. As it turns out, it’s got me through what’s turned out to be a really bad summer; ongoing anxiety issues, death and terminal illness in the family, and a very messy break-up. This special interest, this routine, standard, run-of-the-mill shiny new band obsession, has managed to keep me sane. I’m not exaggerating.
However, I think special interests are wonderful in their own right, too, just for the joy they create.
Practically memorising music channel schedules and various chart positions, waiting for one song and being ridiculously happy when it plays, even though YouTube exists and I could get it at any time anyway.
Finding another interview, another cover version, another remix I didn’t know existed, and another, and another, and another.
Having to play something twice in a row, usually more.
Logging on to Tumblr and exploring an entire fandom with so many other people as unreasonably excited as I am.
Sitting next to my neurotypical younger brother whilst on Tumblr and thinking “I wish you could feel like this, I wish I could make you know how this feels”.
Accidentally spending hours on YouTube.
Pacing around the living room for the entire Reading Festival set.
Finding out about the secret mini-set at Reading for Radio 1 and excitedly telling everyone else who happened to be at home.
The acapella version of Overjoyed. (Seriously. Look it up. Now. Go on. I’ll wait.)
All the details and layers and electronic bits in Overjoyed itself.
The moment at about 2:15 in Alchemy (from Dan Smith’s solo days) when all the synths kick in.
Humming the intro to Icarus, on repeat, all the time.
The drums in Pompeii.
The really high part at the end of Oblivion.
All those acoustic live sessions and all that hand drumming.
Headphones on, world off.
“This is your racing heart, can you feel iiiiiiiiiit, can you feel iiiiiiiiiiiiit?”
I can’t really explain how special interests feel, but for me personally, they’re one of the biggest advantages of being on the spectrum; they’re one of the main reasons I wouldn’t change my neurotype for the world.
 I’m not a massive fan of that term myself – not sure why, I think it might sound a bit patronising – but it seems to be the term preferred by most people and frankly I can’t think of a better one, so that’s the term I’ll use.