The end of a special interest


Common moorhens: two adults, a juvenile and a chick. [Image description: four common moorhens in a pond. The two adult birds have slate-grey undersides and heads, olive-brown backs, yellow legs with long toes and no webbing, white streaks along their flanks, white undertail feathers, yellow beak tips, and red beaks and forehead patches. The juvenile is slightly smaller than the adults and has a brown body with white flank streaks and undertail feathers. The chick is about a third of the size of an adult and has fluffy black feathers, a red beak, a pinkish-red featherless patch on the top of its head, and blue skin around its eyes.]

For the last two and a half years my special interest has been the common moorhen. Several of them live in the parks near my house and during the past two summers I spent most of my free time sitting by their ponds, watching them raise their chicks. And I read about their behaviour, particularly their breeding behaviour. I wanted to know everything about them. I felt a little thrill of excitement whenever I heard one of their kyurrk calls or whenever something moorhen-related turned up unexpectedly, like in a university lecture. I have just lived through the Years of the Moorhen, when I was a Moorhen Person.

In the DSM (the official American classification of psychiatric conditions*) we have ‘highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus’. So they think special interests are when Autistic people are interested in weird things, or so interested in normal things that it becomes weird. In this context, perhaps, ‘special’ is a euphemism. I like the term special interest though, because interests like moorhens do feel special to me. They feel like a big part of who I am and are one of the most important things in my life. They’re one of the best things about being Autistic. My special interests mark out the phases of my life, because they determine who I was at each time.

But now my special interest in moorhens is ending. For a while they’ve been getting less exiting, and now I’ve started to feel like there are more important things than going to see them. And this makes me feel lost. I don’t know who I am or what I’m supposed to do with myself. I know another special interest will come along but I don’t know when and I’m stuck waiting. I’ve had bursts of excitement about my blog and other Autism blogs and the Loud Hands project, but I don’t know if any of this will stay.

Special interests usually sneak up on me. They tend to start like an everyday interest, with me thinking about something I’ve had a passing interest in before, and starting to learn about it. Then at some point the topic becomes intensely exiting and significant. After that they gradually decline in intensity, until they fizzle out. The process usually takes between a few months and a few years.

I’ll miss going to see the moorhens, and there is so much about them I don’t understand. People have told me I can still watch them and read about them, but I know that realistically I’ll use my time and energy for other things. I feel like I have to grieve a bit about them.

*Autism isn’t a psychiatric condition, but for some reason it’s included in the DSM anyway.


2 thoughts on “The end of a special interest

  1. I know how depressing it is when a special interest ends and leaves you feeling empty. I was obsessed with nature and animals as a child. I still love both and always will, but I lost that over engulfing, making you forget everything else, don’t need anything else in the world kind of feeling, this fascination, the complete calm when watching plamtops swaying in the wind.
    now I’m obsessed with knowing what people would do if they weren’t afraid of consequences. Would they snatch food of the supermarket if they weren’t afraid of going to jail, stab someone? would they be so nice if they didn’t want something in return?
    this is a frustrating fascination, because I’ll never find out. I’m also obsessed with time, a life-long obsession. they come and go, and you wish they’d stay. hope you find a new one soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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