The Intensity of Special Interests

Categories: Behavior

Many people on the autism spectrum are notoriously known for their intense interests. Whether it was displayed on tv from a character or an interaction with someone on the spectrum. There was one thing that just sparked their attention. That thing that they can talk to you about for hours on end and perhaps have even devoted their entire life to.  Many parents would describe it as their child’s passion, special interest, or greatest joy. Others may consider it a fixation, or OCD. Though I just consider mine an obsession which is an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.” Stereotypes often use the examples of being obsessed with trains, numbers, tv, or music. Those things may be true but are special interests do go beyond just that. 

My obsession began way back in the first years of my life when I was introduced to my first pet. It was a calico cat named Pink. I was so in love with her that I dressed up as a cat for Halloween for a few years. Soon though I was introduced to dogs and fish.  All of the cartoon shows that I would watch had animals in them or documentaries about animals. Soon my whole wardrobe and room had some kind of animal theme to it. I had started a vast collection of my littlest pet shop. My fixation went so deep that when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would literally say I would like to be a cat since, after all, they said I could become anything I wanted. Though luckily once I began school I read lots of biology books on animals and instead wanted to become a veterinarian. Animals literally became my whole world it was all I would ever talk about, think about, and spend time around. This didn’t really become much of a concern to people because people would just assume that I would grow out of this phase and become more instead and involved in mature subjects. Although of course, that would never come to happen and people couldn’t seem to figure out why since at the time my autism was still undiscovered. I would attempt to explain to others of my obsession. Such as explaining the deep connection that I had with animals that I couldn’t replicate among human relationships for the lack of socialization skills. Animals don’t expect eye contact when you speak to them, they don’t express sarcasm that I have to interpret, and my audio-processing disorder did not get in the way of communication since it’s all body language. So I could build meaningful bonds with all of my animals that gave me a sense of happiness, belonging, and love. So with an obsession like mine, there really didn’t seem to be much harm to it. Until the moment when I did lose an animal. 

In my younger years of owning pets, my parents usually covered up the loss of a pet very easily by rehoming them before their elderly years or providing an explanation for their disappearance such as they ran away or etc. It went to the point that my family avoided movies such as Bambi where an animal dies because I would get very upset. So I never faced the death of any animal head-on because my parents did their best to shelter me from the very cruel reality that animals don’t last very long. Though around my early preteen years my family was gifted a very elderly cat that I had named Squeaky. Once again this cat became my whole world and even though she was a fat 12-year-old calico cat, that had very little interest in me. My parents knew that rehoming her would not be an option and just hoped that when her passing came it would be quick and subtle. Luckily she spent around 5 years in my life until her body began to give up on her. I was well aware of her health state but I was in denial and didn’t want to give up on her. Though eventually I had a conversation with my mom about suggesting to put her down and we did go through with it. My world was absolutely crushed, all that passion and joy I had turned into depression and emptiness. Everyone was afraid that this is what would exactly happen, an obsession gone wrong. 

Although thanks to God it didn’t stay that way I recovered from my heartache and rekindled that passion for animals in my life again. But this time I took my obsession in a different direction. I didn’t make animals my whole entire world because my relationships with other humans are just as important; it just requires me to put the effort in. In my obsession, I even stepped out from just cats, dogs, and fish to goats, horses, chickens, and many other farm animals. I had to learn healthy boundaries for myself including how many animals are too many. I also like learning to devote time to taking care of myself as well and not just my animals. Best yet I shared my obsession with others through social media. I started creating Youtube videos of my goats and then an Instagram page where I continued to share photos and videos of my other animals. I would appreciate it if you check it out. My goal is to make my youtube channel my career. Meanwhile, I pursue a degree in biology to hopefully become a Veterinarian one day. Having these goals that surround my interest in animals has really made my obsession not seem like a bad thing but instead, something that helps educate, and entertain others with my animals. Though most of all I want to inspire others, especially other people who are on the spectrum.  I want to inspire them to turn their interests into something meaningful whether they educate, entertain others, or make a career out of it. Though I hope they do take in mind to take precautions with their obsessions and do not let them consume your life. Since you are so much more than just your special interest. 

Abigail Rivera
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