Georgios V. Paganos 

(George) (He/Him)

YouTube

Georgios V. Paganos (George) (He/Him)

I am autistic..

I thought that will never be able to fully express, or personally overcome, the levels of embarrassment, regret, and remorse for the upset or distress I have caused to myself, and others, because of my autism related social disability and challenges. I thought that the shame, guilt and trauma will continue to haunt me forever. 

But I now recognise, accept, and own, with compassion, these emotions and feelings. I am trying to understand more about the complexity of human nature. Every day I become kinder to myself and others. I choose to experience life in harmony with my authentic and true nature, without shame. And the guilt will eventually evaporate.  

 


Thoughts on Apples and Worms, 

an educational story and a cautionary tale.

(*Just working notes for the first draft. Last updated 17th of May 2024. Next update expected 2nd of June.)

Dedicated to the Winter of Discontent of autistic apples and autistic worms.


Chapter 1 

The apple-worm forum were wondering how the worm (the protagonist in this story) got access to their only and profaned fruit. They didn’t realise that the autistic apple itself was unwillingly oversharing with the whole world, for months on end, (through its own live streams the previous year), exactly that. Unconsciously and innocently oversharing publicly a massive amount of personal and intimate information. Typical though of autistic apples and autistic worms to overshare without thought. Everything that a person experienced, feels, thinks, likes or dislikes, what makes them tick. 

The apple was emotionally reacting and giving feedback to the comments from the stream participants, so visibly affected by their support and validation, and so displeased by the random disrespectful ones. It looked to the worm, and possible many others, so real and also so beyond the boundaries expected from just an imaginary and assumed fictional persona of an entertainer. The apple maybe was slowly lowering its guard and finding some connection with audience, unknowingly crossing the lines of just a performer. 

Maybe it was all an unconscious act, where the apple was portraying itself as a helpless victim that needed fixing and rescuing. And at the same time, a community, a tribe, was slowly forming there. The worm wanted to become part of such a tribe. It also wanted to rescue and support the apple. Two birds with one stone. 

And now, very unfortunately, with initial consent from the autistic apple, the Librarian still continues to share a full archive of all this information with the whole world, possibly luring in more vulnerable worms. Maybe the apple forgot that the Librarian is doing so. Instead of nuking all the other media channels in a possible attempt to reduce its exposure, the apple should maybe consider making private the archives of the streams.


All this deeply personal, but innocent, oversharing was very misunderstood by the worm as a beacon with detailed information of how to access the apple. How to offer it persistent attention and validation for a while, before the apple decides to acknowledge after careful vetting, as said on the YouTube videos and the live stream. The worm also desperately wanted to be part of the community, the tribe. Any neuro-tribe that would also understand and accept the worm and its autistic challenges. And as a white knight it could achieve both rescuing the apple and becoming part of the tribe.

BUT IT IS EXTREMENLY IMPORTANT TO NOTE, that all said so far is not an accusation, an attribution of blame towards the apple. As previously mentioned, it is extremely common for autistic apples and autistic worms to overshare, unintentionally giving the wrong impression. Like most likely the writer is doing with this very story. Do not blame the apple. The same common trait goes with the innate human need to find connection and a tribe, especially for socially isolated autistic ones. And lets not forget that most modern relationships are dysfunctional, and comprise by a white knight and a vulnerable individual that tries to secure a saviour.  


Back to the story. The apple had said that it would have nothing if it had lost its audience on the stream. The stream and the connection was subsidence to the isolated apple. But now the live stream was not there anymore to support it. The apple had to stop the stream in an act of self-preservation, as it had become something no longer sustaining. It is was draining energy instead of offering it. The apple now needed help from somewhere else. Or that is how it seemed.

The worm, under distress, felt like it had nothing at the moment, and it was lacking its own community to sustain it in a similar way. It had distanced its own community, support network, and its true friends. No other place felt safe. But the grass is not always greener on the other side. 

With the obvious social disability, the autistic worm totally misunderstood. Of course the worm does not blame the autism, instead it acknowledges it acted immaturely. The social and indirect clues were completely lost on it, but still, it should had known better. Everything said on those live streams and YouTube videos was interpreted quite literally, which was very unfortunate for the worm and others. The worm wanted to offer, and possibly have naturally reciprocated in a community, the missing connection and some innocent emotional philanthropy. Helping the apple seemed like the light at the end of a very long tunnel. A symbiotic relationship (mutualism) could help both the worm and the apple here. That is what the worm was conditioned to believe from its own past experiences.


Just after the worm initially tried to confirm with the apple if it was becoming creepy by the previous comments it posted publicly, or if it was ok to continue to interact, the apple gave it some permission to continue to interact, and initially confirmed to the worm that nothing creeps it out. That may had been a standard social media creators response on any platform. But the autistic apple obviously was not prepared for the sides to be turned and the apple becoming the “special interest” of an autistic worm thinking it found its tribe, and the possible consequences. 

The worm initially speculated that maybe a, completely unfounded though in this occasion, fear of being insidiously and covertly watched by an unknown entity be triggered, given previous experiences? But the apple knew exactly who the worm was. The worm had openly identified itself to the forum and the wider public. That irrational fear should not be triggered, right? 

But on retrospect, innocent autistic special interest and attention can so easily be initially misunderstood with stalking, and it usually is misunderstood as such. All the signs are exactly the same until the point of rejection of the attention. After rejection, narcistic stalkers do not understand and become vindictive, but autistic individuals try to understand and learn how to adjust the cemented, painfully rubbing the face raw, mask, while horribly traumatising emotionally themselves. How could the worm not predict that it was actually coming across as a stalker, and the apple was being hurt? Here is where the embarrassment, remorse and trauma is coming from. 


Or maybe the apple thought the worm was another of the crazed stalkers it had encountered multiple times in the past. The apple had built a re-enforced castle, surrounded by a deep drench, with a tiny drawbridge the only way in or out. Very similar to the castle the worm had built for itself. And outside, in the endless darkness, lurked the army of narcistic and vindictive stalkers. Their scary white eyes piercing through the black void. (Hey wait. Stop. What is the big bad wolf doing there between the stalkers? No, this is wrong. He belongs to a different nightmare. Mods ban this guy!)

Where were we? Oh, yes. The apple was isolated and lonely. So was the worm. And the tiny drawbridges had to come down sometimes. Whoever brave enough to dare walking on them toward any of the castles had to be prepared to face the anxious-avoidant attachment style stress response of the apple or the worm. Afraid of intimacy and commitment, distrusting and lashing out emotionally at anyone who tries to get close to them. Avoiding intimacy not because they preferred to be alone like pure avoidants. Rather, they avoided intimacy because they were so terrified of its potential to hurt them. This is a very tough nut to crack indeed. But they were a glutton for punishment after all. So the worm persisted. The worm may not know what the apple is thinking, but it strongly believes it does understand the apple. But it acknowledges that it may only be able to understand the truly authentic unmasked apple, using as an education the worms own challenges and experiences when unmasked. All the other personas are totally confusing.


The beacon at the top of the apples castle was also so very confusing. Was it a natural byproduct of the method of delivery and extraordinary success of the apples work, or a cry from the apple for someone to find it and prove that real human connections are possible? That someone, someday, was able to truly see it and understand it. But how the mechanics of communication between such traumatised individuals, could possible work? The only ones that could understand the apple had exactly the same communication and attachment challenges. 

Saying the above with no disrespect to the apple/creator however. The performances and delivery are so perfect that it is impossible to tell what is real and what is not. And what type of symbiotic relationship were the live streams, the YouTube videos, and the Patreon platform supporting? Mutualism or commensalism? 


Back to worm and our story. The worm thought it wasn’t an autistic “special interest” hyper-fixation on the apple, but it was so wrong. Furthermore, this was not its tribe, where it thought it could find a sense of belonging and a safe place. The worm realises that the fixation was partly on this specific apple, and other similar autistic apples, with all the publicly available info that it could research on, focus its autistic special interest on. But actually it was more importantly focused in finding a tribe, especially a neuro-tribe. What madness convinced the worm that it belonged in this tribe and forums? It is so evident now. 

The apple immediately made the connection with its own hyper-fixations of the past, and also the parasocial relationship dangers here, the limerence, and gave indirect clues to the worm. The worm misunderstood yet again. How embarrassing for the worm. The worm was not very directly told early on to slow down or move somewhere else. If only the message was given more clearly; the worm would have understood.


The worm is so confused. The switching between identities in front of the camera. The worm, already social etiquette challenged, had to decipher 3, or possibly 4, personalities: the performer, the heavily masked persona, the authentic autistic & already traumatised one, or even possibly a disassociated one. It is an impossible task even for a neurotypical. What was the worm thinking when it tried to undertake such a challenge?


Someone had to directly tell the worm that it must realise it had become trapped in a parasocial relationship and a limerence, and a truly authentic and real human connection with this specific apple, the other apples, or anyone else in this tribe, was impossible. And Its innocent, but badly delivered, philanthropy attempts were becoming inappropriate and were not welcomed here. But no blame again towards the apple and its tribe, the worm was coming across as a stalker from the perspective of any observer. In retrospect, even the worm itself recognises this perspective now.

Yes, it is an undeniable fact that the worm “chew brainlessly through the apple, out the other side”, as the apple hinted. The worm was still completely oblivious to the apples perception of the situation and the triggers that may had been activated in the apples mind, or how it was coming across. It thought may had unknowingly spooked the apple, actually creeped it out, something that the apple had assured it was not possible. But there wasn’t any malice involved at any point. Just naivety and autistic lack of theory of mind. It must had thought it was acting as a patron to the apple, and was still just waiting for direct feedback, missing the apples carefully delivered hints. Demonstrating a honest curiosity and commitment to learn about another human being seems to have the opposite effect than the apple described. But it is naturally expected that the apple could be seeing the worm as a stalker instead.

The worm briefly felt like being abused, bullied and punished by the forum by their jibes. A harsh way for trying to pin the worm to the truth. Maybe the worm deserved this? Most likely. But this is nothing compared with the self-inflicted trauma for the sensitive worm, from its own realization of the damage it unconsciously, so foolishly, caused to itself and most importantly to others. The forum is not punishing it, its own embarrassment and guilt is. 


The worm remembers a past encounter with a stalker of its own this time. Another pure soul desperately needed the connection with worm. But the worm could not help them, it had its own problems to solve. The worm remembers suddenly the irrational gang stalker fears it experienced from the encounter with its own stalker. The worm is shaken to the core by this memory and the realisation of what damage itself was causing this time around to the apple. The sides keep turning and history keeps repeating itself. 'Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. ' or in its original form: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”


The worm suddenly has another realisation. The apple wrote that it was nursing a hyper fixation and it was doing its own psychoanalysis. It said it thought it would be fun to document the fixation as it unfolds for reasons of data collection. It also said that the intentionality here feels funny and surreal and that this particular fixation is notable. The apple was, possibly, only purposely allowing the fixation to continue and evolve as part of the apples own curiosity and need for data collection. The worm and its interactions were treated as an interesting anomaly to be observed by some and ridiculed by others. But no hard feelings. You can not blame the dog for barking, as this is the only thing it knows how to do. And the bee does not try to explain to the fly that honey may taste better than excrement.

The apple is not a grandiose narcist, but continuing to allow the worm maintain its illusion was so damaging to the worms already very fragile mental state. The same damage that an opportunistic narcist could do to a vulnerable worm. We see here where the worms mistrusts spring from and turn to an all-consuming torrent. What an unfortunate twist. “Oh, the humanity!”. But the worm still understands and forgives the apple. Afterall, adults with ASD, despite not exhibiting differences in grandiose narcissism, show elevated scores in vulnerable narcissism compared to neurotypical adults. The relationship between autism and narcissism, considering the dimensions of narcissistic grandiosity and vulnerability, represents a potential ground of comorbidity, since both conditions show high grades of pervasiveness, a life-long course, ego-syntonic traits, and difficulties in building up and sustaining interpersonal relationships. Still, we wonder how the worms true motives resonate with the apples interpretation of intentionality. But we may never know.


This feels like the last straw that broke the camel’s back, or what-ever you can imagine worms can feel. The little remaining world the worm had at that point is now completely shuttered. But as the apple wrote, so wisely, patiently and kindly: “The truth isn't the apple, or the worm – it's the hole.”. Everybody involved here ended up with a painful hole of their own. Still the worm has the highest regard and respect for the apple and its tribe, do not get this wrong. The apples compassion is notable throughout this weirdly odd interaction. 


The worm realised this was more than enough, it had to end, and voluntarily removed itself from all public platforms and channels it was interacting with apple so far. It removed itself from almost all social media platforms and channels, period. Social medial was so damaging to it. Despite this action, the worm appears like eventually crossed a blurred line by sending one final email to apple to inform it won’t be bothered again by the worm, unless the apple chose to contact the worm first. And that any further interaction can only take place if each can treat the other as equal peers. But neither of them was ready for such a balanced interaction. Any possible connection at this point could only lead to a very dysfunctional and extremely volatile environment.

But it did a grave mistake by sending this last message to a personal email address instead of the very public forums that were used so far, platforms to which it voluntarily no longer had access to at this point. Using the private email address was grossly inappropriate and a mistake. This may had been the last straw in this interaction for the apple too. The apple was forced to issue a harsh, humiliating, rejection at this point, striking the worm like a lightning bolt. It is totally understandable, and it was necessary, the best think that would happen at this point to wake up the worm. 

The worm thanks again the apple for it is patience and kindness, and offers its apology from the bottom of its heart for the distress caused. This encounter was actually a great gift to the worm. It helped it get a grip on the reality of its situation, and guided it to return to its quest for enlightenment. 

And the worm now realises that considering re-attempting contact with, or even merely continuing to observe the apple, ever again, whatever the circumstances, is the most unhealthy and destructive thing it could possibly do. For both the apple and the worm.


The worm wishes it had someone to talk this with, when it all started, so it could get corrective directions or a reality check. Or someone to highlight to the worm that the oversharing of such personal and intimate info on the live streams, or the YouTube videos, was not intended by the authentic and real apple to let the impersonal audience have a glimpse behind the autistic mask and try to connect with it. That it could possibly all be just for either entrainment, a one way channel for delivering the apples work, or just a form of self-expression. To highlight that it was coming across as a stalker. But the worm had pushed everyone else away, shutting them out of its life, in a misguided way thinking that the solution to its problems was somewhere else. It needed someone to slap it across the face and yell: “Snap out of it, you are not acting like yourself !!! “.


The worm now realizes it does not belong up in the trees with the fruit. The little trip to explore the unfamiliar world, the hope of finding a tribe, like all other previous unsuccessful ones, is for now over. 

It is not a fruit worm. It is actually an earth worm. No more optimistic and foolish trips. For now it must numb the vulnerability, together with all other emotions. It has returned back underground, to sacrifice itself, yet again, to the simple moles. Possibly only the apple can get this reference.

And please note that the last bit is written as a metaphone, please do not try to have the worm committed. The worm is not in danger. The worm is very strong and will eventually be fine again, once the worst of the storm passes through. Its true friends are there, always available and patiently waiting, wanting to help it, but only when it is ready to allow them back in. Writing this story, editing, analysing it and realising more every day is a great self-help and therapeutic process. 


It was a temporary dream, an illusion. A fantasy of the apple being like a modern day Marcus Aurelius of its neuro-tribe, instead of another very fragile apple. It was a parasocial relationship with the apples and the tribe they represented. A naïve temporary lapse into a platonic limerence and a desperate need to find a connection and a tribe, a safe place that would support it, or maybe distract it. Most importantly, it was only something to keep the worm sane, a self-preservation reaction, during a devastating personal crisis, but at the unfortunate cost to others. Limerence was the most addictive drug the worm ever used in order to numb the unbearable pain. 

But most importantly it was a empathic white knight syndrome, a saviour/messiah complex response by the male worm towards the female apple. The apple here may have been unconsciously caught in its own self-victimisation complex as a survival strategy. All this was never about the apple, instead it was a selfish psychological response to make the worm feel better by attempting to save, support the apple. It was trying to make the world better without realising it was just trying to make itself feel better. 


Or maybe the worm got the plot of this story all wrong throughout. Remember lack of theory of mind? It doesn’t matter. That is what the worm speculated, spined in its tiny imagination during its own dark nightmare, the best story plot that could explain the hazy picture with the redacted pieces. It has learned its lesson, and this is now and forever recorded in history. That should do for now. Is it closure though? It has to be. Every dream, every story is finite. All that is left is to analyse, document and learn from it. Knowledge, understanding and acceptance will be the closure.


The worm also just found a great trained professional therapist to help it on its journey from here on. We have to get to the root of the problem and find out what can so suddenly lead a high value person to such depths of despair, and such foolish actions. To the point of disassociation and complete loss of sense of one’s true identify and self. 

We also need to find why the worm is affected by an empathic white knight syndrome, a saviour/messiah complex. A person's need or compulsion to save others, often neglecting their own needs in the process. A behaviour pattern often rooted in empathy, but when left unchecked, it can lead to unhealthy dynamics in relationships and personal distress. And find what trauma may have caused this.


A recovery from such a complete burnout from all the above, and other pressures, will take a long time. But there are still Sisyphean challenges and critical dependences on the worm that it must deal with. It must remain strong.


The worm must seize back its power and composure. 

Let this be a lesson that the brain is adept at conjuring up convincing illusions about people when it thinks that doing so will get its primitive needs met. The fact that it was, subconsciously, adhering to a position of neediness within the connection is by no means a reflection of who it truly is or who it will be once it leaves this detrimental pattern behind. Initially, it will feel artificial to retract its energy from the apple and its tribe when its entire being is pushing it to secure more of their time/attention/reciprocation, but its recovery (and permanent limerence immunity) depends on it taking this plunge and viewing limerence as a big, sugary, dopamine-fuelled delusion. 

Whether its feelings about them centre on them being objectively influential and powerful, or it just feels that “they understand it better than anyone else” and “live life evocatively and freely”, they have glimmered to it and made it limerence. It believed that they possess the key to a world of feelings that it wanted permanent access to. They have been a mere ‘blip’ involving its brain viewing them as a). the provider of an unmet need and, hence, b). indispensable. 

It must assimilate the lessons, but do so as analytically and optimistically as possible. The true, transformative trick is to become someone who gets these needs met (and a degree of these feelings unleashed) in different ways, so that they and any similar future characters will simply have zero power over it. 

It must remember that nothing is set in stone. The purpose of this journey isn’t to come to conclusions regarding them and feel dejected, looking for more proof in its reality of the negative things that they have made it feel about itself. It is wake up to the fact that the brain is a complex system and its goals/output can be adjusted. It is never, ever too late to abruptly and successfully change the concept of itself that it adheres to in its head, or to unplug all of the admiration that it energetically send to them and commit to giving them nothing more. Its reality will always reflect who it believe itself to be right back at it, and the feelings/respect/lack of respect that it inspires in others will change radically and quickly if it persists in a new, improved, abundant self-image.

Limerence is pure, raw intensity, but is ultimately a limiting, one-dimensional vice in the sense that a powerful stimulant drug is. It can be entirely limerence-cured and immune and still feel sky-high emotions, child-like exuberance and stomach-tingling excitement about life every single day. It, for one, wouldn’t accept life any other way!

And most importantly, affected by the saviour complex, trying to fix, rescue, a “victim” is a drug “51 times stronger than cocaine, 51 times more hallucinogenic than acid, and 51 times more explosive than ecstasy. It's like getting a personal visit... from God!”. We must identify and stop the addiction, put ourselves first, and heal by doing the grief work.


End scene.


“No, no, no. Do not end the scene! What about the apple?” the impersonal audience yells.

Maybe the apple will be inspired by this crazy and scary encounter with the pathetic worm. Analyse, document and write its own perception of events, but from the apples own perspective this time. 

Hopefully at some point of this introspection, the apple will realise that basic needs and desires are unescapable part of human nature. Only if we accept and own the actions we take to fulfil these needs and desires we will be able to free ourselves from the secrets, the shame and anguish that torments us. And to stop the destructive act of self-victimisation as a survival strategy.

For some odd reason the worm is reminded at this point of the novel, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. No spoilers, but there some similarities here in terms of how opportunities for happiness are lost by the complexity of human nature. And both the apple and worm feel unbearable shame, and that they have to keep their curiosity and desires as secrets, hidden in the basement entombed in a block of cement. Occasionally, we must act in ways that feel completely unnatural and in discord with our desires in order to remain true to ourselves and protect our vital energy. If only they could release these incompatible with human nature restrictions, and their own feelings of shame. But all this is mind-spelunking as the apple put it. Let’s not go down that rabbit hole, that unexplorable cave.

The apple may also choose to help, by proactively educating the other vulnerable worms that may be attracted to it and its glimmer in the future. 

Then the whole truth will be set in stone, immortalised in history and the fabric of this universe. Only the lucky few maybe someday become privy of both dreams, both stories, and wonder about the apples and worms of times past. 

And this fantastical picture is what the apple believes it wants as its legacy. That someone will remember it long after it is gone. So afraid of death, it wants to continue living in the memories of others.

Maybe it would be more helpful for the apple if it commits to understand the meaning of “Emptiness is form and form is emptiness.” Or as Schopenhauer wrote: "...to those in whom the will [to continue living] has turned and has denied itself, this very real world of ours, with all its suns and Milky Ways, is — nothing."


Chapter 2