I’ve been unexpectedly deeply affected by the whole Brexit drama. Perhaps like many folks in the UK, I didn’t even realize the full impact that a Leave vote would have. I can fully understand why so many voted to leave the EU. I have friends who lost their family farm, in part due to the onslaught of EU regulations. And some of the rules seem unfairly slanted towards the continent and fail to cede critical rights to the UK.
Plus, the EU has always struck me as slanted towards the continent, particularly Germany and France, with peripheral countries having signed up because the fate of being part of the EU was preferable to being on their own.
Britain, however, is in a different situation. And as everyone is discovering (the hard way), they’re far more intimately connected with the entire world than a lot of people realized. And guess what — we’re all connected. So, when a country that’s been at the heart of globalization for hundreds of years, and has been one of the primary foundational drivers of globalism (used to be called “colonialism” but we’re more polite about it now), decides to just pull out, it’s like a massive game of Jenga, where one of the pieces keeping the whole international tower of finance, trade, and connectedness together just collapses.
World financial markets have taken a hit. Pensions have been affected. People’s futures have been affected. And not just in the UK, but globally. Plus, as it turns out, the promises made by the “Leave” leaders weren’t exactly … true. They’re already back-pedaling. But aside from neo-nazi white supremacists making a show of having “won”, attacking and marginalizing non-white Britons, and some people admitting that they didn’t really think it would happen, they didn’t really think their vote would count, and if they had it to do over, they’d vote “Remain”, I’m not hearing much from the victors.
It really highlights just how interconnected we all are.
And what tendrils of white supremacy are intertwined with everyday life just beneath the surface of polite society’s agreeable facade.
The worst thing about this whole business is just how wrenching it is. It’s causing serious pain to people. I’ve long believed that the vote really was a tally of who has benefited from globalization, and who has not. If you have money, you voted “Remain”. If you don’t, you voted “Leave”. And it seems the people without money have made it possible for a lot more people to join their ranks — because they have either been betrayed by the promises of globalization and abandoned by the authorities who are supposed to serve them, or they haven’t figured out how to make the system work for them and work out how to create their own benefit.
The idea that any of us — any of us — can pick up and leave the interconnected world and be better off because of it seems like a fata morgana. A relic of times past, when you actually could safely disconnect from the rest of the world and actually thrive. Not now, though. That ship has sailed. And even in the most remote regions of far-removed countries where you can actually get a phone signal, as well as purchase goods created on the other side of the planet in a place you can’t even pronounce, it’s more than evident that we are operating in an interconnected world (and have been, for quite some time).
And as someone on the autistic spectrum, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that lack of empathy is NOT an issue with me. If anything, too much empathy is. I feel it to my bones, every time I hear about (and imagine) someone being harmed, and it strikes to the core of me, whenever people are attacked, victimized, excluded, marginalized, oppressed, or otherwise not afforded the respect and dignity that we all deserve.
Picking up on emotional drama and trauma is akin to my sensory issues — lights too bright, noises too loud, touch and sensations too intrusive, even some smells and tastes being too much for me. Not to mention my issues with balance, coordination, and all the other senses that go along with the five we typically think of. With me, everything can be turned ON at one time. Or only one thing can be TURNED WAY UP, while other things are barely even noticeable. It’s very uneven with me, and it becomes even trickier, when there’s a lot of emotional / co gnitive stimulation going on, as well.
Needless to say, my issues have been pinging the upper ranges of my internal “meter” for the past few days, as the Brexit drama has unfolded.
And now I’m at the point where I’m super-saturated, super-disgusted, super-saddened, and I really need to shield myself from everything that’s flying around in the ethers. It’s getting ugly. And my impulse control drops when I’m whacked out, so I have to take steps to protect others from my little outbursts and bad behavior that crop up, here and there… not at all helping the situation.
The worst thing is, it can all give rise to a meltdown or a shutdown. And that’s not good. Meltdowns erase days of humanity from my future, and it takes me up to a week (or two) to start feeling regulated again. The residual effects are serious, and to be perfectly honest, I still feel a little shaky after my meltdown/shutdown last month. It takes a lot out of me, and it’s not easy to get back to baseline.
So, when you’re on the autistic spectrum, how do you protect yourself? Especially when a lot of your friends are in the midst of very tough times and you really feel what they’re going through, getting drawn into the drama can’t always be avoided.
Here’s my shortlist of what I can do (not that I always do it, but it’s my list of possibilities):
- Read. About things that matter to me that I can relate to. I’ve read Neurotribes, and now I’m reading The Journal of Best Practices.
- Exercise. I have been doing my morning exercises religiously. It helps. I haven’t been hiking as much as I should, lately, but today I’ll get out there. There have been too many people around, to hike comfortably. I need my solitude when I’m in the woods.
- Connect with other people I can relate to. It’s the counter-balance to my solitude. I spent yesterday afternoon with a bunch of spectrum-y folks, and it was fun! Different for me, since I’m normally such a recluse, but fun. We were pretty much on the same page with regard to world events, politics, and social issues. That’s fairly rare for me, these days.
- Eat right. Last night after my social time, I made myself a fantastic dinner of lime-wasabi salmon poached on a bed of mushrooms, onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, and rice pilaf with just a touch of low-sodium soy sauce in the juices. Oh. My. God. Was it delicious… My mouth is still watering.
- Watch old t.v. I turned on an original Star Trek episode and watched while I ate. Seeing how far we’ve come in special effects and Klingon costumes, in the past 40+ years, warmed my heart.
- Sleep. I’ve been having trouble sleeping, but at least I stuck with my schedule and got to sleep before 11:00. It’s not as early as I should have, but I can take a nap later today.
- Stim. Use the toys and the tools I have to take the edge off my sensory issues. That includes typing. Blogging. Writing. It helps.
- Do something useful. I rearranged some of the books on my bookshelves. I did a load of laundry. I took the trash to the dump, even though I technically could have waited another week. I filled the gas tank of my car, even though I could have waited to do that later. Then I cleaned my bathrooms yesterday, and even washed down the walls of the upstairs shower, which is usually a stretch for me, because I’m out of steam after scrubbing everything else down with all the cleaning supply scents and the feel of water on my hands and wrists. I was going to do the kitchen floor, too, but my sensory issues got the better of me, and I was at my limit. I was also out of time. But at least I got those things done.
- Give myself time. It’s the weekend. I don’t have to deal with anybody else this weekend – not even my partner, as she’s away for the weekend. I have the place to myself, and I can clunk around to my heart’s content and not wake anyone up or bother anyone with the racket. Kick back, let myself be. Just enjoy the silence and the free flow of my life for a few days.
Ultimately, things will work themselves out. And we learn from our pain. Brexit’s chock-full of lessons, I suppose, which will certainly be formative in the future. In the end, it’s all just experience — and the lessons will emerge like so much cream rising to the surface of fresh milk… or an oil slick gathering on the surface of the sea, after an oil tanker has sunk.
Just have to keep going.
And keep taking good care of myself. ‘Cause if I don’t, who will?