I’m not just Socially Awkward

I can really relate to this, tho’ I don’t often tell folks I’m autistic — mainly because of the responses I expect to get, and my mix of anxiety, selective mutism, and by-this-point-a-bit-stale frustration.

Autism and expectations

When I tell people I’m autistic it usually goes one of two ways; either they can’t make me fit into their idea of what autism is and completely reject it, or they mark me down as “socially awkward” and leave it there.

It explains my lack of constant contact, it explains my monologuing about things that interest me, it explains why on social occasions I move around a room like a loose cog in a machine – catching on things, getting stuck in places, jarring against this and that before being knocked into a corner and staying there.

Those are the things about me that you can see. What you can’t see are the other bits; my problems with Executive Function, my never-ending battle with literalness, my lip-reading over auditory-processing, my sensory issues, my affinity with numbers and disassociation with names, and on and on and on.

When people classify…

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Mixed Messages

I can totally relate. I suspect this is one of the “stock” growing-up experiences of a lot of autistic folks.

Eclectic Autistic

When I was young, I received constant messages that I didn’t belong. I was weird, and I said things others didn’t understand, largely because I was making intuitive leaps that they couldn’t follow, or because I was working off of detailed information they didn’t have. I didn’t grasp that at the time, of course. I mean, I was a little kid and they were grownups — of course grownups would know more than I did! But when it came to my interests, they often didn’t. They weren’t the ones spending long afternoons reading the encyclopedia, after all.

Perhaps because of things like this, I also began receiving messages that I was gifted. I was praised for being very smart, and for picking things up faster than other kids did. I was admonished for getting impatient with other people, and told that not everyone could learn as quickly as I did…

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Woo hoo! Library run!

papers bound in stacksI’m spending this evening in the library of a large university about an hour from my home.

I am so excited!

It’s been a while, since I was in a university library. That’s my happiest place of all.

The books… the collections… the journals… the knowledge… all there for the finding.

Unfortunately, I won’t be there more than a few hours, but even so… It’s more than I’ve had in a long time.

I can’t wait!

Unexpected. Plus and minus and plus.

This week is turning out to be a lot busier than I expected. It’s also very dynamic, as a bunch of colleagues from halfway across the country are “in town” all week for all day workshops.

I didn’t actually realize that I was supposed to attend the workshops, because my job does not overlap a lot with what they are discussing. However, I do have a whole lot of experience in thinking through this entire process that we are going through – re-designing a massive website that cannot not work.

My boss even told me he didn’t think that I needed to be there, but other people who attended asked me why I wasn’t there, so I realized that my boss had not specifically told me not to go, but had made that statement as a lead in for further discussion.

He keeps doing that, and I find it very confusing. I wish people would just say what they are thinking and quit hinting around and expecting me to come back with a counter–comment or somesuch. It’s just not a good use of time, but that’s how people work so…

Anyway, people really liked having me there in the workshop yesterday, so I’m going back again today and again tomorrow, effectively trashing any kind of productivity that I was hoping to have this week. I’m under a bunch of deadlines, and I can’t really afford to take the time out, but there’s still a lot of team dynamics stuff that I need to sort out and work through, so I can work effectively with these people

What I have noticed, or rather discovered, is that it is next to impossible to get anything done in the changing organization, unless I have a good relationship with the people who I am asking for a favor. People don’t actually do the right thing for the right reason around here. They really only do what they are asked to by people who they like and trust. I find that absolutely bizarre. Why would you predicate your behavior on personal feelings about another person? If a job needs to get done, it needs to get done, period. There’s no personal preference involved. What needs to get done, needs to get done.

If only everyone shared my point of you, maybe the world will not be in such a terrible mess, right about now. But I’m being grandiose again, so I’ll drop the line of reasoning.

Anyway, I’ve been sitting in rooms filled with people talking all day, and I have to do it again today and tomorrow, until I get a break. I had to go to dinner with these people last night, which was typically challenging in some really uncomfortable ways. The restaurant was busy, we were crammed in for beside each other, the prices were high, the food was complicated, and I really wasn’t sure about the etiquette of who pays for what and when. In the end, other people treated the whole group to dinner, which is fine, but that doesn’t change the anxiety that nag me all evening.

These kinds of social events are such a gauntlet. I did manage to step away A few times during the evening, but I always had to come back to the table, to the crowd, to the confusion, and although the evening ended with no serious mishaps – bonus! – It’s still feels like a whole lot of work for nothing.

Except that now I might actually be able to get some things done, because people know me better than they did before. That’s some consolation, but not nearly enough.

Anyway, the whole thing is a mixed bag. On the one hand, I enjoyed getting to know other people better, and I am comforted by the thought that we are bonding and they are coming to trust me more, but on the other hand this is going to make it harder to leave. Maybe. I don’t see my current job as a long – term prospect, but who knows? I might surprise myself and find a way to tolerate this.

Eventually, I might just figure out how to interact with these people without screwing too much up. It’s a goal.

An epiphany 20 years too late

Autistic emotional disconnects seem to be the topic du-jour. I keep coming across references to alexithymia and emotional incompatibility. I’ve been keenly aware of it myself, these past weeks.

autistic observations

I had a thought this morning as I tried to establish a timeline of my moments of awareness that I was somehow different from other people. I had begun a period of my life in which I expected to suddenly feel like I belonged, and that sense of belonging would allow me to finally understand other people and be able to interact with them and become part of something.

images.duckduckgo

This is where it happened, right in the attic room on the corner of this building where I lived when I was an art student. It was here that I kept a journal (which I later destroyed). I used to climb out onto the roof and look over the city and write each day.

My expectations at that time was that I would finally feel complete and would understand how I fit into the world around me and engage with the…

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#Alexithymia… again

snow monkey sitting in water

It’s been a very strange bunch of weeks. I’ve been on an emotional roller-coaster for reasons that aren’t immediately clear to me. I go through my days with a combination of logical efficiency and having to fight back tears.

Take a break… find an empty conference room and compose myself… Or put on my headphones and hunker down in my cubicle till the emotion passes.

Either that, or I’m flying along without a care in the world, dealing with whatever comes up with surprising alacrity and presence of mind.

Or I’m in a numb state of overwhelm that just doesn’t add up, because my life is no more overwhelming than it’s ever been. If anything, it’s less overwhelming, because I’ve cut back on the sheer volume of stuff I do on a daily basis.

Maybe that’s it… maybe I’m feeling the loss of my intense focus and drive. Maybe I’m suffering from a lack of mental activity. I know I do feel unchallenged in my daily life, and my greatest cognitive challenges are not losing my mind in the emotionally, sensorily vacuous political atmosphere I function in, each day.

Come to think of it, I probably have a lot of good reasons to feel sad and bereft — yeah, bereft is how I feel. I can’t list all the reasons here. At the same time, I have just as many reasons to feel positively bouyant… which I do. Back and forth the emotional pendulum swings…

And all the while, I know that things are happening that I should be feeling something about. Something… But I can’t muster it. I can’t summon the sensation. It holds back, it keeps its distance. It’s just not there for the taking, whenever I need it.

Which makes me look cool, chill, sometimes even cold.

I don’t want that. So, I feign emotional responses. A lot. Based on what I see others doing. I do a lot of mirroring and mimicking, these days. And yes, it’s exhausting. Because there’s no room for someone like me who doesn’t feel something on demand, and people distrust others who aren’t like them. And I work with people who are skittish to begin with, what with all the layoffs happening and organizational drama taking place.

In some ways, alexithymia really comes in handy. It keeps me out of the pit of despair that everybody gets sucked into. But then my empathy kicks in, and I co-experience other people’s dramas, without really knowing why. I don’t sense things in the same way, with the same cadence/regularity that others. So, I have the dubious honor of sharing their emotional states without really knowing why…

And yes, it is exhausting.

So, I curl up in bed at the end of the day and weep. For whatever reason. Reasons I can’t imagine, that I can’t fathom… but which show up, days, even weeks and months on down the line.

Oh…… So, that’s why I was so upset!

Always an adventure. Always.

#Alexithymia : When there are no words.

I’ve been a weeping mess, myself, lately… for no clear reasons I can discern. Oh, sure, there are a handful of explanations I can easily think of, but the depth and intensity of the emotion is just so disorienting.

So, I cry myself to sleep, then get up the next day and live my life all over again.

This calls for a blog post…

private person surfacing

#Alexithymia in action  in the near present……  beyond words!

It may seem odd but once again I found myself overwhelmed with tears. Tears felt wholeheartedly and there was no emotion I felt apart from ” overwhelm”.

What precipitated this flood of tears?

Some may think it quite strange but it was watching a recording on TV 7 Mate of  AFLW. Australian Football League Women’s match… this overflow has happened every time I’ve viewed a match in the past months. It is a new, like brand new, women’s competition… the first time Aussie Rules Footy has recognised and established a women’s league.

Don’t know about others out there who find themselves flooding tears for no apparent reason…. but I feel embarrassed if anyone saw me in this state.

I’ve not been able to understand my emotional overflow in this case.

I’d been reading and writing on alexithymia over the past few…

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Sharing: The pursuit of loneliness: how I chose a life of solitude | Society | The Guardian

Great piece that I can relate to. I’m not in a situation where I can choose to completely disconnect, but I sometimes think of myself as distinctly “Japanese” — maintaining my solitude in the midst of the teeming throngs.

Since the late 1980s, scientists have been tracking a whale who sings at a sonic frequency higher than any other whale of its species: at 52 hertz, just above the lowest note on a tuba. It sings songs no one answers. Internet societies have been following it for years like sad Ahabs, transposing their own feelings on to it, believing they understand it. Alone in their bedrooms they hunt this whale they believe to be lonely just like them. Talk to scientists and they will say other whales can probably hear it, maybe it’s deaf, maybe the whale’s song is the result of a genetic mutation. But it doesn’t matter: the lonely people have taken this whale as their totem. I’ve followed it for years.

In 2015, I tried psychodynamic therapy for what my therapist called “a loss thing”. Months prior, my grandparents collapsed on their bedroom floor and died in hospital, days apart, from the same case of pneumonia. The upshot was that birthdays make me miserable and trailing their twin coffins into the crematorium on my 29th birthday didn’t feel wildly out of sync with my mood. What followed this – one of the rawest experiences of my life but also one of the best attended birthday parties – was pulling the plug on a relationship that had been comatose for years, divvying up not only books but friends, plus the death of a Labrador I got when I was 12. It felt like the things that kept me tied to my youth – a blind dog, the unchanging 1970s blue bathroom in my grandparents’ house, nearly all of my 20s – were disconnecting their carabiners and pushing me out into space. A loss thing.

Read the rest here: The pursuit of loneliness: how I chose a life of solitude | Society | The Guardian

Moving right along

person in maze - 360 rana foroohar uncertainty
360 – Rana Foroohar – Uncertainty

I’m chugging along in my life. Finding my way through things. As usual.

Making the most of it — regardless. All of life presents itself to me, and I get to decide what I do with it.

There’s plenty of stinking muck under this lotus.

And there’s plenty of heaven above my metaphorical (and literal) head.

The richest soil comes from compost. All the ingredients that support life, coming from some sort of death. The process of composting is never pretty, never dainty, never as sweet-smelling as we’d like it to be.

Some time back, I spent some (very little) time downwind from a the decaying remains of a beached whale. The stench was overpowering, and it carried to the nearby seaside town. Tourists were walking around with their hands over their faces, but they/we all had to make the best of it. Because it wasn’t easy to get to that town, and we’d all made the investment of time and energy, and By God, we weren’t going to be chased off by the cycle of life.

We made the best of it, finding areas upwind of the rotting carcass, keeping ourselves otherwise occupied, trying to not pay it any attention. It wasn’t easy, but it worked.

And in the end, nature ran its course. The whale was eventually consumed by scavengers and the elements. Was it pleasant? No. Was it convenient? Not at all. But it was part of the whole. And that rancid death made plenty of other life possible. Just like the Mara River in Kenya kills thousands of wildebeasts each year… and then gives life to everything else.

It’s all part of it. The bad with the good. My job is to navigate the whole.

And so I shall.