When it all comes together… eventually

person climbing up hill through snow carrying a snowboard

Well, that only took 15 years…

I’ve been working on a set of ideas — all related, each with great potential — for over 15 years.

And finally it’s all coming together.

That’s one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging on here a whole lot. Finally… finally… things have gelled with me enough to actually take shape in a form that actually works.

I know I’m being cryptic (and I have to be, because I’m in “stealth mode” with this project), but basically, I’ve written and conceptualized a whole lot of stuff over the past 15 years that I can now actually put into action.

The ideas all work together. And they’re useful to a whole lot of people. And I have access to the technology and skill (and customers) to make this fly.

And that’s how it goes with us Autistic folks, sometimes. We’ll have all these great ideas… very detailed, thorough, grounded, practical, transcendental… and it can take us years and years to finally fit them all together into a way of being, working, thinking, living, that’s superlative. Super fantastic. Transcendental.

But it takes time with us. And we have to have the right conditions to work under. If we don’t have the time and proper conditions, it can kill off our ideas, our drive, our ability to think. Sometimes it kills us, period. However, if we’re given the right support and the right environment… well, the sky’s the limit.

Yeah… I’m not sure “support” is the word I’m looking for. It makes us sound dependent. Needy. Like we can’t do it on our own.

Look, we Autistic folks can do a vast amount of things on our own. If the world isn’t constantly trying to kill us. If it’s not dead-set on destroying us, because we’re different.

I was fortunate to grow up in an Autistic household, surrounded by Autistic friends and neighbors. It wasn’t “weird”. It was how we were. And neurotypical people were the “weird” ones. I’m lucky that way. I grew up knowing how to love my differences and let my freak flag wave wild and high. I also didn’t give a good goddamn what anybody else thought about me, my ideas, or what I did with my life. So I had that going for me, as well.

But I know an awful lot of Autistic folks get stuck growing up in the mainstream, surrounded by people who are bound and determined to make them pay dearly for being different. That’s pretty sucktastic. And as soon as I got away from my family and the area where I grew up, I ended up in that world, too. It can be awful. So, when I talk about things being sucktastic, I know whereof I speak.

Anyway, I have to get back to working on my Grand Plan (I love planning!), so I’ll cut this short.

Bottom line is, with Autistic folks, it can take us a long time to develop… ourselves, our skills, our knowledge, our expertise, our understanding of the world. But when we do… Look out. We are a force to be reckoned with.

Okay, that’s enough for today. Now, go out there and do some good in the world for yourself and others.

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In search of my flow state

stream flowing through forest with the flowing water in focusI’m in the process of resetting for the new year. Resetting my activities. Resetting my priorities. Resetting my activity levels. I typically do this earlier in the year, when I’m swept up in the New Year’s Resolution blitz.

But this year, I haven’t been feeling it. At all.

It’s not going nearly as well as I’d like. Work is weird. My life is weird. It’s all kind of… weird. I don’t feel like I’m fully inhabiting my own life, and I’ve been so busy with everything, lately, I haven’t had time to stim or reach a flow state for weeks… perhaps since the beginning of the year.

It’s maddening. Probably the worst thing about the way things have gone, for the past months, is the ever-increasing level of interruption in the course of each day. It’s absolutely maddening. As in, it makes me really, really mad. I have to be able to settle into extended periods of thought, in order to be effective, and my current job is preventing that on every level.

Distraction kills, and it’s doing a hack job on my performance at work, not to mention my job, overall.

Well, that’s the job, right? That’s “just how things are” in my current professional corner of the world, and anyone who can’t keep up is left in the dust. Personally, I’d be fine with being left behind. Just cut me a check and let me go. Let’s call it a day and say it was an interesting learning experience, shall we? And let’s all move on to other, better things.

But I don’t have a substantial back-up plan. I’ve been putting out feelers for work, but the kinds of work I’ve been applying for… well, it just hasn’t been a good fit. I got a job offer, a month ago, but I had to turn it down because the conditions were, well, crappy. A longer commute. Into the thick of the worst rush hour traffic in the area. Frenetic pace. Frenzied, from what I was told. In a building where they have chemicals that smell and bright lights that blind. An open work space plan. And not more money than I’m making now.

So… no. Not that.

I put in for some other jobs, and I heard back from what looked like a really good opportunity, but after I responded to them, they didn’t get back to me. I need to ping them again. There’s a good chance they took a look at my resume and realized — Hey, she doesn’t have a degree! — and, like many others, decided I “wasn’t a good fit”.

It’s a little depressing, actually.

But it’s got me thinking… About what is actually the best work for me to do. After being a web developer for 15 years, I gradually shifted into project and program management for the past 8 years or so, because it felt like the software engineering world was closing in on me and I was getting crowded out. I felt like I just couldn’t compete with all the lower cost talent with more updated skills… the people who “fit better” with organizations… or who had degrees. The project/program management space seems to be less amenable to people who literally teach themselves how to do things, than the development space. And while that didn’t hurt my prospects in the past handful of jobs I’ve had, it’s starting to feel like it’s closing in on me even more than development did.

bomb emoji with lit fuse looking down
This is about how my “career” is feeling, about now.

And indeed, the lack of flow is a huge issue. Somehow, I seem to have acquired work that I absolutely hate. Tracking other people’s activities. Communicating to everyone who needs to know about program and project status. Navigating political minefields. Battling for my territory. Making nice with people across the organization. Being interrupted every 20 minutes (or as soon as I get into a flow state). Conference calls. Lots of conference calls. With people who have thick accents and/or are on a poor phone connection. And more interruptions. Travel. Regular business travel, which doubles my workload and completely trashes my routine.

It just feels like a setup. I can do it for so long, then I am completely wiped out. Because nobody sees how much I struggle, and I can’t let on, because that would trash my career prospects like nothing else. And I can’t chance that.

The fact that I’m really good at it, is no consolation. At all.

I mean, seriously, I’m really good at it. I’m a fantastic meeting facilitator, I can communicate extremely well to people who need to know. I know how to work effectively with offshore folks (been doing it since 2002). And I can turn on a dime if the situation calls for it.

But man, oh, man, do I pay for it. In a very big way. Of course, nobody else sees how steep the price is, because they rely on me to keep doing what I’m doing, just the way they are accustomed to seeing me do it.

And seriously, this is no way to live.

I need my flow back. I need to settle into a chunk of code and just work my way through it. I need to cozy up with a tasty algorithm and just do my thang. Seriously, I do.

{pause to take a breath}

Okay, so where does that leave me? Or rather, where does that point me?

Realistically, away from where I am now. And back into the development world. In my former life (before I trained my replacements in 2002 and was then told to go find another job in 2005), I was one of the best of the best at my chosen line of work. Web development. Front-end web development. UI coding. Cross-browser. Cross-platform. Proficient in ‘nix flavors and the command line. Not afraid of anything code-related.

And it suited me. In a very big way. Because I could create things and make stuff work, like nobody else. I could convince browsers to do things they weren’t built to do. I was good. I was one of the best. And I was relieved of my duties by the bean-counters who had no idea what the work entailed. All they knew was that I was “too expensive” and they were convinced I could be replaced.

Hm.

Yeah, as it turns out (having managed a lot of projects involving developers who weren’t even close to as good as I was), I can’t be replaced. My skills are still needed. And my interview and subsequent job offer this past December (for a developer job) tells me that I still have a future in that realm. I tend to get pretty rigid about things and get convinced that since I’ve almost exclusively done project/program management for the past 3.5 years, so I’ve been telling myself that I have to stay in that space. But I don’t. I can shift back to development. I’m the only one who’s blocking myself, at this point.

Plus, I can do my own “thang” in the process. Build tools. For mobile. Just build things that show people what I do — like Temple Grandin recommends. I’ve actually got a pretty impressive portfolio, and it’s not even complete. I need to get focused on completing it, and lift myself up out of this increasingly wretched state I’ve been in, for the past year and a half, when it first started to dawn on me that this was probably not the best job choice for me.

There’s a lot I can do about my situation, right now. I can build my own apps. I can build my own websites. I can do a lot that shows how I work. And I can put the finishing touches on some projects I started over the past years but lost the energy to do them – because I was too wiped out from my day job to keep up with it all.

So, there is hope.

But for now, it’s time to go move some snow. We got a bunch of it overnight, and I need to shovel it before the temperatures start to rise. Heavy snow is no fun.

Just a few more days, till I can get back to my routine

pocket watch on map with sandOh, Lord, the inside of my head sounds ungrateful, right about now. A still, small voice has gradually been getting louder and louder… bitching and complaining about the lack of routine in my days, this past week and a half. And that voice is eager to get back to the familiar routine of the everyday.

I can’t remember the last time I had nearly two weeks off for the end-of-year holidays. I don’t think I ever have. So, in some respects, it’s been blissful. No structure to strangulate my creativity, no outside demands (other than Christmas shopping and the odd errand) to cramp my style. I’ve been able to get up when I wanted, go to sleep when I wanted, pretty much nap whenever I please, and so forth.

Yeah, in many respects, it’s been delightful.

To just let time drift, without having any deadlines, without having any requirements, without coming down to the wire on something… it’s been glorious. My everyday life is structured pretty much around deadlines, due-dates, timelines, and so fort. It all feels so contrived to me. I have a different relationship with time than a lot of people, but that actually makes me more productive. I get more done in a few hours than a lot of people do in a week. But still, I absolutely hate deadlines and standard-issue definitions of time.

Not having that holding me back has been wonderful.

But in other ways, it’s been pretty hard.

The combination of lack of routine, plus unusual activities produced a couple of meltdowns — one in a bookstore bathroom, the other at home. And a handful of commitments I said I’d do, haven’t “materialized”. I’m using that word to get myself off the proverbial hook, because the failing hasn’t been due to some amorphous outside influence — it’s been all me.

And my need to just withdraw and shut down for a week.

Oh, the holidays are funny things. Not ha-ha funny, but weird and absurd in ways that make me laugh, for some reason. I’d been so looking forward to having nearly 2 weeks to get some things done that I’d been putting off… but once I got into holiday mode, it was like I skipped over to a parallel universe, where precious few of my interests or activities intersected with my original plans.

pug looking sidewaysParallels by definition don’t intersect, so there I was, on my separate track, looking askance at my best-laid plans… feeling faintly guilty… but not too much.

More than anything, I just wanted to be what and where I was — a normally highly efficient individual… free at last.

Which is all very interesting to me, because few things give me more satisfaction than getting things done, creating, building, producing.

And yet, there’s that intense need to NOT do any of those things, every now and then.

It’s like there’s this dynamic back-and-forth between the DOING and not-doing, that balances out my life. And considering how much I’ve been doing for months, now, I really needed that time of not-doing, to reset.

Which makes me really look forward to getting back to my regular routine.

Yeah, as much as I enjoy floating in some amorphous cloud of whatever-ness (and I do!), there’s still a big part of me that just loves-loves-loves my productivity. My predictability. My ability to Get Things Done. I love surrounding myself with the results of my work, and I love the process of getting to those results. I love having my set sequence of steps I follow to a “t”, with so much expertise, I don’t even really need to think about the steps. I just do them. Because I do them every single day, and they’re very much a part of me. Some days, it feels like they are me.

So, in a way, getting back to my routine will be getting back to myself.

And that will be good — every bit as good as taking time away.

It’s all a balance, in the end, a continuously alternating back-and-forth between two extremes. I’m autistic. I know all about extremes. And I also know how to make the most of them.

And for today, and the next day, and the next day, I shall.


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What a delightful week it’s been! Blissfully quiet

And I’m pretty wiped out. I’ve had most of the past week to just do the things I like to do, in the way I like to do them. Which means, a lot of sitting. And a lot of isolating. And a lot of reading and writing and researching and pulling out textbooks, thumbing through them and crying, “Ah-ha!” when I find the passage(s) I’m looking for.

I’ve been immersed in a certain mode of thought I don’t have the luxury for, in my regular everyday working life — where my co-workers are suburban parents who just want to make enough money to put their kids through school and/or climb high enough on the corporate ladder where they can vex more people than those who vex them.

It’s been so much fun, being away from that whole scene, that major drain of a scene. And while I do look forward to getting back to my routine, I don’t look forward to dealing with those people again. It’s been a real pleasure, not having to constantly come to terms with the mixture of sadness, pity, compassion, frustration, and intermittent admiration, that I cycle through each day.

But I have to say, I am pretty tired.

It takes a lot out of me, trying to catch up with myself and the kind of life I want to lead, when I have such limited opportunity. It kind of works against me. Except, it’s my choice, and I can do what I please. And in the end, I’ve got a lot of satisfaction out of the whole deal.

Tomorrow I head back into the jungle.

Wish me luck.

When non-verbal == strength, it’s time to be non-verbal

red and blue dots connected by meandering lines on a field of red and blue static
My process looks confusing to others, but I get where I’m going – in my own way

So, my Major Deadline has passed. It went off pretty much without a hitch.

Just in time for Thanksgiving. I’ve got some time off, next week, but I’ll probably check in on my project to see how it’s going, now that it’s “live”.

It’s been pretty brutal, overall. Really, really taxing. And it’s taken just about a year to get this “15-week” (Hahahahahaha!) project ready for prime-time.

Now it’s out there, and it’s time to step back, think through all the lessons of the past year, and figure out the next steps. Because this sh*t isn’t going to stop. I’ve got another phase of this project just around the corner in less than 2 months’ time. So, get a little rest, and get back into it.

One of the BIG lessons of this has been seeing just how non-verbal I am, when I am in problem-solving mode. Make no mistake, I’ve been mostly in problem-solving mode for the past year. So, I’ve been mostly visual-spatial. Which means I haven’t been thinking well in words — or the times when I’ve had to think in words (and talk), I’ve been at a disadvantage. And the talking has cut into my non-verbal problem-solving.

I’ve known I’m a visual / non-verbal thinker (this blog nothwithstanding) for many years. And I’ve known for just as long that having to switch my mode between words and pictures is a problem and makes both sides more difficult. But not until this past year (or two) have I really seen so clearly just how much of a problem this can be.

In my job, I have to communicate to people.

But communicating just doesn’t happen, when I’m in non-verbal mode. So, I don’t do my full job. And it works against me and the people I work with.

Huh. If I had more energy, I’d dig into this more, but the bottom line is, I need to figure out how to meet the requirements of verbalizing, even while I’m in heavy-duty non-verbal mode. Because the job requires it. And it’s not that I don’t like to do it, or that I can’t do it. It’s just that I need to find a better balance between doing it… and not.

Well, that’s a line of thought for another day. After I’ve caught up with myself and have the time and space to really think it through.

I’ve had a lot of important (for me) insights, over the past weeks, just haven’t had time to note them all down and expand on them. I’ll get to it. Just not yet.

Watch this space, though.

Watch this space.

Accommodating my #autistic self

aurora borealis over ocean with the lights of a town in the distance
Aurora borealis over the ocean with the lights of a town in the distance – We didn’t see this last night, but we tried…

I’m not going into the office today. Oh, no. Not today. It’s Monday. I’ll work, sure, but not in that damn’ office, in that damn’ cubicle, surrounded by those damn’ people. It’s much easier for me to do the sort of work I need to do, if I have peace and quiet and isolation. I’ve got some research to do. I can’t do that, with a steady stream of strangers stomping past my cubicle.

People ask me, sometimes, if I would ever disclose being autistic at work, so I can get accommodations. The answer is always “no”. I don’t expect my employer to offer me any accommodations, to be honest. The environment I work in is highly demanding, and they expect people to cover for themselves, not expect someone else to handle things for them. It’s a “tough luck” environment, where everybody — and I mean everybody — is expected to take care of themselves and not put additional strains on the existing infrastructure and overall team cohesiveness by expecting special treatment.

There’s a guy who’s missing an ear who simply puts a large bandage over one side of his head and goes about his regular business. The woman who worked in the cubicle before me died of lung cancer and refused to take time off while she was declining — until she was literally unable to work anymore. There are folks with significant physical disabilities walking the halls, and that’s just part of it. People show them consideration, but they don’t get a whole lot of special treatment. And autistic folks abound. We’re everywhere, at that place, but nobody actually ever mentions autism.

There aren’t a lot of official accommodations offered. I can’t get the fluorescent lights turned off over my cube, because that will short out the whole floor (according to Facilities). I don’t have a lot of control over the temperatures in the place. The scented diffuser in the restroom is non-negotiable. So, like everyone else, I have to fend for myself. Just like everyone else.

If you don’t like the noise in the space, you’re expected to put on noise-canceling headphones and concentrate harder. If you don’t like the temperature in the place, put on a sweater. Or wear something lighter. If you get overwhelmed by things, you’re expected to step away for a little while to unwind (a lot of people do that). If you have issues with sensory stuff, you’re expected to just roll with it, do what you need to do for yourself, and keep up. Just keep up. And when it all gets to be too much, you work from home. Like I’m doing today.

It might sound like a harsh environment (and in some ways it is), but the bottom line is, we’re all given the opportunity to manage our own situations…. Not throw the whole workplace into disarray because of a few unique requirements.  We’re expected to be grown-up about things and arrange for what we need. Everybody’s got unique requirements, so rather than having the Overlords provide for your safety and comfort by official edict and codified guidelines, you’re afforded the right to determine your own conditions under the circumstances that everyone shares.

And I actually like that better than the formal accommodations thing. Because my needs change from day to day, and the help I need one day, might be “overkill” the next. This way, I just manage my own situation, and the work gets done.

So, today, that’s exactly what I’m doing. Managing my own situation.

I’ll make sure to get a nap this afternoon. I woke up tired, and I’ll be even more tired by this evening. I was out late last night, trying to see the aurora borealis in the northern sky. The plan didn’t work out. No northern lights were to be seen — just some brightness behind clouds in the distance. But it was fun to get out in the evening with my sweetie and just hang out.

The whole weekend was tiring, now that I think about it. I did a lot of non-standard hanging out. I wrote some pretty solid work both Saturday and Sunday mornings. On Saturday, I spent the afternoon visiting with a friend. Then on Sunday my partner and I went to see another friend compete in a dressage competition. Her horse is beautiful, and it was fun to get out to a different part of the world for a day. I was expecting a lot of moneyed people to be there, since dressage tends to be “high-end”. But there were just little groups of everyday people like me. And my partner got a chance to actually chat with other people, instead of being stuck with task-oriented me.

I know for a fact, I can be trying in those situations. I have a really hard time relaxing in public, especially when it’s a hot, bright, sunny day and I’m in a new and unfamiliar location. It’s just hard. So, it’s good for my partner to get to stop and chat with others, widen her world beyond my fretting about getting everything done in a specific order. Changes in routine can’t stop me from just living my life. Nor should they stop my partner from living her life, as well.

Yeah, it’s hard… so…? Everything worthwhile is hard for me. That just makes it worth more to me, when I manage to get it right.

But then, the exhaustion.

But then, the self-management. The self-accommodation.

I took naps, when I got home from both of my social outings. I just lay down in the bed and relaxed and slept. Then I did the usual — got up, made supper, ate supper.

Last night, I changed up my usual Sunday routine again, and we went out to see if the northern lights were going to show up as predicted.

They didn’t show up in the 90 minutes we were out there, and in the end, I got too tired and we had to come home. My partner was really disappointed. She’d wanted so much to see them with me. To share that experience. But the space weather didn’t comply. For me, it was good enough, just hanging out.

Now it’s Monday. I’m tired, but I’m happy.

And I’m going to take really good care of myself, today.

Bypassing the rings of #autistic hell

 

hermann herzog painting of man in boat on a lake

Heaven help me and Creator forgive me (I’m sure they will)… I’ve declined to attend my nephew’s wedding celebration in August. It’s the ultimate familial infraction, because this is the eldest son of my only biological sister… my first nephew… who acts and looks like a poster child for a Tony Attwood book. If there’s any wedding I “should” be attending, it’s his.

But I can’t. I just can’t. The recent 4-day trip to my in-laws laid me out with multiple meltdowns that trashed any semblance of self-esteem and confidence I had. Over a week later, I still haven’t recovered. It’s going to take weeks to get back to my regular self, my super-effective, balanced self. By the time I’m back, this next wedding will come ’round again. And then I’ll be laid out again — because my own extended biological family is even more kinetic and chaotic than my in-laws, and they are highly interactive. It’s just too much. All that sensory seeking drama … no, thank you.

So, I had to decline. Plus, I declined my other nephew’s wedding that’s happening this weekend, and if I’m not going to one’s, I’m not going to the others. It would be playing favorites, and I need to be an equal-opportunity offender.

Offender… whatever. I have to take care of myself and my little family. I just can’t put myself through it. And I’m not putting my partner through it again, either. There’s no way. I think she had an even harder time with my meltdowns, than I did (if that’s possible). And it’s going to take weeks, even months, for her to feel some sense of stability around me again.

I have to keep my priorities straight.  So, yeah, I’ll suffer the displeasure and disapproval of my family. I’ll steel my nerves against their slings and arrows and guilt-inducing sighs… and I’ll keep to myself that weekend, as it should be.

I really love my nephew and his soon-to-be-wife. I’d love to be there. I just can’t deal with the melee. I look forward to spending time with them — away from the madding crowd. Far, far away from it.

At least I know I’m not alone. There are plenty of other autistic and highly sensitive people who get overwhelmed by this kind of stuff. And who have to opt out, because it’s just too much. The price is too high. The cost too dear. And the “return on the investment” is minimal.

This passage in Odd Girl Out really spoke to me:

… good feelings can be as overwhelming as the bad.

I can’t name my feelings. I don’t recognize them. Don’t know what they look like. … I like words that sound as they should feel.

… I want to experience life in neutral. Not feeling anything much. For me, the absence of sensation is better than experiencing anything too jarring, too unexpected, too new. I want to move through life with no sudden movements. Sameness is my anchor. I want each day to unfold quietly and predictably.

That pretty much says it all for me. Each word. Each line. I can relate.

Sameness is my anchor, too. And a wedding in August in an intensely humid mid-Atlantic state, surrounded by milling crowds of people… well, that rips up my mooring from the quiet cove where I’ve anchored and sends me adrift in a strong current that leads directly to a waterfall. Who knows where the waterfall will take me? I don’t want to find out.

iceland waterfall
Who knows where the waterfall will take me? I don’t want to find out.

And so, while everyone else in my family is flying / driving / taking the train in to these events, gathering in loud, tactile, bright throngs of milling relatives (many of whom I don’t recognize immediately, ’cause, well, face-blindness)… I’ll keep to myself, continue to nurse my wounds and get myself back on track. Keep myself away from the precipice of depression and despair. Get on with my life. Fish in my own little cove, while the rest of the world jumps in their inflatable raft and heads down the rapids.

I’ll be here when they get back.

They know where to find me.

Alexithymia? Let’s take another look at the facts AND the truth – Part 4

alexithymia score : 156 points

This continues my earlier investigations into Alexithymia – See also Part 1, Part 2  and Part 3

Question 31: I like it when someone describes the feelings they experience under circumstances similar to my own, because this helps me see what my own feelings might be.

Fact: Yes. I do.

Truth: I can’t say I really care much about what other people think — sorry… not sorry… their emotional state is none of my business. But it does really come in handy, when I’m trying to improve my understanding of others — and figure out how to imitate them. See, the reason I study these things is NOT because I want to be able to do them, myself. I don’t really care about that, to be honest. I DO want to figure out how to simulate those emotions, so people will stop pestering me about how I feel about things. I don’t know. I don’t care. Feels are not my thing. But if people keep digging deeper into my feels, to see how I’m really feeling (ugh), it’s incredibly distracting. And it diverts attention and energy from the things I really want to be thinking about — objective facts and big-picture applications of minute details.

Question 32: My imagination is often spontaneous, unpredictable and involuntary.

Fact: Yes. It is.

Truth: But not in ways that make sense to most neurotypicals. I can “riff” on an idea and roam far and wide, conceptually… leaving them behind. I’ve actually been told I made people feel like their heads were going to explode. So, I mostly keep it to myself around neurotypicals. It’s safer for everyone that way.

Question 33: When helping others I prefer to assist with physical tasks rather than offering counsel about their feelings.

Fact: Yes.

Truth: OMG, can we please stop obsessing about feels? It’s distracting and it keeps us from actually solving the Real Problems Of The World. I sometimes think that neurotypical life is centered around relieving the pain they’ve caused themselves, and all they really care about is making themselves comfortable, while their lives go to hell. Rearranging the chairs on the deck of a ship that’s not being steered… as it drifts right into an iceberg field. But hey, at least they have a good angle towards the sun, so they can work on that tan that will get them laid. Right?

Question 34: I have puzzling physical sensations that even friends/acquaintances/others don’t understand.

Fact: Yep.

Truth: And it is hugely annoying/confounding, trying to explain this to my doctors, other (NT) people, or whoever makes the mistake of asking how I’m feeling. I’m much more connected to the world around me, than your average person on the street, and everything can come and go so quickly, I lose track of what I’m feeling, from one minute to the next. So, it’s better to not even try to put it into words.

Question 35: I get in a muddle when I try to describe how I feel about an important event.

Fact: Yes.

Truth: Because there is no one simple answer. I feel every conceivable way — literally — about everything important (and unimportant) in the world. I can discuss this all in great depth and detail, if given the chance. But of course, I don’t get that chance much, because it confuses and disorients people who deal with 1-dimensional experiences of emotion. So, when discussing my feels, I generally pick one emotion that’s familiar and would make sense to the person I’m talking to, and I talk about that. But it’s just a tiny, tiny tip of my Asperger’s.  There’s a shit-ton of more stuff under the surface, but who has the time for that?

Question 36: My imagination is usually not spontaneous and surprising, but rather used/employed in a more controlled fashion.

Fact: Not. Well, kind of.

Truth: I have a wild imagination. I dunno why this is on the list. If Alexithymia is actually the product of hyper-active emotional experiencing, as I believe it is, rather than limitations in understanding, then one would expect one’s imagination to absolutely, positively run wild. Except for those circumstances where stuff needs to get done — and in that case, extreme management and proper channeling of thought energy is called for — which is where the “employed in a more controlled fashion” comes in, I would imagine.

Question 37: I make decisions based on principles rather than gut feelings.

Fact: Yes. Yes, I do.

Truth: Gut feelings come and go. They can be myriad in the course of a few minutes. Why would you make decisions based on your gut, when it can’t make up its own mind? Then again, gut feelings — when given the time — can yield pretty detailed and well-supported decisions, based on a multiplicity of factors. I think we need to differentiate between fast-made decisions and long-considered ones. I do use my gut in many situations — but only if I have really ample time to sort through all the data. In the end, though, I use my head to make the decisions. My gut is more a receiver and transmitter of information from my overall system. My brain is command central, in terms of figuring out what to do with the information deluge.

But the rare times when I “go with my gut”, it’s generally right on. Intuition rocks — if it’s based on actual fact and verified experience.

Note: This is part of a 4-part series about Alexithymia criteria, as well as related thoughts about the “subcondition” in general. You can find additional content at the links below:

 


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What if #autistic Alexithymia isn’t anything like what we think it is?

You keep using that word. I do not think itmeans what you think it means.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Something occurred to me today.

I’ve been thinking about alexithymia a lot, over the past weeks, and it occurred to me that the problem I have with naming my emotions and sensations isn’t that I can’t feel them at all (sometimes I can’t, but it’s highly variable). The real problem is that I feel so much and things shift and change with me so rapidly, it’s hard to put a single word to what I’m feeling. Even a handful of words.

What if the real problem is that the neurotypical lexicon for emotions and feelings is not sufficient to describe the autistic experience?

What if, rather than not having any words to describe what we feel, we don’t have the right words to describe what we feel?

And what would happen, if we had a wider vocabulary that actually encompassed our experiences, rather than a handful of — what — five or six different emotions.

  • Sad
  • Happy
  • Angry
  • Jealous
  • Bored
  • Whatever else

What if the emotional vocabulary is failing us, rather than us failing it?


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Alexithymia? Let’s take another look at the facts AND the truth – Part 2

alexithymia score : 156 points

Herewith continues my discussion of Alexithymia. Part 1 is here.

Question 11: When I am upset I find it difficult to identify the feelings causing it.

Fact: I can identify feelings fairly well, especially in ways that make sense to others.

Truth: This has only been possible after years of practice. I usually just pick a “ballpark” emotion to describe how I’m feeling – and I usually cue off the behaviors of others, to find out whether what I’ve said makes sense to them or not. I’m extremely sensitive to others’ “energies”, and I can often tell if what I’ve said makes sense to them or not. And then I adjust my descriptions to what I can tell is “working” for them. I can tell on a subtle level, if I’m confusing people, and I can adjust my expressions to suit what they need – and that’s the goal: successfully completing the social interaction, rather than actually communicating what is going on with me.

In a way, this actually comes in handy. Because not knowing what I’m feeling at the moment allows me to function well under conditions that otherwise make people highly dysfunctional. I can wade into impossible situations and think clearly in a crisis, because I don’t even realize I’m in a crisis. In this way, alexithymia works for me. It’s a real benefit and a gift.

Question 12: Describing the feelings I have about other people is often difficult.

Fact: It’s not as difficult now, as it used to be. I can do this pretty well, now.

Truth: Well, sure… Because I have both learned how to identify my feelings (in the “ballpark”), and I’ve learned how to express myself in ways that others understand. I generally keep a friendly-neutral attitude towards others, so as to keep things light and not overburden the interactions with me seeming to be angry (that’s my thinking face) or aggressive (that’s my excited face) or having some other emotion that others completely mis-interpret.

I can describe my feelings about others at work pretty well — actually a lot easier than in my personal life. Because a lot of what I feel mirrors what others feel. Someone who’s a pain the ass to others in my group is probably a pain the ass to me, as well. Likewise, someone who’s great to work with. I cue a lot off what others say they feel, and I check in with myself to see if that’s true. I sometimes “try emotions on for size” when it comes to others, because it’s a heck of a lot easier than coming up with my own versions. And it sometimes turns out to be true, anyway. It’s a process. A long process of learning and discovery and refining. And it’s not a simple, straightforward thing with me. The fact that nobody — but nobody — knows this, shows me I’m doing a good job at blending in.

Question 13: I prefer doing physical activities with friends rather than discussing each others emotional experiences.

Fact: Yes, yes, yes!

Truth: This is an easy one, because it’s so true. I’d much rather co-produce events — concerts, community gatherings, etc — with my friends, than sit around processing emotions. A lot of my friends / acquaintances over the years have accused me of “running from my feelings” because I’d rather be active and doing something productive, than hanging out talking about my emotional experiences. Please. I’m just built differently. That’s all.

Question 14: I am not much of a daydreamer.

Fact: Oh, untrue. I’m a total daydreamer.

Truth: How else am I supposed to stay sane in this illogical, nonsensical world that’s constantly overwhelming me with a full range of idiocy and sensory barrage?!

Question 15: I don’t like people’s constant assumptions that I should understand or guess their needs… it’s as if they want me to read their minds!

Fact: Very true.

Truth: Seriously, people, would it kill you to just tell me what you need? I’m not a mind-reader! I’m more than happy to help and comply, if you simply tell me what you require. I can work it out. But if you play those little “what’s my favorite color” games with me, you’re gonna get a blank stare. Work with me! Help me to help you.

Question 16: I sometimes experience confusing sensations in my body.

Fact: Yep. That.

Truth: Oh . my . god. Truer words have seldom been spoken. In fact, I think it’s safe to say, I often experience confusing sensations in my body. How could I not? I’m so “tuned in” to the world around me, like a radio dial set to EVERYTHING, that the internal sensations I have are not the only thing I’m feeling. There’s Everything Else, clamoring over each other like puppies in a basket, trying to get the most attention. LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! I MATTER! PAY ATTENTION TO ME! That’s what all my sensations would be saying, if they could talk.

In the process of reacting to the outside world — light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, tactile defensiveness, smells, tastes, and all the associations that come up with each one… it’s a vibrantly rich sensory ecosystem I’ve got inside me. And yes, that leads to confusion. Especially when I’m under pressure and the stress is increasing my sensitivities. That’s the most confusing of all.

Question 17: For me sex is more a functional activity than it is an emotional one.

Fact: Yes. It is.

Truth: That’s not to say, it’s not fun. I’ve had some pretty amazing sex, and emotion has played a big part in it. But as I’ve always felt like sex was really for functional purposes — even the emotional aspect seems functional to me. You grow closer when you have sex. You want to be closer to someone, so therefore you have sex. Even emotionally, is serves a purpose. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a whole lot less interested in sex, I have to admit. It’s a relief, to not feel so compelled to exchange bodily fluids, but simply interact with other people as a person. The purposes that sex serves, I can fulfill in other ways, so meh – sexy… whatever.

Question 18: Some people have told me I am cold or unresponsive to their needs.

Fact: Yep. That’s happened. A lot.

Truth: My partners have always bitched and moaned to me that I’m not as warm and caring as they want me to be. I’ve only had a handful of intimate partners (my current one has been with me for over 25 years), but they all have complained that I wasn’t warm-and-fuzzy enough. Sheesh.

Question 19: I don’t dream frequently, and when I do the dreams usually seem rather boring.

Fact: Oh, untrue. I dream pretty frequently, and the dreams are anything but boring.

Truth: My dreams are usually logistical nightmares — scenes of trying to find my way through a massive medical facility, university campus, or office complex… driving down long, twisting roads through a remote countryside. I’m generally trying to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B, and I have no idea how to do it… but I persevere, and I eventually get where I’m going, even though I have No Idea how I did it. I’m just relying on intuition and instinct in my dreams, and even though I generally achieve my ultimate goal, it’s confusing as hell and incredibly stressful. It’s a relief to wake up, actually.

Question 20: Friends have indicated, in one way or another, that I’m more in my head than in my heart.

Fact: Yes. They have.

Truth: What’s with this “in the heart” business, anyway? That makes no sense. Who would want to make all their decisions based on emotion? That’s not how my world works. At all. Getting from step 1 to step 2 to step 3 is an intellectual process. How can you do anything if you don’t understand the component parts and the steps to getting there? Why would you want to do anything else? People who are “in their heart” more than their head tend to make the kinds of decisions that have landed us in the awful situation we’re in today — prejudice and high emotion running the show. How’s that workin’ out for you, humanity? Not so great, huh… People who base their decisions on anything but fact and logic and what we clearly know about cause-and-effect, should be banned from government, as far as I’m concerned. Then again, the folks in power would probably still find a way to screw everything up, so maybe banning is a bad idea. But there should be a test… at the minimum… for not being batshit impulsive and prone to emotional decision-making.

That’s just what I think.

Note: This is part of a 4-part series about Alexithymia criteria, as well as related thoughts about the “subcondition” in general. You can find additional content at the links below:

 


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