This morning I experienced something that hasn’t really happened since I was in my teens. I thought I was awake and I tried to move my arms but I was still asleep. I felt like I had no strength in any of my limbs which is a bit disconcerting if you’ve never had sleep paralysis before. I panicked for a few seconds but eventually realized what was happening and i worked my way out f it by thinking about moving one limb at a time. I realized I was dreaming when I was finally able to sit up and open my eyes. What I hadn’t realized until afterwards was that I had been watching myself from the outside of the whole experience while I tried to wake my body up.
It’s always a bit uncomfortable being on the outside looking in.
I don’t know what it is about today but my mood has been strange. As thoughts have unraveled I’ve felt like I’ve begun to disappear. I was thinking about yesterday. I went to my parents’ house, they grilled burgers, and then they started lighting fireworks off to celebrate the 4th. I found, in my first Independence Day not overmedicated on psych drugs, that my oversensitivity to sound does extend to things like fireworks. One of the kids lit off a small pack of firecrackers and I could feel myself tense at every tiny explosion. I knew this would be a possibility before I decided to go and I pre-warned everybody that I would probably leave before the celebratory explosions began. It didn’t really bother me leaving before the sun had gone down to retreat to my apartment for something a little more quiet.
I realize, sometimes, living on your own can be hazardous in a way. You’re left with nothing but your own thoughts, calculations, and self-talk. It was in one of these moments when I was trying to go back to sleep that I really started thinking about just how outside of things I have become in the last 18 months and realizing just how much more insular my thought processes are now because of it.
Let’s start off with one fact: I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged anywhere.
With that always in the background I find myself very attached to people and I don’t really think about the social dynamics. Today, I took a different approach to the thought of friendships and I asked myself this question: “If I’m putting in all the effort and reciprocation is inconsistent to non-existent, what is the benefit of investing my time?” This hit me in the face and hard because I realized that there were certain relationships where I have (and sometimes still do) where, if I don’t make the effort to contact someone, I wouldn’t ever hear from them. Yet, I get called a friend which is weird to me because I’ve done the exact same thing to others because of various reasons, usually life, nothing malicious, and they just never want to take the time to talk to them again. If there was no reciprocity then what was the point?
Maybe I’m coming to this thought late in the game. I don’t know what to do with this information, these thoughts, but I don’t know if people realize they do this or if it’s some other factor. I have bailed on events I’ve been invited to for social reasons but I think I’ve been pretty clear with almost everyone I spend time with the social difficulties and the steep learning curve regarding my sense of self just in the last year as my senses reassert themelves.
In my reading, I understand better my difficulty in feeling like I belong. We do not perceive the social dynamic, especially in groups, like a neurotypical. I think i can best describe it this way:
In social interactions, a one-on-one is the most ideal for me. I am 100% there trying to use the skills I have to understand our interaction. The more people added to the mix the more I feel like I’m fading out of the picture. For a Neuro-typical this is easy as they allocate attention to whatever they feel they need to attend to in the moment. For me, I’m still just 100% there and my attention gets spread over the entire situation. This is not too difficult but, as the number of people grows, the harder and harder it is to decide where to allocate attention because it all comes in as a flood; there is no executive function directing incoming data to my brain. Upon reflection it feels a lot like I’m disappearing; my social capabilities decline and my anxiety goes up. I withdraw.
Most people I know don’t understand this or don’t try to understand this. I had to fight myself constantly before I went to work because I didn’t know what to expect. There’s another stitch in the side: my anxiety wants to know everything about an event before I go. It can sometimes take a fair amount of self-talk to get myself to go places sometimes. This has, admittedly, led to a lot less social interaction on my part. I get invited to friends’ shows and I have to decline because the idea of interacting with that many people puts me on high alert even thinking about it. So, I’ve “flaked” on a few things I said I would go to. Some people understand, some don’t.
What you don’t realize is that I already feel like I’m on the outside looking in. Like there’s this great invisible barrier between me and the rest of the world because there’s just some stimuli I cannot perceive. The unknown can cause anxiety, anxiety drives a need to remain asocial. Then i stop getting invited to things because I don’t show up very often. There are people who I don’t hear from unless I make an effort, sometimes multiple efforts to get in touch and make plans. In retrospect, I’ve realized how this really makes me feeel and I don’t really like it. I don’t want to anything because I don’t want to come off like I’ve got the wrong idea and then everything just gets worse because I’ve upset someone. It feels kind of like a no-win situation and I don’t know what to do. I’m still learning.
But when you’re in situations with people you’ve known for a long time you know they expect you. They’ve grown comfortable and conditioned to the you they’ve known all this time. The idea that you could, all of a sudden, have this realization, doubt, epiphany, whatever, about your relationship feels like it would introduce a seed of mistrust that I wouldn’t pick up on or they wouldn’t tell me about.
The story of my life: I solve one puzzle and it just creates another. I don’t know what to do with this.
Artist: Poison the Well
Album: Tear From the Red
But I adore her
This will never happen
But I adore HER
That will NEVER happen.
Over my DEAD body.
Of course I think ABOUT it
Burn my path if it does
Shape my body as I FEEL
And if it happens
I’ll BURN and crawl deeper in my hole
Darkness ALWAYS says hello
And your BURNING BODY will light my way
Burning body LIGHT MY WAY
I’m not talking about self-medication—though many people do use the day as a reason (or an excuse) to drown themselves in celebration-–I’m talking about the years I spent more numb than I understood. The slowdown encapsulate, tablature, etc. The times when my senses were tuned down to a low hum and everything felt like a fast motion shot with a slow motion centerpiece, me, in the middle, staring at the concrete from the womb of my apartment. My old apartment was on the third floor of a highrise and, from the windows, vehicles of all kinds would fly Westward and pass me by.
Kind of like life feels like most of the time.
Holidays are never cause for celebration for me. I haven’t had much fun during any of them and I can’t say I’ve ever superlatively referred to any holiday ever. That’s just me. But, what I’m wondering now, is whether or not I will be the dog under the bed, back in the bedroom with his ears covered. The sensation of loud noises, chaos, surprises, they all bring about this sort of welling-over of anxiety. It’s like many children screaming or a single baby crying. I can’t handle that. My perception has felt far too sensitive just like I can’t look people in the eyes when I speak. It will break my train of thought and I’m trying to put the words together so they stick in some form of sense but I have to leave some sense behind and not attend to it. I cannot see and speak to you. I cannot hear you all and think. Sometimes, I can’t think without tears and, since I rarely attend to my eyes it’s odd to me that I notice them but that’s not the point. I don’t think that’s the point.
Living on the first floor of an apartment building is a tragedy to me.
In my mind I’m sitting on the fire escape of an apartment building I visited. There are no buildings behind it but a building of equal height to the South. It’s like being mentally in a corner which is far more comfortable for me. I’m on the fourth floor on the 4th of July and, to the East, there’s a skyline that is not bright enough to outshine the stars. I’ve got a cigarette in my hand and maybe I’ve asked if I can just sit out here or maybe I’ve separated myself from the pack. There are endless possibilities when I shoot these scenes in my head. I can see the sky from the concrete corner just as the fireworks begin their phantasmagoria, their bright flashes of life before dying, the odyssey of faux-Phoenixes that will never again rise.
And it’s all silent. Someone has joined me, and we are sitting with our legs sticking out between the bars in our perch and maybe that’s what I feel like I need right now and that’s why I can see it so clearly in my mind. We don’t say anything because silence suits us or you at least understand, in the moment, it suits me. My eyes are focused on the rainbow barrage and patterns in the sky which may be why I don’t notice you at first with your head against my shoulder. This is what I see when I close my eyes for a moment and dream.
In my mind’s eye there is nothing but silence as we are silhouetted against the city lights and the fireworks. And I wonder now if any of my thoughts and daydreams have always been this silent.
Someone once said, though I couldn’t readily find the source, that a child with autism is not ignoring you but waiting for you to enter their world. Even though I don’t ignore people in social situations, I do tend to stay away from social interactions where the topic is either uninteresting or too surface-level for me to want to engage in. This is contrasted with the times when I talk too much about topics I care about and want to try to interest other people in it so I’m not alone in my, admittedly, niche interests. I think Buddy Wakefield said it best:
I talk too much
If you see me being quiet,
Don’t ask me what’s wrong
I’m just practicing
This is me most of the time. People ask me what I’m interested in and I end up overwhelming them with the overwhelming amount of emotion and cognitive input I get when I experience something like a 5-star wrestling match or listen to a really good song that touches me down to the guts. I don’t share out of selfishness or to dominate a conversation but in the hopes that someone else will be able to experience the elation I feel when I get involved with my favorite things. There’s an excitement there for me and, as a lot of people know, I’m not a very excitable person. I hate surprises, I don’t really like going out, and it can take me a really long time to process emotional content.
This happens outside the ASD community. Everyone gets excited about something or has a passion for something that maybe not everyone shares. Just yesterday I was throwing some things in a recycle bin at my apartment complex and, out of nowhere, this perky red-head gets all excited and tells me about the outdoor patio she discovered on the premises after living here for a year. Being very poor at people being excited about much of anything, I just sort of nodded and stammered my way through a response. I then retreated to my hobbit hole. Upon reflection, I wish I would have been more responsive. After a long day at work, I just didn’t have it in me, I suppose.
It’s something to remember, though. It really is. I don’t try to dominate conversation with my interests but it’s one of the only ways I’m really good at welcoming people into my weird little world. It’s one of the few ways I can show people how I’m really feeling when words get to be too little; music does it so much better. I think part of being Autistic is sometimes not having the words to describe what you’re feeling when you’re feeling every facet of something at once. Sometimes, you share what you love in hopes of gaining an ally and someont to talk to. It’s not just Aspies. NT’s do it too. However, I can say from my experience that no one exhibits a passion for things so strange and off the wall than I do among what few friends I have.
They all think I’m weird. At least they are the people who are wiling to step inside and accept my invitations to this little world.
Artist: Paul Kelly & the Messengers
Song Title: “Dumb Things”
Album: Same Old Walk
[Sleepless nights come all too often lately. I just cannot shut my mind off long enough to get to sleep. All the tactics I learned over the years to defeat the beast of insomnia do not seem to work. In the past, I’ve tried music, I’ve left the TV on, I’ve even had a white noise app installed on my Apple TV so there’a some ambient noise in the background. None of it works anymore. I don’t have any medications to rely on anymore to put me to sleep and so I stay up thinking. I think…]
As I continue to explore this new realm of perception and understanding of the world around me, no longer considered an NT, but an Aspie, I spend time thinking about the church and how my experiences, my research, my thoughts, my reading, and the people who have comprised the only family more dysfunctional than my immediate family: the church. The church is a whore and has more than sold herself out as we have found out over the past couple of years as their true colors bleed red along with white and blue nationalism and Exceptionalism in long streaks from their self-inflicted, self-righteous wounds.
Go lick them. You’ll get no sympathy from me.
I should back up. That’s really not the point I’m trying to get at (if I’m trying to get at any point at all; I’m not sure yet).
I’ve been thinking a lot about church lately and where my place is. It’s not just that the mere thought of stepping into a new church filled with a bunch of people I don’t know sends my anxiety through the roof. It’s not just that I don’t like small talk and shallow conversations. The one thing I want, the one thing I’ve never found for more than a short period of time at any church I’ve ever belonged to is acceptance.
I want to be accepted for who I am. Why has that proven to be so difficult?
Admittedly, before I found out I had Asperger’s I was insufferable at various times because of my rigidity and stalwart stances on various topics on which I, admittedly, had done a lot of research on. In the case of the Bible, I have a degree in Biblical Studies where I had hermeneutics and exegetical methods pounded into my skull for the 2-3 years I was taking classes that were aimed towards the focus of my BA. In short, I spent a lot of time not only the word but doing comparative literature and a ton of reading and research on various topics I’m convinced nobody but an aspie would find interesting. It’s what we do.
I had several discussions with my pastorfriend about speaking truth in love because I pissed a lot of people off in my tenure at my former home church. It was never intentional, though; it was my standing up for what I believed was right, whether it was a biblical topic or calling someone out on what was certainly flying in the face of what I read and studied in my Bible. I was to the point and blunt, something I found out when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s, was how I communicated truth. Blunt and honest. I value honesty still.
Sometimes, it still gets me in trouble, though.
The truth is, I long For time spent with people whom I have some common ground with. As much as I like the people I spend a lot of time with (mostly coworkers), the ability to keep up the facade of being content and comfortable, even with my anxiety in check, is starting to wane. It’s draining to try and be a people person when you’re not one by nature.
I’ve found it’s harder and harder to find people I’m comfortable around all the time. I can probably count on one hand the number of people who currently fall into that category. It’s what Foy Vance refers to as a “closed hand full of friends”. Even with my tight grip on those people, I feel like some of them slip away because I honestly do not want to be around people. It has taken a day, sometimes longer, to recover from a day of work. There are certain days where I run into a mental roadblock when asked about going out.
It’s similar to the roadblock I run into when I think about going back to church. There’s a new church plant near here affiliated with another church I attended and enjoyed for the most part until a huge fiasco involving people (go figure) and things they said about my family. It’s hard for me to forget those things. It’s hard for me to forget a lot of things. It’s why I can’t sleep some nights. Too much thinking.
Then there’s love. I’ve found I do not process this like a Neurotypical, which is not uncommon based on the reading I’ve done on the subject. Aspies love differently and so how I show what some people call “love” may take a different shape or form than what an NT is used to. Only in the last few years have I even thought about uttering the words, “I love you” to friends I care about. Even then it’s extremely difficult for me to compound the deluge of emotion, empathy, compassion, caring, devotion, and everything else into the loaded three-word portmanteau. It often seems like it’s not enough but, for me to explain every facet of it is truly impossible. There’s too much going on in my head at once for me to elucidate the complexity of it all.
So, like speaking in a language that others can understand, I hesitantly use the phrase my dear friend Heather tried so hard to force me to say.
I love you.
Off topic again. I must finally be running out of steam.
At the current moment I’m at a loss as to what to do. In therapy, we talk about how I need to be more social and learn how to better respond to standard social cues, especially small talk questions like, “How are you today?”: a question I often get asked at work and to which I rarely have a decent answer.
Lately, I’ve learned just how hard and for how long I’ve been trying to she social actor. This is something else that I run into often in a church. The forced socialization and the people jumping into the shallow end of the pool of conversation. I keep to myself mostly at work, focusing on counting by multiples of five while I am filling prescriptions. I sometimes wonder if anyone really notices but most of me doesn’t care.
I think I’m worn out. I’ve been praying for guidance on this issue off and on. Where should I go? What should I do? Why does everything have to be an uphill battle? i can only hope it’s leading to something that puts me in a position to use the strengths I have to help others.
I realized long ago, and constantly have it reinforced, that I was not put on this earth to fit in. I have always been an outsider, always on the outside looking in. It’s depressing sometimes, and difficult to maneuver but that’s me. Finding out it was because of how my brain developed and that there’s a name for it was just validation of what I already knew.
I think my biggest problem is that the church is supposed to be a place for everyone, especially misfits and broken people. I often feel that’s me all over. Yet I’ve been maligned, gossiped about, and insulted by people who believe in the same God I do. The cognitive dissonance this causes has been enough to keep me out of church more or less for the last couple of years. Nobody seems to have a good answer to my question and God seems to want me to figure this one out on my own.
I just hope I find a home somewhere. Sometime.
Artist: Blaqk Audio
Song: “First to Love”
Emily, what did you say when he said, “Follow me”?
What would you give to live your tragedy?
There is no price he needn’t pay
You give yourself away
She said, “No one’s ever sent me flowers”..
As the tears filled her eyes
With the tears, she denied them
She said, “No one’s ever sent me flowers.”
“You’ll be the first I leave
Because I’m always the first to love.”
Emily, what did you do to become part of me?
I’d do anything to be your tragedy
If only my thoughts could bring you to break
You’d give yourself to me
“I’m always the first to love…”
Social situations just continue to confound and confuse me. I could have gone out tonight and I could have seen friends I haven’t seen in months but I didn’t. I would almost say I couldn’t. There was this sinking feeling, this anchor causing anxiety and rooted me here reading the Fountainhead or watching wrestling.
The truth is, I was anxious and, in my brain it didn’t seem correct for a Sunday evening. Like I would never go out to a bar on a Sunday evening and listen to music and hang out with people. Maybe that was the large part of it: people. I just haven’t had the stomach or the nerve for being around people lately.
Part of it has to do with work, I think, and all the people I have to deal with. Not to mention being under the watchful eye of my coworkers and bosses all the time. At least at my last job I could go hide in my cubicle and, if I really wanted to, could probably get away with doing absolutely nothing but what I wanted as long as it didn’t make too much noise or raise the suspicions of my superiors.
The beta blockers have helped a lot with my ability to be social but I still have that conditioned response that tells me it’s going to be awkward. Or maybe I’ll go and no one will talk to me. They’ll be so wrapped up in their ridiculous conversations about nothing, their small talk that is just so uninteresting, that I’ll just end up at a table by myself as I usually do. I’ll have a Jack & Coke in my hand, stirrer standing like the mast of a sinking ship between my pointer and middle finger and I’ll just get lost in the music.
That’s not really a bad feeling. If I can attenuate to the music and the pictures it creates in my head I can forget about pretty much everything that’s going on around me. There are times when people have caught me like this and checked on me as if I was having some sort of crisis. I’m not always depressed, I’m just practicing silence and listening. It’s what I do, I guess.
I said I was both broke and i have to work tomorrow. Both are true but the ghost of anxiety and rigidity to myself, my interests, my usual way of doing things got in the way more than anything and I really don’t want to have to explain that to people anymore. I get tired of telling people I do things a certain way or I approach aspects of my life in a particular fashion because I have Asperger’s. It’s tiring and people don’t always understand or just don’t want to understand or just don’t have the capacity to understand. I HAVE to do things the way I do. Certain days are days I don’t do anything and changing that has become increasingly difficult as the Lithium has left my system.
The thing I’ve noticed is that I’m not one of THOSE guys. I’m not the person everyone thinks about when they’re having a get-together or even want to get out of their house. I’m not the person people think, “Oh, I should see what he’s doing. I haven’t hung out with him in a long time.” The difficulties I have now being social, even more than before, make it seem like I hate being around people. It’s not really that. I just don’t like being around a collective of people all that much. Me and a few other people in a public setting works okay. When there’s more, I’ve found that my senses have become more and more powerful and let a lot more information into my brain. Part of me is afraid to even try to go a bar where there are people talking or being loud.
I don’t want to make it seem like I’m just trying to get sympathy here. I don’t want or need sympathy. I need acceptance. I need people to realize I am miles away from being the same person I was 18 months ago despite still being me at the core. I am not the Lithium zombie that I was before. I have suffered bouts with the highs and lows as always and my anxiety was almost crippling for a while.
Nobody really knows this. Not a lot of people I would consider calling a friend knows what I’ve been going through because I don’t tell them. It’s not that I don’t want to tell them. I don’t even think to tell them because people, more often than not, fall off my radar completely when I’m by myself. My therapist says I should get more practice in being social. I need to work on being responsive to questions about me rather than just shrugging them off. I just don’t like talking about myself. I would rather talk about wrestling, or a book I’m reading, or politics, or the Bible. How I feel is more consequential to me than anyone else. Otherwise, I’d get asked more often and in more sincere means. I don’t care that no one asks, really. I have friends who understand anxiety and depression but no one really gets all my other stuff.
It’s nights like tonight where I want to be around people but am ambivalent about such feelings because there’s some mental wall there that tells me I can’t or I shouldn’t even though there’s no real good reason other than I can’t or shouldn’t. It doesn’t feel… right, I guess is the best way to try to explain it.
There’s a certain tiring quality to being this way. I sleep as much as I can and as often as I can now. It passes the hour better than watching TV. I read more now which is good, I guess, but it’s not much of a substitute for the intellectual stimulation of a conversation. I get that sometimes but mostly I just do what I can to keep my mind off anything else. If I find something, I absorb myself into it and the time just passes. Sometimes that just includes staring at the ceiling for a couple of hours before I have to go to work in the mid morning. I haven’t found anything else that really disrupts the pervasive thoughts of having to go to work so I just lose myself in my imaginations. I tell stories and I don’t write them down. Mostly because the thoughts are so fast and fleeting I can’t make anything coherent out of them anyway.
So, if you’re reading this, maybe you’ll try to understand. Maybe you’ll just stay in your own little world and I’ll stay in mine as it gets smaller and smaller. I’m tired of being left out of the game. I’m tired of not fitting the social norm or that I’m viewing everything from the outside looking in the window.
I’m tired of windows, closed doors, and fences. Now more than ever I’m aware that socializing is work for me, not necessarily pleasure even though I want to do be able to do it. I think I lost part of myself or unlocked something or closed something off.
Are you in the inside looking out?
I was at work. A strange place, I know, and it puzzles me still. However, the chance for random occurrences increases exponentially (or maybe geometrically. I’m never sure which one) when new people are constantly introduced into your environment. It’s like the cliche of throwing a stone in a pond and watching the ripples. Only, this is more like throwing a handful of gravel into a puddle of rainwater in a street gutter.
Yes. That’s an apt description.
I could not tell you for certain what happened or any sort of causal apparatus that could have attached itself to that particular moment in time other than the relationship between customer and the service we provide. It’s an every day occurrence; people come and go but I’ve never really thought about the reason why or the rhyme scheme contained within.
Anyway, I remember this girl’s face. There is something soft about it. She’s a regular and, even in the short amount of time I’ve spent working there, there are some familiar faces. Some people just stick out more than others in my mind, though I can hardly ever remember their names.
“What was so special about this one?”
There was this intangible quality to her at first. It takes a moment to process my impressions of people sometimes, I’ll admit. She had soft facial features, a gentle smile but there was a weakness about her. I don’t mean that in a bad way; maybe vulnerability is a better term. I Don’t know.
She smiled up to her eyes despite, maybe, seeming like she had grown weary. Her eyes were unmarked by age or makeup, which is astonishing anymore these days. She was soft-spoken and polite, though hesitant to ask for anything she wanted, like she was afraid of being denied some basic service, even the one she had paid for by coming to my store.
“Why did that strike you so?”
That’s an explanation I’m still searching for myself. I think about these kinds of interactions long after they’ve passed. It’s part of my wiring, I suppose. I just keep playing those few minutes over and over again in my head. I wonder what makes a person the way they are; how they develop their personality into something that seems so meek yet endearing in some way.
“Is there something that bothers you about the meek types?”
Not always, but often. Being soft-spoken myself, I don’t necessarily have a problem with it. However, I do find myself cringing at certain social faux pas. Those who are anxious or nervous, they have common speech patterns and give away their tentative nature through the use of “um’s” and delays in answering.
I guess it was about the moment this girl spoke to me that I felt that overload of empathy I don’t always understand. I knew there was something there, something that affected the social capabilities of this woman but, in a work setting, you can’t really ask, nor do you have time to, ask customers personal questions. Certainly not a long dialogue to hear someone else’s life story simply because you have the urge to hear it.
That’s the problem with having asocial tendencies, I guess. I deprive myself of human contact long enough that when something strikes my radar, I can’t help but let that empathy flood into every circuit of my mind and I want to know who someone is.
I wish I wasn’t so jaded and cynical about people sometimes.
“What does that have to do with it?”
Trust. It’s hard for me to trust anyone. Ever hand yourself over to the care of someone else’s hands only to have them ring the emotion out of it like a towel? Not only have it occur once, but over and over and over again until you really don’t know what to believe and who is being sincere? Most people who talk to me anymore only do so because they want something from me. They’ve lost all interest in me. Or maybe I’ve lost interest in them.
Maybe there’s no loss of interest on either side of the equation. Maybe I just don’t know what I’m doing anymore.