Thursday, September 15, 2011

Another thought on empathy

Yes, the controversial empathy word. Just something that I thought about today while I was driving somewhere:

I am autistic, and I have difficulty when it comes to reading non-autistic people. I find it hard to know what they feel, and sometimes it is hard to understand why they feel the way they do. And personally I also often find it hard to know how to respond once I do understand, because their needs are different from mine. Aha, you would say - I lack empathy.

But then - non-autistic people have difficulty when it comes to reading autistic people. They find it hard to know what we feel, and sometimes it is hard for them to understand why we feel the way we do. And they also often find it hard to know how to respond once they do understand, because our needs are different from theirs. So would you come to the same conclusion - that they lack empathy?

Probably not. Why - does the difference lie in numbers? Because there are so many non-autistic people, their difficulty is not worth noting, and because we are a minority, our difficulty is a symptom of a disorder? I find it hard to get my head around that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sharing of emotions indeed

I needn't have worried. The day started off yesterday with me being irritated by my socks, my belt, my shoes, my hair against my face. I was scarcely out of the gate when I had to stop and take my shoes and socks off and put them on again, and put some cream on my face to stop the feeling of hair on dry skin. It was the first hot day of spring yesterday, and I did not like it.

I had an hour and a half to kill in the city before my appointment, so decided to go to a nearby mall and get some needed things, and also to buy myself a T-shirt as the day was turning out hotter than anticipated. In the third shop I went into I finally found a shirt that did not feel synthetic or too flimsy, was an acceptable colour, and really looked nice. I was feeling a little nervous already, I don't like clothing stores, they seem so full of assertive staff and determined women shoppers. And mostly awful clothes. So I started wandering around, surreptitiously trying to find out where to pay for the shirt. It was a huge store, and I just could not figure out where to go. No handy signs saying "Pay Here". No other buyers in a hurry to buy anything so that I could watch and follow them. I saw a counter at last, but soon saw it was just for accounts and admin. By then I was almost crying, and felt like hiding from the staff instead of asking them for help. I knew I would not be able to talk, so I gave up, put the shirt down and fled. I did not want to go to the rest rooms, because I did not want to lose the last control I had, if I started really crying, I would find it too difficult to stop, and then I would be stuck in a cubicle, not wanting to come out.

Luckily I saw a coffee shop that was a little out of the eye, and mercifully rather empty. I sat down at a corner table and asked for coffee, and then also ordered something to eat. And I had a book with me, so I ate and read and tried to stop crying, concentrating on deep breaths. I am so so grateful that the women serving me made no comments and asked no questions. I don't like crying in public, and I cannot handle kindness or curiosity when I do.

I was so unhappy. Why can't I do a simple thing like buying a t-shirt for myself? Why am I unable to ask for help, why is it so hard, and most of all, why am I so scared?

I sat there until it was time to leave for my appointment, not having the courage to go into any other stores. Drove to the consulting rooms, went inside, and started crying as soon as I sat down. No intellectual, cold discussions as I feared. So in the end the fear and upset was worth it, it enabled me to share. We spent some time talking about fear and anxiety, and my feeling that I had failed once again instead of being proud of trying something I have always found difficult. I don't feel brave, it is a nice thought though. We also talked about my fear of looking deeper at my feelings and anxiety, and agreed that we will not try for now, I do not want to spend the precious hour every month being hugely upset and afraid. He has promised to email my some things to read about anxiety, which I am feeling a bit skeptical about - I have read lots about it already, and have an aversion to any 'self-help' writings. We'll see.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sharing emotions

I am seeing the psychologist again tomorrow and I am worried that it will turn into an intellectual discussion about my feelings and challenges. That is the way it always seems to be. How do I show what I feel? I sometimes feel my two default emotions, and the only ones except joy that I can share or show, is irritation and anger. I wonder if, feeling so uncomfortable showing any emotion in front of others, all the suppressed emotion just come out as irritation when it gets too much?

I am beginning to realise I find it very difficult to name my emotions. Emotions to me are physical experiences, no words attached. And when I try to name the emotion, it either slips away out of grasp, or it turns into intellectual analysing. I've never really thought much about this before. I've been working in the garden now, thinking about different situations and how I felt - and it is so hard. It almost feels as if my brain wants to stop me thinking about it, and the only 'name' I can give to negative emotions is 'I want to get away'. I don't know if that makes sense.