Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More on overload

Just thought to write about it while it is happening. As I sit here, almost every sound I hear feels wrong. The washing machine, the dog licking something, a bird making a repetitive sound outside - all too irritating. And the last thing I need to hear now is voices. I cannot listen to anybody right now, even the radio would be too much. A little while ago I had to listen to someone at school telling me something, and it took so much self-control to stand still and smile and respond while my stomach was hurting and my skin was crawling and I could feel every part of my clothes against my skin. It is hard to explain - it is not the person that I find irritating, nor the things he/she are saying, the problem lies with me and my senses and the inability to tolerate all the incoming stimuli. The muscles in my upper body feels funny, uncomfortable. You know that feeling you get when someone drags nails down a blackboard? I feel like that - not that intense, but constantly on days like this. Sounds, voices, textures make me cringe. And all you can see from the outside, is an irritated, unreasonable, angry woman.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"It's all about us."

Wow. I stumbled onto a blog written by a woman with a husband whom she believes has Aspergers. She also has female friends she believes has Aspergers. I am not going to link to that blog, and I am not going to reply to her posts.

But I find it upsetting to hear how someone goes on and on and on about how we do not care about others' feelings at all and how it is all about us, and how 'normal' people should have no expectations of caring, common sense and empathy from us.

Just wow. I am not going to read anything more on that blog, not going back there again.


I recently had the worrying experience of coming very close to a meltdown in public. Worrying because it would have been very embarrassing for me and the other people present. I just prefer to keep such intense reactions to myself.

But even more worrying because I did not see or feel it coming. I went from feeling calm to getting extremely agitated within a few minutes. And I suspect it is the result of a lifetime of suppressing my reactions to intense sensory and social input. I have learned to hide this not only from others, but also from myself. Before my diagnosis, I just believed it was wrong to get irritated so easily. And that I should try harder to stay calm and not act like a child. I now know that there is nothing wrong with getting overwhelmed, but lifelong habits and ways of thinking are hard to overcome. I have become so good at pretending that I feel OK that I actually believe it myself.

What I need to learn is how to identify the earlier stages of overload, to recognise the building stress. In hindsight, I can see the things that led to me being overwhelmed, but in the situation all the dots did not connect. I need to know when just taking a break will be sufficient and when leaving a situation is the best thing to do. I need to look more carefully at what is happening, how it is affecting me, and then learn to predict how much more I can handle.

And even more important, I have to be kinder to myself despite the fact that others may not understand or become impatient or feel inconvenienced. I spend a huge amount of energy accommodating and pleasing other people, probably too much energy. And they do not know this, how can they when doing the same things do not require nearly the same amount of energy of them? That is probably why they cannot understand my frequent irritation or fatigue. I work hard, I get tired, and I owe it to myself and to the people around me to insist on getting more down-time. 

It is scary though. I find it hard to read people, to pinpoint what they are really feeling, but I am good at picking up negative or positive vibes - feeling them, but not understanding them. So when I state that I do not want to do something, or want to be alone, or do not enjoy something I often feel the negative reactions and not knowing what it means makes me very anxious. Is the other person feeling irritation? Disappointment? Anger? Resentment? Rejection? Concern? I have no idea, and since people mostly respond with the universal and frustrating "It's OK", I am left feeling confused and guilty and insecure. 
And instead of using my down-time to relax, I worry. Maybe I need to be more honest and try to describe what I feel and experience and what my needs are. That is hard though - the sensations and feelings I have are so many times not connected to words at all. Take the imminent meltdown - if you wanted to know how I felt, I would have to show you the physical reactions I had to suppress, I cannot describe in words how I felt.

What I want to do is accept that my needs are important, and that even though it may inconvenience others, getting what I need will benefit them also. This is a continuing education - teaching both myself and the people around me.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What if trees knew?

 What if trees knew that which we don't?
What if trees see more than we do?
What if trees see the generations come and go
And gets bowed down by the sadness they absorb?

Would we cut them down in anger
Try to wipe out their knowledge
Ignore their wisdom?

Would we fear the seeds they spread
The roots that remain and feed the earth
We try so hard to destroy?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Analyzing or not

When it comes to people, behaviour, ideas, concepts - I love to analyse and go into detail and look at things from all possible angles. And questioning everything, challenging beliefs and finding new ways of looking at things. Unfortunately most people find this tiring, unnecessary and even offensive, so I have learned to keep my thoughts to myself except for the times when I am with someone who likes to analyse with me. I have been accused of nitpicking, picking everything apart, finding fault, being too critical, analyzing things to death - seems people really do find it irritating. But I am really not trying to be difficult - that is just the way my head works. I find it energizing, fun, and there are few things more exciting than coming to new insights, thinking new thoughts, challenging your own beliefs - there is always so much to learn and discover. It saddens me that I can find so few people who will share in the fun!

Interesting then that I really do not like analyzing and discussing some important things - things like music I love, favourite books and films. I have always loved reading and need books around me. I have favourite books I read over and over again, and find reading a good book one of the most exhilarating and absorbing experiences in life. But I have never had the desire to join a book club, and have a huge aversion to discussing my favourite books with anybody. A good book is like a friend, I have a relationship with it, a unique experience of it, just seeing a loved book makes me feel happy and somehow secure. How can I then put it aside and discuss it with others? It would feel like discussing a friend behind his or her back! I also do not like reading popular books while they are on the best seller list and everyone is eager to read them. I like waiting until the hubbub has died down, the readers have moved on - and I can sit down with the book - just the two of us, uncluttered by opinions, discussions, reviews. It is almost as if I feel I cannot form a relationship with a book when it already 'belongs' to so many other people - it cannot be mine alone.

I love memorising favourite sentences or paragraphs in books and repeating them to myself, it makes me feel - I cannot name the feeling - but it is almost like hugging myself, feeling flutterings of joy and pleasure inside. Sometimes I will say a favourite sentence in my head and laugh aloud with pleasure, or do my little dance. It makes me happy.

Films. I prefer watching them alone. Or just with somebody I know well, and whose reaction to the film I can predict. My experience of a film is greatly diminished when I watch it with others. I am too aware of their reactions and cannot ignore it. I cannot separate myself from other people's reactions. And I am also aware of my own reactions and how it will be perceived. When I am alone and embarrassed for a character, I can turn my body away and peer through my fingers and even moan a bit - when there are other people present, I don't want to do this and I get really uncomfortable keeping my 'pose'. And keeping my pose takes away a lot of the enjoyment too. I haven't been in a movie theatre in many years. I would so love to see good films in a theatre, but preferably in an empty one and that is not possible.

Music. I have no regrets about never having had music lessons. I love music, and need to listen to music every day, but I really don't want to understand it. There are so many things I hear in songs that I know can be analysed and explained, but I will never ask anyone to explain it to me. I love the mystery of it. I like not knowing, just hearing and experiencing the feeling it creates in me. For that reason I don't like discussing songs with people. My husband has a good ear for music, and high quality and mastery in music are important to him. Sometimes when we listen to a song I love, he will make a remark about instruments not being played well, or the sound quality not being good, or a singer being off key or something. And without fail it upsets me. It takes away some of the mystery, and again I struggle to separate my experience from his. I wish I knew how to do that - to listen to others' opinions on things I love without becoming upset and feeling that it takes away something from my own experience.

I don't know how to end this post. I can still hear the echoes of language teachers' voices over the years - insisting on good conclusions/ending paragraphs. But there - I will just stop writing now.