Friday, August 9, 2013

Social Exhaustion

You have probably heard by now that social situations are hard for Aspies, that we get tired, that we have to put so much focus and attention on every situation it wears us out.  You probably have heard the analogies--juggling balls, balancing 5 things at once, etc.  You can probably see how having to focus on quite literally every word that comes out of your mouth every second of every day and can never, NEVER speak freely without saying something wrong because you don't have the ability to read people can be tiring.  You can see how having to handle social situations by rote and behavioral training is wearying because NONE of it is natural, you have to pay attention all the time. And you can never, really be yourself.  

But I was thinking about what that exhaustion feels like analogous to things everyone goes through.

Imagine midterms or finals week or the week you have all five papers due and a test.  Imagine the end of that week.

Imagine the first few months of having a newborn.

Imagine the first week of a new job when you are learning the job, learning people, getting trained, etc.

Imagine having spent 24 hours dealing with international travel--layovers, customs, uncomfortable planes.  

Imagine after you've spent the day doing any sort of physical activity--a race, hiking, whatever.  The kind where all you can do at the end is take ibuprofen and lie in bed.  

Now...imagine how all those feel, and realize that the typical person on the autism spectrum experiences that bone deep level of exhaustion with almost all social interactions lasting more than a few minutes.  A party.  A wedding.  Getting together with friends.  A picnic.  A girl's night out.

And that is when things are going smoothly.  When things don't go smoothly (as they so often don't, people being people no matter what their brain chemistry is!), a meltdown cometh.  

Now with the right people who know and understand you you can relax a little, and certainly some places and some situations are more relaxing than others  I have very good friends who understand my brain and their house is one place besides my own I find refuge, home, family.  But even in those sanctuaries I have to be on my guard. 

I would say that at least 90% of my interactions with people leave me this exhausted.  But here is the catch.  I LOVE spending time with my friends.  I love talking with them, tasting beer and wine, sharing stories, praying, laughing, crying, watching movies.  I wouldn't trade my time with any of those people and the friendship and love we have for ANYTHING.

But, BOY, is it exhausting.  And hard.

So often the best things in life are.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Aspie Survival tip--Get a support system, AKA an anonymous thank you.

And that support system, though of course NTs  (Neurotypicals) can be wonderfully supportive and helpful, really needs  to have an Aspie in it.  Because though NTs try and love and care, they can't possibly understand our brain.  No slight on them, or on Aspies, but it is what it is what it is.

I have an Aspie friend who is my age, we have known each other a long while.  He is not open about being an Aspie like I am, a decision I respect and on retrospect wish I had done (for various reasons that are for another post).  I am not going to say his name, betray his confidence or his privacy. But he and I, well, sometimes I doubt we would make it through this world without each other to vent to and talk to and pray for and just GET the craziness no one but someone on the Autism spectrum gets.  I'm honestly, truthfully, not trying to offend or put down anyone who tries to support and help me who isn't an Aspie.  I'm not.  I know you guys try.  But just like I don't FULLY get what it is to be, well, an NT, you will never fully get me.  It doesn't mean you don't love us, and we don't love you.  It doesn't mean you don't emphasize or try to understand.  But there will always be that disconnect.

So if you are on the spectrum, find someone else on the spectrum you can trust and talk to.  It makes all the difference in the world. 

I could give a thousand examples of things my friend has said that have brought me some sense of yes, you get it, you GET it, so at least I am not alone in this.  He GETs that I can't just let things slide off my back, though I absolutely know I should.  He gets when a situation so unnerves and upsets me I am sick (sometimes to the point of losing my appetite then getting ill from hunger, or shivering with cold though I am always running hot)  about it for hours or sometimes days on end when no one else even remembers.

I just wanted to share one thing he has said that truly helped me recently:

"Now is the time I am supposed to give you empty platitudes.  But you and I aren't wired that way.  So I will just promise to pray for you"

Those first two sentences were like balm to my soul.  Or, rather, my Aspie brain.  They allowed me to be calm and at peace.  Not because things are better.  But because someone gets it.  Someone gets that saying it will get better doesn't make it so.  And...well, so much more.

So my NT friends, give me those empty platitudes, because they really aren't empty in that you love me and care for me and want the best for me and would, I know, do just about anything for me.  As I would, unquestionably, do for you.

And to my Aspie friend, this is a public thank you for being an Aspie, for having my brain, for helping me and listening and understanding when only an Aspie can.  THANK YOU.  I can't name you publicly but I know you are one of the keys to my sanity.

I'm a lucky girl to have all these people in my life, aren't I?  Please, guys, stick around.  All of you, Aspies and NTs and all.  I'm not sure I could do this without you.

May God's blessings shower on you and maybe spare just a few for me...