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.

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