Monthly Archives: November 2011

UnTypical

There are certain things about me that are undecidedly Aspergers-ish. I have some sensory issues (most notably with my sock comfort), stimming behavior (picking/biting the skin on my fingers), social anxiety, and deep obsession for subjects I find interesting. However, there are some things about me that don’t fit the typical Aspie profile.

For example – I do have issues with being in social situations. I hate talking to people I don’t know, and I’m a mess on the phone. On the flip side of this, I am more than capable of handling situations like this when I’m at work or other settings where I am more confident in my abilities. I know I’m good at my job and will never be stumped by a question from someone on the other line, so I don’t fear using the phone. I wonder if other Aspies have this ability to tune out their anxiety when necessary.

Another example, this one having to do with my stimming – I have been able to shed my stim behaviors in the past for periods of time, though they have always crept back (my worst specific stim behavior is picking and biting at the skin on my fingers, and not just the cuticles… sometimes I will pick the skin off the pads of my fingers or the sides of my fingertips until they bleed). Here’s where it gets interesting: about a year ago, the lab I work at installed new security systems that required the use of fingerprint ID. Because of my skin picking, the scanner had trouble identifying my fingerprint. Because my job demanded it, I have been able to avoid picking/biting the specific finger that the scanner reads – effectively modifying my stim behavior to suit my needs. Is this something that any Aspie can do just by working hard and focusing on behavior modification?

Is there something special about me? Am I just lucky?

I’m beginning to think that there is no “typical” presentation of Aspergers. There is no “normal” Aspie profile. Overall there are some rough traits, but each Aspie is an individual work of art – a unique mosiac of all of the behaviors that make them who they are.

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The Emotion Calculation

It’s mostly common knowledge that people with Aspergers are devoid of emotions. It’s also a common misconception. Most Aspies do experience a range of emotions from sadness to joy. The misconception stems from two places:

1) Aspies have difficulty expressing their emotions in the “socially agreed upon” manner.

2) Aspies very often experience emotions in extremely polarized states with no middle ground.

Reason 1 pops up because, although Aspies are good mimics, people will often express their emotions in slightly different ways. Some people may cry at the death of a loved one, others may throw themselves into charity work, and others may react in a different way entirely. While each of these reactions share an underlying theme of grief, an Aspie may see these three reactions as random and unrelated – they don’t make sense. Therefore, it’s tough for an Aspie to figure out the “correct” way to express an emotion.

Reason 2 sounds like all Aspies are bipolar, but that’s not what I mean. The emotions don’t necessarily wildly fluctuate from one extreme to another. It just means that the “low intesity” emotions are too weak for an Aspie to register; the Aspie brain is usually too busy with other stuff. A strong enough emotion will break through. For example: I find it almost impossible to “like” things. Either it’s really bad and I hate it, or it’s really good and I love it. Anything else, and I don’t really have an opinion one way or another.

I think emotions are so difficult for a person with Asperger’s to deal with because emotions are not a tangible entity. My mind works sort of like a mini-computer; it deals it facts and figures. Computers don’t understand emotions because they can’t be calculated. I’m often asking how I “should be” feeling in a situation because I honestly don’t know. I have a theory on how I “should be” feeling based on past experiences and popular social customs, but I can never be sure.

So don’t think that us Aspies are all just soulless, disconnected people. We do have hearts. We do have emotions. They just confuse us immensely.

That’s So Nice Of You

I appreciate when people are friendly. I really do. But I would much rather someone just smile and walk by instead of trying to have a conversation with me. Most people enjoy the interaction; for me it’s just too difficult.

Yesterday morning at church – after surviving the weekly “Sharing of the Peace” (which I’ve blogged about before) – I was waiting for my family by the car when a couple was walking by on the way to their car. I don’t know them well, but I do know that they are nice people. They were havivng a conversation between themselves as they walked by, so I think I’m safe. As they pass me, the woman touches my elbow (!!!!!!!!!) and starts up some small talk with me.

Now, I have enough experience with you normal people to know that I’m supposed to talk back. I just can’t do it without a significant amount of effort. It doesn’t feel right. But I do it. And, unbelievably, it works! No weird comments, no crazy faces – a successful social interaction!

As the couple leaves, stress leaves my body in a huge sigh almost as if I was a pressure cooker. I couldn’t help but feel stressed and a little triggered for the rest of the day, though. It worked out well, but I would rather not have to use up so much energy just trying to appear normal to the world.

Waiting is the Hardest Part

One thing I have major difficulties with is having to wait behind someone who is slower than me. Whether it’s in line at the grocery store, or driving, or even just walking down a hall – I simply hate to wait. I hate it so much, it actually causes me anxiety and physical stress when I have to.

It’s not really the waiting that hurts; I don’t waiting for a doctor’s appointment or even sitting in traffic. What hurts the most is the feeling that I’m wasting time. If the slower person would either speed up or get out of the way and let me pass, we would all be able to finish whatever we were doing faster. It’s the sin of inefficiency that kills me.

But even that’s not it. Even when I am in no rush to get anywhere, I find it almost impossible to submit to another person’s pace. Walking into work today, I was a few minutes early. Instead of waiting to punch in at the time clock (MORE WAITING?!?!?!?), I decided to soak up the extra time by walk a bit slower than usual. Even at my leisurely pace, I ended up catching up to a slow walker. I forced myself to slow down and had to grit my teeth for the next two minutes to keep myself from passing her. It was torture.

I think it’s the idea of wasting anything in general – time, energy, money, etc. I hate the idea of wasting anything because once you waste something, it’s gone. I hate wrong turns because they waste gas. I hate forgetting to turn something off because it wastes electricity.

Do I hate this blog because I think it’s a waste of my time? I don’t think so.  🙂

Just Can’t Stop

My daughter had a meltdown today because she couldn’t continue playing inside a “tent” she had made out of unsorted laundry on the couch. After a few minutes of crying, she went to her room for some cool down time. This was effective, but she was still upset afterwards about not being able to continue her indoor camping trip.

To be honest, I can’t remember ever having this type of major meltdown. The only thing I can remember being so intensely attached to when I was a child was video games. I can’t recall ever having a huge meltdown because I wasn’t allowed to play Nintendo. Although, when I was a kid I was hardly ever told “no” by my parents – perhaps in order to keep me quiet and avoid the exact situation that occurred in my living room today.

Then again, I can’t remember much of my aspie behavior from when I was a child. I have to go to my older sisters and my mom for that info. Maybe I’ll ask them about this as well. Any type of insight I can gain will help me connect to my daughter.

Will I Please Just Shut Up?

One of the hallmark traits of Aspergers is incessant talking about topics of interest, to the point where people around the Aspie may be completely bored out of their minds. I fall victim to this very often. If you get me talking about the right subject, I can go on and on and on and on and on and on and on…..

And so on.

I’m not quite sure why this happens. There could be a few reasons.

I very often have what I like to call “high intensity thoughts.” These are thoughts and ideas that I find so cool/funny/interesting/amazing/etc. that I must hear them aloud in order to make them “real.” Simply thinking them alone does not do the idea justice. I’ll verbalize these thoughts in order to accomplish this, sometimes even when I’m by myself in a room. If I’m interrupted in the middle explaining one of these ideas to someone (most often my annoyed wife), I actually feel slight physical pain until I’m able to share the rest of it. I’m completely unable to just let it go.

Another reason could be the natural high I get from social interactions. It’s hard to understand, but most Aspies actually want to have friends and be social; we are just very uncomfortable doing so because we have no idea how to do it. So when I get into a conversation with someone, it feels nice to actually be talking to someone. It feels so good, that I will continue talking about the subject long after it has gotten boring, just like a alcoholic will continue drinking long after they have gotten drunk.

The weirdest thing is that I know it’s happening as it’s happening. I’ve been talking to one of my coworkers about my fantasy football league lately. The conversation is kind of interesting at first, but eventually it gets to the point where I have to start explaining way too many things and I can tell I’m boring the shit out of him. But I just can’t stop talking about it. Because I worry that if I stop talking about it, I won’t have anything to talk about, and I will be alone on my Aspie island again.

I’ve been trying hard lately to just let these “high intensity thoughts” stay inside my head. It’s difficult, but I can do it if I try. I’m also working on dropping a conversation when I can tell I’m boring someone. Sometimes I have trouble telling exactly when that happens, but I’m getting better. It’s just weird that I have to actively think about these things, when neurotypical people do this naturally. It makes me wonder what you normal people think about all day with all of your free time.

Look at me… I’ve done it again. I probably bored you to death about two paragraphs ago. Okay, no problem. I’ll shut up now.