Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I'm not feeling particularly clever with my writing right now, so I'll just go ahead and jump in. List of ways I am affected by having Asperger's.

*Obsessions. This is the sort-of-positive one, because learning about or pursuing the things that interest me makes me really happy (giddy even). But I get seriously obsessed. It was worse when I was younger, before I learned to make myself stop so the people around me didn't go crazy hearing for the thousandth time that the Titanic was 882.75 feet long (it was). Now I find myself talking excitedly about things like barn owls and having to consciously remind myself that I'm the only one who gives a shit and I need to stop talking. That doesn't stop me from watching live feeds of barn owls on the internet, sleeping with a stuffed barn owl, making crocheted and beaded barn cetera. I've gone through a bunch of different obsessions. Sometimes a few at a time. I've been obsessed with carbon monoxide, Romanian orphanages, the Titanic, the Beatles, and of course owls. Among other things.

*Routine. I love routine. Routines and schedules and predictability. If I don't have something to wake up for, something scheduled, I'm likely to stay in bed all day because I don't know what to do with myself (I also have depression and thyroid problems, which are other reasons I might say fuck it and stay in bed, but whatever). If I'm expecting something to happen, it throws my whole sense of well-being off if it doesn't happen. I realize that this is impractical and irrational, but I can't help that visceral reaction. I also dislike surprises. I like-want-need to know what to expect. I make my parents tell me an itinerary before we go anywhere, if there's a family trip planned. I always peek at Christmas presents.

*I'm better with this now, but when I was younger, I had pretty much zero sense of how social interaction is supposed to work. I had "friends" in the sense that "sometimes I played with kids on the playground," but the only reason I'd ever hang out with them was if Mom prodded me to or if the kid called to set up a play date. And then I'd always want it to be at my house (familiarity, duh). I could not handle sleepovers until I was about 12. I never initiated social contact as a kid; I preferred to play by myself and do art projects or get involved in my own imaginary games. It's less complicated, you know? As a result, of course, I got picked on. Oh God. You know how there's always that one kid, and it's like the cool thing to do to pick on that kid? Yeah. Right here. I was just awkward. And yeah, the other kids were assholes. Even when I started making friends in middle school, I took all kinds of shit from them. God. Even well into high school, I figured it was totally normal and okay for friends to spend hours harassing me on the internet, steal and destroy my stuff, tell me to show up one place when the actual party was somewhere else and then laugh and curse at me when I called to figure out what was up...hell, my friends knew they could get away with absolutely anything, because I would take them back in a heartbeat. It was just a game. Fuck with me for awhile--run my journal through the shredder or tell me I was just saying I was gay to get attention or call me a fucking psycho bitch on my blog--knowing the whole time that all they had to do was call me, act happy and chipper like nothing ever happened, and all would be forgiven. They were right, dammit. You know why? Because I didn't fucking understand that THOSE THINGS ARE NOT OKAY. I figured, okay, that's what friends do, and I just have to wait it out. Like my friends' behavior was the fucking weather or something. I was eighteen years old before I realized that people who respect you don't do shit like that, and probably a couple years older before I stopped expecting to be treated like that. Keep in mind--I'm only 23 now. But yeah, the point is that social interaction was confusing as hell to me. Still is, and I'm still pretty awkward, but I've gotten so much better. Because for real, when I was 13 I thought it was totally normal to stand up in front of my science class and sing in French, you know, just for the hell of it. I was so confused and hurt when people would tell me to stop being so stupid and just act normal. If I knew how to avoid those lectures, seriously, I would.

*Sensory. Oh shit. This one is big. Let's go through a list of the senses. First there's sight. I cannot handle flashing or flickering lights at all. Insta-migraine, if I don't start freaking out and run away first. I love bright/bold colors, and looking at something like a bunch of spools of thread is like fireworks in my brain, it's so stimulating. That's one of my sensory-seeking things, I suppose, looking at bright colors. If I'm feeling overstimulated I sometimes need to keep my eyes closed. So then there's sound. Ah yes. I cannot handle loud noises. Particularly loud sudden noises, or high-pitched noises, or...yeah. I flinch and twitch and cover my ears and rock back and forth...pretty much anything to block it out. And I'm really reactive, hence the twitching and such. On the flip side, music is incredibly pleasurable and listening to grandiose, powerful music is another of my sensory-seeking things. So there's that. Taste, as a sense, isn't one I pay attention to much, other than that I crave really spicy or really sour foods. My sense of taste is probably under-responsive. Same with smell. Touch is different. I dislike any unexpected contact, and I have nightmares about having my movement restricted (yay, claustrophobia!). On really sensitive days, a little tap on the shoulder can literally feel like a knife wound. But then, I crave deep pressure. I love lying down under really heavy pillows and blankets. Big, long, tight hugs are pretty much my favorite feeling in the world--providing the person is someone I trust enough. I don't like light touches. I'm really ticklish. So there's that...oh wait, there are a couple more senses. Vestibular. My vestibular sense is...FUCKED. My sense of balance is awful. I love vestibular-type motions like rocking and swinging and oh my God I love trampolines! I get dizzy sometimes and am basically the least coordinated person ever. I fall down a lot. I'm sort of known for falling down a lot. Which leads me to the other sense, proprioception. The sense of knowing where your body is in space, basically. I'm getting tired and there isn't much detail to go into with this...because my proprioceptive sense is pretty much just deficient. It's awful. I lose track of where my limbs are all the time, hence the tripping over my own feet and accidentally smacking myself in the face and such.

*So then there's the sleep thing. Evidently it's common for people with autism spectrum disorders to have sleep issues. I've always had sleep issues but didn't realize it was abnormal to spend an hour trying to fall asleep even when I was exhausted. Someone suggested taking melatonin supplements. I figured, shit, I'll try anything, because this is ridiculous. The first night I was asleep within 10 minutes. The first night I didn't take melatonin, I tossed and turned for an hour before realizing why I wasn't sleeping. It seems that it's common for people with autism spectrum disorders to have a melatonin deficiency. Ta-da! My brain just needs a little extra kick in the ass.

*Emotions. Mine are screwy anyway, because of the aforementioned depression (I'm also being treated for anxiety, which has improved a TON), but my difficulty with noticing intangible things makes it more interesting. I have a really hard time figuring out what I'm feeling. I can narrow it down to happy, sad, angry. Finer gradations are trickier. If I think about it I can usually pick a pretty good word, although if I am actually sad or angry my verbal skills get booted to the back burner anyway so it's even harder to think of a word. For the record, I also have a hard time identifying bodily sensations like tiredness or hunger. I think that's more of a sensory thing.

*Oh, my freakout moments. Ha. See, sometimes (often) I get overstimulated (see above) or just emotionally overwhelmed or overtired or whatever. When that happens, it's like a short-circuit in my brain. I try to refocus myself by rocking back and forth or tapping my finger against my temple or flapping my hands or flicking my fingers together...any sort of repetitive movement. People have told me that sort of thing makes me look "crazy" or "stupid" or "retarded," and while they're probably right, I don't give a shit because I need it as a coping mechanism. So there's that, and then my verbal skills go haywire and I can't find the right words for things and I get started repeating words or phrases, just as another way to calm down. I cover my ears and close my eyes, trying to block out stimulation. It's like a panic attack (I get those too) with less hyperventilation and more repetitive motion.

There's more, probably, I just can't think anymore since it's 5am. Shit, I have to be up in 4 hours. Maybe I'll just crash in the living room tonight...

No comments:

Post a Comment