Thursday, March 13, 2014

Autism and Emotions

Disclaimer: I use a lot of 'old timey' terms because when I was diagnosed and raised these were the words used. I understand now it's just a Spectrum and you fall somewhere on it like the colors in a rainbow and it's all very lovely.

There is a common misunderstanding that since most Autistic people aren't very good with displaying emotions (without appropriate therapy) that they don't experience as many or experience them as much. That, because they don't smile or scowl as frequently as other people might, that they aren't as frequently happy or angry. Truth is, for most Autistic people the opposite is true. They experience emotion on a level above that of the normal person. Think of the way other animals experience smell or hearing superior to man's -- they're the same exact senses, just more intense.

Theses are the same exact emotions, just more intense.

Sometimes emotions are so intense it's like being in a dark room and then someone turns on a really bright light. Have you ever wondered why something as simple as interrupting an Autistic person's schedule can cause such palpable distress or frustration? It's not that something so minor is such a big deal. They may even know it's not. It's that the distress they feel and perceive, is felt more. So if you have an ounce of fear, they have a whole cup. You just may not be able to see it as readily on their faces or through their actions. How to portray an emotion is, after all, an acquired skill for many HFA people. And let's not forget, if you've been trained to show it you also know how not to show it... so sometimes though it might seem the Autistic person can carry on despite how they are actually feeling, deep down they are feeling it just the same.

We've become experts at compartmentalizing.

This is probably the key to my mastery of my own emotions (secret's out). If we are desperately sad but have a deadline to meet, we'll meet it regardless. We'll package up that sorrow for later and continue on even though deep down we're already weeping. This is a thing that happens everyday for Autistic people. Perhaps it's joy instead of sadness, or anger rather than either, but we'll do our best to get through the day without letting it impact what needs to be done. This is why sometimes you may think an emotional outburst is random or out of the blue -- it's not, it's just been delayed. Hours, days, perhaps weeks, but there is a direct cause.

This has been difficult for me lately.

A combination of hormones and stress have added up so that recently my compartments have gotten a little full. I've been trying slowly but steadily to unload them but it doesn't always go so well when people don't expect you, the Vulcan master of all people, to become an emotional wreck right before their very eyes. Or when, by their perception, they don't understand how or why it is even happening. It isn't something easy to explain. Trying to is cumbersome and clumsy under ideal circumstances, and if in attempting to do so you're bombarded with yet more emotions... a meltdown is inevitable as then not only are you overwhelmed but whomever you're confessing to is undoubtedly irritated. Sometimes our only response is to shut down completely, because it's really way too much to cope with at the time.

It's like trying to add more water to a glass that's already full, with a power hose.

If I have been distant lately, this is why. If I have come to you with a complaint you hadn't expected, this is why. Believe me when I say, it's probably not particularly anything you did or didn't do and I really don't want you to fix anything. I like you just the way you are or I wouldn't have you in my life. Understand I just need to unload every now and again. So if I say something like, "I didn't like the way you ended our last email correspondence," don't feel obligated to explain why you ended it how you did, or even offer to make sure to end it better next time, or get mad because you thought you had ended it just fine. I don't want or expect any of that, I just thought, you know, you should know.

That's all.

I'm not making excuses if I've been curt or anything. I'm just explaining why that may have happened because it is a legitimate problem and I am not a perfect being.