259: Sweet Fantasy

I have a very active fantasy life. I live more inside my head than outside in the “real” world.
I am in control in my fantasy world, and no one can get me, can see me, or judge me, unless I say so. And I always look fabulous!

Outside of my fantasy world, I am vulnerable.

I create very elaborate fantasies, more often than not, about the future. It is not living in the future or goal-planning; it is living in the present and in the now, only inside my mind.

My fantasy nurtures me and fuels me. I am motivated and calmed by repeating the same scenario over and over; perhaps a conversation in which I picture the people and their exact dialogue. Often I am very aware of what I am doing, meaning I know I am fantasizing, and am an actual observer of my own behavior.

Sometimes I can live inside of my head for over an hour; basically rerunning the same images and conversation repeatedly. I start from the beginning and then do the whole thing all over again.  Kind of like being on an endless ride that loops. The fantasy could be a minute long or a few minutes long, but it is replayed so many times, that it feels much, much longer.

My emotions match the fantasy; sometimes I physically feel the fantasy. The fantasy is not typically sexual, but more than likely involves a deep emotional connection with another or an elaborate design, such as reorganizing or decorating a room.

I am coming to understand that when I have a fantasy I can turn to, whether the fantasy is a future job, vacation, friendship, or other, I do not focus on the concepts of illness and death, which are normal triggers for me in real life.

Sometimes the fantasy is of an upcoming real event. For instance, before we moved into this house I spent countless hours organizing and rearranging all of furniture and belongings into the house inside of my mind, including what went in what drawers and cabinets.

For me, I see this as a type of mental stimming, a way of relaxing and calming my whole being. I have seen people do this with words, where they have to repeat the same few sentences aloud over and over; for me, it’s the same scene over and over in silence.

When a fantasy ends, typically because a future event I’ve imagined comes to be, or because reality sets in and the fantasy no longer seems feasible, I am left unnerved and searching for cover. If my fantasy is about a person, as was common when I was in relationships when I was younger, and the person disappoints me, this is detrimental to my fantasy. If I lose a person in real life who was an active part of my fantasy life, then I feel a deep loss in all parts of me. I feel a loss of the real life relationship and I also feel a loss of the fantasy relationship. Always, without fail, the loss of the fantasy is harder than the loss of the real person. I mourn over the images I created in my mind, and who I made the person to be in my mind. I then might confuse the fantasy person with the real person, inflating a person’s image. I do not mourn over aspects of the real person as much; except in unusual circumstances, perhaps after a very close connection or a long time together.

I mourn over what could be more than what was. In fact, I could feasibly mourn over what could have been for years after a romantic breakup. A part of me believes the fantasy was attainable and very real. A part of me knows it was not realistically ever going to happen and that I would have been miserable. But the fantasy-seeking part of me typically wins out, creating havoc and heartache.

The worst type of fantasy involves death and illness, in which the worst-case scenario plays out in my mind, over and over again. I slip into that illness/death fantasy-type when I don’t have a more positive fantasy to focus on, when I am under extreme stress, and sometimes when someone else is sick and I pick up on their stress.

Another reason I fantasize is to avoid the stimulation of the environment. I often have sensory overload where the sights, sounds, smells, and textures are putting me into overdrive. Inside my fantasy world I can momentarily forget where I am and what is happening. In addition I can forget my physical pain or pending unnerving plans or upcoming events.

I can be engaged in a conversation, and like a robot turn on “standard communication mode for humanoids” and still be deeply involved in my fantasy. I will nod when appropriate, smile, make occasional contact, and come up with reaffirming and validating statements, or perhaps a question, yet still be in my fantasy world.

I don’t see this as rude. I see this as necessary. I liken this process as me entering an oxygen chamber ever so often so I can continue to breathe, and if I don’t enter I will die. If someone wants to talk to me while I’m am rejuvenating my very breath, then so be it, but I cannot stop rejuvenating to give focus to a current predicament or circumstance. I do not view this is selfish or uncaring. I care and love people, and value them enough to want to listen. There are simply just times I cannot be entirely there.

Conversation alone is often too sensory overloading for me. Not only do I have the nonstop chatter in my head telling me how to act and what to say, but I also question if I’ve done the communicating job right; all the while reminding and critiquing myself inside my head. I’ve done away with the critical voice, thank goodness, by the expert coaches and evaluators are up in the bleachers shouting their observations. Take that along with the feel of where I am sitting, e.g., hardness/softness of chair, temperature of room, humming noises from electricity or fridge, clicking clocks, children talking, music playing, air fresheners, and the feel of my own body (pain, taste in mouth, tightness, cramps, etc.) and I am struggling stupendously just to remain inside my body. Add following the conversation so I can reply in the appropriate way, and I’m ready to collapse.

Plus, I always have this little voice in side my head that says, “Boring. Can I talk now?”

I know it’s rude, and I am not more important than the person talking, and what I have to say is likely boring, too. But I feel so much better when I am talking aloud, because I can process so much, and relieve so much tension. And when someone else besides me is talking, her voice and tone and pitch and ways are likely hurting my ears and adding to my inability to pay attention. In addition, besides monitoring my own self and communication skills, I am monitoring the other person’s skills, and noticing miniscule “flaws” both in communication skills and in physical attributes. Even the tiny hair on that freckle can distract me for a full minute. Then I have to come back and figure out what the person was saying before I was pulled into a freckle. Then I worry about his or her expectations and if I am a good enough friend or listener. And then I wonder, over and over: are you this distracted and bored when I talk to you?

In addition, each word a person says triggers an avenue of feelings and possible alternative avenues for me.

For example, at mention of dog, inside my mind this might happen: Did you say dog? Oh Scooby; I miss my dog Scooby; have I told you Scooby died. Why did he die? Maybe it was……Oh no! She is still talking and I missed most of what she just said. Should I tell her or just nod? If I nod is that lying. I should remind her I have Aspergers. Or maybe I should just pretend.”

That’s just one word. Typically a conversation has much more than one word.

That is why online communication is better for me. I can forgo a huge section of people pleasing. I can pause when I want to, skip sentences, reread for clarity, and take a long time to process information. Heck, I can ignore the person, go grab something to eat, and come back later. I can even scratch, fidget, or even doodle or work on something else, and the person isn’t offended at all!

In person, I concentrate better in conversation, if I can draw or listen to music or look at my computer or do the dishes or walk. I don’t want to try to give my full attention. I slip away too fast when I try to give my full attention.

I dislike when my husband comes up to me to tell me about his day, if I’m not in the place to listen. I might need more time to process something, to listen to music, to slip into my fantasy world or to write things out, before I can actively listen. Otherwise, I too quickly slip back into my own thoughts and barely hear the first sentence spoken.

This can be hard on him, as he feels rejected, ignored, or unloved. But I really cannot help it. I need my oxygen chamber. I just do.

My easiest moments are with my middle son who has Aspergers. We get each other to a degree people without ASD cannot. On our walks he will say to me: “I will likely talk a lot about video games, and probably repeat the same things over and over, and you might be bored, but I need to talk, and you don’t have to listen to everything.”

As he is talking, he doesn’t check in to see if I’m paying attention. Pretty much whatever I do, my son will keep chirping away, unnerved and unbothered. At home I can turn my back to him and do the dishes while he talks, giving him no validation and not engaging at all, and he still talks. He doesn’t care. He just needs to get it all out. He understands this, and I am happy to be available for him, even if I’m only catching the bare bones of what he has said.

Sometimes I think people demand too much in communication. They expect someone to be their everything, to validate not only what they are saying but also their worth and existence as human beings. It’s all wrapped up in confusing innuendos and masked self-doubt.

For me, it is easier, if someone is just really honest and speaks from the heart (for example): “I think I’m ugly and unlovable, will you tell me you love me and I’m pretty,” instead of rambling on and on with only hints of inner turmoil.

Like I said, I get bored; especially of boundless surface talk, when the heart longs to speak.

I don’t get bored with deep philosophical conversation or conversation filled with emotion and fantastic news, only with the dull mundane. I really don’t like to hear a review of someone’s day, unless there is something of importance or something I can help with. I don’t mind listening. I’ll listen for a long, long time. I just will check out and back in again.

Of course there are times I can truly hyper-focus on someone, especially when he or she is in need. I will do my very best and likely pick up most of the conversation, but the cost will be utter exhaustion. Last time I was a listener to a friend for an hour on the phone, I spent the entire next day in bed. It’s more than the words, it’s the energy of the person, too.

It’s a paradox and a half, as I long to be listened to and understood, but lack the skills most time to reciprocate. That is why writing is so very necessary and vital for me. I can write and write and not have to loop in my head or ask someone to listen to me.

I’d like to say I’ve grown a lot as a communicator, and really enjoy someone’s company, but the truth is, even when I’m with someone in person, I’m still inside my head 80% of the time. I think this is why Aspies are naturally drawn to other Aspies as mates. There is an unspoken acceptance of one another as is and a forgoing of all the typical social standards, and this creates an environment of rest and retreat.

~~~~

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Day 113: Goodbye Dead Man’s Beach

Goodbye Dead Man’s Beach

In the late spring of a bitter windy day, I wiped the grits of sand from my face and stared down below to the foggy beach. This would be the first time I’d see flaccid bodies all lined up in a row, bloated and an almost-blue.  I hadn’t wanted to watch or even glance a little.  I’d wished to run away or at least close my eyes, but I had to see.  This was another coming of a dream.  Some seven days had passed, seven long days of waiting and wondering who would drown.  I knew enough from my past and the way my dreams played out to realize death would be arriving on a Saturday—on a cold, cold Saturday.

I wondered as the workers desperately pressed and pumped on the already dying flesh, why life, or God, or whatever essence gave me these glimpses of future events, wouldn’t also go one step further and allow me to serve some purpose and exist as more than a detached helpless onlooker.   Had I had a magic button to stop the dreams, I thought at the time I would have.  But then I thought I would have missed the dreams in the way I would have missed my arm, or leg, or eye; the dreams were so much a part of me, a needed part, something I’d been born with which had served me in some sense; even though I couldn’t comprehend the reason, even though I cursed the visions and the following reality, I knew enough, innately or perhaps spiritually, to know the dreams were necessary.

The dreams would serve a higher purpose someday, I was told.  Not directly, but in whispers, gentle reminders to be patient, to be watchful, and to wait.  I would cry then, in my teens, in the same way I cry now, when the weight of the world is so heavy upon my shoulders that I wish for nothing but silence and the unknowing, to be like the mother across the street satisfied with her scrapbooking and classroom volunteering, and yearning for nothing more than the simple.

That’s what I longed for:  the sweet simple.

Those dead bodies below on the beach had been a family, the emptied vessels now covered in black bags on the sands below had been minutes before living tourists who hadn’t heeded the warnings posted at Dead Man’s Beach about the dangers of the ocean currents and under-tow.  One boy had fallen in off the rocks, and in response, each family member had leapt to their own death.

I have been terrified of the ocean, ever since the tragedy at Dead Man’s Beach. Add this to the horrific flesh-eating fish dreams I’ve had since I was three, and the time my mother’s boyfriend saw a shark take a chunk out of his best friend. (His friend died.) And I’ve been able to justify not going in the ocean for about twenty-five years.

Yesterday, I overcame my great fear of the sea. As I paddled out into the ocean on my surfboard, I was terrified. I trembled. I almost cried. I almost turned back. But I paddled onward.

I wasn’t planning on surfing at all while visiting Maui. But there I was, regardless of all my fears and misgivings, flat on my belly, in a borrowed, rather-stinky surf shirt, paddling over the waves. And I got up on my surfboard, not once, but at least five times and rode the waves.

They may have looked like little waves to the observer. But to me they were the biggest darn waves of my life.

I’ve realized I have spent much of my forty-some years living on my own Dead Man’s Beach. I’ve been counting my days. Worrying about lurking dangers. Terrified to be happy.

This evening, as I sat in a local bar having yet another fruity rum drink (a new thing for me), the musician played Here Comes the Sun, and I was brought back to a summer day in Oregon, when at the age of nine I was riding in the back of a pickup truck listening to that song. I remember at that age I had an intense feeling of happiness and freedom. It was one of the last times I remember feeling so elated.

Yesterday, when I rode the waves, I returned to that sunny day in the back of the truck. I walked off of Dead Man’s Beach and I found my sun again.

A wise man once told me that he asks everyday: “How can life get any better?”

Day 62: Females with Asperger’s Syndrome (Non-Official) Checklist

THIS BLOG EVERYDAY ASPERGER’S BY SAMANTHA CRAFT IS RETIRED. HER NEW BLOG CAN BE FOUND AT EVERYDAY ASPIE AND HER COMPANY WEBSITE AT MYSPECTRUMSUITE.COM  THANK YOU FOR THE COMMUNITY AND SUPPORT YOU HAVE OFFERED THROUGH THE YEARS.

Sam’s new book is here!

Females with Aspergers Non-Official Checklist

By Samantha Craft of Everyday Asperger’s, March 2012

Everyday Aspergers to be a book in 2016. Join our Facebook Clan. 🙂 

This is a non-official checklist created by an adult female with Asperger’s Syndrome who has a son with Asperger’s Syndrome. Samantha Craft holds a Masters Degree in Education. Samantha Craft does not hold a doctorate in Psychiatry or Psychology. She has a life-credential as a result of being a female with Asperger’s Syndrome and being a parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome. She has created this list in an effort to assist mental health professionals in recognizing Asperger’s Syndrome in females.

Suggested Use: Check off all areas that strongly apply to the person. If each area has 75%-80% of the statements checked, or more, then you may want to consider that the female may have Asperger’s Syndrome.

Section A: Deep Thinkers

1. A deep thinker

2. A prolific writer drawn to poetry

3. Highly intelligent

4. Sees things at multiple levels including thinking processes.

5. Analyzes existence, the meaning of life, and everything continually.

6. Serious and matter-of-fact in nature.

7. Doesn’t take things for granted.

8. Doesn’t simplify.

9. Everything is complex.

10. Often gets lost in own thoughts and “checks out.” (blank stare)

Section B: Innocent

1. Naïve

2. Honest

3. Experiences trouble with lying.

4. Finds it difficult to understand manipulation and disloyalty.

5. Finds it difficult to understand vindictive behavior and retaliation.

6. Easily fooled and conned.

7. Feelings of confusion and being overwhelmed

8. Feelings of being misplaced and/or from another planet

9. Feelings of isolation

10. Abused or taken advantage of as a child but didn’t think to tell anyone.

Section C: Escape and Friendship

1. Survives overwhelming emotions and senses by escaping in thought or action.

2. Escapes regularly through fixations, obsessions, and over-interest in subjects.

3. Escapes routinely through imagination, fantasy, and daydreaming.

4. Escapes through mental processing.

5. Escapes through the rhythm of words.

6. Philosophizes continually.

7. Had imaginary friends in youth.

8. Imitates people on television or in movies.

9. Treated friends as “pawns” in youth, e.g., friends were “students,” “consumers,” “soldiers.”

10. Makes friends with older or younger females.

11. Imitates friends or peers in style, dress, and manner.

12. Obsessively collects and organizes objects.

13. Mastered imitation.

14. Escapes by playing the same music over and over.

15. Escapes through a relationship (imagined or real).

16. Numbers bring ease.

17. Escapes through counting, categorizing, organizing, rearranging.

18. Escapes into other rooms at parties.

19. Cannot relax or rest without many thoughts.

20. Everything has a purpose.

Section D: Comorbid Attributes

1. OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

2. Sensory Issues (sight, sound, texture, smells, taste)

3. Generalized Anxiety

4. Sense of pending danger or doom

5. Feelings of polar extremes (depressed/over-joyed; inconsiderate/over-sensitive)

6. Poor muscle tone, double-jointed, and/or lack in coordination

7. Eating disorders, food obsessions, and/or worry about what is eaten.

8. Irritable bowel and/or intestinal issues

9. Chronic fatigue and/or immune challenges

10. Misdiagnosed or diagnosed with other mental illness and/or labeled hypochondriac.

11. Questions place in the world.

12. Often drops small objects

13. Wonders who she is and what is expected of her.

14. Searches for right and wrong.

15. Since puberty, has had bouts of depression.

16. Flicks/rubs fingernails, flaps hands, rubs hands together, tucks hands under or between legs, keeps closed fists, and/or clears throat often.

Section E: Social Interaction

1. Friends have ended friendship suddenly and without person understanding why.

2. Tendency to over-share.

3. Spills intimate details to strangers.

4. Raised hand too much in class or didn’t participate in class.

5. Little impulse control with speaking when younger.

6. Monopolizes conversation at times.

7. Bring subject back to self.

8. Comes across at times as narcissistic and controlling. (Is not narcissistic.)

9. Shares in order to reach out.

10. Sounds eager and over-zealous at times.

11. Holds a lot of thoughts, ideas, and feelings inside.

12. Feels as if she is attempting to communicate “correctly.”

13. Obsesses about the potentiality of a relationship with someone, particularly a love interest.

14. Confused by the rules of accurate eye contact, tone of voice, proximity of body, stance, and posture in conversation.

15. Conversation can be exhausting.

16. Questions the actions and behaviors of self and others, continually.

17. Feels as if missing a conversation “gene” or thought-“filter”

18. Trained self in social interactions through readings and studying of other people.

19. Visualizes and practices how she will act around others.

20. Practices in mind what she will say to another before entering the room.

21. Difficulty filtering out background noise when talking to others.

22. Has a continuous dialogue in mind that tells her what to say and how to act when in a social situations.

23. Sense of humor sometimes seems quirky, odd, or different from others.

24. As a child, it was hard to know when it was her turn to talk.

25. She finds norms of conversation confusing.

Section F: Finds Refuge when Alone

1. Feels extreme relief when she doesn’t have to go anywhere, talk to anyone, answer calls, or leave the house.

2. One visitor at the home may be perceived as a threat.

3. Knowing logically a house visitor is not a threat, doesn’t relieve the anxiety.

4. Feelings of dread about upcoming events and appointments on the calendar.

5. Knowing she has to leave the house causes anxiety from the moment she wakes up.

6. All the steps involved in leaving the house are overwhelming and exhausting to think about.

7. She prepares herself mentally for outings, excursions, meetings, and appointments.

8. Question next steps and movements continually.

9. Telling self the “right” words and/or positive self-talk doesn’t often alleviate anxiety.

10. Knowing she is staying home all day brings great peace of mind.

11. Requires a large amount of down time or alone time.

12. Feels guilty after spending a lot of time on a special interest.

13. Uncomfortable in public locker rooms, bathrooms, and/or dressing rooms.

14. Dislikes being in a crowded mall, crowded gym, or crowded theater.

Section G: Sensitive

1. Sensitive to sounds, textures, temperature, and/or smells when trying to sleep.

2. Adjusts bedclothes, bedding, and/or environment in an attempt to find comfort.

3. Dreams are anxiety-ridden, vivid, complex, and/or precognitive in nature.

4. Highly intuitive to others’ feelings.

5. Takes criticism to heart.

6. Longs to be seen, heard, and understood.

7. Questions if she is a “normal” person.

8. Highly susceptible to outsiders’ viewpoints and opinions.

9. At times adapts her view of life or actions based on others’ opinions or words.

10. Recognizes own limitations in many areas daily.

11. Becomes hurt when others question or doubt her work.

12. Views many things as an extension of self.

13. Fears others opinions, criticism, and judgment.

14. Dislikes words and events that hurt animals and people.

15. Collects or rescues animals. (often in childhood)

16. Huge compassion for suffering.

17. Sensitive to substances. (environmental toxins, foods, alcohol, etc.)

18. Tries to help, offers unsolicited advice, or formalizes plans of action.

19. Questions life purpose and how to be a “better” person.

20. Seeks to understand abilities, skills, and/or gifts.

Section H: Sense of Self

1. Feels trapped between wanting to be herself and wanting to fit in.

2. Imitates others without realizing.

3. Suppresses true wishes.

4. Exhibits codependent behaviors.

5. Adapts self in order to avoid ridicule.

6.  Rejects social norms and/or questions social norms.

7. Feelings of extreme isolation.

8. Feeling good about self takes a lot of effort and work.

9. Switches preferences based on environment and other people.

10. Switches behavior based on environment and other people.

11. Didn’t care about her hygiene, clothes, and appearance before teenage years and/or before someone else pointed these out to her.

12. “Freaks out” but doesn’t know why until later.

13. Young sounding voice

14. Trouble recognizing what she looks like and/or has occurrences of slight prosopagnosia (difficulty recognizing or remembering faces).

Section I: Confusion

1. Had a hard time learning others are not always honest.

2. Feelings seem confusing, illogical, and unpredictable. (self’s and others’)

3.  Confuses appointment times, numbers, or dates.

4. Expects that by acting a certain way certain results can be achieved, but realizes in dealing with emotions, those results don’t always manifest.

5. Spoke frankly and literally in youth.

6. Jokes go over the head.

7. Confused when others ostracize, shun, belittle, trick, and betray.

8. Trouble identifying feelings unless they are extreme.

9. Trouble with emotions of hate and dislike.

10. Feels sorry for someone who has persecuted or hurt her.

11. Personal feelings of anger, outrage, deep love, fear, giddiness, and anticipation seem to be easier to identify than emotions of joy, satisfaction, calmness, and serenity.

12. Situations and conversations sometimes perceived as black or white.

13. The middle spectrum of outcomes, events, and emotions is sometimes overlooked or misunderstood. (All or nothing mentality)

14. A small fight might signal the end of a relationship or collapse of world.

15. A small compliment might boost her into a state of bliss.

Section J: Words and Patterns

1. Likes to know word origins.

2. Confused when there is more than one meaning to a word.

3. High interest in songs and song lyrics.

4. Notices patterns frequently.

5. Remembers things in visual pictures.

6. Remembers exact details about someone’s life.

7. Has a remarkable memory for certain details.

8. Writes or creates to relieve anxiety.

9. Has certain “feelings” or emotions towards words.

10. Words bring a sense of comfort and peace, akin to a friendship.

(Optional) Executive Functioning   This area isn’t always as evident as other areas

1. Simple tasks can cause extreme hardship.

2. Learning to drive a car or rounding the corner in a hallway can be troublesome.

3. New places offer their own set of challenges.

4. Anything that requires a reasonable amount of steps, dexterity, or know-how can rouse a sense of panic.

5. The thought of repairing, fixing, or locating something can cause anxiety.

6. Mundane tasks are avoided.

7. Cleaning may seem insurmountable at times.

8. Many questions come to mind when setting about to do a task.

9. Might leave the house with mismatched socks, shirt buttoned incorrectly, and/or have dyslexia.

10. A trip to the grocery store can be overwhelming.

11. Trouble copying dance steps, aerobic moves, or direction in a sports gym class.

12. Has a hard time finding certain objects in the house, but remembers with exact clarity where other objects are.

This list was compiled after nine years of readings, research, and experience associated with Asperger’s Syndrome. More information can be found at https://aspergersgirls.wordpress.com © Everyday Aspergers, 2012 This non-official checklist can be printed for therapists, counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, professors, teachers, and relatives, if Samantha Craft’s name and contact information remain on the print out.

Other Useful Links by Sam Craft:

116 Reasons I Know I have Aspergers

Another Important List of Traits 

1o Myths About Females With Aspergers