Balancing the World; thoughts on leadership and autism

My entire life, like many on the autism spectrum, I have oftentimes been misjudged, misinterpreted, and misunderstood. When I finally, after over four decades on this earth, located individuals with like minds, I was overcome with mixed emotions. I’d finally found “my people” and at the same time lost a piece of myself that I thought was extremely different. Lost in the sense that I came to realize, after conversing with other autistics, that I wasn’t so different and “unique” after all. However, this was okay—extremely okay. Finding a home base community in which I was at last understood, accepted, and supported far out weighed any sense of loss of elements of self.

Four-plus years later, after an outpour of online writing, and I am navigating another aspect of my journey. I am entering another unfamiliar zone—a place of no predictability. I am facing a wide-open space of new people and new encounters. In addition, I am trying my best to maneuver in rarely frequented territory: that of an autistic leader.

Autism, in my case Asperger’s Syndrome, comes in all shapes and sizes, multiple colors of the rainbow. It is truly a spectrum. With autism, there are the typical “gifts” and tribulations. For me, the beneficial attributes of my ASD are profound empathy and insight, prolific writing, poetry, and the ability to put into words my suffering in a way others can understand. In this way, I am able to make the loneliness of some less of a burden, and I have been able to serve as a sort of gateway into a supportive community of other autistics. A community in which we find ourselves in one another. I don’t say this lightly. There have been streams of individuals filtering through the pages of my blogs and social media pages to essentially say that they now have at last found hope—and some a reason to not end their life. I don’t say this to brag, either. Those that have known me, know my heart, and it is for them I speak.

The trouble today is not so much my tribulations related to ASD, such as peak moments of heightened anxiety, bombardments of feelings that at first look are hard to decipher, the jarring reminders every hour of my waking day that I am somehow not built like most others, the intense heartache and lack of breath from searing pangs of empathy, and the worries brought on by my minds ability to steer off into complex, multi-level corridors of discovery. No, it’s not so much in that—though “that” still consumes me. More over, it is this new place I find myself, in where I am exposed.

I am a natural born leader; I always have been, despite my own qualms and misgivings. Despite my protest. Despite my quirks and challenges. Overall, I tend to end up as a voice of some sort–usually for the downcast or underdog. And it’s not amongst my favorite of tasks—this speaking up for myself and others. Indeed, it would be fair to say, I dread many moments beyond the comfort of my home. Still, there are mornings of great hope and gratitude for my ability to reach out, and with this comes waves of great peace; but there, on the other end of the pendulum, is the bareness of naked vulnerability, the removal of shield, the entranceway for stinging spears. There, in the darker zone, lives my fear and weakness, and the very brittle fight to survive exposure. For I’m not the average person, I’m not made the way of the masses. I am very much, despite where I stand, still autistic.

I am hurt daily, by my own accord, by the acceptance of others’ truths as mine. By the energy it takes to abstract and remove everything that doesn’t ring true to me. And to then wade through the muck of others’ ideas, input, feelings, insights—and on an on—to hopefully decipher what is valid and necessary at this time. I am not only balancing myself, which those on the spectrum readily know is a gallant effort, I am also balancing everyone within my reach. In this way, it is hard to be outside exposed in the “real” world.

It is especially challenging when outsiders (who do not know me and often see a reflection of their own self) try to pin their tail of identity onto me. I feel smothered, unrecognized, and brought back to the bastardized halls of my high school years. Brought back to the pettiness, the name-calling, the finger pointing, and relive the nightmares over again. It is equally difficult when another, particularly in the autistic community, starts proclaiming how I should tailor my words to suit their needs—the current societal trends—the current “right way.” To see this conglomeration of “do-gooders” with supposed good intention in mind, attempt to steer me into what is the most well accepted approach of the day is excruciatingly exhausting.

I can only be so much. I can only do so much. And I don’t understand why my own tribe would not see this. They forget that I am autistic. They forget how dreadfully scary this is. How frightening to attempt to build a bridge from the autistic world to the non-autistic world, and to appear “normal” enough in the typical arena to be heard and listened to, and “autistic” enough to be trusted in my own community. It is a fine balancing act in which I am continually on a high wire with a long heavy pole. Constantly pushed off balance while attempting to get to the other side to the unknown. I am walking step-by-step toward something that is neither a goal nor destiny, but rather a calling. I am serving, I am giving, I am loving, I am supporting, I am being my all. Yet no matter how I struggle, no matter where I step, to some, as is this world—it is never enough.

 

(I normally post at my blog Everyday Aspie, but my WordPress options were not working accurately there today.)

 

Sam’s book Everyday Aspergers is now available internationally on Amazon.

More information can be found at her company: myspectrumsuite.com

538: Assumption Junction… the truth of my Aspie words

People who don’t know me well, and some who do, sometimes jump to conclusions and assume things about my intention and motivation behind my writing that aren’t necessarily true. I write to write. It’s largely a processing mechanism.

The problem is that who ever is reading my words will interpret said writing based on his or her own opinions and prior knowledge. In other words, if someone is naturally confrontational then the chances of this same person thinking I am being confrontational in my writing is high. Or the opposite might be true, where a confrontational person might make a judgment call that I am weak because I am not displaying a countering personality. Wherein I might be explaining something for a thousand different strands of reasons, all of which pop in and out of my head through the process of scribing, he or she will make an abrupt conclusion about my intentions that includes perhaps two or three primary reasons (again, based on his or her experience). The worst part of it is when this said party then turns and suggests he/she knows what I was trying to say and why I was trying to say it. When truth be told, I have already played over in my busy mind a hundred times why I said what I said, how I said it, and why I said it.

People don’t often know how long I take to write a response. When I am dealing with an out-of-my-comfort-zone response to someone, for example via email or instant messaging to someone who I do not have a close relationship with about a subject I deem important, I take a very long time to write, upwards to an hour for revisions, rewriting, rewording, reworking, and rereading. I stim through the editing process itself to calm my anxiety over the situation. If I am triggered, particularly by what I interpret as an injustice towards another, it takes me even more time to write. What is difficult then is when I am accused by another to have written something in haste, without thought, at length, or without consideration to the audience or the communication rules of some company or organization. It is hard to digest this type of assumption because nothing is further from the truth. The receiver does not understand that I have painstakingly relived scenario after scenario of possible outcomes of how my words might be interpreted. That I have tried my hardest to follow any rules of communication. That I have pushed myself to shorten all I want and feel the need to say. That I have left out more than 75% of what is really on my mind, and sometimes much more than that.

In example of the revision process, I will write a sentence and then imagine the person/audience reading my words. I then evaluate their potential reaction and adjust in hopes of causing the least amount of miscommunication. It’s not about people-pleasing or avoiding conflict, it’s more so conveying my truth as I see it in the most gentle and kind way (and rule-following way) as possible. To do this I switch around words, I alter adjectives, I choose new phrases, and I clarify repeatedly through transposing my words and readjusting. A draft will be rewritten more times than I can count, and large sections deleted, redone, and deleted again. It never seems to be right enough. Not in a perfectionist way, but in a ‘this is my heart’ way.

I discern ahead of time feasible misgivings or upset on the upcoming reader’s part. This process is exhausting at all levels and causes physical and emotional pain. The most troublesome hurt follows if and when the intended recipient responds in one of the many non-constructive ways I had foreseen him/her responding, and then I see all my efforts were for naught.

People think that the length of my writing equates debate, that length = ego, that length = confusion, that length = selfishness, that length = not caring about the recipient, that length = non-professionalism, etc. etc. I don’t write at length to get my point across or to prove something. Once again, I write to clarify my inner workings and to let the person know my intentions fully. If a part of information isn’t shared that I believe at the time is a pertinent piece of the subject at hand I feel as if I am being deceitful, even as I logically know that by definition I am not. No amount of reasoning fixes this.

I over explain myself in written word as much as I do in spoken word. Particularly when emotionally triggered. And such triggers can come from a variety of sources, especially from others’ behaviors that are not privy to the autistic experience. With all my spiritual studies and practices, a part of me would like to say I am ‘above/ being triggered, but that’s hogwash. I am neurologically wired to be more prone to fight-or-flight responses. (And in my case biologically/physically wired that way, as well.) So, I accept that I get triggered.

It is cumbersome and downright dangerous for me to write (without a lot of editing) after I have been triggered. I cannot help but let some of the emotional upset leak through. As much as I try to pamper and sugar coat the words, this ache of being triggered comes out. And then, even with careful revision, the trigger leaks through. In response, I am evaluated based on the characteristics of my writing. I am labeled emotional, reactive, too concerned, too sensitive, etc. This adds to the initial trigger, and to the continual compounded feelings of being misunderstood and misinterpreted throughout my life. Thus is the prospect of such an invisible disability when held by a person that primarily seems to function at a high-level of ‘normalcy.’

People with autism usually get me. And I in turn get them. I am the first to smile when someone sends me a very long online message. Usually the person is apologizing ahead of time for what they label a ‘rambling.’ And usually I am skimming some of it and finding the golden nuggets of what was written. I get it. I am the same way. I am going on and on about a particular subject whilst at the same time stepping back and observing myself and thinking: Why am I doing this? Sorry! Still, I do it. I process and I stim through words.

I can go through periods of purposeful semi-muteness, wherein I try not to talk at length to anyone. I am mad at myself and the world at that point. And don’t think I can function unless I change who I am, at least outwardly. Usually this state by nature turns me into some type of hermit, where I am only talking to maybe one person I know. It’s the way I retreat and I guess hide from the world. When I have had enough of me and I believe the world has had enough of me, I burrow like a wounded animal licking my wounds and punishing myself for having any form of self-pity and the brain I do. Not long after I come out of it and I am a babbling brook once again.

People who are wired like me understand. They know the ebb and flow of being this self. They know that even we get tired of the non-stop jabber and thoughts and processing. And they, for the most part, accept me unconditionally, with so-called flaws and all. It’s the others that just don’t get it whom I have a difficult time repeatedly associating with.

It’s like this, supposing I am blind. I use a different form of communication. It’s not typical. It’s not traditional. And it’s accepted. After all you can readily observe I am blind.

And then it’s like this: I have autism. I use a different form of communication. It’s not typical. It’s not traditional. And it’s not accepted. After all you can’t readily observe my disability and I should be able to change. I can adjust. I can conform. I can just communicate like you do. Follow the rules and protocol. And if I cannot, then I must be inconsiderate, impossible to train, or stubborn.

But it’s not that way. It’s just not. I cannot adapt without modifications and understanding, anymore than the person with a visible disability can. If I was an amputee, I wouldn’t be able to grow legs. If I was deaf, my speech would be affected. If I have autism, my brain is different. It doesn’t just change based on suggestion. It’s an impossibility.

Sam’s book Everyday Aspergers is now available internationally on Amazon.

More information can be found at her company: myspectrumsuite.com

533: Interviewing Autistic Individuals

 

Unknown-1

1. When being interviewed for a potential job, adults on the autistic spectrum may appear as one of two extremes: 1) overly confident with an almost false persona or 2) extremely nervous and apologetic.

*
2. Rarely, during an interview, is an autistic jobseeker feeling at ease and content, and able to present a comfortable version of self. This is not an attempt to fool or falsify self, but instead an effort to try to blend in and be part of the ‘norm.’

*
3. Without a clear guidelines of how to act in a specific role, in this case as interviewee, the an autistic can present as anxious, tense, aloof, frightened or extremely nervous.

*
4. Partaking in an interview can cause extreme stress for days before the interview. The interview process will more likely than not be over-thought and imagined repeatedly, with multiple outcomes and scenarios. The candidate on the spectrum will typically relive the actual interview itself, repeatedly after the event.

*
5. What might appear as a simple ‘not a fit’ or ‘no thank you,’ to the hiring agent, can be devastatingly crushing to a person with autism. It’s common to obsess over the reasons for failure and to catastrophize the outcome, incorporating all-or-nothing thinking, and self-torture, in the form of repetitive, obsessive thoughts regarding the ‘whys’ and ‘what ifs.’

*
6. During the hiring process the autistic job candidate might be set at ease with (kind) frankness, direct instructions, consistent reassurance, and clear expectations and goals. While such measures might seem as special treatment or deemed as ‘making exceptions,’ when given the fact that autism is primarily centered on social and communication challenges, taking such measures to decrease social anxiety ought to be considered an essential priority in recruitment.

*
7. Knowing exact timelines and being exposed to consistent correspondence can alleviate all candidates’ stress levels, but this is particularly true for people on the spectrum. The sense of unpredictability and not-knowing can overcome and consume a person with autism; and this consumption will directly affect their relations with others and behavior, until resolved. In addition, sudden time changes, tardiness, and rescheduling, on the company’s part, can lead to candidates experiencing increased stress levels, panic, and nervousness.

*
8. Before an interview, some candidates on the spectrum will create scenarios in their mind of failure and miscommunication, and have fear of not being able to express their true intentions and true self. They often have a fear of not appearing genuine and honest enough.

*
9. Oftentimes, the autistic job candidate will want to be seen, heard and understood; as is such, it is commonplace for an jobseeker to provide information that the interviewer many not deem appropriate, necessary, or beneficial. Most autistics will in fact share thoughts and insights to their own detriment, unable to stop the need to be transparent and forthcoming. While the hiring agent might find this transparency refreshing or curious, the candidate will often feel baffled and embarrassed by their own actions, thinking, once again, they have revealed too much and not followed the ‘correct’ rules.

*
10. The autistic job candidate will likely wish to have a chance to process with the interviewer as soon as possible to know exactly and specifically ways to improve presentation. For this reason, in some cases, if opportunity allows, the candidate will benefit from careful explanation regarding the reasons why they weren’t hired or considered for further recruitment.

*
11. As individuals on the spectrum have coexisting conditions such as OCD, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress, and aforementioned patterns of thinking that create a type of self-badgering, it is vital for the recruitment team members to be sensitive to the possible detrimental consequences of the interview process. They simply are not going to respond like typical candidates. What might take a typical person a week to overcome, might take the autistic person years. Often events, particularly those that create a sense of failure, become ingrained in the psyche of a person on the spectrum for a lifetime. While it is impossible for companies to take measures to consistently provide potential candidates reassuring feedback after an interview, it is plausible that interviewers be trained in measures to take to prevent further trauma.

*
12. Some autistics will have little to no trouble expressing self in various communication venues. But the large majority will have specific triggers to communication that can bring on various outcomes, including panic attacks, insomnia, inconsolable anxiety, and nonstop, rapid thinking.

*
13. While the autistic individual is interviewing, they will often be acutely self-aware and preoccupied by their own nervousness and internal coaching, and be simultaneously experiencing two conversations at once—one that is shared aloud between the interviewer and interviewee, and one that is an ongoing internal dialogue. Often the internal voice will overshadow the external conversation and, as a result, gaps of time in the interview will be lost. What might appear as being not being present or distracted, is typically the individual attempting to balance the internal voice with the external conversation. It is suitable and advisable for the interviewer to provide ample time for restating questions, reassuring statements, and redirecting the candidate with ideas and positive input.

*
14. Candidates on the spectrum will sometimes panic with open-ended questions, as most are very quick thinkers, able to connect information at rapid speed and reach multiple conclusions in a matter of seconds. While deliberating over a question, the candidate is also contemplating about what the interviewer expects, wants, and is hinting at. The more specific and direct a question, the better.

*
15. Some candidates will give quick, short, abrupt answers and be mistaken for non-personable and not forthcoming; while others will overstate, be long-winded and go ‘on and on.’ This tendency for oversharing, or being short in response, will also be present in written documents, such as resumes. It is difficult for a person on the spectrum to judge when written word and spoken word is deemed ‘enough.’ Efforts to clarify, probe, and retrieve more ‘substantial’ information might cause further panic.

*
16. In most cases, people on the spectrum communicate better in written form with time to process, rethink, and edit thoughts and ideas, than spoken form. When possible, some type of written assessment ought to be utilized during recruitment screening, such as an essay or instant messaging service.

*
17. Autistics are used to being judged, ridiculed, and told how to fix their behavior. People on the spectrum are often subjected to unsolicited advice, tips, and direction their whole lives. It is best not to offer assistance or help, or a point of view, unless asked.

*

sam

This post was revised in the summer of 2017. 

Sam’s new book Autism in a Briefcase: A leading edge tool for putting diversity into action is coming soon!

Written by founder of myspectrumsuite.com  Samantha Craft (aka Marcelle Ciampi), M.Ed. is the mother of three boys, one adult son who is on the autism spectrum. She is the senior job recruiter for ULTRA Testing, an autism educator, the author of the blog and book Everyday Aspergers, and is active in autism groups locally and globally. Samantha serves as a guest speaker, workshop presenter, curriculum developer, neurodiversity recruitment specialist, and more. She is working on her second book Autism in a Briefcase, written to provide insight to employers and agencies about the neurodiverse talent pool. A former schoolteacher and advocate for children with exceptional needs, she appreciates the skills and talents of autistic individuals. Diagnosed with Aspergers in 2012, she enjoys the arts, writing, movies, travel, and connecting with others. (More people know Sam by Sam because it’s her community pen name.) see myspectrumsuite.com for more information.

531: The Balance Beam

I have a hard time giving to me. It’s not about esteem, as far as I can logically decipher. Nor is it about being selfless or completely altruistic; though I strive for those ideals, I highly doubt they’re attainable in my human suit.

I have a hard time feeling my achievements and accomplishments. It’s not that I don’t take note of my hard work and efforts, and even the path I climbed, (or sometimes slid down rapidly screaming for help), to get there.

More over, I don’t think I have the capacity to feel, essentially, who I am.

I can see that I am intelligent, kind, and for the most part understanding and forgiving. I recognize what could be quantified as a kind of ‘goodness’ in me, and even an over-riding sense of wanting to serve to serve and not to gain approval. I get all this about me. I see it. I recognize. But somehow I can’t feel the experience.

I don’t know if one would call it a sense of pride or fulfillment, or other abundant amounts of labels—but whatever it is that other people seem to get and obtain, in an abstract way after achieving a goal, I don’t seem to have that. I can’t even say if it’s a feeling or outcome, simply because I don’t understand.

Perhaps this inability to understand is because I don’t think the race or game, or what-have-you, is ever over; and to top that off, I don’t even believe that the race or game actually exists. I see the process of achievement as a cluster of something or another, all unrecognizable and indistinguishable amongst the rest of life’s happenings.

To me, I do to do. I give to give. I care to care. I exist to exist. There isn’t this motive or agenda underlying my actions or ways. And if there is, the motive, if not for others, feels heavy, poisonous, and akin to wretched waste.

I just am. And this way that other people sometimes maneuver through life baffles me: the secret schemes, the plots, the webs spun and re-spun. And furthermore, along the same lines, in comparing the declared ‘loser’ to the announced ‘winner,’ the latter seems nothing of grandeur in comparison to the agony of the defeated one.

With this said, I cause myself great harm in overanalyzing my every move. The spectator I am, observing self, tinkers about with scoping tools, contemplating if my action is suitable representation as reflection of interior. If, in fact, in the light of the day, what is said or done, matches my intention or desire. In a constant state of analyzing, I am aiming for the path that is in direct resonance with my soul self.

In addition, I cannot detect the idiosyncrasy of common conversational rules spawned by the associate facing me; yet, I can dissect with fine-fashion the inner-weavings of my own motives. So much so that I deliberate with self questioning if my words are appropriately suited for ‘proof’ (to self) of authenticity.

Is the exterior self accurately representing the unspoken self? I ask. Still with this perceived self-harm, I need this way of being. The manner in which I tread upon a dreamland stage, whilst all about more selves collectively critique the actions portrayed by the exterior, is a proverbial limb of my essence. To be without such manner of existence, I would find myself broken and obsolete, and abandoned, the same as wood for fire. And as tree, I would weep.

In honesty, the worst of the matter is when another enters my zone: the place in which I sit unsettled watching for discrepancies between what is intended and what was produced; distinguishing the gaps, molecular they might be, between what is felt intrinsically as truth and what is displayed as reflection. I hide within, in constant wonder-state, questioning if what I have done is honorable. And here the pain comes, as the mind blunders and rallies for evidence of what is honorable.

Again, I find myself today, in the balancing act of striving for neither perfection nor satisfaction, but rather the gentle center point that does more to extinguish self and lighten all. It’s a varying balance beam of grace that beckons me to be all I can be, but not too much.

530: Just Three Minutes of My Day (Aspie Exhaustion)

Ironically, after posting about ‘small talk’ on a social media site, I was in Trader Joe’s grocery store last night and the male checker locked eyes with me and asked, with a toothy-grin, “So, what have you been working on?”
What have I been working on? My face squished up in confusion.

Number one thought barged in: Glad I am wearing a winter hat to hide my burning red ears.

The bombardment of thoughts that followed went something like this: What does this question mean? I am embarrassed. Can he tell I am beet red? I wonder if it bothers him he is balding. I wonder if he is single. What does he think of me? Why would he ask this? What am I supposed to say? He is staring at me. Can he tell I am embarrassed? What is he thinking? How should I respond? I am taking too long. Do I look autistic, shy, or stuck up? I don’t want to look at him. I don’t want him to think I am in a bad mood or mean. I am not. I thought I was better equipped than this. I thought I was prepared. I bet I look stuck up. Just like in high school, always misinterpreted. The people in line are looking at me. I wonder if they are married? I wonder if they can tell I am so embarrassed. They are frowning. Are they tired or sad, or mad at me? I look flustered. How much time has gone by? Why did I choose the shortest line and not the line with the female checker? (That’s about half the thoughts, anyhow.)

Only seconds had past, but in my reality it seemed hours.

I refocused. All l I could think to say was: “What made you ask that question?”

I realized immediately that I sounded evasive, suspicious, and even perhaps flirtatious. Not my intention.
By this time, I wondered if he was perhaps psychic, and could sense I was working on many projects.

The checker responded quickly and easily, in a manner that screamed ‘this is so easy for me. “Oh, I was just making small talk to pass the time.”

Small talk. Small talk. Small talk! Should I explain there isn’t such a thing in my mind?

He stared at me, and I knew as the blood-shot through my cheeks and up to the bridge of my nose that in this communication game it was my turn to speak. I stuttered some, and then formed some shaky sentences about my new job and such, remembering of course, with screaming reminders in my head, to ask him about himself. By the time the three minutes were over and the checker had scanned and bagged my ten items, I felt I’d been to war and back.

Sam Craft, Everyday Aspergers

521: No Harm Intended, and other aspects of this Aspie Girl

No Harm Intended

Anger:

When someone gets mad at me I feel like my world is coming to an end. I literally do. I have thoughts of ending my life, about how worthless I am, and about how I am not fit or made for this world.

Conflict confuses me. Anger scares me. And any type of disagreement makes me wonder why there is such a thing as discord. Particularly scary for me is the silent treatment, withdrawn emotion, or the ‘cold shoulder.’ It’s not the action or words that scares me, not even the person, it is the way my brain responds.

During conflict of any type, I go into hyper-speed and live through the worst-case scenarios, having flashes of all the feasible most horrific things that could happen as a result of the situation. I experience my thoughts as complete visuals—full on scenery, liken to vivid dreaming, with emotions, sensations, full color and sound. I experience multiple mini-scenarios in a matter of seconds. And I come out bewildered and exhausted, and barely able to focus. With all of this, I have this emptiness as well. When I am triggered by conflict, I want to make a plan and make a plan fast. If I have a plan, I think I will be okay. I will find my way out and survive. If I don’t have a plan, I find it hard to concentrate on anything else. In order to have a plan, I must first evaluate the situation, find feasible reasons why the event is happening, and then set about to find solutions. I get stuck at each step, push myself out and then loop through again. My entire worst fears surface. Without doubt, I know it is the end. It feels like a death of sorts.

I am not afraid of the fighting itself. But I am very terrified of how I will react. I know with certainty I am not a wimp or codependent. I stick up for myself and state my needs, set boundaries, and make choices to protect myself. I am not afraid of hearing about what is on the other person’s mind or even taking constructive (or not-so-constructive) criticism. I am not afraid to fight back verbally, if I feel threatened. It’s none of that; the fear all has to do with the inner workings of my mind and my response.

Authenticity:

I want to be myself entirely; so much so that the times I think I might not be behaving with authenticity, (e.g., using a tone that doesn’t reflect my inner thoughts and emotions), I beat myself up mentally. Inside there is some self-set standard of how to behave. If I am not true to myself there is a nudging inside that sits on me like the weight of a sandbag. How this heaviness exists and why it comes, I don’t know. How it determines right or wrong in relation to my inner ‘true’ being, I know not. With so much ‘not knowing’ going on it is amazing that this regulator of authentic self still exists. But it does.

In judging my authenticity I look at everything about my representation of self, including the way I walk, the way I talk, the manner in which I present myself, and each and every word I use. I do this repeatedly before I speak sometimes and always after I speak, wondering if what I am representing of self is self. I don’t know why this is so important to me—the act of over-analysis of self to find truth and authenticity—yet, I am psychologically locked in the same room as truth-seeking.

There are times I fight the being ‘real’ and want to turn it off, many times. There are times I want to tape my mouth shut and not speak. I can tell myself, even promise myself profusely, that I will not tell someone something. (This could be a simple fact, an aspect about myself, another or an event, a conclusion about an emotion, a revelation of sorts, or information that reveals an intimate aspect of a given situation.) But it doesn’t matter how I try to stop the train of what is words coming out of me. For despite my best attempts the locomotive comes, charging in with full force. And then I step back and think: “Here I go again.”

Truth:

I can’t live burdened and in that way I appear selfish. But the truth of the matter is I don’t want to be this way. There is another driver beyond me: a director. He is the one making the calls. Personally, this me, this person now that is consciously aware and writing, she would like to stop, she would like to remain silent, she would like to keep something to herself, but she cannot. She isn’t ‘allowed’ to be false or non-genuine. She isn’t allowed to house secrets.

She is sworn to this all-encompassing law of ‘the truth shall set you free.’ Only the truth is confusing. Only the truth can be convoluted and mixed up and come with a whole bunch of strings attached. The truth can be buried under an avalanche of ego-will and manipulation and selfish desire. The truth can be jaded by subjective perception and personal collected truths.

Yet, to be as authentic as possible, the truth itself must be unmasked, dug up and examined. Here in lies more work for my brain. For all at once, in conversation and outside conversation, I am examining self, looking for clues of dishonesty and non-representation of authentic being, while dissecting the elements that classify true truth.

As a result of this instinctual given necessity to walk through the world as a genuine representation of me, I can’t lie without deep regret and remorse; for the act of not being true feels like a direct affliction to my being, as if I wound myself in the process of falsehood. I have lied, usually in times I am trying to protect another, think I am protecting another, or confused, lost and overwhelmed. I have lied, and in the act felt wounded and wrong. I always regret and relive lies, in a perpetual purgatory, no matter how small or how well-intentioned I thought I was being.

In addition to outright lies, I can’t tell a partial truth without partaking in deep reflection of why I did such a (terrible) thing. I concentrate on the elements I left out of the telling, the whys of why I only told half a truth, justifying and then punishing the act. And I do the same if I leave out a detail of a story. For instance, in recollecting my day to someone the times events occurred must be exact. To say even a minute less or more, or a time a few minutes off, seems wrong. The details must reflect the truth of what I recall as much as possible, not too complex or too long-winded, and not ever leading someone in the wrong direction.

Reviewing Speech:

After I say something, like a sentence or two, to another, I go into review mode, a whole audience stepping in to decipher if what I said was 1) true 2) based on the best of my recollection 3) reflected from a state of wanting nothing in return but to be heard 4) lacking selfish motivation, manipulation, or covering up of any sort 5) not said to win someone over or gain sympathy 6) not missing parts that would take away from the true meaning or events.

While I am in review mode, there is a background interpreter 1) reliving the past events through a pictorial overview 2) rewriting a script of how I could have said something in a more authentic or kinder/loving way 3) watching myself go back in time and correcting what was said to better amplify truth 4) justifying said actions and suggestions through connecting back to previous learnings.

Need I say this all gets rather exhausting?

Linear Dialogues:

My linear dialogues are parallel and happen at the exact same moment. I am endowed with the capacity to triple- or quadruple-think. That is to say I can process several thoughts along separate lines at the same instant. So while one process is happening, so is another. And there is a finite goal to this reasoning, in which the lines of thought are straight and contain their own predetermined want of outcome and motivation for completion. I am along for the ride like a passenger traveling on three trains simultaneously.

Someone Observing:

The linear thinking on multiple parallel levels happens continually, in all conversations, and even in quiet moments of stillness when I am reflecting back to previous events. I also do this with my thoughts and behaviors when I am alone, sorting through this maze of how to be, as if there is a higher power checking in on me for my authenticity, or another person standing in a far corner observing me and evaluating. It is more natural, in fact, to move through the day with an imaginary overseer watching, then to move in the absence of no one but self. In some ways I don’t know how to exist without thinking I am observed. I am not paranoid. I don’t think someone is actually there. I don’t think I have to behave for them. I only feel I can’t watch myself, or be myself, or move without first seeing myself through someone else’s eyes. It’s always been this way. I am a participant in a game of hide-and-seek, not hunted, just found—again and again.

No Intention to Do Ill Will:

To some I might seem selfish or manipulative or purposeful in my intention to harm. But to me this is impossible. I simply cannot cause harm on purpose without great detriment to self.

I have tried to be angry on purpose and it doesn’t work. I have tried because in watching others it seems easier to live in denial, deflection, blame, rage, finger-pointing and the like. To be able to not fall into an abyss of self-evaluation, self-blame, and over-awareness, seems key. But I have surmised that I am only me when I am authentic, and in so being authentic and in so knowing the whys of how I act and how I feel, I cannot place blame on someone without denying a part of myself that knows I am always partially responsible.

I can’t hold grudges. My anger only comes when I am confused and overwhelmed or dreadfully scared. And so when another person is mad at me, if she or he accuses me and confronts me for being selfish, or purposely deceitful, or callous, or any a number of things that I avoid at all costs, I don’t understand.

I don’t understand how they can see me that way. I don’t understand how they don’t know I am constantly seeking to be my best. I don’t understand how they could ever, ever think I would harm on purpose.

520: Far: Aspie Thoughts

Far

I think far out in advance and I often lose myself while in the process. When I am in deep thought, I might appear unaware, aloof, standoffish, and entirely uninterested in my surroundings. In some instances I might seem hypersensitive or over emotional, but in truth I am somewhere in the background of the contemplative process, almost absent to everyone, including myself.

Much of the contemplation happens in a cohort fashion. There is a hidden part, a machine that constantly evaluates, and somewhere I, or my conscious awareness, sits behind the machine. This ‘machine’ is why all of a sudden I might ‘check out’ mentally and leave any company behind. This ‘machine’ is why I might eventually have a strong impulse to exit a particular person and/or environment. This machine is why sometimes I start to cry and do not know why.

Sometimes certain environments will lead to deeper thinking. Other times I will be practicing so hard being present and alert that when an event is over I collapse with debilitating fatigue. When I am in an over-stimulating environment, (such as new surroundings, new friendship, new people, crowded places, unexpected happenings, confrontation), I become overwhelmed with data. Part of my brain likes to collect, another likes to organize, and still another relishes itself in connections. Sometimes whilst collecting, organizing, and connecting information inputted into the ‘machine,’ I soon become an exaggerated version of myself, some downtrodden detective who has dug up one too many clues and needs an extensive reprieve from her vocation.

In moments of ‘too much data,’ which could be the result of something as simple as one text message, I might appear aggravated, sad, confused, or even angry, but inwardly I only feel one thing: lost.

My mind is constantly solving. Much is taken in and processed through the senses, but I also cipher through and digest past collected facts and personal memories in three-D picture form. I make constant connections, experience acute and distinct bodily sensations, monitor hunches, respond to my instinctual fight-flight internal mechanism, and more. With all of this processing, being in the moment and in the now, is vanquished by merely existing.

When I find myself outside the sanctuary of a safe place or beyond structured familiarity, the internal processing intensifies, and in defense of my own machine, I slowly slip back into myself. Even when I am in safe and familiar surroundings, my mind is still on overdrive. For what appears to be not-so-important choices, (what to eat, when to get gas, when to make a phone call) feels like life or death decisions. I know logically ‘to not sweat the small stuff.’ I know logically most things are not a big deal. But somehow I get carried away into thinking each decision is a big deal. I know easier choices could be said and done with barely a thought. But to me the choices feel insurmountable. Even the choice of how to walk, the speed of how to talk, the way in which to breathe, play out like a drum corp. Sometimes the choice becomes buried under other choices, as I reason my way through something, pulling out random tools from a series of toolboxes varying from nutritional know-how to spiritual belief systems.

In relation to choices, I also have this ever-building blueprint inside, as if I am writing out a series of steps as I go about every minute of my day. Even the way in which I brush my hair, load the dishwasher, or unload the groceries is broken down into strategic steps, occurring simultaneously to when I move. I don’t just DO anything. The same goes for my thinking. There is a director overseeing my thought process, constantly. There isn’t time for rest, because even as I seek retreat, some part of me is remaining at work and on guard.

I can become stuck in a state of inertia when the director gets stuck inside the data, or stuck within the elements of the live-blueprint, tangled in a labyrinth of what he/she deems actually right and wrong. Here, every choice gets tricky. Here the ‘how much,’ ‘when,’ ‘why,’ and such play out. Here the voices of how to be come in, and how to be the best me.

Everyday life choices are many, sometimes reaching hundreds in the matter of an hour. This creates the data overload, this creates the retreat, this creates the sinking into myself, and the need to escape and/or find relief. Often my only relief is found in a special interest, fixation, or hobby.

When I am in a state of contemplation, I also have a frozen-time-bubble that serves as a vehicle, like a time travel machine. Inside those thoughts, I have the ability to stop time. I have a sort of super power in which I can visualize my thoughts as flash images at fast speed, and jump ahead and live visually through possible choices and events. I can do this at a rapid rate—let’s say projecting into the future and seeing ten feasible scenarios almost all at once, within seconds. Because of this, to the onlooker, I might not appear as though I have a reason to support a decision made quickly; when indeed, to me, I have taken ample and proficient time to evaluate a given idea.

This happens all day long. Even a lonely drinking glass on the kitchen counter has had a half-dozen feasible futures, just from my quick glance—he could be used again, he could have been used by someone in the house with an ailment and needs deep cleaning, he could be rinsed and placed in the dishwasher, he could be soaped up and put in drying rack, he could be used to pour water into the fern plant, he could be thrown out because of that small chip—now or later?

The way I process also makes me sound like I am purposeful being more argumentative during a disagreement because I say several things at once aloud and come off like rapid-firing. I don’t mean to do this, but I do it just the same. I make fast and abundant connections based on what the other person is saying, and then speak what I am seeing. I am thinking so fast, and processing so quickly, that I barely have time to examine my thoughts myself. But it all comes out in one giant heap of me sounding like I have all the answers, or looking lost, or acting overwhelmed.

When I am in a state of continual over-processing and bombardment of information with little relief, particularly in what I perceive as a fight/flight situation or a confrontational situation in which my actions or words have made another person frustrated in any manner, then I start to doubt who I am as a person. I doubt that I function normally. I doubt that I am ever going to be able to be happy. I doubt that anyone will have the patience for me. And from there I spiral downward.

I often want to say: I don’t mean to be the way I am.

516: A Gallant Longing

I process everything. I am a processing machine. I even process the process of writing. Today I feel ‘guilty’ for yesterday’s writing, as it didn’t represent the ‘true’ me. Even as I search for the ‘truth’ of who I am, stumbling again into myself and not knowing where I fall, I somehow still manage to pinpoint who I am not. It’s strange, even to write. But seems to be the way of it. All so complex and bothersome. Like most days, I wish I was rather emptied of myself.

Yesterday my post ended with freedom, with the removal of ‘self’ and judgment, with the capacity to move into this world unseen and to be okay with that. Yesterday that was a true statement. Today it’s not.

I didn’t lie. I meant what I said. I was in a brief over-confident mood. I was in an I-will-will-myself-all-better-state. I get that way from time-to-time. I wouldn’t call me hopeful or resilient or ‘positive’ during these moments of zealous confidence. More so, underneath my skin somewhere, when I approach my writing with such voice, I am a bit perturbed at life in general. I guess you could say I was sporting an under coating of frustration and trying to paint over myself with some form of strength.

I tend to only feel good about the words I have scribed that provoke a soft appeal and gentleness. I tend to be attracted to my sharings which display an intense vulnerability and a vast uncloaking of self. Yesterday’s post wasn’t one of those posts.

I am not ashamed of the writing, and not regretting it, just, I guess, wondering how I can so easily shift and transform. It’s unsettling to say the least, when the person I was a moment ago isn’t the person I am now. Perhaps, I say in jest, I have some advanced multiple personality disorder in which I am both congealed and disjointed all at once with legions of aspects of self bursting into bits and pieces of everything.

Yesterday, I was PMSing. I ‘suffer’ from PMDD, endometriosis, and an autonomic blood pressure condition (closely related to POTS), as well as hyperjoint mobility syndrome, each of which are triggered by fluctuations in hormones. PMDD is enough in and of itself to drive me batty, but the physical pain sometimes leads to a week of being couch bound. This has been an on going event for most of my adult life. It’s not new, and it’s not strange or unknown. But somehow the debilitation is still rather scary and depressing, particularly, as I was hospitalized about a year ago from an extreme episode. Anyhow, I really don’t want sympathy or to rant or complain, just to explain.

I suppose in moments of couch-bound, sloth-mode, semi-hibernation, I get particularly prolific in my writing. One reason being that there is really nothing else I can physically do, beyond playing computer games, watching movies, and reading, oh, and the occasional romp to the kitchen to binge eat. Having the capacity to write during these hormonal nightmares most certainly brings me a sense of purpose. Also, I think the hormones, or what-have-yous, affect my thinking, in that I have more thoughts and that I am more vulnerable to outpourings. And too, to be totally truthful, sometimes I write during my PMDD only because if someone reads my words I will feel less isolated.

I force myself to write during these times, not because I have to, but because I want to. And that is the primary difference in the particular self-focused writings (like today’s and yesterday’s) versus the majority of my writing.

Most of the time, believe it or not, I don’t want to write, but feel driven to write. Usually, I don’t hear my own singular voice, but more of a collective gathering of thoughts. I have surmised, after continual coincidences, that I somehow tap into the collective Aspie condition. As silly as that sounds, this has been my truth for the span of over a year. It appears Aspies jump into my brain and stir me up. As much as they’d like to believe I am reading their minds, I tend to think they are invading my thoughts—little hitchhikers whispering. Or, rather, we are all just splashing is some giant heated pool of knowledge, and I, by some odd twist of faith, have been granted the capacity to spurt out what we are swimming in.

When I write, I see images and sense words. I don’t actually hear anything. There isn’t a voice I can describe or even an intonation. There is more of a feeling of what I believe is a type of communication I don’t readily recognize as familiar. There is no emotion beyond love. And an easiness and comfort exits without effort. There isn’t a questioning of what I wrote or a judging. There often isn’t much editing involved. It just kind of IS. And I like that.

The process of writing in most cases takes away some of my Aspie thoughts—those perpetual queries that ransack my brain.

I believe the intention behind ‘my’ words creates the overall feel of the work. Much like a painting, my heart is reflected in the renderings. If my intention is to share and nothing more than the words are light and airy, filled with a sense of hope. In this manner there is a radiating wellbeing resonating from the writings. A knowing everything will be okay. A connection, a reaching out, a holding and a holding ground, in which travelers come and visit, and find a place of respite.

I miss that peaceful flow, that rescuing-retreat. I missed it yesterday. I miss it today. I guess I’d rather be part of a collective than this ME. I’d rather sit with a gathering of us than alone—a gallant and worthy longing, indeed.

506: The Risk is Worth it. Thoughts on Friendship.

I don’t believe I have any answers that anyone else cannot find for himself. Or to non-negate the previous statement: I do believe I have no answers that another cannot find for himself. I have a hard time reasoning in my mind the authenticity of any self-proclaimed or manmade accentuated leader who hints, dictates, or infers that he has the answers. I am quick to steer away, and feel quite many a qualms, when I hear of anyone who thinks they have found the answer, the truth, and the way. I know too much to be a blind sheep, and too little to proclaim I know enough. This is not to say I diminish or shake a finger at modern religion or any new up and coming spiritual fashion, only that I seriously question and outright deny the fact that any human can foreseeably house the answers for another; and certainly without the answer, he has no right, if rights be the matter, to dictate to another how to live or present oneself.

I find the purest souls to be the most delightful in their attempts to literally do nothing but be, and to let be. Those that don’t pursue fame, recognition, reward, and esteem are the ones I gravitate towards, the ones who are actually repelled at multiple levels by anything to do with being in the spotlight. Those are the ones I tend to uphold as seers and seekers of truth.

Secondly, I know enough of myself to know that I am highly influenced by my environmental and physical condition, including my own stamina and mental-conditioning. What I present as reality, and perhaps a semi-temporary-truth one day, will likely be obsolete at another juncture in time.

I don’t like to sway people. I don’t even like to ‘not like.’ Still I don’t like to form judgments, or to reach conclusions about others. Of course some things, some actions, and some people (because of said actions), stand out as recognizably out of the arena of blandness. I mean to say, they make a mark that is recognizable to both my heart and mind. Mostly, it is the things that seem mean, spiteful, unjust, and not lenient which stand out, particularly something that might be deemed ‘evil’ or ‘perverse.’ But even then the lines (and labels) merge into this gray area, and I find myself neither here nor there, trying to counter both sides of an argument that has converged inside my mind.

With all of this said, I offer a few things about my thoughts on friendship. And if that wasn’t an Aspie preamble, I don’t know what is!

Aspie and Friends:

1. I prefer online friends. Online friendships eliminate much of the burden of communication. I have time to think, to edit my thoughts, to respond in a slow and delicate manner, to take time, to get back, and to not be seen physically. Most of my challenges with communications come in the mode of sensory overload and in my evaluation of what I am seeing. Yes, I still evaluate with online friendships, but about 75% of the stress of communication, particularly nonverbal processing, is eliminated. That’s not to say online communication doesn’t offer it’s barriers and weaknesses, but overall, particularly when I take the time to check for clarity, online communication scores high above face-to-face encounters. I mean I could lose myself in a freckle or hair color and miss half of an entire conversation. And forget about the background noise and nonstop monitoring of my tone of voice, inflection, and talking speed.

2. I make online friends. It’s scary but I do it.

3. I support some friends, when I am capable, and they support me when able.

When I am at my lowest, I will sometimes reach out to three or four people at one time, most of whom are Aspie or whom have Asperger’s traits, and if not Aspie then people whom I deem for the most part trustworthy, nonjudgmental, and possessing the capacity to love unconditionally.

4. I reach out to several people at a time because someone might be busy and I also don’t want to overburden one friend with my intensity.

5. I am not blessed to have many friends. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Of course I am grateful for people in my life but no one blessed me with them. I made the friendships, day after day, year after year, risk after risk. Yes, it is hard. Yes, I mess up, and yes sometimes I get super hurt. But I am not fortunate, or even lucky to have friends, because I have worked HARD to make and maintain these friendships. And I have worked hard on myself to learn how to be the best friend (person) I can be.

6. I accept my faults, frailties, and entire humanness. I am far from perfect but I avoid beating myself up. Yes, I allow myself to have a pity-party sometimes, especially when many changes are occurring in my life. However, I have friends that understand these aspects of me.

7. I only interact with certain friends during my most vulnerable times. I choose a select few friends to confide in about particularl things, especially subject matter in which I want no advice or solution finding quests.

8. If I am not careful, and I talk to a friend who offers advice or her view of the situation, the conversation can do me more harm than good. I have learned to be selective. It is a survival mechanism. Some friends can handle my intensity, others my insecurities, others my wild-imagination, and a rare few the complete me. I have learned I can’t be the complete me around everyone; I will get hurt. I have learned I can be complete by dividing myself amongst many friends. I don’t think this survival skill is specific for those on the spectrum, but I do believe Aspies are vulnerable in their ability to be strongly wounded by others, and that they often find themselves in positions of offending or shocking, without that intention.

9. Friends are not easy for me, for there is a part of me who, despite an inconceivable amount of self-reflection, insight, and work, will always think I am not a good enough friend. This isn’t a self-esteem issue. I do like me. It has to do with the extreme ways in which I can psychoanalyze myself and dissect conversations. I am always, and will always be, an observer of others, twice removed from discourse and continually dissecting and evaluating and reliving over and over past conversations.

10. I have one friend in which I can just spill my guts and fears and anxiety and she will JUST listen. She doesn’t do tit for tat. In that I mean she doesn’t ask me for advice, expect me to listen or to return the favor. She just lets me process. I think every Aspie (and every human being) needs someone who will just listen.

11. I recognize I will always feel like I don’t give back enough in friendship. It is just the way it is. When people give to me, in time or other ways, I feel an immediate want and obligation to equal the score. It’s not that I mean to keep score, only that I naturally don’t want to take advantage of anyone.

12. I love to have friends from all backgrounds. I am not picky. Or maybe I am, if you think the capacity to love without conditions, to be honest, to be giving, to be kind, and to be genuine is picky. But with that said, and a little trustworthiness thrown in, I am capable of being friends with many, many people. There isn’t a checklist.

13. I think I need friends. I think everyone does. I think the risk is worth it.

I don’t neccesarily think the introduction matches the list. But, oh well. My friends will understand. 🙂

13 is my favorite number.

Looking for aspie friends? Join everyday aspergers Facebook like page to the left.