I panicked this morning. I pulled my husband out of the bathroom. He was stripped down to his boxers. And I was mean.
I don’t like to be mean. I hate it, in fact. At the core of me, I am nice. But this mean, panicky part of me surfaces at times.
She especially appears when I am feeling bombarded with change and sensory overload. When my normal routine is drastically altered I get a bit crazed and then my scale of unpredictable outcries is undeniably both potent and dramatic.
This morning, the birthday sleepover for my youngest boy was almost over. There had been much noise and upheaval as the boys celebrated together and tore the daylight basement apart with their slathering of snacks and soda. I’d not fallen asleep until nearly two am, and I’d cleaned and organized and shopped and prepared the entire day before.
My husband had been a great support, as much as any human could be who didn’t possess super powers, but by morning, he, like me, was exhausted. And unlike me, he was ready to get out of the house and start a course of errands. He headed downstairs to shower, as I was wrapping the party up, and awaiting the arrival of the two last guardians to pick up the children.
After twenty-minutes of feeling a kneading, unidentifiable discomfort inside, suddenly a shock of revelation hit me. Two strangers were about to appear at my door. As I thought about this fact, I was bombarded with what ifs, and what to say, and how to stand, and how to smile, and how to be, and how to stop my own very self-consuming fear of being seen by another being.
As I processed, and my anxiety grew, I realized I wanted to duck under a blankie, to escape, and to not face anyone.
Suddenly, and without warning, an all-encompassing fear bit at me like a disobedient hound leaping to snatch food from an innocent bystander.
I logically processed. I figured this biting and uncontrollable fear was part of my Aspergers, part of how my brain worked, part of who I was and had always been. The feelings weren’t unfamiliar, not even more intense; but I was more aware.
Still, even with the understanding, I could do little or nothing to calm myself down. At any moment the door would knock and a stranger would appear.
I talked to myself in silence. I reasoned. I tried to logically stop the worries and concern. I knew there was nothing to fear, but yet I feared. I knew there was no threat, but I felt threatened. I wanted to run.
The doorbell rang. It was the first stranger. She was kind and courteous, and we didn’t have opportunity for small talk, as her nephew gathered his things and left quickly enough.
I shut the door, wishing them well, and sighed in relief. I felt half of the anxiety leave. Only one to go. Only one to go, I told myself. I attempted to self-soothe, to talk myself into the fact that I was safe. But I couldn’t. Though half the anxiety had left, the remaining panic was newly fresh and alarming, clawing at me from the inside out. I just couldn’t do it. Not alone. Not by myself. Not with all the uncertainties.
I rushed then. I darted down the stairs in a state of meltdown. I was imploding and exploding all at the same time. The outside me, the observer that sometimes watches, and takes note of my behavior, and who is often able to laugh or offer sound advice, she’d been swallowed up in the confusion of my emotions.
I had to find my husband, make sure he was dressed, and get him upstairs, right away. There was no time to wait. My soul was on fire!
I found my husband in his boxers, doing something in front of the mirror. I don’t remember what. Everything was a jolted blur of rush and chaos. “Please hurry, he will be here any moment, and you know how I am,” I whined.
I looked my husband over and realized he hadn’t showered yet. It had been twenty minutes, and he still hadn’t showered!
“What have you been doing?” I queried rudely. “This whole time you could have showered, and you didn’t. Why didn’t you? Why did you leave me up there alone? Why? You don’t get me. You don’t know me. What do you not understand about Aspergers? What do I fear the most? What do I fear the most!”
My husband stammered with his eyes and braced himself against the bathroom door. I could see he was processing my emotional state. I could sense the familiarity of his experience: how he knew I was on the verge of freaking out and that his next move would either create a domino effect of me collapsing into hysteria or serve to bring me out somewhat from my spinning panic.
He stepped closer, and waited for me to finish my thoughts, waited in a way and with a skill I have not yet learned, and fathom I shall never learn. I felt a reckoning of sadness, a knowing I was different, odd, and displaced on a planet where my skillset had never been completed, where my tool box of communication skills was vastly depleted.
I wept inside, until the fear rose. I went on fast then, and with an unrelenting urgency. I knew what I was doing and what I was feeling, and it all felt so ridiculous and unnecessary and unfounded and just plain stupid, but I couldn’t help myself. I was trapped in a prison of jumbled thought and worry.
I said more, my words not chosen carefully, my panic taking the wheel. “You abandoned me. You abandoned me. You say to me ‘You take it from here; I’m going to shower,’ and you leave me to face the strangers. You know how I am? How could you do this?” My eyes were welling with a mixture of tears and rage.
I was on the verge of flipping my husband off. About to mount the stairs, and with a quick turn of my back, turn and give him the finger. I was so confused. My emotions all jumbled and twisted into a crisis.
I stood my ground, even as I saw another path of what I might have done, how I might have taken off as I told him off. I stared past him, fighting back the urge to yell, “I hate you!”
He didn’t move or even flinch, but looked at me with such profound and unattainable patience. I knew I was being childish. I knew at that moment he was the only adult in the house.
“Your worst fears are talking to strangers, especially at the door, and to men,” he replied. He then said, with a sigh, “I’ll wait to shower. I’m coming upstairs. Be right there.”
Within two minutes, I was back on the couch, hiding behind my laptop and my husband was in the leather chair twiddling his fingers and playing with his cellular phone.
I said, “Stop picking at your lip. That bugs me.”
I said, “I don’t understand. Don’t you care? Why did you do this to me?”
He looked at me blankly, and replied. “I didn’t shower. I came up here for you because I love you.”
I waited for him to be triggered or upset or to show emotion. I needed him to be emotional. I needed him to take me out of my emotional state, by means of his emotional state. For me to be able to focus on his wavering feelings, and to blame him, so I could escape self-blame. I punched at him with my words.
He didn’t care. He didn’t. He didn’t know how to show me love, is all I could think.
“Our problem is the Language of Love. You show love in service and duty; I show love through emotion and affection. I really need a hug right now and compassion.”
He got off of the couch and came to my side and held me. But I didn’t feel release. I’d wanted to blame him and make him act a certain way, thinking his behavior would relieve me. But it didn’t.
He stayed at my side and looked over at me as I maneuvered through the stream of my Facebook wall. He was watching the posts, watching me, and in my space. I looked at him and said, “Thanks for the hug. Can you go away now? I don’t want you near me. Please leave.”
I recognized the cruelness and impatience in my voice. I sensed my selfishness and sporadic ways. But I couldn’t help myself. I was in the middle of a breakdown, and nothing my husband did or said or offered could help me.
My husband rolled his eyes and shook his head. And I offered some half-apology for my behavior, knowing I’d been terrible. I tried to make him laugh. “Well at least you might be the star of my post,” I offered.
I don’t think he smiled.