One thing Asperger’s has given me is an openness and honesty that I’m learning to embrace after years of wondering why I felt everyone else was so closed. It’s a myth that autistic people don’t like relationships and socialising. The reality is that for people like me, relationships have to be real and deep and meaningful. Knowing someone a bit and not talking about much and never going any further than small talk seems pointless. I never understood, until recently, why some people never tell me anything about themselves – or at least, not anything deep so that I might look into their heart and truly know them. How else can you know if you want to use up your precious energy and give time to someone? If you want to know me, I’ll gladly give you a window into my soul.
Once I decide to trust you, that is.
When I meet someone new, I am guarded, often quiet. I am very anxious about what I should say and what we will think of each other. When I told the psychologist I couldn’t cope with picking up our daughter from school and didn’t see why I should be friends with other mothers at the school simply because they were other mothers, the psychologist said that wasn’t normal. She said most women relish the opportunity to have a chin wag and a catch up. But I can’t risk finding out that we don’t have anything in common and I don’t know what to talk about if it’s going to have no meaning. And I can’t risk being so overly honest that they run a mile and that makes situations awkward for the rest of our daughter’s schooling. So I stay away. The rules that other people were born with are not the same as the ones I was born with and it’s too exhausting trying to learn and implement them all the time. Often I feel I should have a calling card or wear badges with lots of facts about me then people can choose whether they want to find out more! Maybe AS people should come with a list of instructions, one of which should be: Total honesty at all times unless it’s offensive.
I don’t know if this is why we have meltdowns, but I’m willing to bet it is one of the reasons: that the exhaustion from trying to be appropriate for each situation and the constant state of anxiety involved with performing for others probably has something to do with it. Chit-chat and what I call “light socialising” are natural apparently, but for me they are a tiresome act, a fatiguing performance, and some days I’m all out of scripts. I couldn’t find it more unnatural and confusing.
Take a simple greeting like, ‘Hello. How are you?’
My autistic instinct is to take that at face value and think about how I am and then tell them:
‘Well, I didn’t sleep well last night. I woke up at 3am and lay there feeling guilty about my shortcomings as a mother and feeling stupid for drinking a bit too much red wine. When I got up I felt drained and headachy – and I’ve got that itchy inner ear thing you get when you’ve not had enough sleep – do you get that? So, anyway, I’ve taken some painkillers and a good vitamin B supplement, which seem to have helped. I find various different supplements helpful despite the bad press they often get. I take starflower oil for PMS – but I take it all the time because I never know when my period’s going to start these days. They’re getting earlier and earlier. I must be peri-menopausal. You know starflower oil comes from the borage flower? It’s a beautiful plant. Bees love it. They really do seem to like blue flowers… I’m feeling a bit troubled and unfocussed this week. My diet and exercise regime have gone to pot and I’m not getting out as much as I’d like. It sounds crazy but I really do feel more autistic some days than others and today I have become obsessed with the phrase “one in a million”. I can’t help thinking it’s a bit of a misnomer because it’s used to describe good people – remarkable people, and people who go out of their way to help others. That would suggest there are only 6 such people in this country and I find that highly unlikely. There are plenty of good, helpful wonderful people. It would be better and more accurate if we used the term “one in a million” for serial killers, surely?
Richard’s working all day today, so I had to walk the dog on my own, and while I was out there were massive black clouds heading towards me from the east. Usually I panic at the thought of getting caught in heavy rain but today I was really rather calm about it. While I was walking I spotted a sweet little lavender-coloured flower in the fields. It was upright with a curling, fern-like head. So pretty. Any idea what it’s called? Do you know about wildflowers? I’d love to have a friend who knew about wildflowers. Anyway, luckily I had my camera with me and took a few photos. When I got back to the house, I found the cat had taken her bell collar off that I’d spent ages getting on her, so I was a bit fed up about that and a few seconds later she walked past me to go hunting for birds in the hedge so I followed her and somehow managed to get it back on her. Do you like cats? I’m always so relieved when I find people who agree with me about how much damage cats do. I picked some fresh leaves out of the garden for my lunch and that always makes me really happy: spinach, lettuce, chives, pea shoots. So nice to be growing your own food. I get a real kick from it. I must admit I’ve been really troubled by the European Elections this week and all the coverage Nigel Farage is getting. The polls suggest Ukip are going to do well which is crazy and scary. I really don’t think most people have thought this through. To be honest I don’t have a clue why anyone would vote anything other than Green. Unfortunately this kind of social worry is a big one for me and I tend to get very anxious thinking about people’s stupidity and the knock-on effects for everyone, particularly minorities… So, yeah, I feel rather troubled. And I’ve been thinking a lot about autism and Asperger’s recently and am a bit obsessed with that and wondering who else in family could have it and whether my dad had it. I keep thinking it would have been nice if he could have read about it – some of the more recent stuff and thought about his own struggles in life. It’s really quite sad…
Oh, you didn’t mean that kind of “How are you?” You meant the one where I don’t tell you how I am! That one always throws me.’
And I end up smiling, nodding and saying nothing.