Autistic Enigma – My Weaknesses, A Peek Behind the Curtain

When I initially started my blog, I wanted to write not to make videos. Early on I found that videos were a quick way to share thoughts. I’ve always loved writing. Type allows me to communicate and a clear way, something that can be lost in a video, mostly due to the scattered nature of my own mind.

Also, I (like many people) find it difficult to discuss my weaknesses. With text, I can lay everything out and walk away.

People ask about the hard parts.

Is autism a disability? It can be.

I manage myself well, have supportive people in my life, and have accommodations in place at work that allow me to be the best employee possible.

Is it all sunshine and rainbows? No.

I’ve got weaknesses but so do non-autistic people, mine are listed in a diagnostic manual (and now also below).

Social

I’m very driven, and I’m always solving at least one problem in my head. It can get in the way of relationships when I allow it to overtake me. It’s a miracle I  can keep friends. The few I do have are often distant, and my relationships tend to be neglected.

Socializing is interesting because I think visually not verbally. I struggle with the timings in conversation and often find myself distracted by my intense visual thoughts. These things take time to turn over in my mind; by the time they are something audible, the conversation has often moved in a completely new direction.

Facial expressions often confuse me, and I struggle to decode body language. There are certain expressions, usually the extreme ones, like joy or rage, that pop out but the in-betweens are lost on me. I have trouble picking up on certain subtleties, especially with people I don’t know well. I can ramble, end up on tangents, sometimes offending or boring people.

When is it my turn to talk? I often find myself unintentionally interrupting, but I’ve learned to mask up, keep quiet, bottle it up.  Hold me in. By the end of a day around people, I feel a bit like a violently shaken soda bottle – ready for pint up energy to explode out me.

Sensory

The trouble picking up on social cues is even more complicated when hanging out in a loud or busy environment. Auditory processing issues may cause me to hear all the sounds around me at one volume, mishear words, or fail to hear things completely. When tired, worn down, or stressed, following conversations can be impossible. I’ve become a master of hiding my confusion.

I’m sensory sensitive.

My flight or fight system is always on high alert. At what seems like random moments, I feel the familiar rush of adrenaline pumping through my veins. I internalize. People used to ask “are you okay?” but I hated this question and learned to hide. You don’t realize I’m riding an imploding tornado, as I breathe through grounding exercises. I am using my senses to control the rapid descent, as I ask myself “what’s happening now?” over and over again in my head.

I get cold easily and can’t stand the sensation of moving air on my skin – EXCEPT for my face and except for warm air. (As a rule, there are always exceptions.) Certain fabrics and textures of clothing feel like fire ants biting my skin. I can hear sounds that others often don’t, and fluorescent lighting makes me physically ill.

My sensory environment is always top of mind. I’m only physically comfortable when I have complete control over my situation. It’s one of the reasons I LOVE living in an RV. We take my sensory bubble/retreat with us everywhere we go.

Processing difficulties

I’m not great at navigating to and around new places. Although I’ve begun driving in my teens, I never “mastered” it. I can easily navigate my car around the small town I’m from, but still struggle when there is traffic, busy cities, or unfamiliar locations. There is so much coming at me, so quickly. It’s a lot to process – sometimes too much.

Black and blue, always a bruise and often no idea where it came from. I’m dangerously clumsy to the point where I tend to excuse myself from things that seem “dangerous” and require fine motor skills, I’m always walking into walls and objects, and I’ve got the handwriting of an elementary school student.

Disclaimer – I’m sure many elementary school students have better handwriting than me.

Focus & Mindset

I’m focused, and I’m good at tackling tasks, but sometimes I focus all my energy in one direction, leaving little energy for anything else. I neglect myself, my chores, and the people around me because I am honed in, working diligently to complete my latest project. I’ve lost many friends over the years, people who “needed more” than I have ever had to give.

I love solitude, being left alone with information about something that interests me or a task, is magical. Many of my sensory issues fade away when I’m alone. Other people never seem to have the same sensory needs that I do. Having complete control of my environment is a treasure. Plus, I don’t mind when I make funny sounds and talk to myself.

Solitude also prevents interruptions. When I’m deep in a task, I’m deep in thought – not the type of thoughts you can quickly come back to if stopped. The sudden jerk back to reality is like derailing a speeding freight train. Working from home is truly amazing for me because it allows me to control my environment and isolate whenever necessary.

Memory

Although I have clear memories of being just a year old, my working memory is tricky. My long-term memory is forever but most of the day to day tasks don’t live in my head. I’m continually misplacing and losing things putting them in a “safe place.” Please don’t ask me to follow spoken directions unless you’re going to let me type up some notes.

My visual schedule is my best friend – out of sight out of mind. Without calendars and reminders (written, digital, and online) I wouldn’t get life done. My laser focus allows me to dive very deeply into on project for a long time, but often if I’m focused on one thing the rest of the world almost vanishes.

If alone, I need alarms and reminders to pull me out of my “focus tunnels,” or I forget to do important things (like go to the bathroom, eat, feed the dogs, & drink). However, I am very good at following rules that I set for myself. One rule I have is that I MUST get up at least once every four hours t0 do the basics – stand up and move, grab a drink, a snack, and a bathroom break.

I’m not the domestic type. I’m a bit of a hermit outside of work. My partner constantly needs to remind me of things. I don’t get out an socialize often. I don’t shower every day, regularly use disposable dishes and don’t keep a spotless house.

Despite everything above, I’m what people would call “a successful adult,” and I put that in quotes because I don’t think we should limit our definitions of success to the boundaries that society tries to neatly outline for us. Society tends to focus on monitory measures – house, car, job, money.

In my mind success is living a happy life and helping (and certainly not harming) others along the way. By my own measures, at this point in my life, I am successful. Getting here has certainly been a journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Autistic Enigma – My Weaknesses, A Peek Behind the Curtain

  1. Good job adulting! I’m not on the spectrum (but my son is), but I can totally relate much of what you write, particularly living in your head in a swirl of interesting ideas that can exclude everything else. And being confused about social cues. I understand why you wrote this post rather than a video. Writing is more secure, thoughtful, able to be edited. I am often in an environment that precludes playing any audio, so I was pleased to see a written post that I can read without disrupting anyone. Good job!

    Like

  2. You have just embodied, with your words, many things that I am finally allowing myself to “be”. Meaning since reading “Aspergirls ” by Rudy Simone, I learned my truth about growing up years. That was only the first step. I am learning and allowing myself to be ME. #actuallyautistic

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This blog is one of the few places I’ve recognized myself. (There’s a book? Aspergirls?) It’s only taken 50 years to find out I’m not alone! In wanting to be alone, to pursue my projects, in NEEDING that time. I have a close-knit family who all live close–in fact my ultra-social sister now lives with me–and I’m always being guilted for being the first to leave “family” day at my parents’ house.

    I have such a low threshold for tolerating noise and light. Once I’ve worked 8-5 (public county office) M-F I’m spent. My friends now, I suppose, think like my teachers did growing up: as long as I was getting the job done, even good at it, it didn’t matter I was kind of weird; how much of a struggle was the social side for me didn’t matter at all.

    So I’m grateful for Christa’s blog even as I feel “cheated” out of 50 years of knowing I’m not actually a wuss. I’m beginning to have ways to constructively tell my sisters to “back off”.

    Liked by 1 person

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