As someone who exhibits many of the key signs of someone within the Spectrum, the strain and energy required to have any amount of social interaction feels like trying to move a mountain while being cooked in a pressure cooker. Just the exercise of talking to someone to a new customer or vendor at work, or a random person at the store, makes me feel both mentally and physically exhausted.
Much of that comes from the skyrocketing anxiety levels, even when interacting with close friends or family members, and that can make it even more difficult to think about what want to say and makes it harder to keep eye contact. To make things worse, the inability to read the clues on the person’s face or body language, along with trying to keeping eye contact. That combination of problems can lead to a lot of mis-interpretation of what the other person is trying to convey.
That can lead to blurting out things, in a deadpan or with an inappropriate inflection; while, not knowing if the person wants to continue or end the interaction. I sometimes think that I’m trying to use subtle sarcasm or snark, but it comes off to the other person as having record-levels of sarcasm and snark. On the flip side, I often cannot detect subtle sarcasm or snark and take things at face value or as an attack.
Even with those things working against me, what really wears me down on a daily basis is working or living with people who either don’t understand my Spectrum-ness; or worse, seemingly understand it and twist it to into what feels like calculated mockery. Both end up being quite hurtful, which I can’t seem to show in a manner that the person can interpret. That hurt ends up being extremely abrasive and eventually adds to the built up levels of frustration, depression and futility.
The mental strain and frustration doesn’t end with social interaction, but also includes the hyper-sensitivity of the senses. Sudden and abrupt sounds, lingering tastes and smells, visual stimuli, and sensations that seem to be subtle and/or normal to most people are amplified by, what seems to be, several levels of magnitude. Sounds that I can control, like the sound of my fingers typing out this on a keyboard or putting down a cup on a table are ones that I can brace for impact.
When someone plays with a clicky pen or a binder clip during a meeting or next to me has the sensation of someone hitting my head with a hammer and piercing my ears with screwdrivers. The inadvertent bump or someone laying their hands on my shoulders feels like being punched or having bags of wet sand land on my shoulders, respectively. What can be a sweet smell of a donut or a light perfume to most people feels like being trapped in a room with a thousand of said donuts or hundreds of broken vials of perfume; not to mention, the gigantic wave of nausea and feeling that I want to go into convulsions.
All of those assaults on the senses, plus the strains of daily social interaction, wear me down to the bones by the end of the day. Also, it takes quite a while for my mind to process the overload on all senses and emotional inputs means that I tend to mull on what happened for hours after they happen. That process leaves my mind to race late into the night and sometimes causes the pent up emotions that I can’t seem to show over the course of the day (or week, month, year, etc.) to overflow. Some days, to prevent said overflow, I just shut down my emotions completely and revert back into someone who comes off as cold and lack of caring. Obviously, this leads to even more problems when it happens in the middle of a social environment.
The time it takes and the means for me to recharge after being drained come in various ways. Usually, it does require me to find a quiet, solitary location, maybe put on a certain podcast. Sometimes, it means that I’m out somewhere with a camera up hiding my face, taking photos of non-living things. If time allows, I’ll try to find a scenic route and just cruise alone in my car with nothing more than the sound of the wind, engine and the motions of changing gears to unwind and recharge.
I am hoping that by writing and publishing this, people can somewhat get a better understanding of me.