Bad Aspie Day

This is not an original topic. I’ve read several blog posts about the Bad Asperger’s Day and found many more that I haven’t read yet. I’m going to write it, anyway. If you’re interested in other perspectives, take a look at AspergerCafe and AspieWizard, or just do a search!

So, You’re Having a Bad Day?

It’s more than just having a bad day. To say you’re “having a bad day” is usually synonymous with saying that things are going badly. Circumstances are frustrating, people are annoying, you’re dropping or breaking or ruining things. I have days like that, and those are, indeed, bad days. To have a Bad Aspie Day, however, is a little different. Sometimes, there are similar “bad day” things going on, sometimes not. Today, for instance, all it took was waking up.

It was like. There’s fuzz or static or something in my head, and it makes things feel muddled. But rather than dulling my senses, it somehow still allows me to hear in great detail every little noise. Remember how I said I deal with noises that bother me? Today, every little sound drives me up the wall, and I keep wanting to tilt my head and protect my ear with my shoulder. The fan is rattling like it always does, my family members’ voices haven’t changed, and really nothing unusual is going on, but they make me tense and irritable.

It kind of just feels like verging on some kind of outburst or even a meltdown all day.

Aren’t Things Always As Overwhelming?

I grew up to adulthood not even knowing about Asperger’s, so obviously I’ve learned coping mechanisms, and I put them into practice very often with success! If I hadn’t learned to cope with the everyday stressors that I experience, I can guarantee I wouldn’t have been able to hold a job or keep a friend. So what’s so different on a Bad Aspie Day – why not use the same coping skills?

What can I say? It’s like they just don’t work. It takes everything I have on a day like today to keep from just being flat out rude. I hold in so much and just want to scream, and then I try to gently (and yet, can I even tell if I sound gentle?) ask people to SHUT UP!!!!!!! if they could please keep what they want to tell me quite brief. I try to let off some of the extra tension by indulging in some stims, but what I really want to do is curl up in bed with a comfy pillow, a soft blanket, my kitty, and some white noise like ocean waves.

What’s the Fix?

I don’t know how to fix it, really. As TheAspieWizard says, distractions can help. I do the same thing with my cat when he’s cranky – distract him with something fun or tasty, and sometimes he’ll forget that he wants to bite you, but then again, sometimes he finishes with his distraction and remembers perfectly how hard he wants to sink his teeth into my flesh. So, obviously, it’s not a perfect fix. I’m not sure there is a real solution, and that’s kind of the point. It’s a Bad Aspie Day, and that means that some days I just need to withdraw and indulge in things that are soothing, if not for my own sake, then definitely for the sake of my loved ones!

Scripted Interaction

I’ve come to realize something about the way I interact with people: I use a lot of scripts. This is a common Aspie thing, but it’s not something I related to immediately. When I first read about the idea of using “scripts” when interacting with people, I dismissed it as something I don’t do. But, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized I do this.

Actually, my initial dismissal of it relates to another aspie trait: taking things very literally. I didn’t realize that interacting with scripts did not necessarily mean saying the exact same words every time I end up in a certain situation. I didn’t realize that getting your script from what you hear from other people or on TV could mean anything other than repeating them word-for-word every time! Oops!

aspie script

How Much is Scripted

Now, I don’t do it (use scripts) all the time. With close friends and family I guess I am less self-conscious and therefore more able to tune into what they’re saying and go with the flow of conversation. Also, I’m more comfortable in those situations with possibly stumbling over my own words or feeling a fool for other reasons.

But with strangers, it’s a different story. Then, it is much more common that I follow a script. It helps me deal with anxiety. It helps me deal with how overwhelming it is to look someone in the eye and try to judge their thoughts or emotions.

I just put on my smile (I learned how to put on a smile when I had braces – prior to this even smiling on demand was difficult) and use my script. Time to interact with a cashier? Ok. If they say this, I’ll say that. If I have a concern, I’ll use these words. Time to respond to someone’s small talk in church? Here’s how I’ll answer, and I know to smile or laugh if these things happen in the conversation. I listen to their words to make sure I’m being understood and to get the information I need and to respond as necessary, but that’s all.

Scripts have also really helped me with phone calls. Phone calls used to stress me out to the extreme. With experience, though, I’ve learned more and more how different types of phone calls “go.” I’ve learned the chipper way I need to speak, the respectful words to use. I can get through all kinds of phone calls now with almost no stress, and I can apply some scripts to new situations. If I had never called to ask about open job positions before, I might use the script for calling Walmart to ask if they carry a certain product. That’s not a perfect example, but you see what I mean.

It has also helped with ordering food in restaurants and quite a few other things.

The Whys and Why Nots

It’s shyness and anxiety, yes. But my coping mechanism is very Aspergian – using scripts. My phonecalls all sound very similar. My interactions with medical professionals all sounds very similar. The smile I use to order food is the same smile I use to tell a nurse, randomly, that I love the color of her scrubs. By saying things that are tried and true and bound to work sufficiently in these situations, I don’t have to think and get anxious.

The flip side is that if I’m in the grocery store focused on shopping, focused on the quick scripted interactions I might need to tell someone whether or not I know where the green beans are located or tell the cashier whether or not it’s hot outside, I become sometimes totally unprepared for something else. A sudden phone call from an acquaintance might suddenly come in, and I’ll have to totally ignore it because I can’t handle switching – or don’t know how to switch – gears. If I do answer, I’ll sound flustered and anxious, usually.

And Heaven forbid I run into someone I know while shopping. It’s like my greatest fear while shopping to run into someone I actually know. If possible – if he or she doesn’t see me – I will avoid the person, and I might or might not mention later that I saw them at Walmart on Thursday. If they’ve seen me, I must interact. My heart will be pounding for several minutes afterward, and it will get me all confused about how to complete my shopping trip.

The flip side just goes to show how important my scripts are to my functioning and how heavily I rely on them. Some of my friends have seen it in me already. (“You were at the PX? Why didn’t you say hi?”) Some have just been confused. (“You talked to me for 2 seconds at the store and then said, ‘Bye.’ It was kind of awkward, but you’re proud of yourself for it?”) Some have been annoyed. (“You never answer your phone!”)

I hope this helps you to understand me a little better. Actually, just writing this out help ME understand me a little better. And, if someone else in your life is an Aspie, keep in mind what might be going through his/her mind, too.

 

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More About Trust

tumbles hidesTrust is essential in relationships. It’s really the “bedrock” of any successful relationship. That’s why, really, we can only have a perfect relationship, with pure, unconditional love, with God. HE’s the only one completely trustworthy.

People fail. They always will, eventually, no matter how good the intentions. That, of course, doesn’t mean that we can’t have relationships with people. By all means, we can. We can forgive and move on. We can choose to trust again or choose to let someone earn our trust again. But the point is that there is not anyone alive who is perfectly trustworthy, who will never let you down.

We need trust to make relationships work. To build upon a foundation of trust is, I believe, the only way to build a good relationship.

I don’t remember where I’m going with this.

What do you do when the trust is shattered? What do you do when you simply cannot believe a word they say or an action they do or a motive they claim to have? At that point, there really is no relationship. Everything done or said is…empty.

I no longer know what my point was in this, but at least I wrote. Do you have any thoughts? I know it’s a pain to have to register to comment, but I have to make it that way to avoid tons of spam. If you have something to say, please take the time to register and leave some feedback.

Thank you!

Stimming

Stimming is short for self-stimulation. It is done by using repetitive motions to soothe oneself, control stress/anxiety, or use up excess energy. It’s similar to fidgeting, and I think that everyone does a little bit of stimming, at least to some degree. For people on the Autism Spectrum, the difference is how much the stimming behaviors are actually engaged in and how the actions are sometimes what would be considered unusual or not socially acceptable for society in general.

People on the more mild end of the spectrum seem to be more self-aware when it comes to stimming behaviors and have taught themselves to stim in ways that are less noticeable and more acceptable. These same people might save some stims, which might either seem weird or distracting, for when they’re in private. It’s important to note that stims are not tics; stims are controllable, though sometimes they will happen without our conscious awareness. For instance, I did not know, until my husband told me, that I shake my right foot when I’m in pain.

Some common stims (which you might easily recognize as being related to Autism) include flapping hands or waving something in front of one’s eyes, spinning things, and moving one’s head around to make things seem to move. These visual stims are not something I engage in. I’m more of a touch/sound person. I hum little tunes, I flip pages on books incessantly (it just FEELS right and good to do this! I need to!), crack my knuckles, chew on my lips and the inside of my mouth, twirl my hair… When more stressed, I will press on my eyes or rub the side of my face, rub my arms, dig my nails into my arms. When I do some hand flapping (and it is pretty rare) it is for the feel rather than the sight and often involves just one finger (ring finger). And yes, I have a few things that I do in private that I feel too embarrassed to allow myself to do in public.

I don’t always do these things because I’m very stressed out. But even in an everyday situation that is not overwhelming, there is a lot going on. For instance, at the time of this writing I am in a large food court where there are people sitting, eating, talking – there are several TVs going and sounds of cooking and cleaning and machines running, buzzing from appliances and lights, movement, etc. Everything going on I notice to one degree or another, and somehow engaging in self-stimming behavior helps me to cope, giving me something small and within my control to focus on rather than the whole huge picture — because I can’t really take it all in and process everything my senses are experiencing. So, as I sit here, I wriggle my feet and twitch my nose and even move my head around a little. When I pause in my writing I crack my knuckles, rock slightly in my chair, etc…

If noticed at all, my stims probably just make my look restless or even hyperactive, like I can’t sit still. In some ways, I can’t sit still, but it’s not for the same reason as someone with ADHD. It’s not really about being hyper. It’s just something I do to cope with life and with sensory overload.

There is nothing wrong with stimming. People do not all have to be alike; people do not all have to understand why others act the way they do. If you see someone stimming, try not to judge. It doesn’t mean they’re retarded, mute, disabled, scary, or anything like that. These people (like me) experience the world in a different manner than you do!

Deep Dark Brightness

I’ve been struggling heavily with depression again lately. I can’t really get into the details, publically. Some of you know a bit of what’s going on.

What’s striking me about this is that it seems so cheerful right now. Warm, bright sunshine comes in the windows, the house is clutter-free and clean, I have a new hair color to *squee* about, I’m getting to spend time with my mother, I got a job on Elance.com, etc…

But all the brightness just annoys me. I feel sad, and I keep trying to close myself in my bedroom with the lights off and lie there, staring at the wall. Or sleep. I want to break things and quit things and scream at things.

Man, I hate depression.

I get little bouts of motivation. Then long, heavy bouts of just not caring. Then sometimes I get in-between bouts where I care enough to try and get someone to help me or pay attention to me, and when those aren’t successful I just cry for a good while.

My motivation gets less, though, as I walk through this valley, and my “not caring” is just taking over.

This is just where I am today. I looked at this blank screen and started typing, and this is what came out.