Every Little Thing She Does – Part 5

An Adult Aspergers Experience of Living in a Distracting World

There’s a story in the Memosphere™, largely apocryphal, that tells us that Albert Einstein, that most famous of physicists, had a closet filled with identical clothes, and wore the same thing every day. The reason for this? He did not wish to “waste brainpower” on choosing what to wear each morning.

While there is apparently only a small element of truth to this story, I find the notion beguiling. It points to a sense of personal self-awareness and empowerment that I value and strive for in myself. It reveals a delicious, liberating selfishness, as though Einstein happily took daily doses of Fukitol in order to thrive in a crazy-making world. And it creates space for me, to notice my own needs, step into my own power, and find my own optimum dosage.

I spoke in Part 4 of two territories, the Outerlands and the Innerlands, and said that I prefer the latter to the former. And here’s the primary reason why: I find the Outerlands largely distracting, and major parts of it uninteresting, and I don’t want to waste my “brainpower” choosing how to relate to it.

Back in the “pre-Asperger’s” days, I often spoke of my anxiety in terms of distraction. If I had an appointment or meeting on the calendar, if I had a phone call to make (or knew that one was coming in), if I had a rehearsal to go to or a social event to attend, if there was somebody coming to clean the house, or repair the furnace, or deliver firewood, or share a meal, I would spend the day with feelings of anxiety that rose above my ambient background levels. And I would speak of being distracted.

As we began, Sally and I, to explore the Asperger’s Experience, it became more and more clear to us how strongly I was disturbed by certain aspects of the sensory or “outside” world. Rather than being a “slow-processing-speed computer,” a “blunt instrument” with “only a few crayons in my emotional crayon box,” it began to feel much more correct to think of myself as highly sensitive, extraordinarily sensitized, surpassingly observant, deeply aware, decidedly quick-thinking, and filled to overflowing with feelings, sensations, and emotion. While I might appear to some to be a “blunt instrument” from the outside, much of that came, not from an inherent dullness of being, but from the need to shut down in the face of overwhelm.

The Zombies of the Outerlands come clawing and snarling at my doorway and banging on my windows and I, in order to keep them out, bolt and bar the doors and pull down the steel shutters.

Overhead, bright, or peripheral lights, distant, overlapping, or out-of-place voices, fleeting, unexpected, or irritating textures and touches, disturbing or assaulting odors, strange or suspicious foods, social needs and expectations, faces that do not match words, obvious but unspoken emotional energies, expected and unexpected interruptions, asymmetrical bodies and faces, out of place elements, unnecessary or constant or obvious conversation, evident mistakes and imperfections, unannounced changes and unilateral decisions, affronts to reason and efficiency and logic, unwarranted stories and unfounded pronouncements, all of these and more are the zombies that chase me. “All the world will be your enemy,” Frith told El-Ahrairah. No wonder I shut down.

For most of my life, I didn’t realize that this was how it was for me. I can look back now and remember my distancing, my shutting down, my going away, my acting out, my hidden, smoldering fury. But there was no story of Asperger’s to wrap around it all, no lens through which to view myself that helped me to make sense of it, no compassionate space of allowing into which I might step, like the Prince of Rabbits, and begin to speak the truth of my experience. There was just “normal,” and “one of us,” and a vast ocean of expectations and stories about how people should act and what they should do and want and feel and think and believe and need, and I did my best to live into those expectations, and I hid the parts that did not fit.

The Outerlands is a boundless realm of Distracting Sensations and Expectant Others and I, fearing the zombies, and standing in front of a capacious closet filled with fashionable responses and outside needs and social expectations, waste an inordinate amount of brainpower deciding which “me” to wear when I go out.

Which is why I spend as much time as I can in my nice, comfy, zombie-proof home in the Innerlands.

(Part 6 Coming Soon)

(Read Part 4 Here)

(Start With Part 1 Here)

3 Comments for “Every Little Thing She Does – Part 5”

Sally Erickson

says:

Paragraph 7 is amazing. It’s as if everywhere you turn there is something that threatens to poke or jeer or slap. Of course that’s not “true” in that we go for a walk every morning on the beach and usually there’s a dog that you invite into conversation and pelicans that you call out to, and you, as often as I, grab a particularly beautiful, whole shell to consider for the collection. And you can be on the hunt in a thrift store for the rare, priceless DVD, with what appears to be a fair degree of composure. But paragraph 7 remains. And I’m glad that I finally “get it” how much it takes for you to navigate the Outerlands. Because we can, and we have, made life better, and easier, and less irritating for you. And that has given me the space to look at my “special needs,” especially now as I swim through the murky waters of autoimmune thyroid exhaustion. Thanks for beating a path to self-care.

Susan V.

says:

Thanks again for sharing yourself so authentically. I’ve been so challenged all my life by the things you mention. School was so difficult for me, particularly the social aspect. I just had no skills and no natural ability to interact with others.
So I stayed in my inner fantasy world most of the time.
There is a photo I found after my mother died where she is holding me when I’m about 2. My body is stiff as a board and I have a scared look in my eyes, and my mother looks pained. For years after finding this I thought it was because she disliked me so much even at that young age, now I’m realizing it could be because I couldn’t stand to be held.
The outer overly sensitized world is so tough for me to navigate. Last weekend I was at a work related conference and was at a tasting event in the evening sitting with a colleague and this woman came up and sat down. She was wearing really strong perfume and I just kept scooting my chair further away. I’m sure it was perceived as rude but it was making me nauseous. I was already stressed from being around so many people. Hard to know what to do in these situations.

Timothy Scott Bennett

says:

These days, I keep flashing on the young me at the point where he left the cloistered confines of his rural, one-room-schoolhouse life and took the bus into the “big city,” and the larger social pond of junior high. I remember this one scene, of sitting at school, in some large room full of other students, maybe the cafeteria or something, and sitting with the one person I’d found some resonance, another lost, timid rabbity soul. It feels like we were just sitting there, watching the junior high scene from the outskirts of the village, and wondering how the hell we’d ended up there, and just what we’d done to deserve such a punishment. I eventually found my way, a few good friends, and some supporting teachers, and my high school years ended up being pretty good. But I was so lost for so very long, and hiding that at all costs. That was always my go-to strategy: hiding, covering up, putting up with, and shutting down my feeling responses. Oh yes, I was the great pretender!

That strategy served me for decades. And then it didn’t, and I began to learn how to stop hiding. I’m still learning. I’m blessed to have a partner who calls me out of my warren. Take care! Tim

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