Now, I occasionally write things down and then leave them alone for about… ooh, a few years, really. This is one such document. I apparently used to be in the habit of writing mini-diary entries. This is the kind of thing I would have posted on my blog if I’d had a blog back then. I didn’t, so I just typed it up and left it. Well, I say I didn’t have a blog; truth be told this was probably initially going to be part of a book I was writing. It never happened.
So, without further ado, from the lips of 16-year old me, enjoy.
Of emotions and wider applications thereof
Or why I hate conversation.
I find it very difficult to relate to people. This is either as a result of my living in a world full of shallow, egotistical people you’d have to be equally shallow and egotistical to relate to, and I flatter myself by saying I’m perhaps less egotistical than most. It could be because I interact with a very limited sphere of people, due to my sheltered upbringing in a middle-class family in a fairly middle-class town at a middle-class school with delusions of grandeur. It could even be because, as a general rule, I don’t give a damn about most of the people I could relate to (read: celebrities) and the only other people I could relate to are about twice my age, half my age, or completely the wrong gender.
Of course, it could also be because of my learning difficulties.
I’ve always had a fairly forceful personality, which might seem strange to people who know me; I’m almost painfully shy. Apparently my confidence has been diffusing away as I’ve aged, to leave me a social-skills lacking, unable to communicate 17 year old. Like most teenagers really, except with little hope of a light at the end of the tunnel.
See? I can even do metaphors. If you’d tried that 10 years ago, you’d have been met with disdain. I did disdain very well back then. And sarcasm, for some reason.
Once, when I was in year 2 or 3, I was given a piece of maths homework to complete, which I did, and handed back in to the teacher. When the homework was marked, the teacher rang my mother. My mother was more curious than upset. She couldn’t quite understand why I had deliberately answered all the questions incorrectly. My answer? The teacher never told us to answer the questions correctly. It’s not my fault the teacher wasn’t specific enough.
Then, a few years later, I was taken to see two psychiatrists/behaviour assessors/whatever/bs doctors. They were apparently assessing me to see where I fell on the Autistic spectrum. So they asked me a few questions. Did I like talking to people. I replied I did not. Was I enjoying talking to them? I replied, probably getting a little bored, that they were people… (therefore…)
So it’s probably apparent that my grasp of the emotional meaning of what other people say has always been a little… sketchy. I presume I’m in no way the worst affected by this sort of thing. There are probably thousands of people with even worse social skills than me, probably even hundreds of thousands. The only trouble is, most of these people probably aren’t even aware of what they’re doing wrong. I am; painfully so. What to do.
What makes it even worse, isn’t the fact that people are complex and weird and a bit unusual and strange (and all of those words mean different things. amazing). It’s that somehow, a person can spout a meaningless string of babble, which I am somehow supposed to combine with that mythical thing called sign language, interpret their facial expression, assess their mood and then not only respond to their statement, but also adjust my own emotional state, body language and facial expressions. At the same time? Are you kidding me? I can’t monitor myself like that AND monitor someone else AND interpret their speech AND come up with a valid response AND make that response, not if I want to do it within a reasonable time frame. It is unbelievable the number of times I have been told off due to this processing time. Or, I suppose, I could do this all without that internal feedback system. A dangerous place to go though; inevitably leading to stress, headaches, and general grumpiness.
And that leads me, quite nicely, back to the title. Emotions. They’re a tricky thing, aren’t they? Well, you might not agree, being a perfectly well-rounded neurotypical individual. That’s what they call you in the autistic community. Not normal. Neurotypical. Like, you’re what the brain is, generally. You’re average. And people with learning difficulties… well, they’re individuals. They’re unique. That’s all very nice and lovely, but it doesn’t change the fact that I frequently have trouble interpreting even my emotions. Forget other people’s for a moment. I have trouble with my own emotions. Happiness is obvious, as is sadness, anger in small doses is tolerable, but once an emotion gets beyond the stage of vague contentment or even general misery, it becomes incomprehensible. Intolerable. Emotion overload, I can’t handle this. And that’s not even mentioning the other, more confusing emotions like love and hate and envy and rage and… well, you’d know all about those. You’re neurotypical. This kind of thing is easy for you. And yes, yes, I know, you’ll surely protest something along the lines of “it’s not easy for me either, it’s difficult for all of us” or “we all sometimes get a little overwhelmed”.
Damn. Even talking to a hypothetical person about their emotional normality is getting me worked up. You know when you get irritated? Well, when I get irritated it’s like, like there’s something heavy in my limbs and back, like its achy and heavy and dense and generally uncomfortable. It makes it very difficult to type anyway, because my shoulders decide they don’t really want to move, and with the best will in the world you do need your shoulders to do things in life. Like picking things up and putting things down.
Of course, for all I know, that’s completely normal. For all I know, it’s normal to be rendered speechless by small things. Not with upset (or I assume not with upset), but with anger. Or it could be joy, for all I know. Maybe it’s all three.
That’s where I stopped. So, that’s that, really. It’s amazing how much of that still rings true. Pretty much all of it, I’m afraid. Although tumblr now informs me the PC term is ‘allistic’ rather than ‘neurotypical’, I’m pretty sure it’s all the same thing.
Now, what does this show? Well, that the emotional constipation is hardly anything new. Buggered if I know what it proves beyond that though.