A Monologue I Can Do

An invitation to a gathering of any kind is a threat.  A cancellation, last minute or not, is a relief like Tums is to my stomach.

It is difficult for me to talk even to just one person unless it is on a topic I can gab about.  I am more confident talking about things I know my way around.  In fact, anyone who asks me a question about something I have a heap on my mind about is in danger of receiving a monologue from someone they thought was so QUIET!

Image may contain: text that says ''I find it difficult to talk to people unless it's about our shared interest. It's much easier to know what to say. I feel confident talking about those things because I am knowledgeable. I can give a proper opinion. I can learn from the other person. The conversation is quite narrowly focused so it is not confusing.' Alis Rowe facebook.com/thegirlwiththecurlyhai'

On a topic I am knowledgeable about, I don’t have to work so hard on when what the other person is saying because I can relate to their ideas.  A panic alert is when the topic is switched and it is out of my topic interest or knowledge zone.  It takes only a tiny bit to confuse or disinterest me when the topic is, more or less, Greek to me.

I prefer to chat with one person at a time.  If another joins us, I go pretty much mute.  I surprise folks turning into a chatterbox.  Just give me an inch, I’ll go 90 to nothing while thinking in the back of my mind, “I better stop before I lose this friendly ear”.  Delivering a monologue on a subject dear to my heart doesn’t happen often since I don’t know many people who share my interests and viewpoints. For the two or three I do, I am truly grateful for their interest and above all, patience.

The Signs Were Always There

I don’t know if the signs for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are as numerous as the stars, but it seems that way.  ASD is such a broad umbrella and each of us on the Spectrum is as unique as those who aren’t.

MY SIGNS

I run in place or pace the floor when I’m excited and when I’m just the opposite.  I do it when I’m doing chores around the house.  I do it to help me think.  I do it to calm my anxiety.  I do it every day.  I used to do it “in the closet” so to speak outside the view of witnesses, but I have since come out of the closet at home with my stimming.  I don’t bother hiding it from the two family members I live with.  But beyond the house, I am on guard of where I stim and where I don’t.

Pin this now and click: theautismo.com Autism Spectrum Disorder, Autism Acceptance, Asperger Syndrome, Autism Resources, Children with Autism, Autism Sensory, ASD, ADHD, ADD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Hyperlexia, Hypernumeracy, Social Anxiety Disorder, Special Needs, etc. #autism

 

When people come to visit my Mom’s house where I live, they’ll usually find me in my bedroom pursuing one of my interests if they care to find me. I’ll pop in and out if I think of something to say. 

If I see someone I know at the store, I’ll go in the other direction because I can’t think of anything in common we have to talk about or fear they’ll ask questions I am not prepared or want to answer.

I am a “soloist”!  I prefer to eat alone, I prefer to watch TV alone, I prefer to play video games alone, I prefer to go walking or bike riding at the park alone, I prefer to worship in a quiet place alone, and I prefer to do chores and errands alone.  An exception would be shopping but only if someone would do the driving so I wouldn’t have to.  There is no one I live with who will volunteer though.

Image may contain: possible text that says 'love to be left alone to get on with things. It is important to me that there are clear instructions, a clear project outline and a clear goal from the start, because it makes the process of working alone so much more efficient.' Alis Rowe facebook.com/thegirlwiththecurlyhai &'

 

An in-person conversation can be a delight or a booby trap.  I treasure the few I know who I feel as comfortable with as my overworn faded jeans.  However, most times I feel trapped in a conversation.  Questions I didn’t see coming, for instance, can throw me for a loop.  I tell a joke and the person doesn’t get the punch line.  If the topic is about something I know little about or care nothing for, I am racking my brain for an excuse so I can get out of the trap.  

 

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Crnde Jolkes A good way to get out of a conversation is to take off one of your socks and hand it to the person talking. Dirty Crade'

 

My daily hobby is having a monologue with myself.  I don’t just hold one in my own space, my bedroom.  I’ll have a good talk with myself on a walk at the park or a ride on my bike.  Back when I was a kid, I would do it at the side of the house while pacing back and forth.  How often?  I actually made a trail in the grass.  When I retired and moved back in with my Mom, I am in the same backyard but instead of the side of the house, I take the whole backyard to walk and talk.

Autistic Axolotl meme: I monologue more frequently than characters in a Shakespearean tragedy.

 

I am quiet as a mouse in group settings.  My mind is a busy bee taking it all in.  I will dwell on the topics of discussion long after the group chat was over.  But on those rare occasions when I have the podium, my mask comes off and the extrovert in me takes over.  The best compliment I ever received after giving a presentation was “I didn’t want you to sit down.” 

I am a never-married.  I guess I fall under the category of asexual.  I admit the thought of homosexuality has crossed my mind.  I crossed off the possibility though.  I had a tremendous crush, on a male co-worker a decade or so ago.  I had it hard for like two to three years.  This was before I learned I had ASD.  In hindsight, with the knowledge of my ASD, my “crush” was obsessive behavior.  My attempts to get his attention were downright awkward.  Poor guy!  My not getting the hints that he didn’t have a crush on me was just one example of my being socially awkward.  I will say this:  It was as close as I ever came to this thing called love.

My signs are just mine.  Some of my fellow travelers on the Spectrum share some of my signs and some do not.  For instance, I have worked with ASD students who were quiet, like me, and I have met a few chatterboxes too. 

I suspect there are a lot of adults out there who are living on the spectrum who don’t know they are. This is just my opinion that those adults who know they are on the Spectrum, and those adults who are but don’t know, have this in common:  We know we are different.  And that difference was agony for me until I learned the explanation of what was behind that difference.  The agony of being different has eased tremendously since I have been in the “know” category. 

It took me 58 years, the right job as a special education aide, and a 12-year-old to introduce me to what was behind the signs that were always there.

Guest Anxiety!

Image may contain: possible text that says 'People on House Hunters are always saying that they need room to entertain and guest bedrooms so family can visit. I need a moat filled with gators.'
A popular saying that fits me, an Aspie, pretty well:  I really do like people; I just don’t like being around them much.
Having guests means “social interaction” and so I don’t welcome it or seek them.   That’s why those who are guests in my Mom’s house usually find me in my bedroom.  That is if they care to look.  There is an exception.  I do enjoy the visits of the children in the family who think I’m the neatest Great Aunt in town with all my electronic gadgetry.
There are times when company comes calling and I know it would be a social ‘no-no’ to refuse their presence.  One of those times was when I did a two-week dog sitting tour for some family members who live out in the country in Eastern Oklahoma.
The sweet solitude in the hills of Oklahoma was interrupted by guests — a nephew, his girlfriend, and her Australian Shepherd dog.  Along with the dogs, I was sitting, we had four dogs under one roof.  It was a good thing I brought my sedative pills along with the anti-depressant I take daily.
The night I was waiting for them to arrive was one long night … and I do mean a long night.  I knew they were coming after they got off work.  They both work at the same place and since they get off late, it meant they would be arriving in the wee hours of that morning.  I couldn’t get my mind off of it and so I saw every half-hour on my Amazon Echo digital display clock.
One of the dogs let out a holler around 3 a.m.; not that she woke me up.  I looked out and didn’t see any vehicle.  I let the dogs out for a bit.  I even walked out carrying a big flashlight and didn’t see anything.  I later realized they parked their jeep in the garage and I didn’t notice it when I was roaming in the dark.  I noticed the dogs kept smelling around the guest room.  The mystery was solved when I saw someone switch the bedroom light on.
I gave up on any notion of sleep-eye.  Asperger’s and company mix as well as oil and water.  And, one being someone I had never laid eyes on fed my anxiety.  The three dogs I was sitting for couldn’t sleep either because they were itchin’ to investigate what they were smelling that was on the other side of the door.  Unbeknownst to them, one of the scents belonged to an Australian Shepherd dog.
The three dogs got their breakfast early at 7 a.m. since I didn’t have to get up because I was already UP!  The young-uns got up around 10:30 a.m.  Well, at least some people got some sleep that night.  After I talked to them a bit, I escaped going shopping by myself to get a break from socializing.  I dearly love my nephew being his favorite aunt, but it felt so good to be away by myself for a while.
My anxiety over the long night diminished as the day wore on since the couple pretty much did their own thing today.  They were the ideal “Aspie” guests!  My nephew’s sweet girlfriend had a brother who has hi-functioning Autism too.  She described him as a computer wizard.  Well, now he’d be somebody I’d be delighted to meet since I’m into computers too.  Her having a brother like me gave me something to connect to her with.
It was good to see them, but I admit I was in “recuperation” mode after they left.  I was back in my “comfort” zone when the house was back to just me and the three dogs.   
Image may contain: ‎possible text that says '‎ו' don't mind company sometimes, but there is still usually an overwhelming desire to be alone. I usually feel quite relieved when the interaction ends. A large pressure disappears.' Alis Rowe facebook.com/thegirlwiththecurlyhair‎'‎

Counterperson Anxiety

Most people have triggers that will raise one’s anxiety.  Such as if one walks into a convenience store and the person at the counter is not paying with cash but insisting on cash with a gun in hand.  That would do it for most folks.

One of my triggers is scheduling and keeping an appointment. Doctor appointments are the worse, but other kinds of appointments are not anxiety-free either.  It’s as much a battle of calling and making the appointment as it is in keeping it.  When I have to call and make one, I actually secretly wish to myself that no one answers the phone on the other end.

A necessary appointment to keep me on the road is a car check-up.   After all, a car doesn’t change its own oil or rotate its own tires.   The auto industry is working on cars driving themselves.  I’m all for that.  It would be even better if my car could get itcheck-up without my having to tag along. 

It isn’t the wait so much as it is interacting with the counterperson.  Most social interactions, formal or informal, are not welcomed by me.  On my car’s last check-up, my autistic trait of the fear of posing so much as a question to the one behind the counter increased my waiting time by an hour.  My car didn’t get any attention until a counterperson guessed I was the owner of the blue car just sitting by its lonesome in the car-waiting lane.  She asked if I had checked in with someone.  Sadly, I had been debating in my mind as I sat in the waiting room about whether I needed to check-in or not.  You see, I had made the appointment on-line.  Didn’t they have the information since they had the car?  Oh, well, I was at least grateful she didn’t admonish me that I should have done that when I first walked in.  I felt bad enough as it was.

A good week is a week without any appointments.  I have more good weeks since I am now retired.  When I leave the house, it is usually to go where I want to go.  It is nice to on those occasions when I am out and about with no pressure to interact with my fellow man.  Even shopping trips are not as much a strain since the arrival of self-service check-outs in my local stores.  

I can say there’s practically “0” chance of my forgetting an appointment.  Thus there is no danger of my being charged a fee for not showing up at my appointed time.  Why?  The anxiety of the appointment will start within a few days before the appointed time.  And, more likely than not, I will have a nightmare living through the appointment before the appointment.

 

 

I DON’T UNDERSTAND EITHER

I have been asked by neurotypical relatives and friends, “I don’t understand!  Why you can’t just…?”  I don’t like the question because I don’t have an answer that would satisfy the one asking.  Maybe that person would be surprised how many times I’ve asked myself why can’t I just do what so many people do without a heavy dose of anxiety.

I don’t understand why I instantly become the silent observer when I find myself with more than one person.  I don’t understand why I have anxiety pangs when my phone rings or I have a voice mail message.  I don’t understand why I need to talk to myself as I do to breathe.  I don’t understand why I wring my hands and pace the floor when excited or anxious.  I don’t understand why I repeat out loud or in my head the same senseless phrases every single day.  I don’t understand why someone playing music on the radio or some other device can upset me to the point of a meltdown.  I don’t understand dating, sex, and marriage.  I don’t understand parenthood.  I don’t understand grieving and funerals. I don’t understand why it is easier for me to show my affection for others in writing than to display affection or speak of it.  I don’t understand why I have this constant daily need to live in two worlds:  the real world and my imaginary world.

I don’t understand why people enjoy being with others rather than alone.   I don’t understand why social gatherings, such as club meetings or church services, can be enjoyable or uplifting. I don’t understand how simple it is to give or receive a hug.  I don’t understand why it is just a simple thing to ask a store employee a simple question such as if and where they keep an item I am on the hunt for.   I don’t understand how anyone could look forward to going out on a date than to dread it terribly.  I don’t understand how the phrase “I love you” can come easily and often off of one’s lips.

I sincerely don’t understand what comes easy, natural, no big deal does NOT to me. I don’t understand what comes naturally for me to do doesn’t enter the minds of others.

I’ve heard it say those who have Autism can’t fully explain it and those who don’t can’t fully understand it.  Although I don’t understand, it is of such comfort and relief to know there are many others who don’t know understand why they just can’t do whatever either.

A CONTENT LONER

Life changed after that lightbulb moment when I first suspected that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), commonly called Asperger’s, wasn’t just a medical term for those students in a special education class where I often subbed for a teacher’s aide.  One of the positive changes was no longer worrying about being a loner.  I had an explanation as to why I preferred to do most anything by myself.

I never thought I would ever say I enjoyed being in a group.  Well, I don’t cater to one where I have to physically be with group members.  I found ASD groups on FACEBOOK (FB) where I could be among my own people, so to speak.  I could participate instead of only observe.  Since the groups were online, I didn’t have to worry about a fellow member inviting me out for coffee.

One of my absolute favorites is the daily postings on FB from Alis Rowe, from the U.K.,  who refers to herself as “the girl with the curly hair”.  The below posting is me in a nutshell when it comes to socialization.

 

No photo description available.

 

I’m isolated in a group. I’m delighted conversing with one person on a mutual-interesting topic. I’m most content alone.

 

Now It Makes Sense

In the weeks and months that followed my self-diagnosis of Asperger’s, reruns of past episodes of my childhood played in my mind. I recall one day in particular when I subbed as a teacher’s aide at the elementary school I attended back in my school days.  As it would anyone visiting their childhood school, memories flooded my mind.  It was different though because I was looking back with a new pair of lens.

The knowledge of my living on the Spectrum solved the mystery of why my Mom never had to tell me to do my homework. It explained why I managed to get through my entire adolescence without a curfew. Or, why I had no phone in my room or desire for one. It explained why I was the silent one at the very few parties I attended. It explained the loneliness amidst people while at school, church, visiting relatives, etc.  It explained why loneliness wasn’t around when I played with my imaginary playmates as I paced in some private place. 

It now makes sense why a change in my daily routine was and still is as upsetting as I imagine it would be for a pilot and crew to be in a no-fly zone. I know better why even a slight word of criticism would shut me down.   I do mean down!  Even at my age, criticism has a melting down effect.  I will replay a confrontation where someone scolded me, justified or not, for not only days but years, even decades.  I truly wish I could put such memories in a “trash bin” like I do junk e-mails.

I am so thankful I had my lightbulb moment.  For me, that moment occurred when I was subbing in an Autism unit and observed a child do what I never saw anybody do but for me.  When I saw the child step into her imaginary world in the middle of the classroom, it was like watching my own self at her age. 

Since that moment, much about me started to make sense.  It is like a curtain opened up.  Despite the hardships of the past and present, I accept having Asperger’s. It is better to know than to be in the dark about what is behind my feeling like an alien in the neighborhood.  

If I were asked to describe myself in a few words, it would be a “silent observer”.  I would have said that decades ago.  But since knowing I live on the Spectrum, it makes sense that I am such.

My Magic Number

I have an allergic reaction to invitations that involve socializing.  They make me CRINGE!  Fortunately, my social circle is size “small” and so I don’t get many invites to cringe over.

A cringing moment came not long ago when I was with a relative and an acquaintance.  I was their driver to a small house party of approximately 4-5 guests.  The friend invited me to stay and join them.  He said, “After all, small is your magic number.”  I immediately knew he was referring to things he’s heard me say about living with my Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

I immediately put on my “actress” hat and pretended to be cool, calm, and collected.  I didn’t show a hint of my inner reaction of lava spewing out of a lit-up volcano.  I kept my mouth shut.   I just smiled and kept driving.  Fortunately, my relative who didn’t have a clue changed the subject.

He may have thought my ASD was no excuse since their group, most of whom were people I also knew, would not give me any discomfort.  That is, that’s how he interpreted what I have said.  Well, I don’t communicate too well in person and so I may not have been clear as mud to him.  Writing is what comes naturally to me.  Here’s what I would say to him and anyone who wonders why I am a loner and likes it that way.

My magic number for living on the Spectrum, with all its traits and quirks, is ONE.  I prefer to work, play, eat, worship, and just about everything else with ONE – that being me!

An okay number is two.  If I am engaging in conversation with another person on a topic I can give input on, I’m an eager-beaver!  It’ll be a race as to which one of us dishes out more conversation than takes in.

Any number above two is above my comfort level.  I can be full steam ahead in conversation with another, but if just one person chimes in, I go mute.  It isn’t a decision by me to clam up.  It’s just how I’m wired.  Three or more people will usually prompt me to put on my “actress” hat and play the part of an engaged listener.

It’s hard, if even possible, to explain why I seemingly have a mute button attached to me when in a crowd of three or more.  A person not on the spectrum might say, “Well, just speak up!”  I’d say, “Please take my word for it.  I don’t have it in me.”

ASD is a neurological condition.  It’s not my imagination or my choice to be an observer more than a participant.  In the midst of three or more,  I turn restless.  I may bite my nails, chew gum, play with my hair, or fiddle with my fidget cube I keep in my pocket for such emergencies.  If you can imagine being in a straight jacket and struggling to get out of it, then that’s how I feel inside in a social setting of 3, 4, 5, etc.

If your magic number for socializing is a number above two, good for you.  I can only imagine what it is to be that way.  If your magic number is the same as mine, rest assured you are not the only ONE!

 

A Silent Singer

It happened on a day I was filling in for a Physical Education (P.E.) assistant in an elementary school. It was the first assignment at the start of my sixth year of subbing. The school is on the top of my favorite list of schools to hang out at. The simple reason is I am among friends there. I’ve been there so often that I am treated like an extended family member. As someone with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), I like having such casual friends who I have no fear of them asking me out for lunch or any other type of social gathering.

I noticed one of the 5th-grade girls during their gym class. I didn’t remember her name but I sure remembered her face. Her fellow classmates’ describe her as “strange”, “weird”, “off-the-wall”, etc. I’ve asked aides about her who will just say the student is different. I don’t know if she has been diagnosed with ASD, or something else. I just suspect she might have an ASD because I see so much in her that is in me.

She doesn’t engage in conversation much with her peers, but she does seek out adults. Even though I was a substitute, she would come up to me and tell me more than I wanted to hear.  I didn’t discourage her, though, since I relished the attention of adults at her age too.   I suspect one reason her classmates avoid her is that she will talk about things that are not on their radar screen.  Well, her topics aren’t on mine either but I can empathize.  Most of my peers aren’t near as interested as I am in virtual reality gadgets, e-bikes/scooters, and voice-activated gadgets.

As the class was about to be dismissed from the gym, I thought I should go over and say goodbye or something like that.  I was tempted not to because I didn’t want to hear another one of her monologues.  I gave in and spoke to her knowing how hungry she is for adult attention.

She lit up like a firecracker!  She asked me if she wanted me to sing her a song.  I didn’t know she was into singing since she hadn’t mentioned it before.  How could I turn her down?  I couldn’t but that was beside the point since she didn’t wait for my answer.

I was pleasantly surprised she could carry a tune quite well.  It caught some weird looks from the other students but she seemed oblivious to them.  It was as if she and I were the only ones in the gym.  She kept on singing until it was time for her to go.  I watched her go out with a spring in her step that I didn’t see when she first came to the gym.  Maybe because for a little while she wasn’t the silent singer having an audience of one.  I was blessed that afternoon to be the one.

 

 

 

Coping after the Party

The No. 1 rule I have with getting out of social events is to select from my list of excuses.

My No. 2 rule is not to overuse any of those on that list.

British author Alis Rowe, who writes about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), stated “I’m just not really that fond of ‘socializing’. I’m not saying that I can never have fun being with other people but I just tend to have more fun when I’m on my own!”

Same with me!

I have oodles of fun by myself. I confess when I have the house to myself, it is like being on a vacation without going on one. Or, if I housesit when I have an entire house to myself, I am in luxury! It has nothing to do with those around me that I prefer my own company. It’s just the way I’m wired.

Parties are hard for me to both attend and enjoy, but not impossible. A coping skill for me is eyeing a party outsider too and striking up a conversation. It has worked but it isn’t full-proof since it won’t work if I am the only party outsider. And, it won’t work either if the other one sitting alone does not engage in chatting with me.

The part of the party I look forward to is when the first party guest leaves. I don’t volunteer to be the first but I’ll not be far behind the first out the door. After the social event, I cope by being with only me, myself, and I! I go for a walk in the park if there’s daylight left. If not, I find something I enjoy doing to keep me busy such as a word puzzle, catching up on my e-mails, or writing a blog like this one.

I have a few memories of having honest-to-goodness fun with others. It’s just I don’t have as many of those memories as I have of “me and my shadow”.