This blog is in honor of both “National Library Week” (April 13th to 19th) and “Asperger Awareness Month” (April); although designated weeks and months are hardly reasons to blog about e-mails received quite “out of the blue” from interesting people who’ve actually read ALL of my blogs. I assure you readers, this doesn’t happen every day. I do have a dear faithful friend (just one-hello Clay!) who reads my blog faithfully, and he even checks the LIKE box on the site but the e-mail I’m referring to here came unexpectedly from a 22 year old young man I’ll call Adam because he is not okay with me using his name; but he wanted to be interviewed so…I’ll start by saying we had some exchanges that progressed to instant messaging which I have permission from him to post here in part:
Adam: You should change the name of your blog if you want people with Aspergers to find it. I was googling ‘dog walking as a form of meditation’ to help with my declining cognitive functioning which has been so low these past few days that I don’t trust myself to fry a hamburger without my partner’s help (I don’t remember the steps, and we have a gas stove) or even how to cross a relatively calm street. He knows about my diagnosis but I hate having him or anyone seeing me so crashed. It makes going to my job feel like bloody hell. I was told by my uptight supervisor that I make strange faces at the customers. She called me into her office. That never has happened in two years; frankly I was mortified and embarrassed. One customer (whose perfume was making me retch) was laughing behind my back when I was just helping her retrieve an item from a high shelf (I’m tall). At least I didn’t fall off the ladder.
I’m told I’m “suddenly” not pleasant, not smiling, I seem angry, I’m bumping into everything. It’s true. I was employee of the month last summer. Big contrast. Now it’s like I’m misjudging distances, I have all these bruises from being clumsy.
I’m just off…cognitively.
Math seems like a foreign concept, even simple stuff. And socially….forgeddaboudit! I need mental floss to get stuff out of the recesses of my brain. Simple stuff that I knew how to do instinctively just last week. It’s flown out my brain. Like I’m sitting there, and manually telling myself in my head,
“What’s the normal nonchalant way a person puts their hands in their lap?”
That’s bizarre! Yet normally I know obscure facts and things and like now I can’t walk from point A to point B without mapping everything. I feel like a spaz- a person in complete meltdown. I’m glad I don’t have agoraphobia, I want to be out of doors but the last time I walked my dog I forgot how to cross the street and I just stood there. Here I am trying to feel alive and ‘come out of this’ and I freeze and can’t judge whether to walk into the street or not. Even though the guy in the truck is waving at me to cross. See, at the time I can’t ‘read’ why he’s waving at me. Then I turn and go home and start googling ‘dogwalking’ and I find your blog and it’s also about Aspergers (which I have) and just reading it I feel like, well, I’ve had these shutdowns before. It’ll pass.
I sighed and I banged my head a little on the doorcasing and got some whipping cream and downed almost a whole can; I know nutrition is something I should work on so I can feel better physically. My partner keeps ragging on me about that and he’s right. When he gets home he’ll be all Jamie Oliver on my ass.
Me: It sounds like you are in a shutdown. But you know that. About my blog- I think you’re right. I never thought about putting Aspergers in the title before. So you just happened on it then, and you found my wordpress blog? You said you have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum and that your partner knows about the diagnosis. Is he supportive? He is right about nutrition, but you know that too. In fact there is some data to support that autistics don’t absorb B vitamins the way others do; and if we have trouble with that, our nervous systems suffer for it.
So many things can trigger these shutdowns, I know, I’ve been there. It takes so much effort, just to pass for ‘normal‘ that few realize just how much effort it really takes. That is until, we “break” and THE AUTISM shows like this. What triggered you, and how long do your shutdowns last? Maybe you can stim on something until you get back to yourself.
Adam: I think my partner is just now getting a real taste of what my full blown autism looks like when my function is low (sh*t). He said I was making “funny” faces too, and that really hurt. I want him to think of me a certain way. I don’t want him thinking of me like some ridiculous Jim Carey screwball. I’m not aware I do it when I do it. I know I’m rambling, thanks for hearing me, you listen well…
Me: You’re welcome. A good partner has to see all our warts.
Adam: I know. It’s HARD to be raw and exposed. I don’t like looking weird. Like, he said I looked angry too and I wasn’t feeling angry at all, especially didn’t FEEL angry. Not at all. And he stormed off. I just can’t rein in on all that right now. Goes to show when I’m in a high functioning mode, (like you said) how well I do “passing at normal” cause when I crash like this I get clumsy and misjudge door casings and appear rude. I do plan to stim. I throw myself into activities for like hours. I am going to work on teaching my dog a whole new repertoire of tricks.
I have a lot of patience, even when I’m like this, and working with him like this, in the fenced in backyard, like with simple things (i.e. rolling over; it forces me to focus). I have all these cool-fab dog agility training items like a dogwalk, jumps, tunnels, tire jumps, a teeter board. Dogs don’t judge. What triggered this is I went to like three social functions. I was handling this stuff. I mean I thought I was. I kept going to these things. At the third function, I was in the janitor’s closet at the “rented hall” just sitting there trying to regroup in the dark and thinking, ‘I should not have tried to do so much!’ Sure enough, here I am, whining to you about my inability to function with any sense of outward-looking surface normality and my whining about my inability to navigate my physical body without causing bruises and undue harm to myself! I don’t know how freaking long this will last. It’s been awhile since I’ve been like this. When I was going through the mean teens it was a constant.
Me: You’re self aware. That’s a plus. But you also have healthy outlets and support. I know how hard it is when that one support that means the most to you-sees you at your worst and walks away kind of angry but he’ll get over it. By the way, I don’t consider this whining, it’s just…being real. And honest. And venting. And connecting. Safely. In a sort of long distance way. And I do not see it as whining. I just said that.
Adam: The scope of this disability really is… All consuming sometimes. And I had a navy Dad. The word ‘whining’ was used every day in my household. As in “Man up. Quitcher whining!”
Me: It can be all consuming. No one WANTS to go around being uncomfortable and making expressions they aren’t in control of and being isolated…what can we do except what we are already doing? Lean on those who support us even when we confound them. Accept ourselves. Be our own best friends. Think of yourself as wine-ing. (spelled wining) When someone says you are whining, think inside your head that you are instead WINING. As in wine. Pronounced the same only thinking of wine.
“Stating your mind because you hurt.”
As wines age they get better and better and better, so they say, right? So when you wine (as opposed to whine) you simply are mashing your grapes into a useful elixir. If someone says, Stop whining, think (I’m drinking the wine, not you.)
Adam: Okay. Moving on.
Me: Yeah some of my metaphors are just ridiculous.
Adam: I liked it. But listen. I was wondering. Ever just need to be seen or heard or leave your mark?
Me: Er yeah. It’s easy to feel invisible. My voice is written a lot of the time.
Adam: I do a helluva lot of reading. I was able to go to the library even in my shutdown state. Without my dog of course. No dogs allowed! I suppose I can break down and do the whole Kindle thing as far as reading goes, but I LIKE the whole tactile library experience. Are you like that?
Adam: I like walking there every Saturday. I like the smell of the place. The bay window and the hard seat there and the view of the woods. Go brick and mortar! Anyways I was noticing inside of the books – the ones that I check out- that they often have these red marks in them…these long red lines in odd areas of the pages. Sometimes just short red smudges. It was a mystery.
Me: Hey! I’ve seen them!
Adam: No way. I mean i believe you. So I was thinking what are these, and it dawned on me that when females read books, their nail polish scrapes and transfers onto the page! What does that say about me? That I choose books that women generally read? Ha! Won’t be the first time I’ve been called effeminate. (Trying to get my humor back. Can’t emphasize how much I don’t feel like myself.)
Me: Wow! I came to a similar conclusion about red smudges in books. Years ago, it happened to me. I don’t wear polish anymore but once my polish transferred to a document I had just printed out of my printer and I had to print the whole thing again so when I saw a mark in a library book I figured out pretty quick what it was. It was crafty of you to determine what that was, I have to say. I’ve seen them too, in books now and again. And by the way, I like your sense of humor. The transference of nail polish into library books must be common; considering we frequent different libraries!
Adam: Right. So I thought, “I want to leave my mark.”
I am about to make a confession now.
Me: Uh oh.
Adam: Right. Use a fake name for the blog interview, please.
Me: You can “OK” the fake name we decide upon; and also the editing process and final interview before it posts.
Adam: Here’s the confession.
It was late at night. I was reading an Oprah book selection, called House of Sand and Fog. Excellent book. If it was ever made into a movie (I suspect it was) I never saw it. In fact the novel came out in 1999. I was born in ’92 so I missed that Oprah selection obviously (haha) as I wasn’t into anything but Suess then.
So generally when I see a library book with the Oprah logo I am never disappointed. I was eating M & M’s and feeling sorry for myself because at work I had tried unsuccessfully to smile at a little boy in a shopping carriage.
“You’re weird,” he said to me;
further destroying any semblance of esteem I had left. I scraped a blue M & M over and over on the page just because I happened to have a blue one in my hand.
Me: Did it leave a mark?
Adam: I think the question should be posed, Did “I” leave a mark. Because “I” felt invisible. But sadly no. I ate that one. I scraped an orange one over the page and I didn’t leave a mark with that one either. Did I say they were the kind with peanuts?
Adam: That is irrelevant but somehow relevant to me. So I stared at it, the blue candy, frowning hugely most likely. I can’t tell you if I was frowning because remember I don’t know what the bloody hell my face is doing these days. Then I had a F’n epiphany.
Me: You licked it.
Adam: I did.
Me: That worked; didn’t it?
Adam: Very bloody well indeed. I defaced House of Sand and Fog, page 64, with an orange mark. But I created further undue stress which I did not need. I Added to the stress I was already under.
This is just this past weekend mind you. I had finished reading the book at three a.m., new M&M orange smudge inside it and all.
Next day I wore my partner’s sunglasses to the library. So the guy at the counter is standing there as always. I’m not able to give him even a cursory, “How are you?” (You know, because I’m in a meltdown) so here I am in sunglasses.
So now I’m rethinking the situation. I go to put the freaking book on the counter, and I’m thinking, ‘I wore sunglasses so he wouldn’t see my eyes looking sneaky but do the sunglasses in fact MAKE me look sneaky!!?’
I almost threw the book on the counter from the anxiety of trying to hide the anxiety about pretending I didn’t deface a book which I’ve never ever done in my life.
Then I ducked into the men’s rest room, hid out an impossible time, on the loo! Then I made for the window seat, stared into the woods. Finally I stand up too fast and made for a boring section and grabbed a book I knew I’d dislike (as punishment) and had an awkward exchange with the man at the counter who I was sure had seen the orange smudge by this time and was about to bring it up at this point.
Weather! That’s what he kept talking about, the WEATHER! But I could see it in his eyes, (when I dared glance at them,) that he’d leafed through House of Sand and Fog and he had noticed the orange M & M smudge and he was waiting for me to say something about fog…(because he was talking about weather) so he could cleverly segue into the subject of that damned book (which has fog in the title)! Which was a very good book incidentally.
I still feel bad even today about the whole deal… I mean the “nail polish transfers” were accidental. The M & M caper was pure malice.
Me: (I’ve read the book. I enjoyed it; the whole Middle Eastern culture written about so beautifully and respectfully; I loved the book.)
As for leaving a mark, you’ve done so openly, honestly, here on my blog more colorfully than an orange M&M.
Hmmm as for the library caper. I think you’ve already atoned for the “M & M Malice.”
Adam: How do you figure?
Me: You’re an overthinker. A metathinker like me. But consider this public confession. Albeit anonymous. Nonetheless you feel bad, right? Remorse counts for something.
Adam: Can we do another interview sometime?
Adam: BFN then.
NOTE to Adam and to readers: The word Aspergers now appears in the title of my blog.
If anyone would like me to do an interview with them on their own Aspergers, please feel free to email me, meanwhile I’d like to leave you with this amazing video of what’s known as the
Please watch! (p.s. if the link doesn’t work, as I’ve been known to cut and paste incorrectly, then just google ‘autism funnel’. It’s worth watching.)
I’d like to include another link here, it is a page I read often and that is Karla’s ASD Page, (again if my link is full of errors, please just google that term). I’ve tried to link to a particularly useful diagram she drew up/wrote that seems to pertain directly to this topic. Here’s the link: