Monday, March 31, 2014

Aspie Communication and Connection - 2009 blog

I found this on my computer today from when I lived with a woman in coastal Oregon in 2009.
It is an emotional tour de force.
While trying to describe how much I liked my roommate there I feel like I did an excellent job of describing why exactly I have so much trouble with the other 99% of the population.
I have worked very hard to find ways to connect anyway since I wrote this and am succeeding in some ways but still struggle mightily in others.

Wed May 6, 2009 Siletz, Oregon

I have so many different emotions flooding me, that they are hard to deal with. I think the most prominent emotion is something like when I was chosen for the National Honor Society in high school, weeks before graduation. I was happy for about thirty seconds and then flooded with self doubt and discomfort. My image of a NHS scholar was not what I held for myself; it's hard to describe, but they were the "other," they were "perfect," in so many ways, and I was not. It felt like a kind of cognitive dissonance to be a member of a class and a clique at which I had always had some amout of disdain for and jealousy about. Wanting to be them and have all of the related benefits I imagined such an honor held, but somewhat jealous and therefore a process of "other-ing" them. Standing apart from them. Defining yourself as what you're not in an effort to be okay with who you are. Drawing lines in the sand, if you will. And then being lumped in the same class you had always coveted - to be honest, it was a bit of a small identity crisis. I resolved it somewhat quickly, realizing that it was somewhat silly to get so worked up over what basically amounted to a meaningless honor - especially because I was given it three weeks before high school graduation. Decided to accept it with grace and not think too deeply about it.

I remember this experience and this analogy as I try to process what is happening to me now. The best explanation I can give is that something wonderful is happening to me, but I am asking myself, is it real? Can it be trusted? Do I even deserve it? And then of course there are the worries if it will last, and then there are the worries about how the hell I will ever go back into normal life after knowing this is possible and having experienced it.

Humans do not want pain; that is an obvious statement. We try to avoid it when we can. But when you can't avoid it, you get used to it. And after carrying around a burden on your back for so many years, indeed almost all of your life, to finally arrive at a place where you can put it down - where you can see what life is like without it - it's almost too confusing for words. Do you dare hope that this can be true? Do you dare trust it? It can feel so foreign and so weird while being so absolutely wonderful at the same time.

At the same time, while you are experiencing it, alarm bells of the good kind are going off in your head and you're thinking "Did I just hear that? Wow" and then you're thinking, my heart is healing, my soul has been touched, this is like someone finally took some very special (hopefully non smelly) Scotch tape and bandaged my heart in all the right places. And you just can't believe it's happening and you don't know what to think.

It's all the times in my life where I thought "Why can't people be more like X," and "Why can't they understand when I X," and "Why can't they care?" and all the extreme jealousy I had when seeing how other people were treated, and reading blogs about autism parents who doted on and clearly understood every aspect of their kids and getting so depressed sometimes from them out of envy, and then coming here and feeling - wow - all my needs are being taken care of. I don't feel jealous. I don't feel wanting. I don't feel envious when she talks to other people because she talks to me in exactly the same way. I feel a whole person in her eyes. I feel valued. I feel like I'm worth something. It is oh my God the most amazing feeling. But such a foreign one.

I am amazed by how much I like her, by how similar we seem to be, by how well we seem to get along. She is the embodiment of a million different things I had always dreamed of in a person, and I am amazed by getting to live with her.

She is so emotionally intelligent, and intellectually intelligent, and that's not a combination I have often seen.

She has the best sense of humor I have ever seen in a person. She is logical, She is compassionate, she is understanding, she is intelligent; she is passionate. Her words positively sparkle. She has a way of talking that puts you at ease so much. She RADIATES joy, peace, calm. She radiates understanding. She works through problems in a logical way. She does NOT make me feel like a bother or a problem or in the way in any way. She makes feel understood, appreciated, helpful even. She talks to me like an equal. Everything about her has a way of telling you that you are important, you matter, but it's not only that, talking to her basically silences all the unquiet parts of me, it just makes me feel all right. It's like a spell has been put on me. The spell of human connectedness?

She has the ability to laugh at ANYTHING. Now, most people say they try to make light of things and keep a sense of humor, but she actually does. I am stunned and awed by that. She doesn't make anything into a big deal. She is very accepting of just any problem you could imagine and thinks and talks about it very logically and compassionately.

And it's little things. I tried keeping notes the last couple days. Random things like:

1. When she was going to have a client at the house for a massage, she made sure to prepare me ahead of time and tell me very explicitly what she expected of me, ie, no noise, make sure the bathroom is clean, etc. But she even went so far and was emotionally honest enough and comfortable enough with both herself and me to tell me in a perfectly normal tone of voice - not embarassed, nervous, ashamed, or making me feel that way - to be sure not to (redacted). I might not have thought of that had she not said it, or I might have, but that's not the point. The point is she was comfortable enough to point out directly something that could have been a problem, instead of waiting for it to happen, having it be a problem, stewing over it, stressing over it, telling everyone she knew how big of a problem it was, growing resentment over me by the day, blowing it out of porportion and finally telling me to leave.... that's how most people would have done it. Almost everyone I've known. People will NOT talk to you directly. But she does. And she did. And she made it so simple. So simple. Just like it should be. Not a problem. Just a casual mention and problem solved. I am in awe. Life as it should be. Most people would be too damn embarassed to bring up such a thing, and in such a kind way.

2. Her tone of voice in general. She does NOT and has not  for a minute made me feel embarassed, ashamed, or scared of anything or about anything. She does NOT seem to resent me in the slightest. She has never had an ounce of resentment, bitterness or tension in her voice, and I don't think I've ever met a person like that. Even when she's asking me not to do something or to do something - she says it so simply and there is that ever present quality of joy in her voice - she never sounds bitter or resentful of anything, and therefore I don't have to be scared of her, like I am of almost everyone. I can say things in the utmost honesty and not have to worry obsessively about how she is going to percieve it and how it is going to affect relationship and what repercussions there will be from saying X thing,and most of all think of a million different ways to phrase the same thing to cause the least offense  while tensing in anticipation for the usual negative response - it's simply not there. What a new experience. I don't want to ever have to be scared of someone again. I fear what will happen when/if I have to leave, but I am trying to  just enjoy it now as much as possible.

Most people, even if they're not consciously doing anything, you can see it in their face. As bad as I am reading faces, I can see the disgust, the tension, the impatience, the perplexment, in regards to just about everything I say, in one way or another. In some ways you get used to it but in other ways it never stops hurting. But it's a kind of hurt in the back of your mind you try not to think of much.

But with her, everything I say seems to click and register and she comes back with the perfect response. She validates and appreciates everything I say. Every single thing. Again. I am in awe. How is this possible?

She doesn't resent it when I ask too many questions. She doesn't ascribe hidden motives to what I'm saying. She is never impatient. She never makes me feel - anything bad. She never gives any sign that what I am saying is unimportant to her in any way.

She told me I didn't have to use the dish soap if I didn't want to and could wash the pan with very hot water. She realized when I asked about if you needed soap to wash the pan that I was worried about the possible smell of the soap without me even having to say so, and she did not mock me for it, she did not get impatient, she gave no signs of thinking it crazy, she did not assign any negative value to it. Instead, she understood, she ACCEPTED, she VALIDATED, she came up with an alternative solution, she didn't JUDGE. How is this possible?

I feel like Alice stepping down the rabbit hole.

It's a parallel universe, it's got to be. Ha.

This is what I've always wanted, but it feels so unbelievably strange that I can't even tell you.

3. Etc.

She asks how I am every day! Sincerely. My gosh, that feels good. It's been years since anyone did that. It's again a dream.

She isn't put off by my anxiety, or doesn't seem like it. We have long and interesting conversations. And she isn't put off by  the fact that I can't seem to sit still and fidget and can't stop moving. She isn't put off by my intensity, she isn't affected by my sometimes anxious tone of voice. She is intense and passionate herself. It is amazing.

She takes me seriously. Every symptom, everything I say. There is no poopahhing or exasperation. She takes everything I say seriously. It is weird and amazing.

I can talk about sensitive issues without a HINT of self consciousness. I've never been able to do that with anyone before. gosh - conversation without drama is so amazing.

She is the most emotionally honest person I have ever known. She is the most passionate and vivid and open person I have ever known. Her emotions are visible and understandable. I don't feel emotionally shut out like 99.9999999999% of people. I see myself in her. I am so touched by the emotions radiating from her. It is so gratifying to look at her and realize - I understand the emotion she is feeling! I experience it too! To have that feeling of connection and realization instead of a constant feeling of otherness - I have no words for it. Her face and emotions are readable while most people's are completely inscrutable, the latter of which of course causes me a large amount of anxiety.  
For most of my life people have been telling me I try to manipulate people simply by making my needs known and asking people to be explicit about what they want from me. I was beginning to think it simply wasn't possible for people to do this for me, and for me to find a living situation and a person that I could get along with, that would meet my needs without
making the other person crazy. To find someone who could tell me what they needed me to do so they could be okay with me since God knows I can't guess, and who wouldn't resent the extra work of being explicit in this way. And it appears I have found such a person. It's .... wow.

It's like something's being opened in me that's been shut for a very long time. That's never really been opened in the first place. I don't feel it as much as I would like - cognitively, emotionally, I've felt, well, more than a little on the brain dead/brain fogged side since I got here, and there are a lot of things I am realizing and appreciating cognitvely that my emotions haven't really caught up to yet. But perhaps then I have too many defenses up and can't let myself feel them - who knows - either way I appreciate it - because even if I can only feel it at a level of 10 or 20% - it's sure a heck of a lot better than zero.

She talks to me in the exact same way as she'd talk to anyone else. I have not ever known someone in my life that treated me the same way they treated their friends. People never seem to know what to do with me. They are always put off by me. They always make allowances somehow for me, thinking they have to either talk down to me or talk in some other unnatural kind of way. They're never relaxed around me. It drives me CRAZY CRAZY and it has all my life. Another thing I've had to learn how to ignore but frankly I've had very little success ignoring it other than just trying to stay away from people completely as much as I can. To be treated and talked to the same way as other people, is more gratifying than you could imagine. To have her be open with me emotionally in all ways - After being shut out for as long as I can remember from anyone's emotional life - this is like an emotional feast, an emotional tour de force, in a good way.  

So many things have been changed about my life, so many things have been thrown into upheaval, but talking to her has kept me level headed and largely unconcerned - it's like all my emotional needs for once are being taken care of so I don't have to go into panic mode like I usually do.

All I know is I need to appreciate this while I have it.    


I just realized something rather interesting.

I was thinking more about my roommate and the way she communicates with me. And I realized something.

It clicked when she said something like "Just so you know, you probably shouldn't leave the chicken out for too long," telling me I should put the chicken we just bought away.

Once again, I noted the way in which she said it. She takes such care to say *everything* in such a non-offensive, friendly way. Adding the "Just so you know" or "I thought I should tell you that" or whatever it is before telling me something she wants me to do makes it again sound less like a demand or something one should be resentful for and more like just.... what it is. No drama, just... I don't know....respect?

Similarly, I realized fully for the first time how her style of communication satisfies every emotional need I have ever had in every way I ever dreamed of someone communicating - and how that completely changes the way *I* communicate with her, and my personality in doing so - for the better.

I have a tendency it seems to get angry, annoyed, irritated, whatever at people awfully fast. Faster than I would like. People just often drive me crazy. The communication gap has always seemed too wide - I just could never quite get what they were saying, and I always seemed to reply to what they said in a way that angered them, for reasons I could never quite understand. To make it simple: other people angered me and I couldn't understand what they were trying to say; I angered them and they couldn't figure out what I meant to say. An impasse.

There are two chief reasons that just about every person in the world drives me insane.
They both stem from the Aspie lack of ability to understand and interpret nuance, especially nonverbal nuance or language in communications; to interpret intent; to read other people's desires or feelings without verbal language.

One is emotions. People are never emotional enough for me. That is, they do not show their emotions and feelings in verbal ways, or they do not show them in ways I can interpret nonverbally. I am a very emotional person who has a strong need to have my emotions validated and acknowledged by others. If I am communicating with someone and I tell a story, it's the emotional part of it that matters to me, not the practical part. I get very, very frustrated by people who do not respond to or acknowledge the emotions that I express. If I am sad, hurt, or otherwise seeking comfort, I have had a VERY VERY hard time with not being able to understand that other people might feel bad for me and have empathy or sympathy, but they refuse to show it. In other words, I can't tell someone else is acknowledging my emotions. nonverbally, or in an implicit (previously understood) way.
And so I keep on feeling isolated, miserable, and so on, only 10 times worse because I think the person doesn't care, is snubbing me ,a nd so on.

The second is understanding.
Many times I have said to people I am close to, when having a discussion about any of a variety of topics, if you would just say " I understand, BUT..." and then say what you're saying, I would be fine and the discussion would proceed normally. But if I say something and the other person doesn't acknowledge it and just follows with a statement that completely disagrees with what I just said, I will often go crazy. I will start yelling or crying - it feels like I have just been completely misunderstood and what I said disregarded. I don't understand that them understanding what I said is supposed to be implicit. I can't know if they understood me unless they say so. And I cannot tolerate being misunderstood. Emotionally it plunges me into despair.
It is just one of those triggers. I had a childhood with a speech impediment and a social development disorder - therefore I grew up used to people not physically understanding what I was saying, and definitely used to people not emotionally understanding what I was saying. Add this to my theory of mind problems with Asperger's - I don't know what other people understand or know, I only know what is in my own mind - and I have NEVER taken someone understanding what I am saying for granted. Therefore, I really need people to interject those extra few words to acknowledge what I said - about any issue , really - before responding to it. If they don't, the vast majority of the time, I get very angry, upset or frustrated, as much as I try not to. This has led to trying to avoid a lot of communications due to this problem.

When I think back on it I think nearly all of my communication difficulties or tension with people, at least people I know well rather than just casual acquaintances, was due to this simple tenet: I tend to get very defensive very quickly, and I tend to be somewhat quick to anger if I think someone is not understanding what I am saying, or misinterpreting what I'm saying, or making incorrect statements about me. Part of that anger stems from the enormous amount of resentment I am carrying around from spending almost an entire lifetime being misunderstood, of being lonely, of not having anyone who I felt understood who I was. And of not being able to understand what they feel either. It is a feeling of being cut off from other people and the world that is quite unpleasant. And so when the inevitable miscommunication occurs, it reminds me of this, this bitterness, this resentment, and that makes me angry. Therefore my response to the person who made the gaffe might be or quite often will be out of porportion to what they actually sad or did. This is not something I like or am proud of but I am starting to realize why things happen the way they do.

It is possible that my tone of voice or attitude could be construed as a lot more negative, irritable and offensive than I ever realized it was, just because I'm in this constant state of frustration, anger and fear because I feel like no one ever is understanding the things I feel it is essential for them to understand - or the more likely scenario of they understand it fine but are not able to communicate that understanding in a way that I can pick up on. So they get hurt or offended that I didn't pick up on their positive, caring vibes and got offended instead; i get hurt and offended by interpreting the message wrong and thinkign they don't care or understand. It's a negative cycle to be sure.

This doesn't happen with EVERY single interaction, and rarely with strangers, but does a lot with people I know.

The reason I bring this up:

I realized that NONE of this , that is none of the negative reactions, have been happening with my roommate. I have been keeping mental note of all the amazing ways in which she communicates in exactly the way I need it. And I still can't quite believe it.

1. The emotional part - she acknowledges EVERY emotion, thought, feeling. Naturally. All of her statements and the very fiber of the way she communicates is designed to acknowledge and emotionally validate the person she is talking with. It is just the way she is, naturally - but I have never met anyone like that in my life. It is so ....calming and de-escalating to hear someone affirming me, understanding me, and to be able to *understand* her understanding. Her tone of voice is filled with empathy, joy, affirmation - I usualy can't understand anything but the most obvious tones of voice, but I can understand this, and it lifts my soul. Her face, too, displays nothing but empathy, concern, joy - acknowledgement - and again - the emotions are such in a way that I can read them. That has happened all too rarely in my life. It has kept me much more emotionally level - every time my emotions start to escalate, and I talk to her, it just makes me feel calm, centered, able to move on. Not that I don't have any anxiety because I do - but it makes it entirely manageable for the most part. And I appreciate the lighter burden to carry.
It's not even so much what she says, it's not what she does - it's that she's able to communicate that she cares, and that just means the world to me.

2. Understanding. Again, with everything she does, she shows that she understands everything I say. Every single word. You have no idea how refreshing and wonderful that is. When emotions have a hold of me they are like a savage beast that rips me apart and threatens to devour me. The loneliness and isolation feed the beast. The anxiety coming from containing the emotion or feeling within me is terrible. It needs to come out. When someone shows me they understand the emotion, they understand where it is coming from, they can even label it perhaps - it strips the beast of all its power. It takes the fear and overwhelmingness away. It makes me feel connected and wonderful and warms my heart. And again, she does this , it seems, so naturally it stuns me. I mean, I have felt pretty bad because of health stuff lately and am often rather brain fogged, but even through my fog, I'll hear the emotion, the understanding, the empathy in her voice and be amazed and appreciative. I spent years and years, in college, before college, after college, crying because I wanted this so bad but there was nowhere to get it. I wasn't getting it from my family, and attempts to do so resulted in being told I was "manipulating" them, which hurt me even more; I tried to get it from various teachers and professors in high school and college, and got very small amounts which I cherished, but I largely was left alone. Dreaming of, and trying to imagine, what it would feel like to communicate with someone who actually "got" me, who it didn't seem like pulling teeth to communicate with.

And now I have found it. It is of course tempered by all of the other problems I am having health-wise, and I am often mad that I feel I am not ableto appreciate it as much as I should. I feel like had this happened a few weeks ago I'd be just in love with the situation, relaxed, and joyful all the time. Instead, in some ways, my anxiety issues are at an all time high, and I really don't like that. My brain fog makes it so sometimes things seem too far away to process or appreciate. But through it all I remain determined to acknowledge and make sure to appreciate the good things that have befallen me.

It seems in part that I have found a partial answer to why I seem to have trouble relating to so many people. I need people who are much more emotional, much more expressive, and verbally express their understanding. And after meeting my roommate I know it is possible.

The question i,s, can I use this knowledge to help me not be pissed off by other people?

I a,m thinkingthat will be difficult. The response is too ingrained. Perhaps with therapy but that isnt an option due to MCS. for most paer. Can I try to seek out people who I can educate, who I can use this knowledge to show them how to best communicate with me in a way that will make me less likely to bite off their head? I hope so.

To be honest, I really do try to restrain myself. I do not consider myself a rude person, I do not attack people verbally, I'm not really that bad.... I think it's mostly my tone of voice that I am not aware of until after the fact that can take on an overly irritated tone that can be offensive to others. I do very closely watch my words so as not to be offensive but to monitor both that and be aware of my tone of voice and prevent hair trigger reactions to triggers is something I find very difficult.

From Summer 2009


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