Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Discovering Who You Are (Meetup Group)

Psychology/Spirituality Meetup - from Oct 24, 2012

Yeah I have to go to bed but I have to write this before I do. I have to get it down on the virtual equivalent of paper. Yesterday I had a very full but a very good day. Along with a somewhat strange but mostly okay and short meeting with Marion, I did something I have never done before. I took a real step. Out of my comfort zone. I was brave and followed my instinct. The instinct that told me that meet-up I was talking about last night was worth putting all my resources into figuring out how to get to.

And I did get to it. It was in North Yarmouth, about 9 min from where we ate with Madeline in Yarmouth. At someone's house. I had talked to a guy named G before and he offered me a ride as did the facilitator but Rob ended up taking me. I asked about MCS stuff beforehand. There were 11 people, 10 women and one wonderful and gentle guy. It looked to be a psychology/self help related discussion group. It turned out to be more around spirituality and metaphysics, subjects Im not interested in, but it didn't matter. The people were wonderful. All of them. All of them I met anyway, which was about half roughly. They were supportive and welcoming and just great people.

I kind figured, well, I didn't know what the structure was supposed to be. I might have asked, had I not been so busy trying to a) acclimate to the environment b) talk to the people near me and c) try to remember what it is that NT people would typically do in a situation like this (or what little I knew on the subject anyway). So after she had been talking for about 15-20 min with no end in sight and no breaks I did get a bit  worried.

So I found ways to contribute things that were a little more relevant to my area of experience, but still relevant to what she was talking about. Amygdala retraining, the psychology and science behind some of the principles she was talking about, personal experiences. The people around me reacted in such a positive way! They were so supportive. They were so encouraging. They were so interested!

To start with, when the topic of my chemical sensitivities came up at the beginning, I heard this chorus of "Oh, I know someone who has that" or "My brother or cousin or friend is like that" or "They have trouble with XYZ..." and I'm like just sitting there stunned. This is not the reaction I usually get. One person even said "You were reallt brave to come here!" and everyone else nodded in agreement and it felt wonderful. I had to ask one fragranced person if she would mind switching seats with someone else, everyone was just wonderful about it.

So fast forward to the middle. We're in this living room and the couch was actually pretty comfortable. But enough is enough and I'm getting bored. The one woman who is actually sharing her experiences is talking about being afraid of being stuck in a dead end job if she tries to go back to work and her uncertainty over that. The facilitator says something about being okay with nothingness, I forget the exact words. It piques my interest, since obviously that is a major challenge for me at the moment. I find a way to relate it, verbally, to the group , about my experiences, and share a little about my story and my challenges and successes with MCS (far easier since the topic had already come up!)

People are fascinated. People are encouraged. People want to hear more. It's a really good feeling.

I zone out for a while more, facilitator talking about things I don't much understand, and then the topic of social norms comes up. I use that as an opportunity to bring up autism. Because, you know, I'm getting kind of bored, and why not be honest? Not enough energy to transcribe exactly what went on. But the woman two seats over from me has a son with autism, it sparks a wonderful conversation, and people applaud my honesty.

Zone out some more, because honestly figuring out how to talk in a group takes a lot of effort and energy, and before I know it its 830, 2 hrs have passed and they're doing a meditation to end it with this cool singing crystal bowl thing.

Three people want to have coffee with me. THREE PEOPLE WANT TO HAVE COFFEE WITH ME! And I with them. One person said "I really enjoyed having you here, I sure hope you  come back next time." The woman who has the son with autism turns out to be the one who lives in South Portland (1-2 mi from me ) and gives me a ride home. We talk animatedly and continue talking when we reach my house. I won't even go into how weird it was to figure out belatedly that she was my age roughly and that I liked her. And that for the first time in my life it was possible to like people my age. Like that just occurred to me. I always said I , no offense to anyone reading this, but I always said , I didnt want to have anything to do with anyone under 30. Because just socially it never worked. But here I am nearing 30 and all of a sudden people in their early 30s are "my age." And all of a sudden they're mature enough, at least the very few I have met, to be interesting worthwhile people. And it's like woaahhhh.

I did okay MCS wise with all involved. I'm not saying it was perfect but I did okay. It was the first time I have ever attempted to do anything social with anyone who does not have autism (or some closely related diagnosis or neurology) ..... ever? Since college? Since college, I guess, and that never went well, most of the time.

I love my Aspie friends. But the idea that I could have friends outside of the autism world, that I could succeed on my own merits in other environments with people who liked me, is pretty damn mind blowing.


And yes, I will be arranging those coffee dates as soon as I have a little recovery time.

I hardly know how to begin to process this, but I know it is wonderful. I also know I have to go to bed. I was far more functional than I expected today. Life!

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