Tag Archives: cost

How out to be

This is something that I have been idly thinking about since my diagnosis (which, granted, was not even a year ago).  At first I was so excited that I had an explanation for my weirdness that I was telling lots of people.  Then I thought that maybe I shouldn’t be so loud about it and stopped telling people.  Now I’m wondering, in a more serious way, just how out I should be.

I have been told that I pass for normal some 90% of the time.  Then again, I have also been told that it is screamingly obvious that I’m a little odd, though it’s not obvious why exactly I am odd.  In any case, the question is regarding that last 10% of the time.  Usually involving something going wrong, a trigger being tripped or my simply being overloaded, and a meltdown or shutdown happening.  That’s bad.  Plus, people don’t always know what they are looking at.  My going elsewhere because I have a dire need to get away from whatever is causing the problem can look to others like storming off in a huff.  Plus, sometimes I need odd things, like how I can’t stand to be lightly touched, or I prefer to not touch people unless I am fairly close to them, and I need to watch my environment to make sure I don’t get overloaded.  I have learned the hard way that people can be somehow personally offended by my needs or think that they are pointless and silly.  Putting them in a context of an autism spectrum disorder could, potentially, really help.

On the other hand, people tend to have ideas of what ASDs are, and what they mean, and what a person on the spectrum looks like.  Those ideas are frequently erroneous.  Putting myself out there means that I will be subject to people’s biases and prejudices, both in my personal life (such as it is) and any potential professional life.  There is some minor possibility that I could educate a few misguided people, but it’s certainly not something I’d count on.  So being out is definitely a risk.

I don’t have an answer, but right now I am learning more towards being open about the fact that I have neurological differences.  Maybe not announce it all the time, but not treat it like a secret either.  Yes, I am on the autism spectrum.  Yes, it has a huge impact on my personality and identity.  No, I am not rain man.

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friendship and socialization

So a few weeks ago I was talking to my therapist about friendships and what it takes for me to call a person a friend, and a few times the energy it takes to maintain a connection with a person was mentioned.  My therapist always took that in terms of the energy cost of socializing, and that it’s important to get something out of my contact with people since unlike most of the general population, just seeing a person is not rewarding in and of itself.

Now, all that is true, but it is really not the whole story.  There is another cost to maintaining connections with people, and that is the cost of keeping my internal sense of connection alive.  This is something that I gather I am very unusual about.  This starts with something that is, as far as I know, completely normal – people take up space in my head.  I’ve heard some people call it “renting space.”  My metaphor seems to be bubbles.  Every person gets a bubble in my head.  The closer I am to a person, the larger the bubble is.  However, those bubbles don’t just stick around on their own.  I have to put energy into keeping them there, or else they are inclined to wither up and die, and my internal sense of connection goes with it.

Part of my ability to feel close to a person is about how much energy I need to use to maintain the bubble.  I have yet to figure out exactly what it is about people that can make this easy or difficult, but one thing that is true is that on rare occasions I can feel a connection to a person very easily.  This is so rare that it always feels kind of special when it happens (and it tends to be disappointing, though not surprising, when the person in question doesn’t really see it as being that special).  Interestingly, this is something where spending time in person can be beneficial.  Yes, there is an energy cost to socialization (that’s what I get for being an introvert), but the right people also wind up reinforcing their bubbles with direct interaction, so my energy maintenance costs decrease or even temporarily go away for a while.

If I don’t maintain the bubbles, they have a habit of going away, and I have yet to figure out how to make them come back once they’re gone.  On the plus side, this means that I can never, ever wind up in an on-again-off-again relationship of any kind.  On the down side, once a friendship is over, it’s really over.  In any case, my real point is that this changes the way I think about the cost of friendship.  This seems like a relevant thing, so it seems like something worth sharing.

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