Feminist Aspie

Opening Up

on December 8, 2013

I’ve never been very good at opening up. Well, to be honest, I have two extremes; there are a select few people to whom I whine incessantly about life, but with most people I stay very guarded. This explains the odd yo-yo-like status of this blog’s anonymity (or lack thereof). It also explains why I sometimes turn into a living breathing PR machine, sweeping the negative aspects of life under the carpet or skipping over them entirely when relaying stories to other people, regardless of whether or not the bad stuff is my own fault. I have no idea whether that’s an autism thing or not; it could be, although I certainly don’t think it’s limited to people on the spectrum. So, several weeks ago now, when I thought “When I get home from uni, I really need to tell my parents that perhaps I’ve been struggling just a tad more than I’ve been letting on”, it was a bit of an eye-opener to me as to just how big that “tad” was.

I’ve written a little bit about this before, way back in June when I first began to notice the problem, but it’s developed almost out of all recognition since then. It’s not just about social events, although that’s still a worsening issue; it’s sort of all-encompassing. I don’t really know how to explain it, but this term was defined by a general sense of NOPE TOO MUCH CAN’T COPE EXCUSE ME WHILE I HIDE IN THIS CORNER AND VAGUELY ATTEMPT BREATHING even when I was just in my room. Especially when I was just in my room. It’s still largely in the form of completely pointless fear, but towards the end of term there was a shift towards feeling totally drained, nothing left to give, whatever you want to call it. And I’m in two minds as to whether or not all this actually happens to most people and I’m just over-analysing as usual. Either way, I’ve also changed my mind about it being somehow separate from and/or in addition to Asperger’s because, I don’t know, the general “overwhelmed” feeling of it all seems pretty autistic to me (although again definitely not limited to autistic people), which is why I’m writing about it really. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been bad. As usual, I had some fantastic times this term. I know I still love uni really. I just couldn’t have taken another minute of it, is all.

Anyway, one particularly bad weekend, whilst perched in a corner in my room trying not to cry over some sort of laundry-based crisis (not that crying is a regular occurrence at all, I don’t know, it was a bad weekend), it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t kill me to actually talk to someone about this when I get home, because otherwise something has got to give. For the remainder of term, every so often I tried to formulate an explanation, almost rehearsing it, basing it mainly on specific incidents like the huge panic spiral on my first night back (quickly escalating from general justified worrying about work to feeling like I can hardly breathe because I didn’t know where to put my alarm clock or something). Except now I am home, and I have absolutely no idea where to start. There are a number of reasons for this.

  1. It’s probably nothing anyway. I over-think and I over-react. I don’t know, it’s what I do. Even writing this makes me feel like I’m just reversing the living-breathing-PR-machine thing by putting a negative spin on it all, and I do feel like I’m just using the blog to whine about my life because it saves having to get real-life people involved. Uni is stressful. Growing up is stressful. Life is stressful. Besides, being back home and not having just so much to think about feels so much better, so it’s probably just a natural part of growing up and becoming vaguely independent. Other people are just better at coping with it, and I make things worse through over-thinking.
  2. I just can’t quite find the words. I suppose asking for help requires an explanation of a.) the problem and b.) what you’d like the other person to do about it. At the moment, the first part of that is really difficult to articulate. I haven’t worried too much about my description for the purposes of this blog post, because mainly I want to focus on the opening-up issue, but I don’t think it’s quite accurate enough. Like I said, there are a handful of people at uni who must be sick of me whingeing at them by now, but even with them, the words I’ve used  just don’t quite seem to capture it.
  3. I don’t know what it’s going to solve. Not only is “the problem” seemingly impossible to describe properly, but “what you’d like the other person to do about it” isn’t even really a thing at all. It would just be an awkward conversation that goes nowhere.
  4. It’s awkward and difficult to admit that actually, I’ve been hiding something. I haven’t been outright lying (much), but I’ve definitely been omitting quite a lot of the truth and generally being a living breathing PR machine. It’s hard to go from that to “oh, by the way, things aren’t as fantastic as I’ve deliberately misled you to believe”, although actually I’m not sure it would surprise people much given my track record of, well, being a living breathing PR machine.
  5. There is literally no appropriate time to mention it. Over dinner? During an ad break? In the car? Really?
  6. Something else I can’t put my finger on. I don’t think it’s lack of trust. Or fear of judgement, apart from the whole over-reacting thing or because I’ve been economical with the truth for quite some time now. Maybe it’s to do with not wanting to worry people needlessly?

I’m still not entirely sure why I’m blogging about this, and I’m trying to justify it to myself by wondering whether or not it’s vaguely autism-related, so I’d love to know if anyone else on the spectrum does the whole living-breathing-PR-machine thing – or is that something everyone does? I have no idea. To be honest, mainly I’d just like to know how to stop being a living breathing PR machine and start actually sorting this out.

Hitting “Publish” is always so, so scary.

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9 responses to “Opening Up

  1. I don’t have anything useful to contribute, except you’ve made me think from a different angle about some of my life recently, but I didn’t want to read and run as it were.

    Will think and see if I can come back with something helpful.

  2. I know that I used to pretend I was okay and then only let my guard down when I was really not okay. I experienced what my therapist refers to as a “particularly dark time” last fall when that strategy became increasingly ineffectual.

    I’ve noticed my semblance of a social filter tends to go down when my anxiety goes past a certain point. These days I attempt to go to safe places (familiar cafes and coffeehouses mostly) when I’m feeling badly, so if I overshare and then cry, I’m not so afraid of being judged. That fear is still there, but lessened a bit.

    Sorry things are so hard for you right now.

    • Thank you. I think overnight I’ve figured out another point; that it’s hard to just talk about this stuff without feeling like you’re making such a huge fuss about it. I don’t know. xD

      My filter also goes down when I’m scared and/or overloaded. Luckily my friends at uni are generally really understanding. xD

  3. autisticook says:

    Part of it might be how you handle fear. I read a blog post the other day that talked about fear in autistic kids and how it’s often not taken seriously or even recognised.

    Misunderstanding their fear can also be damaging in many other ways:

    * They have to experience it more often than they need to
    * They miss out on much-needed comfort and support
    * They believe that their reaction to fear is wrong or bad
    * They learn that there’s no point in getting help when they’re afraid (or worse, that they need to keep it a secret) because it will only get them into more trouble
    * They lose trust in the ability of caregivers to protect them

    Especially the last three points make it really hard to open up for me as an adult. There is always this sense that I should handle it alone. And from your description, it seems like you feel the same way. (Most people would not call talking to their friends about their problems “whining”. This is what friends do. They tell each other things).

    http://www.snagglebox.com/2013/12/how-to-reduce-fear-for-autistic-kids.html

    Hope it helps!

  4. Byghan says:

    Hi,
    I have 2 main thoughts about this but they are only my opinion so feel free to disagree/ignore.
    Firstly, I think yes the sense of overwhelming inability to cope does happen to a lot of people (autistic or not) especially at university or work – Anxiety of all forms can make it really difficult to process thoughts, deal with new/unexpected situations and anxiety about anxiety is also really common – but that doesn’t make it not horrible and not something that people can help you deal with.
    Secondly, I think people tend to be split into several types on the living-breathing-PR-machine thing: those of us who absolutely have to present what we believe/have been taught to be the most ‘appropriate’ form of ourselves at all times (whether that is the functional being that parents/employers might want to have or the person who shares intimate information in order to show that they trust the person they are talking to or even the perfect example of x symptom); those people for whom the desire/need to project only 1 part of their life only really manifests in some situations like interviews or dates and those people who never separate their thoughts and feelings from words and actions. Whether you also divide those types along the spectrum isn’t really my place to judge.

    Hope this makes a difference.
    B

  5. […] reasons I don’t need to go into. Last term obviously had its highlights, but generally was all kinds of horrible, and again, I can’t quite articulate why. On the plus side, this term’s going much […]

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