Asperger’s / autism and shame…

This morning, I realized I had lost my keys.

This isn’t the first time.

In a furious combination of panic and extreme annoyance, I tornadoed through the apartment…flipping over pillows and blankets…knocking clutter out of the way…emotional torrent rising quickly with each failed effort.  This Aspie is prone to that.

The usual, predictable inner-disciplinarian came to life, in its “outdoor” voice.

How could I be so careless?  How could I be so stupid?

I retraced my steps…to no avail.

It doesn’t help that I remember announcing to my partner that I had them with me, in my jacket pocket, as I stepped out of the apartment last night.  (Thus, verifying that my keys were indeed with me, and not somewhere in the apartment.)

It doesn’t help that I only visited one “sitting place”, where I spent two and a half hours talking with a friend (yes, on the phone!), as dusk turned to darkness.  (And thus, I only had one place to revisit, as opposed to multiple; and that place was fairly close, which means I didn’t have much to retrace.)

It doesn’t help that I shone the backlit face of my mobile phone around the area before walking back to my apartment, scanning to ensure that I had everything with me and that I wasn’t leaving anything behind.  (This Aspie has learned several (painful) lessons.)

The keys are gone, no more than 12 hours after I had left them there.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, either.  It doesn’t happen often, but, well, even once is (too) often enough.

One might think that I would be used to it by now.  But that doesn’t help, either.

Keys aren’t the only items I’ve lost.  In grade school, it was textbooks, library books, notebooks, homework assignments…

In med school it was actually (eeek!!) patient files after an extremely long and fatiguing day (they weren’t lost forever, thankfully; I had–of course–left them somewhere and the overnight school security had located them and agreed to keep mum about the oversight, as I would surely have been suspended for the rest of the term had higher administration found out).

In my current life, the losses are typically temporary; except, of course, when I lost my keys the last (and only other) time; my wedding ring was attached to the key ring (I figured I’d never lose it).  And as “un-luck” would have it, I never did recover those keys.

Do other Asperger’s/autistic people go through this?

This time, it doesn’t help that I took every precaution I could think of.  I had found a different “sitting place” than my usual, and the lighting and shadows were different.  As I had scanned the area with my makeshift mobile phone “flashlight”, I had a mild nagging feeling that I wasn’t able to see very well.  But for reasons I can’t conjure up, I never did take the extra few moments to step closer for a better look.

My bad.  My fault.  It always is.  I’m always (usually temporarily) losing important objects (my phone has become known as–pardon my French–my “Fucking Phone”; used in a sentence: “where’s my Fucking Phone (this time)?”  And it’s always hiding under a folded-over blanket, or between two couch cushions, or under a pillow, or maybe on a counter-top in a room I recently vacated.

Those stigmatizing words from loved ones come roaring back…. “airhead” … “bubble-brain” …

Although those loved ones don’t use those terms anymore, they’re with me just the same.  The bloodbath continues, a pool of shame.

In typical Aspie-me form, I try to analyze the situation.  Where did my routines and rituals break down?  Where did it go wrong?

I don’t have an answer.  At least, not a logical one.  All I can think of is that my “Don’t Forget Things” “app” has a bug in it; it didn’t execute properly this time.

What I need is a small device that I can attach to my most important items, especially the smaller ones, so that I could hit a button attached to the belt-loop of my jeans that can help me locate those items with sound…

…Except for when I’m wearing pajamas instead of jeans.

…And except for when I’m having a “bad hearing day” when my hearing ability is unexpectedly lower than the previous day.

…Or if the object is too far away to be detected by the button-on-the-belt-loop.

Sometimes it seems like I can’t win.

Miraculously, there is a happy ending to this story; as I was writing this post, my partner came in to say that the keys had been found!  I can’t express my relief.

I lucked out this time.

The shame, however, isn’t so forgiving.  It lingers.

That inner-disciplinarian doesn’t always quiet back down so easily.  It wants to teach me a lesson.  It really lets me have it.

It probably will for a while.  My brain is going to process it on its own terms, at its own speed.

Shame has a long half-life.


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(Image Credit: Aja)


  1. That’s me to a tee! I always have spare keys left with so many neighbours that I might as well leave the door open.

    I have, in the last few months, finally worked out a simple system for my handbag (home key in little pocket. Work key in medium pocket. Phone in big pocket. Wallet in main section.) Finally it’s easy to check I have everything before leaving the house or work.

    Although if any of you know where my sunglasses are…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Awesome! So glad you found a good system that works! 😊

      I *thought* I had such a system; if the keys aren’t on the ledge by the door, they’re in my jacket pocket. Wellll, sometimes they fall out of the pocket. Not often at all, but… Lol

      Hopefully you continue to have excellent luck with your strategy! ❤️

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes! I very frequently will set things down and then have no idea where I put them. I have very specific places for everything (some things, like my phone, have several different regular places) and if I just set something down for a moment in the wrong place then it can be quite a while before I find it again. Sometimes it can take months or even years, although most often it’s after a frantic 15-45 minute search as you describe here.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for chiming in! Really relieved to know I’m not alone. But it sure does suck for both of us lol 😉


  3. Love this painting as a painting , it expresses the emotion so well.

    I rarely forget where my keys are as I have developed a habit of putting them in the same place but it is where I have put other things , many other things that I’ve not had an established place for…. or have changed the ” place” due to household upheavals.
    I get so involved with what I’m doing at the time, exploring new areas, that I create a special place and them ( usually academic papers or art equipment but it can be anything that I’ve not accessed for a while) after I’ve had to move on to a different area ( of focus) , I’ve forgotten where that created special place was.

    This is when I get really frantic, cursing myself, and build up into an acute anxiety state to the point that I can’t sleep … my racing mind is flicking through all possible “places” images flash into my mind’s eye and I need to get up in the middle of the night to have that extra search.

    My biggest mistake is launching into things without having set up an appropriate environment.. a place for everything… best time in life for this is when i lived alone and knew where everything was from the beginning of living in that house. Living with others can complicates things regarding designated space etc.

    You’re right about that inner- disciplinarian chastising and highlighting a feeling of shame and ” stupidity”… despite being sure that non-autistics lose things too my “sense of inadequacy” is ingrained.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I often go through this even now. However, it has been much less frequent due to the fact that I run the main portion of the house now.
    I always thought this was a thing of low intelligence, not an autism thing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah happens to the best of us 😊. I think it occurs on both ends of the intelligence spectrum (there’s the whole absent-minded professor/genius thing) 😊


  5. This seems very common & has always been a problem for me. In the kitchen I have no idea where dishes go or can be found after 6 years. Things like keys, wallet, & everyday carry items have to stay in the correct pocket until I switch pants or I lose them.
    With keys I recommend a decorative hook that the keys go on as soon as you walk in the door. Don’t put them down or in your pocket after locking the car or unlocking the house except on that hook. Worked for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! So glad to know I’m not alone 🙂 Yep, I’ve got my “spots”, for sure. Very specific ones 🙂 They usually work really well… except for when I had to search in my pocket for something and take them out in the process…and then forget to put them back in and because it was dark, never saw that I had left them lying there while getting up and walking away… ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I can so relate to this post, Both to losing things and to the feelings of shame and anger when they can’t be found. It’s a frequent cause of meltdowns for me. You should build the belt-loop device you talk about. You’d make a fortune. I frequently wish I could phone my wallet or my keys or my sunglasses like I can my mobile phone when I lose it! It’s the only reason I have a landline. Another thing I find frustrating is when I have a system for filing papers and I go to the place where the paper I am missing should be and everything else is there apart from the one thing I want. Grrrr. I know it is me putting things in the wrong place but it does sometimes feel like I live with mischievous pixies who move my belongings when I’m not looking!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I do this all the time. That’s why I had my hubby install a special coat rack. It’s only two bars with a second loop on each. He hangs his coat on the lower one and his hat on the higher one. I do keys and purse on the lower one and coat on higher one. It does help a lot. No chance of losing them in the couch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your support and suggestion! 😊😊. Yeah, I generally have a “system” of just a handful of places in which I put different important things, but alas, all my safeties flew out the window when I had to alter my routine 😱 Systems like you described are incredibly helpful, though! They save my butt on a regular basis! 💜💞


  8. Your feelings are your feelings–please dont think I’m trying to “correct” them. But it sounds like you have a very busy life, and under those circumstances EVERYBODY loses keys, phone, glasses, essential papers, etc. Just being human–no shame necessary

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hence spending substantial amounts of money so I can find things without panicking, ‘wigging’ (meltdowns??) and wasting vast amounts of time and energy.

    This means a structured environment, with an emphasis upon function, rather than the impression-management-driven insistence upon ‘fashion’ common to nts/Normies/ whatever full-of-themselves non-autistic people are properly named as.

    Yep, so that means I’m behaviorally rigid. Given what ‘doing things the Normie way’ actually means – I’ll pay that cost. It’s a cheap one.

    Liked by 1 person

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