I decided to turn my “30 things I’ve learned since I discovered that I’m on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum” list into a post series of sorts. In that list, I mentioned that I’m stronger than I thought. That is true. (Yay!)
It also turns out that I’m weaker than I thought.
Well, OK – maybe not “weaker”, per se. I need to learn to be kinder, gentler, and more forgiving to myself. Let’s call it what it is…
More sensitive to lights. More sensitive to sound. More sensitive to textures. More sensitive to tastes and flavors. More sensitive to chemicals. More sensitive to smells. More sensitive to background music. More sensitive to commercials, even.
More sensitive to criticism. More sensitive to bullying. More sensitive to injustice. More sensitive to violence. More sensitive to cruelty. More sensitive to animals.
I’m a softie. I’m also a pacifist at heart, at least when I can be. I’m also a warrior when necessary. I’m a strong ally; I’m also a formidable enemy. I’m a loudmouthed advocate at times; I’m also a shy wallflower at times. I prefer to be the wallflower. But sometimes I can’t keep my mouth shut. Especially when I see a friend, family member, or Neuro-sibling get tromped on. Or when I see unfairness or injustice.
Everything seems to affect me in some way. Not the “usual” stuff like violence in movies or crudeness or profanity or sex or blasphemy. I can even look the other way if someone is less-than-perfectly PC. Most things don’t offend me too much (unless they’re blatant and cruel and uncalled for). I’m pretty tough to offend.
But I do get affected by more (stimuli, concepts, etc) than I’ve ever realized. I’m more sensitive than I ever thought, by more than I’ve ever imagined.
Sometimes I can’t handle it. And sometimes, don’t even realize it.
Sometimes I only know I’ve been affected if I have to go off and be by myself for a while. Or if/when torrents of thoughts start swirling around in my head. Or if I surprisingly find myself uttering my thoughts out loud. Eventually, I might start typing out exactly what I’d like to say to someone to whom I’d like to “donate” a piece of my mind.
Sometimes I don’t know what I’m feeling or what kind of mood I’m in (that’s called alexithymia; link to decently-sourced/written Wiki entry). Sometimes the only way I can tell is by the type of music that might start running through my head. Or what I share/repost on social media. Or what I feel like doing or writing. Or, in the rare instance that I sit down to my (musical) keyboard, what I decide to play.
Sometimes examples like those are the only indicators, the only barometers, the only clues, that I have.
And more often than not, there have indeed been more periods of sadness or pain than those of joy. Interestingly enough I don’t consider myself to be a depressed person, but maybe I actually could be. Maybe that, like so many other aspects of my life, have been masked. Maybe my acting skills are so convincing that I’ve even fooled myself.
Because I can’t quite seem to get used to or past the suffering, the division of our society, the polarization we seem to be held (by ourselves?) prisoner of. Every time I think I’ve gotten a handle on grief, it rises up and reminds me of its persistence. I might have thought that I successfully buried it. But maybe I didn’t bury it deep enough. Maybe when I tried to transcend it, I didn’t jump high enough.
I thought I was strong and relatively resilient, unaffected. Maybe I’m not.
Lots of maybes.
I now know that I’ll never be able to withstand many of the factors that affect me, whether on a sensory level or on a negativity level.
I now know that there are some topics I can’t ignore or stay silent about.
I now know that I’m always at some kind of risk for a shutdown. That’s something I’ll never “get over” or “grow out of”.
I also now know that I’m not alone.
(Image Credit: Alice X. Zhang)