Gearing up for my “first” Aspie / autistic Christmas

As most of you know, I realized that I’m assuredly (and that’s “assuredly”, not “almost assuredly”) an Aspie / autistic in late March-early April.  And, as most of you also know, I was rendered a formal diagnosis last month.

I have come mostly “out” to practically everyone but the vast majority of my patients.  This means that my friends, former med school classmates, former med school professors, and…my extended family…have all been privy to this information.

And now comes Christmas.  I had originally planned on staying home (or at least, not flying anywhere or visiting anyone but my parents).

Then, after a conference (for which I had booked a flight) got cancelled at the last minute, I found myself holding a spare plane ticket.  Unable to obtain any kind of refund and not having any other known travel obligations but having a year-long window in which to use this plane ticket, the decision to travel several states away to see family and friends during the Christmas season as I had done for the previous two years was an easy one.

The decision was made even easier by the news that my aunt has two forms of cancer, one of which is terminal, and this would assuredly be her last Christmas with us, and our last chance to see her alive.

That clinched everything.

We’ll also be there for the annual Christmas get-together with my dad’s extended family.

Trying not to dwell too much on my aunt’s future passing (it’s painful to think about and the important part is that she’s very much at peace with her situation anyway), my brain turned to that extended family I’m going to see.  Although I’ll be 40 next year and I’ve gotten together with these folks all my life, I’ve never felt like I fit in; I never seemed to have a place with them.  Sure, I have my few peeps with whom I feel comfortable enough to engage in conversation, but the rest pretty much ignore me, and even at my age, I’m still trying to figure out if that’s OK with me or not.

And now, let’s factor in my newfound autism spectrum status.

Although I’ve been open about it on Facebook, the interesting part is that no one–and I mean no one–in my extended family has breathed a word about it.  Perhaps they haven’t seen it; Facebook has its algorithms, after all; Facebook decides what you’ll see and what you won’t.  And besides, my posts have never been of particular interest to them (which might also be OK?).   Throughout the year (well, OK–since early April, once I was pretty secure in my Asperger’s self-assessment), one would think that of out of all of the people in this large extended family, at least one person might have seen at least one of my posts or links and at least liked it, made a comment, or asked a question (“wow, really? I never knew!”  Or something like that).

But nope, not one word.  Not a peep.  In about eight months.

That leaves me wondering…

Of course, true to form, I’m feeling insecure.  I tend to wonder–and care–too much about what other people think of me.  I know it’s not a fruitful or constructive mental exercise, but it happens regardless.  I’m working on it.  But for now, I’m locked into this mental loop of thought.

Who knows about this?

What do they know?

What do they think?  (What have they been thinking all this time?)

What kind of judgment has been passed?

What might change now?  Will there be (more) awkwardness?

Our extended family has the whole rumor mill thing down pat, and true to neurotypical form, there’s no effort spared on phenomena like judgment, double-speak, and whatnot.  Naturally, the Insecure Me has conjured up all these wild thoughts about how some will think less of me.

By now, I’m sure some people reading this might be saying, “well, duh, girlfriend!  Whatever you post on Facebook, be prepared for people to see it and the news to spread.  You’re the one who voluntarily chose to share it.  Don’t share anything you don’t want seen or don’t want people to know.”

I do realize all of that.  In fact, I kept all of that in mind, every time I made a post.

…Which brings me to the other half of me.  The other half of me, the Secure Me, says, “I am what I am, I’ve always been this way, nothing has changed, it’s just a new defining label, and everyone else is just going to have to deal with it.  You’re fine; don’t worry about it.  If they’re jackholes, it’s their problem.”

I like the second Me, the Secure Me, better.  She sounds pretty convincing, too.  But the Insecure Me doesn’t have the good sense to shut up.  She talks back, keeping me locked in a state of apprehension.

What about the get-together shindig itself?

I’m sure that this time I’ll consciously realize it’s too noisy, too chaotic, claustrophobic, with too many people.  I might realize that I’m overwhelmed.

When will I need to stim?  How will I handle that?

What stim activity can I use in such a group setting as this?  How will they react to that?  What will they think then?  Is there a way that I can do it without being noticed?  What’s “acceptable”?  (What’s not??)

How much sensory stimulus will I be able to endure (and for how long) before I get antsy?

If (or, more likely, when) I do get antsy, how will I plan my temporary escape?  (Maybe that’s why I took up clove kreteks a few years back; it provides an automatic exit to the outside, and for just about the perfect amount of time, too–about 15-20 minutes.)

Will people scrutinize me and/or my “behavior” to look for signs of Asperger’s/autism?  Will people suddenly see me in a new light, too, and will that new light be positive or negative?

The Secure Me snaps back, “look, Insecure Me; here’s the deal: it’s going to be what it’s going to be.  People will think what they’re going to think.  You don’t have any influence or control over that.  But chances are, if you’ve been a wallflower at family gatherings all this time and no one has noticed you much, that’s probably not going to change.  In fact, it’s probably going to work in your favor, for once.”

Secure Me is a fiery one, she.  She’s really on a roll now, on some kind of encouraging, empathetic rant.  “You don’t have much in common with this extended family, remember?  Some of them are downright snobby, others are two-faced, etc.  Just sit back and revel in the fact that you’re not like them and you didn’t want to interact with them much BEFORE you realized you’re an Aspie, so just chill.  The beat of your drum isn’t the same as the beat of theirs, and it never was, so nothing has really changed.  If they think less of you now because of what and who you are, well, then that clinches the fact that you don’t want to relate much to them anyway.  It’s their loss, not yours.  Take solace in the fact that you are that much different from people like that; would you want to be able to relate to that?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.”

Secure Me sits back, arms folded across her chest, satisfied.

And I think, that at least for now, I’m satisfied, too.

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11 Comments

  1. I always over-think my own holiday encounters. I spend countless hours trying to figure it all out ahead of time, and “get right with it”. And I generally fail — until I’m in the midst of it all. My family members (on both sides) are all about as self-absorbed as they come, and since my life does not resemble them, my values have very little to do with theirs, and I’m not in their charmed circle of stuff-to-care-about, Christmas usually consists of me sitting patiently, working on my impression of giving a sh*t about everything going on around me, counting the hours till I can get away and spend time by myself. It’s really pretty awful, when it happens. But there it is. Supposedly, they love having me and my partner there — even though they don’t seem to give a flying whatever about what we think and feel and how we live our lives.

    It’s all very strange. We’ve been spared by borderline-flu during Thanksgiving (no travel for us), and Christmas will NOT be seeing us taking to the roads along with everyone else. It’s a mixed bag, because a lot of our relatives are at the age when you can’t be sure you’ll ever see them again. They might die before that fabled “next time”. But so it goes. That’s life (and death). The holidays are certainly never easy when you’re on the spectrum — especially when you’re actually aware and ‘clued in’ about your sensitivities, and the real reason why you always got so whacked out over the festivities in the past.

    Good luck with your travels. It’s lucky your conference was canceled, so you can see your aunt. I hope she hangs in there long enough so you get to see her. That’s important.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your perspective, girl 🙂 *OH* how I can relate, especially to your first paragraph! I literally LOL’ed at the “working on my impression of giving a shit” (yep, it’s OK, you can cuss a little on here if you want lol 😉 ) – the laughing wasn’t insensitive, I promise (it sucks that it was awful, and I feel for you on that one!!) but because you put SO well exactly how I’ve felt, too, but never realized I felt that way. I do have a feeling that I’m going to be pretty dang honest with myself this Christmas, and there’ll probably be a whole continuum of stuff to write about 🙂 Everything else you wrote was really pin-point accurate, too – I’m also glad you didn’t have to travel. I do hope you get to see your relatives next time around, too (especially the ones you connect more with). Thank you for your warm wishes! You’ve been in my thoughts frequently lately, and I’ve also kept a browser tab open to your blog ❤ (Enjoying your posts, too!) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand your mixed feelings about this first Christmas out and aware of yourself as an autistic/Aspie. I never had a first Christmas as an autistic/Aspie, because I was diagnosed in March of 2007 and in a mental hospital by Christmas. However, I remember beign more aware of my autistic traits after diagnosis and also beign accused of exaggerating them. In this sense, i understand your fear that you might be scrutinized. I also understand that some people won’t acknowledge your Facebook posts even if they see them. My parents and sister don’t acknowledge any of my posts about my mental health / autism journey and I have very few extended famly members as Facebook frineds. They never acknoweledge these posts either.

    Anyway, I wanted to encourage you to be your true self, whether that means stimming or limiting sensory and social stimulation etc. or not. It might feel as though you’re exaggerating and people might even think or say so, but you’ve been hiding behind the neurotypical façade for so long.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Astrid, thank you so much for sharing your story ❤ It's reassuring to know that I'm not alone (although sadly so, because that means that the same non-acknowledgment and being ignored happened to someone else). Thank you also for your kind encouragement – my eyes moistened a little; I'm touched; what you said about the NT facade is so spot-on. ❤

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  3. Oh-so-relatable. My immediate family is an awkward mix of trying to be supportive half the time and m.i.a. the rest. Honestly, I prefer when they choose to be m.i.a. as there is less painful past to sort through and raw emotions are not exposed. Ever since my mom and dad actually started reading any of my stuff, I have never felt more uncomfortable being myself. So, my best times really are when they don’t say anything at all, which seems more the trend the last few posts. It’s sad, but most years they do so little for holidays that it thrills me. It’s hubby’s ginormous side that daunts me every year. They do so much and it is so big I just want to hide, as does my oldest. Very glad hubby gets it or it would be so much more miserable. Hope your travels go well and you find those things you can enjoym

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww sending you massive support, lots of positive energy, and hugs if you like them. Yes, it can be really anxiety-inducing to know that your family can now read your thoughts online! I’m definitely right there with you; I thought carefully about telling my family about this blog, because once I tell them, I can’t UN-tell them 😊 Of my family members, only my parents and sister know, and they’re fairly accepting and busy, so I’m pretty sure they don’t check in very often. My extended family doesn’t know and probably wouldn’t take the time, which is good, because they’re the more judgmental/shallow, save for a few (who I may or may not “come out” to when we all get together). 😊 Wishing you peace and strength! 💞💞

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am sure nearly all my mum’s side is autistic, so we actually rarely associate. I’ve never met my dad, or his family, and as he passed away a few years back, I don’t have any thing to do with any of my family. Christmases are just a time for movie marathons and too much food; for me.

    As for no one saying anything, or responding, to your coming out, so to speak, I found exactly the same. It has been a momentous awareness for me and a huge load lifted off my shoulders. But not a peep from any one. My mother still questions it, but is slowly allowing me space to let it out. I find it strange that not a soul has wanted to reach out to me in any way. I am still as alone as I ever was.

    It is ok. I am finally ok with it. I am learning, however, that I have a voice no one can be bothered hearing. That is ok too. It isn’t victimhood mentality. It is my truth. I’m just not wasting my energy telling any one anything any more.

    Time to journey on. I wish you well, Ms Wave. I have loved journeying this far with you. Thank you. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad your situation sounds pretty benign! I imagine that would be a big relief for you 😊 It’s really reassuring to know we’re not alone! 😘💞

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  5. Never heard of clove kreteks before, so looked them up. Illegal to sell in the US, so don’t go setting up a stall selling them when you go for one of your walks to get away from people, or the next thing we hear it’ll be you having been surrounded by the police and FBI taking you down, you spreadeagled on the ground hands cuffed behind you, amidst the glare of spotlights and TV news cameras with helicopters hovering over head and SWAT teams storming your relatives house 🙂
    I love the picture for this post, very bright and colourful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe 😊 thank you for your comment! It made me smile. No worries; there are some loopholes that are perfectly legal (at least, until my sister sends some to me from Canada! Luckily, they’re not illegal to possess 😊)

      (Technically, what I usually use are labeled as “cigars” except that they’re not, really. They’re the same size as regular kreteks and a similar clove ratio. The best part? A-ok legal here. Snap! 😊 Aren’t loopholes fun? 😉😉)

      Lol ❤️

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