(My) Asperger’s / autism and emptiness 

Usually, I don’t feel empty–at least, not when others would expect me to.  I don’t feel empty when I’m alone, for example.  I don’t tend to feel empty when I’m not doing anything except staring into space and thinking.

My Asperger’s/autism seems to protect me from feeling lonely or empty when I’m “supposed to”–that is, during times when “everyone else” would.

Sometimes, however, emptiness creeps in, like an unwanted houseguest.  It intrudes when one might least expect it, times when there’s no “logical” reason for it.

It surprises me sometimes.  It strikes at interesting times.  

I’ve been working on trying to identify the source(s).  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far…

When I feel empty…

Sometimes it comes from feeling insignificant.  When I feel my voice has been steamrolled over, drowned out in the din of extroverts, overridden by someone else’s value system.  What I would like or want and what I appreciate are left in a roadway, flattened and abandoned.

Sometimes it comes from being around too many people.  The commotion and activity create a buzzing hubbub that deviate further and further from my natural state of being and my comfort zone, turning up the volume on the message that the world is tuned to the keys of others.

Sometimes it’s because I’m grieving, missing loved ones.

Sometimes it comes from expecting more affection or contact/interaction with my loved ones than they have time for or are capable of giving at that moment.

Sometimes it comes from feeling put off or ignored, such as when people stare at the TV or act impatient when I’m trying to talk to them/tell them something.

Sometimes it arises out of a sense of failure to interact or integrate. Sometimes it comes from a sense of not belonging, when to belong would have been desired.

Sometimes it comes from a failure to be recognized.  

Sometimes it comes from not being appreciated.  This arises a lot during times when I’ve done a great job on a bunch of housework, or perhaps I’ve gone not only the extra mile but probably several extra miles at work, only to be met with a “meh” attitude of indifference, or worse, a sense of entitlement.

Sometimes it happens when I’ve done my best and it still doesn’t feel like enough.

Sometimes it develops when I don’t feel understood or taken seriously. Sometimes it happens when I feel I’ve been met with skepticism or doubt.

Sometimes it creeps up when I think I’ve thought of an awesome idea (a phenomenon that itself feels uncommon, as though for once I’m in sync with my brain and I’ve even found the right words to express the idea to someone else!), or maybe when I find something neat and share it on social media…only to be met with an Acknowledgment Drought.

These all might seem to have a common theme, and I’m sure they do, but each one also has a slightly different flavor.

To be clear, I’m not the kind of person who craves constant attention or recognition for everything.  In fact, that might creep me out a little, especially at work.  I don’t mind hanging out in the shadows much of the time.

As I mentioned, I’m perfectly happy hanging out with myself a lot.  I’m kind of used to it.

I only desire recognition or appreciation or the feeling of otherwise not feeling lonely or insignificant when it really counts.  A revolutionary idea at the office, an extra mile traveled for someone, an extra effort given over and above the average.

And I realize that there are certain environments that vibrate to a frequency signature that is incompatible with mine.  That happens and I can’t always change the circumstances, and it’s not like I can’t keep up a charade for a while.  But the energy debt piles up, requiring a longer and more intense recharge period afterward.

I also realize that none of what I’ve said so far is exclusive to myself, or even the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.  This is one of those situations where everybody is like that sometimes.

I’m also not going to say that I experience these things more strongly or that I have it “worse” in this area because I’m on the spectrum, because I don’t know.  I’ve never walked in neurotypical shoes, and some neurotypical people are pretty shy and sensitive, too.  I don’t claim to have a monopoly on anything.

I do think, however, that being autistic/an Aspie might color the experience differently.  Or it might boost the intensity of some aspects of the emptiness issue and mute or soften others.  Or it might monkey with the time or place.  It might also alter my tool set, changing what’s available and how well–and how often–each tool works.

I’ve come up with a few of these tools (or strategies) over the years that have helped me alleviate emptiness at one time or another.

  • I can watch House MD (I have the DVD box set); for some reason, the action and interaction on that show makes me feel like I’m right there with them, without the pressure of having to think on the spur of the moment or the dread over the inevitable committing of a social faux pas.
  • I can pet the kitties, who purr, nuzzle, and snuggle, as though I’m super-important in their world.
  • I can blog!  Or maybe journal.
  • I can hang out on WordPress! Especially reading other people’s blogs.
  • I can go outside and connect with nature, which for me represents the greater universe at large.  Kind of like “if mortal humans won’t connect with me, then the universe will.”  If humans won’t complete the connection I’m trying to establish, then maybe I can connect up, over, and above them with the universe itself.  Almost like not getting a satisfactory outcome from an immediate supervisor, and working up the chain of command to (finally) be heard by those above their head. 
  • I can read a non-fiction book and boost my knowledge of facts, figures, and connected dots, or I can read a fictional story and escape into the world of the characters.
  • I can talk with my mom, a good friend, my sister, or my partner.  Sometimes for hours at a time!
  • I can look at really neat abstract digital art.  As fun as this can be, though, it only works sometimes.  I have to be careful what I look at.  The same applies to listening to music or watching TV.

In fact, none of these work for me every time.  It’s a matter of matching the activity up with the type and source of the emptiness in a way that can complement it and negate it.  Artists or color enthusiasts might picture this on a color wheel; the emptiness lies in one place on that wheel, and different antidotal strategies lie on different parts of the wheel, each in their own place.  My job is to identify what symbolic “color” my emptiness has taken on this time and determine which color of strategy will oppose it and dilute it best.  Life is a landscape of trial and error.

The emptiness never lasts for very long.  It visits often enough, though, that I could probably issue it a Frequent Flyer card. 🙂

Advertisements

33 Comments

  1. Man, I could deal with fleeting emptiness. My life is nothing but. I don’t think it has anything to do with being on the autism spectrum; it’s just how I am. I mean I have nothing to show for anything – a job I 100% loathe and that isn’t very exciting, no friends, strained familial relationships. Nor am I a household name with either an invention or a breakthrough credited to me.

    Just bleh. It sucks but it sucks much less now that I’ve accepted that I’ll never be anybody or anything. Makes it easier to deal with. I’m just one of those born losers and there’s nothing I can do about it.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I can understand that feeling. I keep feeling I’m missing something, probably from the wish I was talented at *something*. I day dream way too much and end up disappointed life just isn’t as …interesting or fulfilling.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Yeah I hear you. I hold out the faintest of hopes that I’ll be able to launch my dream business but it’s a long shot and the location has to be right. Until then, well, I’ve just accepted I’m going to feel like shit.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ugh. Total suckage 😖💐💚. Launching your business sounds like a great option, and the sooner the better for your own wellbeing, but that’s easier said than done and it’s a long, tough road. But it is possible, in time 😊. I’ve done it, and the stress was *incredible*, but everyone’s situation is different and once you’re able to get yours going, your situation might be different, with less stress 😊. If you need or want to pick my brain about general business stuff, please don’t hesitate to ask! 💚💙

          Like

  2. There must be something wonky with the planets or something. Is Saturn mad at the probe Cassini😒? Everybody is going through, has gone through or is thinking about past problems. I like your list!💞 Especially the first one😷👏😍. Walking in nature is also something I do when I can. I’m lucky to be close to the ocean.🌅🏖🏝☯☮🌻🌴😎

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Good question! I can only surmise based on my own observations, but yep, I think it’s possible. I think anyone is totally “allowed” to be interested in whatever they want, and as intensely as they feel like 😉💚💙

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, all very familiar. Been feeling it today, as a matter of fact. This time, it is mostly related to the chains I feel locked into physically( ok. perhaps a bit of the social side, too)…it seems everyone else around me has the energy to participate in things I just can’t anymore, such as events going on this week at our church. Someone was going to try to tack me into a position that *might’ve* worked at the last minute, but it all seems too awkward to bring together on short notice, not to mention a tad patronizing, so I used my wisdom to decline. But, now, here I sit, watching my husband and about every aquaintance we have be a part of something while I feel, as you said, empty. Sad. Left out. Yet, almost without a right to feel those things, since I *was* offered to do something, albeit something that felt too much an afterthought. It’s like I long to be a part the way *I* can be a part, but circumstances are nearly always against me. I don’t really blame the circumstances. They are what they are-designed for the able-bodied and the socially articulate. And I am neither. It’s frustrating and gloomy being me in those times. And trying to explain it all to anyone, even my loving but sometimes baffled hubby, is darn near impossible. lol. But, thank you for putting it so well here. ❤❤❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aww, I feel for you, dear one! I can relate – couldn’t deal with last-minute-changing plans, so had to decline, but then comes the left-out feeling. I think it’s because I wanted to be able to join in, but didn’t have the resilience to wrap my head around the request in time, and then yep, sitting on the sidelines while everyone else had fun 💞💞. I feel left out by my own inability to say yes on that short notice. But yeah, it also doesn’t help when someone is a little condescending about it 💜💙

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Laina, I wrote a novel on my life from 16 to 24 years old, now I am reading it… i think i am asperger too… my describtion of people and place and conversation with others, word after word, the perfume the colours …, are all so accurate. And the costant feeling of being different. I didn’t understand the others, I lived in a world of mine with dreams and thought just mine… my way of loving too is autistic, I had obsession for a person, when I love someone i forget all the rest… many things let me think i am asperger too…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yeah I think everybody feels these feelings, but maybe not everybody thinks right through these feelings, which either leads to a dismal intensity of the unbearable reality of them, or the obvious need to … think about something else, like the universe. I am always encouraged that dogs unfailingly like me even if humans seem a little more suss–and this works both ways. With people (and animals) it is always an encouraging sign if you come across as confident and aware of your immediate surroundings–animals especially respect this kind of ‘street cred.’ Four eyes/ears are better than two. Being alone is an illusion. But our materialist, appearance-driven society likes to point and laugh at those ‘not joining in’ with their sometimes mindbogglingy stupid, inanities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yeah! This!! 👏🏼👏🏼😊. That’s so cool that dogs like you; I have found that that says something about your true nature, and it’s a good thing. Of course, I’m biased, as dogs and cats seem to like me, too (lol) 😉❤️. I like the way you think! Thank you so much for commenting 💞

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s