Autism, emotions, and self-expression

Hollywood and the media would have people believe that autistic people are “robots”.

(I know, right?)

But those of us in the know–and we’re a rapidly-expanding group–know better. 

For the cheap seats, I’m capable of emotion.   Some might say almost too capable.  Emotions bowl me over with intensity.  I freeze and act nonchalant, pausing just long enough to try to make sense of them. 

Because that’s the real trick – not cultivating emotions, but sorting them out.  Putting them in proverbial categories. 

Heh, I wish. 

I can’t usually get that far.  I’m just lucky if I can express them in a recognizable way, a way that is socially acceptable.  

Cue more inevitable social awkwardness.  Cue the inevitable confusion.  

Cue the inevitable inner torrents, as the different waves break and overlap each other, swirling into each other, taking turns overtaking each other. 

Lots of “inevitable”s there.

People talk about mental pretzels; I’m an emotional pretzel.  Not that I’m overly emotional, per se; I work hard to keep Logic in the driver’s seat.  

But emotions for me are like tornados; they form and build momentum, and they can sometimes be destructive…and then they dissipate innocently into nothingness, as if to say, “who, me?  What are you staring at?”

Almost as though it’s insinuating that I’m imagining things.

But I know one thing, and that’s that it’s not my imagination.  Those emotions, even if difficult to identify and express, are very real.

Sometimes it helps to make a bulleted list of my thoughts and feelings in a journal, or even a blank word processing document, or even on a disposable piece of scratch paper.  And sometimes it doesn’t.  It all depends.

When I’m writing it down (or rather, trying to), it helps to stick with what I do know and what I can identify, which might be precious little, at first.  And if it’s not much, especially in the beginning, that’s OK.  I have learned not to criticize myself harshly for the shortcoming.

Sometimes I’m so happy or overjoyed or excited that I can’t express that.  Sometimes I’m depressed and I don’t realize it.  Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m OK, or not?

Sometimes those questions that seem so rudimentary that others might not even think to ask them, actually call for pause and deep and careful consideration, before I can give an answer that resonates solidly with me.

The funny thing is, I didn’t even realize that I had any difficulty with this until very recently.  I had no idea that I had any issue identifying and expressing emotions.  I knew that my emotions could often be strong and run deep, but I was completely unaware that there were other emotions hanging out on the sidelines or just below the surface that I didn’t know were there.

After all, you don’t know what you don’t know, right?

It’s only after coming across Alexithymia as a concept and then doing some personal digging that I realized that, like every other mystery for which this Asperger’s/autism term has given me my code-key, this one applied to me, too.

Who knew?

I sure didn’t.

But I do now.

Just one more item unpacked from the Asperger’s/autism suitcase.  ๐Ÿ˜‰

***

PS: I did have plans to make a second YouTube video for the channel today, but a headache got in the way, so it hasn’t happened yet.  I do want to take this opportunity to give everyone who has watched, liked, commented, and subscribed so far a huge thank you!!  You guys are amazing!!  My ibuprofen has kicked in, so I will try to get it done tonight; if I can’t, then it’s on my docket for tomorrow, probably in the afternoon, US time-range.  ๐Ÿ™‚ 

**

(Image Credit: Yuumei)

โค

โค

โค

73 Comments

  1. Bleh, headaches can be such a drag! I just got rid of one on my blog a little bit ago. ๐Ÿ˜
    Please feel better very soon.

    I so relate to this post! For me, when I get to the point where I associate negative emotions with a person, bam, shut down mode, I’m gone. Very, very, very few understand this and it’s all the same to me. I gave up trying to connect before I even finished junior high. Shut down was always so much easier, safer.

    I wish I could say that I have even the slightest grasp on how to sort or identify my emotions, ha! My inner dialogue is well versed in the word “inappropriate.” It’s negative self-talk, but yeah, I keep thinking it! And, oh Lawdy, don’t even get me started on anxiety. But, I have a gift for keeping my true feelings/emotions completely hidden, so it works out. Do you do that, too?

    I use fitness to regulate negative emotions and I use donuts to feel better if the fitness doesn’t work. You do the math. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    But for real, thanks for this one.

    It’s an area that just doesn’t get enough legitimate, “appropriate” attention, I think. I also think the way Hollywood portrays Aspie’s as having a flat affect is a little ridiculous. Female aspie’s are gifted at emulating and masking, and since there are so few diagnostic tests available to females (that I’m aware of?), not enough data is out there for us. In keeping in time with the general theme of my live blog today (ha!), GENDER does play a role in ASD characteristics, I think. It’s important because I can’t tell you how often I get told, “But you seem so NORMAL!” HAHA! If I am the barometer for what is normal, honey WE ARE ALL IN TWUBBLE! ๐Ÿคช

    What I like about you, Laina, is that when I disappear for weeks or months at a time off my blog, I know that you are one of the absolute few who can really say, “Ahh, JM is prolly having some sensory overload.” It has been….uh, practically never, since I’ve felt so understood and free and accepted (or even acceptable, truth told).

    Another epic write, doll. Please be well. Lavendar and warm tea tonight, maybe?

    Hugs, ladybug!

    ~JM

    Liked by 4 people

    1. JM luv, your posts always make me grin from ear to ear! Light up my whole whatever-time-of-day-it-is ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜.

      I can relate so much to everything you said!! Anxiety, good lord, yeah, one stone better left unturned for the night, eh? ๐Ÿ˜˜. I totally understand โค๏ธโค๏ธ.

      I can sometimes keep emotions under wraps by masking, and other times I can’t; in the latter situation, I end up unintentionally wearing my emotions on my sleeve lol. I’d rather not, but the masking ability depends on my energy levels lol ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ’–

      Stop that with the negative self-talk, young lady ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ’–๐ŸŒŸ๐Ÿ’–. Do I need to come over there and give you a hug and give that inner critic a good talking to? ๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’œ

      Ooooh, I love the fitness idea!! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ. I really really need to start doing something like that as well ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ’—

      Lol you’re right on about a lot of the female Aspies out there!! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ๐ŸŒท๐ŸŒบ. Lol I love your sense of humor, girl! ๐Ÿ˜

      Thank you so much for all the lovely words, about the post and about me personally ๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜˜. Please please always remember that the feeling is so mutual it’s not funny (๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜˜), and please know that your words are very very much treasured ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ’•๐ŸŒท๐Ÿ’•. I’m digging the tea idea! Yes, I believe I will! *teacup clink*

      Hugs to you, sweetness!! ๐ŸŒˆโ˜„๐ŸŒŸ๐Ÿ’˜๐Ÿ’˜๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’•

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I discovered alexithymia relatively late in my AS journey. Instantly it explained some of my difficulties in answering questions when doctors interrogated me. I also have tremendous difficulty in describing what type of pain I am feeling, matching their suggested words (like “sharp”) to my sensations. I just don’t seem to have a programme that matches physical sensations to words. I am better at matching words to emotional feelings or psychological experiences, once I figure out what the feeling actually is. And to make it more complicated, different emotions (shame, disappointment, despair) can express themselves with the same physical feeling.

    All negative feelings produce a sense of inner heaviness, collapsing downward within me, Sorting out which feeling is producing that sensation is a challenge. I suppose this is why I generally found counselling very unhelpful (except for one older woman who seemed to intuitively know what I was feeling, very accurately, and could name it for me). “How do you feel?” is a question that causes me to inwardly contract and shudder whenever I hear it. I feel things very intensely, but in different shades and intensities, and it’s like a vast palette of colour with so many tones and hues, each with a different name, which only make sense to me, not others.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes! I can relate a lot to this ๐Ÿ’—. Especially the part about not having a way to describe some of the physical sensations! (I hope that a lot of parents of kids on the spectrum read this! It might explain a few things! ๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’™). I know I’m feeling something, but I can’t always describe what it is. None of the existing words seem accurate or recognizable to me ๐Ÿ’œ. And yep, sometimes I feel physical symptoms that are connected to emotions as well! The way you explain yours is really interesting! That’s one of my favorite results of writing these posts–I get the privilege of learning and additional light-bulb moments from y’all! ๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿ’“

      Like

  3. People take T.V. AND Movies way too literally. I remember being asked if my brother Stephen was like the Rainman film character. Stephen has a wide range of emotions but he tends to express around people he is comfortable with. Stephen also tends to be friendly which can backfire given that some folks are evil and wicked. I’m very protective of him. He is also curious about people but I make sure that he doesn’t get into trouble.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So true! It’s all some of them know, and Hollywood does such a realistic-looking job that people forget it’s a *movie/show* ๐Ÿ’“. Even those based on true stories have usually been adapted for Hollywood or dramatized or altered in some other way, to make a more marketable movie. ๐Ÿ’œ

      I can really relate to your situation! Your son sounds a lot like the way I was as a kid (and even now as an adult). It’s hard to know sometimes, for example, if you’re being pranked, punked, used, or otherwise deceived. The have a long history of all of the above, and it hurts. I think you’re right on in your instincts to protect him! And I think you’re awesome for that, too! ๐Ÿ˜˜. Your son is a lucky guy to have you for his mom ๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’œ

      Like

    1. ๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’™. Yep, it’s just the nature of being on the spectrum, for many ๐Ÿ˜˜. It’s not necessarily a bad thing (although it can be challenging for those who operate differently ๐Ÿ’•); it may eventually even become an asset (!). It’s part of what makes him him, and part of what makes him beautiful ๐ŸŒˆ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒˆ

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Alexithymia is the one thing from the autism/Aspergers catalogue that I haven’t really figured out. No idea if it applies to me or not. I tend to think that I know perfectly well what I feel. I don’t know if I could go much beyond “sad”, “upset”, “angry”, “happy”, “excited” in describing my emotions, but there isn’t really any call for detailed descriptions anyway. I don’t write them down or anything. I’ve always been a believer in keeping your emotions under control and under wraps – I’m part Vulcan after all! Having said that, it seems I’m quite transparent to other people, my body language and facial expressions totally obvious. I kind of wish I was more inscrutable than that.
    But, yeah, I haven’t really got a handle on this alexithymia thing, and it doesn’t appear to explain anything for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know that’s a really good question ๐Ÿ™‚ It took me a while to figure it out, too, because I really thought I had a bead on Emotional Stuff. I thought I knew what I was feeling, and I thought I had no issues with that. (I’m not implying that that’s happening to you, just sharing my experience ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I’ve always felt emotions very deeply, and usually I can identify them (!) ๐Ÿ˜€ But there are times in which I can’t, which is something I’ve only realized relatively recently. โค Sometimes I realize (after the fact, or after a while) that "oh yeah, I must've been feeling (X)" lol. I'm with you – I prefer to keep emotions in check as much as possible! They can really get in the way otherwise โค

      Like

  5. I can’t really add more than many people have, especially Just Me. I think what you’re saying is that emotions are like when the Sorcerer’s Apprentice summons the mops, and the castle slowly floods… except it takes a long time for the sorcerer to arrive and put everything back.
    Hugs, Laina!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I have been wondering if it was just me, this depiction of us as automatons…
    I.walk.and.talk.like.an.automaton.all.the.time.I.am.a.robot.
    I’ve met quite a lot of autistics, of varying degrees of severity with some very severe, and I have not met a single one that walks and talks like a robot. But according to TV and films we all do it, or are just caricatures like Sheldon Cooper.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Oh and let’s not forget all those 3D diagrams that suddenly appear above our heads whenever we think of something. Honestly I had no idea. It must be how they diagnose us…”Do these 3D diagrams appear above their heads whenever they think of something? Yes? That’s it! They are on the Autistic Spectrum!!!”

    Liked by 1 person

        1. No worries, dear one ๐Ÿ˜Š. They’re very subjective; sometimes there’s no specific meaning, just sort of a nonverbal, pictorial way of communicating how I feel; sometimes I have trouble putting it all into words โค๏ธโค๏ธ

          Liked by 1 person

      1. Always ๐Ÿ˜Š

        When our daughter was a teenager, our discussions as why she shouldn’t (or should) do something often ended with her saying in exacerbation something like “Oh you’re too reasonable! ” before she’d stomp off in a huff.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Actually we never had arguments as it wasn’t my style. I’m sure my daughter didn’t think it funny and probably thought she deserved sympathy, but in all honesty I never felt stressed by our “discussions”. On the other hand my wife and daughter did have arguments that sometimes almost resulted in declarations of war. And possibly would have if I didn’t step in as peacemaker. Now that was stressful โ˜บ

            Liked by 1 person

            1. That’s cool that you weren’t caught up in it very often. I like how you described that ๐Ÿ˜Š. This happened a lot in my family, only it was my dad with whom I was at war, I was also the reasonable one (at least, early on in the argument; there’s something about irrational and self-contradictory people that just drives me up the wall lol), and my mom was the peacemaker ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ

              Like

              1. Strange as it may seem it was my wife’s volatility that attracted me. She tends to express her emotions without much restraint – much like a child. I found a way of experiencing emotions by proxy so to speak. She sees the world in black and white whereas I see it in shades of grey. Although she says the shades are too subtle to see any difference in then. Apparently it was my calmness that originally attracted her. A case of opposites attract. That was 46 years ago and is still a major attraction between us (as well as an occasional source of friction).

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Wow! That’s pretty cool ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ. I can relate to both “extremes” (please forgive the term) ๐Ÿ˜Š. On one hand, I’m pretty calm, but on the other, emotions run deep under the surface and they can occasionally blow like a volcano. Or, on the positive side, I can get super-excited about something. I prefer to be calm, although the excitement is fun ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ. Sometimes I take a very black and white approach, while at other times it’s shades of gray. Whaddaya do lol ๐Ÿ˜Š. For me it depends on the topic at hand; some things are very clear to me in black and white, with no point in splitting hairs or further consideration, while other things don’t have as clear a “right” or “wrong” answer to me.

                  I think it’s really neat how you two have that opposites-attract dynamic! I’m really glad it has worked out so well for you. Here’s to many more happy years! ๐Ÿป๐Ÿ’ž

                  Liked by 1 person

  8. Well I am glad my brief post caught your attention. I honestly didn’t think I would get a response so quickly to my attempts at figuring out how to get to my goal which is to figure out what message I have to share with others that only I can give because I am of the belief that I have a story of heartache and hope. What is difficult is you basically gave me the word that reflects the issue of what I had said my second post that my right & left hemisphere don’t communicate very well which can at time be physically evident in the way I walk. At school I got tested for MS a couple times.
    Thx again for your support. I’m curious if you use the hearts and smiles to encourage yourself or the person you are responding to. I just can’t really appreciate them right now because of how open I am with my post and I don’t want to bond with anyone to quickly because I am still concerned that I will disappoint people..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It sure did! ๐Ÿ˜Š. Your post is awesome! Stories of heartache and hope are so important, and you might be surprised by how many people can relate to them! I know I can ๐Ÿ˜. I’m really sorry to hear about your neurological concerns; MS was on the table for me too, at one point. It actually turned out to be cerebellar autoantibodies instead, in my case ๐Ÿ˜ณ. I completely understand being cautious about bonding. Take the time you need! ๐Ÿ˜Š. It was a couple months before I started bonding with anyone; I needed my time and space to sort out all the new information I suddenly found I had to learn. And when I started bonding, I made the mistake of thinking that just because someone is on the spectrum, we’re going to see eye to eye and be automatic friends. I got hurt several times, and it hurt a lot. Some people may be on the spectrum, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have other things going on (detachments from reality, hostility, irrationality, Borderline Personality, etc) that I just can’t handle. The first year of my AS discovery was about finding out who I was and bonding with others like me; the second year was very much about finding my limitations, accepting the non-rose-colored-glasses reality, setting my boundaries, and establishing what I will and will not tolerate, which included excising a few toxic and crazy-making people from my life and making peace with the fact that I won’t ever please everyone. I use the hearts and smilies mainly to convey the fact that everything I say is with warmth and the best of intentions, because sometimes my writing could be construed as stern or sarcastic or somehow unfriendly, when I didn’t mean it to be ๐Ÿ˜Š. I guess I try to clear up any ambiguity or confusion that I anticipate to be possible, before it might have any chance of forming lol. So I guess it’s for everyone involved–the other person and myself โค๏ธ

      Like

      1. Ok I think you are important in that you will give me my blog idea. Anyways my blog post Land of confusion is what I was writing in response to you because if I write to you that response then it seems rude to post it also as a blog. Who the fuck knows certainly not me. BTW my husband is my biggest supporter of my issues just doesn’t like the terminology thinks it is sugar coating and lumping everyone into a convenient box for a multitude of reasons I will maybe discuss in another blog man you are awesome keep the comment coming this is so helpful.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Too cool! I’m always glad to help. I find myself always getting blog ideas from others, in an inspired/spinoff sort of way. It’s fun ๐Ÿ˜Š. I think it happens a lot amongst us spectrum bloggers. I think it’s perfectly fine to write a post that says “you know, I was talking with a fellow blogger and the convo wound around to ‘X’ and I’ve got some additional thoughts about this” and yes, write your post ๐Ÿ˜Š. I’ve done that after talking with others, and others have done it after talking with me. It’s fine ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ

          I’m really glad your husband is a good source of support. That’s really cool. Please forgive me for any misunderstanding before ๐Ÿ˜Š

          The agree that some of the terminology is problematic, and so is the lumping together of so many different issues; it muddies the waters and causes confusion. But I might be referring to something altogether different from what you’re referring to, so I’ll stop there about that, at least for now ๐Ÿ˜Š

          I just want to say that I’m really enjoying your blog so far! (If I use the WP app on my phone I can like your posts but if you see a comment from me on a post I haven’t liked yet, it’s because I’m reading it from my laptop, which for some reason, doesn’t let me like posts in the browser window lol). Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading more, girl! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ’•

          Like

Please feel free to add your thoughts! I do my best to respond to each comment (even if it takes me a bit sometimes) :)

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s