Because. It works for me.

Friday, 31 March 2019

Another Friday night.

I’ve been having some conversations, if you wish to call sharing words in e-mail messages, or direct messages, across the internet, conversations. I call them that, because sharing words in this way is about the only way I can share them.

In person, I don’t talk. In person, I almost can’t talk. Because there is far more to process in person than there is when dealing with black and white text on a computer monitor. Most people don’t even think about that, about the body language, the facial expressions, the movement of eyes, the positions of arms, and hands, the brief pauses and silences, and an endless list of other things.

These are all things I have to process. I have to think about them. I have to try to understand them, and the parts of the conversation that are not being spoken with words. For most people, this is something they do naturally. It’s called social behavior.

For me, and for those of us who are Autistic, the unspoken parts of conversations, the body language, and all the rest, don’t happen. We don’t notice them. Until we learn, through endless mistakes, and endless frustration, that these things exist, and are used by everyone.

That’s when we start a life long study of what those things mean.

As I said, I’ve been having some conversations with friends I have who talk with me through these black and white text exchanges. I speak about an absurd number of topics, I know that. And I use oceans of words, I know that. I do so because I’ve found that’s the best method, and provides the best chance, that what I am speaking of, the ideas I’m trying to express, maybe, might, but probably won’t, be understood by those I’m speaking with.

One topic, today, has been my removal of women from the list of names Twitter recommends I follow, and why I remove them from that list. I have not fully answered, or responded, to the person I’m speaking with on this topic. But I felt I should make some things known.

I don’t hate women. At all. I can talk with them. I can share pictures of flowers with them. I can try to express my thoughts with them.

I can’t do that with men. As best I can figure out, through the decades of effort I’ve made to understand the unspoken language of other people, having such conversations is not what men want, and not what interests them. With the net result being I can’t talk with them. They possess a hidden language I literally can’t understand.

I’ve done some simple math tonight to illustrate the extent to which this is how things work for me. I’ve taken the list of those I follow on Twitter, and broke it into “obviously not a guy” and “a guy, or not not a guy.” This is really simple for me, as the list contains only 45 names (and I’ll discuss why in a bit). 37 names are in the “obviously not a guy” category. That’s 82% of the names on the list. 8 of every 10 names.

When I explain to you that I can’t talk with guys, this is what I mean. I can’t talk with guys. The numbers make that brutally obvious.

And, that’s where things suddenly become exponentially more complex.

#MeToo. #BelieveSurvivors. The patriarchy. Feminism. And a literal ocean of other words. As my friend informed me tonight, there is a great deal of emotional upheaval happening right now in US society.

But, here’s the thing with that emotional upheaval. I’m Autistic.

With respect to women finding their voices, and speaking out, I can honestly say I’m all for it. The stories need to be told. The truth needs to be placed front and center, and removed from being hidden in a closet somewhere, and not spoken of.

I have been told, by she whom I have spoken with today, that I’m not one of the problem guys. That I’m one of the good guys, and shouldn’t react as if this is about me. I understand that, honestly, I do. I know that. She’s one of many who have told me as much. I don’t argue that at all.

But, I’m Autistic. The ability to filter things, to read them and say, “they don’t apply to me.” The ability to blithely ignore them, and let them pass under the bridge on their way out to sea, is not something I have. Again. I’m Autistic. I have very close to 60 years of life spent pushing myself to observe everything. Every detail. Every body movement. Every change in tone of voice. Every eye motion. Every twitch. Every wince. Every brief shake of a hand. Every detail of everything someone does. Including every word they speak, and how they speak it.

It’s how I survive. It’s how I function in the world. It’s how I keep from getting injured by an overwhelming number of mistakes, where I didn’t understand what someone was saying, or doing.

I explain to people, “I see everything.” I usually leave out the words, “Because I have no other choice.” Remember how I mentioned, earlier, that I don’t speak well in person, face to face? Now you know why. Because my brain cells are going insane trying to keep up with all the information I’m having to process, so I don’t get something wrong.

But, with text, all there is are words. I can handle that. I can process that. I can respond to it.

Again. I’m Autistic. I don’t process emotional states well. If you ask me how I am on any given day, I can’t really answer you, because I honestly don’t really know. I know I have emotions. And I know they show up at the most inopportune times, and I don’t seem to be able to prevent that. But I have no idea what I’m feeling. Like what I’m feeling right now, this moment, as I write these words. I don’t really know. I can’t put it into words. I think I’m not angry, or frustrated. But other than that, I can’t really say for sure. It’s Friday night, so I’m likely feeling something. For a while, I thought I felt lonely on Friday nights. But I don’t think that anymore. Perhaps it’s more a feeling of I don’t fit into the social system, so I find it hard to treat Friday nights like most people treat them.

Whatever the heck that means.

Now, I get to explain the small number of people I follow. And this is for those who haven’t figured it out from the ocean of words I’ve already written. I can’t filter anything. I don’t know what I’m feeling, but I know I have emotions, and they do things, and I can’t really stop them, because I don’t understand them at all.

There is a limit to how much I can process. If I breach that limit, I overload. And I can’t process anything. And if I don’t resolve the overload, I end up non-functional. So, I’ve learned. I have no choice but to severely limit how much I have to process. That means, even in the land of black and white text, I have to limit how much I have to process. Because, I become unable to process any of it at all, if I don’t limit the amount.

So, I have an itty-bitty list of names I follow on Twitter. And for now, I’ve shut down Facebook all together. To limit how much I have to process. It’s survival for me. It’s how I can remain functional.

I wish I could follow oodles of people. And yes, like 82% of them would be women. Smart, intelligent, conversational, creative women. But, there’s a limit to how much I can cope with, to how much information I can process, to how many topics I can be exposed to, and maintain the ability to convince myself I’m not the problem.

So, I limit things. To survive.

Perhaps, in the days ahead, I’ll try to explain this in more detail. And to explain the problems that come with this lack of ability to filter, and highly developed ability to see everything, and almost complete inability to process my own emotions. Perhaps.

For now, just know that I’m OK. And that I’ve done the things I’ve done because I can’t find any other way to remain functional in this world.

Mark.

Sensory Overload Time.

Well. Here I sit. In the waiting room at EVMS Internal Medicine. Pat’s doctors office. I’m the only one here. 20 chairs. All empty. TV on in corner. Lots of flourescent lights. One of those weird carpet tile floors. 2 foot squares of carpet that stick to the floor. In an alternating pattern. Typical dropped ceiling, hiding the ductwork, and wires. And the administrative services office. And I’m sitting here, overloaded.

Yeah. Totally alone, and I’m overloaded. Staring at the patterns of sunlight on the carpet, chairs, tables. Listening to the TV, the four people in the admin area talking, some on the phone, some to each other, the environmental (air conditioning?) system roar, watching the clock on the wall as the second-hand snaps from one second to the next. Magazines scattered on the table in the middle of the rom, and centerpiece of fake flowers. Several real plants scattered through the room. A water fountain stuck to one wall. Steel. Looks out-of-place. Pictures here and there. Three visible trash cans from where I sit. Big instruction signs taped to the back of computer monitors. Glass in the door and next to the door you enter the area from outside.

Damn, it’s bright in here.

Damn, it’s noisy.

See. I notice everything. No, I mean EVERYTHING. “EVMS – Your Opinion Matters!” “Accent Health” Even the typical EXIT sign over the door to the area. Even worse, the sign’s crooked. Yeah. Sucker hangs lower on the left end, by the E than it does on the right end, by the T. And look at all the ceiling panels. Gods. Some look like they’re hanging on for dear life. Some are a brighter white than others. Some aren’t quite cut cleanly on the edges. Blinds in the window. Mini-blinds. And they pull up, hiding behind a, what the hell is that? A valence? Same blue with pale orange dots as the friggin’ chairs. Hey, look. Flourescent light reflections on the screen of the TV.

I can hear myself typing on this Chromebook, you know. Oh, listen, they’re making copies of documents on the office printer in the admin area. Hey. Someone showed up. Talking with one of the check-in people. Did you know it’s not safe to leave the cabinet keys hanging from one of the locks to one of the cabinets? Yeah. That.

People from inside the offices, and patient rooms show up in the admin area every so often. The legs on one of the tables are crooked. Doesn’t look like it’ll collapse anytime soon, but it’s irritating to see it. This is where I do silly things. Like count the ceiling panels. 12 by 5. 60 panels. Roughly. I’ll settle for that now. Like all ceiling panels, they had to chop some up into wacky shapes to get them to fit the available space. Really distracting that the lights are shorter than the panels. They had to stick these inserts around the lights, and they’re not like the panels. Hey, look! There’s a seam on one of the walls. Bad drywall work.

Two people here now. Waiting. “They’ll call you back shortly.” What the heck is that constant background noise? Sounds like a big fan, blowing into a tiny duct. Breathe, Marcus. Breathe. And relax.

Yeah. Relax. That’s easier if I plug in the MP3 player, which I didn’t bring. So, instead of hearing must my music, I’m hearing 80 billion things. Dang, that’s a loud door. And that sounded like a toilet being flushed, whatever it was.

People being people. Talking to each other. Talking on the phone. And in comes one of the nurses, The door opens with loud clacking sounds, and she belts out, “Ray!”

I wonder. Do other people see all the things I see? Hear all the things I hear? Do they have built-in filters that cut out all the background information. God, those are ugly shoes. Pink laces, pink soles, on gray and white. Athletic shoes. I never will understand marketing. And more voices. Two more people checking in. Beeping from someone dialing a phone. Keys rattling. So many noises. So many things to see.

Of course, it’s chaos. Isn’t everything? But somehow, there’s order in there somewhere. I like how people seem oblivious to the chaos. I sometimes wish I was. Another door. And the second person in the waiting room got called back. The two that were at the check-in counter are now gone. Have no idea where they went, or why they were here.

Did I mention there are times I wish I was invisible. So no one could see me. No one could know I was here. No one would look in my direction, and verify I’m behaving. At least, that’s what it feels like. “Aieee! I’m being watched!” I wonder. Am I on a video camera somewhere?

And the water cooler cooling system just kicked in. Heard the click when it turned on, hearing the fan run now. Watching the admin people talk to each other. And everything seems to settle into a routine. The water cooler system turned off. Yeah. With another click. And now I can hear that air duct noise again.

I should probably get a system with a Solid State Drive in the future. They’re more resistant to vibration, and the Chromebook is enduring a lot of that now. My knees are bouncing. Wheee. Welcome to stimming. I’ve mentioned that before. I wonder. Do other people see everyone that walks through the are. Everyone that walks through their field of vision. There’s people on the other side of the admin area. Someone moves through every so often.

Did you ever notice how the outline around doors isn’t perfect. You know. That seam between the door and the frame. It’s not perfect. The top is more open that either of the sides. And one side is usually wider than the other. And the bottom’s so big light gets through, and shines in under the door. And you can see the shadow of the door on the floor. And why the heck are all the door knobs different? What’s up with that?

Reflections are so distracting. I always try to figure out what’s being reflected. And from where. Yeah. It never ends. One of the office staff came in to the water fountain. She’s cute. And I’m old. Holy smokies, look at those shoes! Those are hard to miss! Lots of pink, with what looks like blue. At least they look comfy.

Time to glance through the mini-blinds, and watch the parking lots, and roads outside. Yeah. I see that. Cars, humans on the sidewalks. It’s quiet out there today. I’m sitting here. Quietly. ‘Cause that’s what I’m supposed to do, isn’t it. Sit. Quietly. And not bother anyone. While I wait for her.

0910 hours. 2 hours and I’ll be rushing to get ready for work. Yeah. That. Same thing happens every day she has off, and I work. I end up rushed to get ready, ‘cause I try to spend time with her. We’re supposed to eat something after she’s done here.

There’s that loud clack, and the noise of the door opening again.

Realistically, fast food would work. But, she’s not much on fast food. She’s more of a sit down service person. So, I probably won’t get home until 1030 or 1100. And I’m scheduled to start work at 1200.

Did I mention I hate stress? Yeah. I do. And it’s everywhere. In everything. My left knee hurts. It’s a ligament damage thing. I do better when I get more exercise, more walking. Keeps the muscle strength around the bad ligaments up. And that helps keep the knee functional, and reduces the aches I feel from it.

Yeah. And you’d never know it was hurting to watch me walk.

The heat coming off the windows feels good. Too bad the aluminum frames around the windows are cold. I like it when those frames heat up in the sun. I can thaw my fingers on them.

She’s here today, ‘cause of the lab work last Thursday. When they stuck her to draw the blood for the blood work, they stabbed her in a nerve cluster. And her right hand and arm light up, so to speak, when she moves them certain ways. So, she’s having that checked out this morning. I’m expecting that to take longer than she thinks. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a pick up fast food on the way home to get me ready for work kind of morning.

If I close my eyes, that helps, but only so much. I end up hearing even more things when I close my eyes. I keep my eyes open, and I hear less, but see more, obviously. I’ve tried to explain to people how I see everything. How I hear everything. I process it all. And figure out what I’m supposed to hear. What’s normal sound. Once I class something as normal, it’s not that I can ignore it, or filter it out. I still hear it. I still see it. But it’s normal, so I don’t worry about processing it. But that takes a bit of time.

As I sit here, I’m doing that very thing. figuring out what I’m supposed to hear. What the “background” is in this waiting room. And deciding what to process, and what to ignore. I think, maybe, this is what people do, without realizing they’re doing it. I know they hear everything, but it’s like they don’t.

Of course, I pull out details. I can decide to process everything, and then describe what I’m processing. I’m not sure that’s normal. I think that’s a part of autism. A part of being on the spectrum. I like to think people can stop what they’re doing, and decide to listen, and hear everything, like I can.

But I’m not sure that’s true. And I have no way to really check on that.

I’m calmer now. Been here long enough to make a few decisions on what’s normal, and not worry about processing it. Yeah. Maybe this takes others a few seconds. Takes me minutes. Maybe a lot of minutes.

God, those lights are bright, aren’t they?

0930 hours. Yeah. 90 minutes, and I’ll be getting ready for work. 120 minutes and I’ll be on the way to work. And somewhere in there, I’m supposed to stuff a meal, a shower, and getting dressed. And it’s at least 20 minutes, probably 30, to the house.

The things I put myself through to support her.

I’d do this every time. Because, I’ll stand beside her. It’s what I do. It’s how I am. It’s what I believe. It’s what I want. If I have to rush to get to work, so what? I’ll be here when she comes out. And I’ll be able to talk with her, and hug her, and spend time with her, and help her deal with whatever comes of all this.

It’s what I want to do.

And now. I wait. Because. And that’s all I need to understand.