When you are unsure of almost everything
Because of sensory processing struggles, because of the problems I have with visual input or audio input, I have lived a life of anxiety, unsure of almost everything. I can not trust the things I think I see in any action or interaction going on around me. I can not trust my hearing to pick up on details, nuances, meaning, intent. I can not trust my body to act/ react/ perform as I would like it to.
In any “real life” interaction, whether real time “face to face” interactions, Zoom, video presentations, movies, lectures, on the telephone, texting/messaging in real time, I am left behind very quickly, with only parts and pieces to try to piece together “what is happening” or “what has just happened.” I often have to ask people to repeat themselves or explain things they think “should be” obvious and which usually would be obvious to others interacting with them.
What does he mean by that? Why did they do that? What is expected of me? Why does she seem impatient, angry, upset? ( And I know it is something I did or am doing but I can’t understand “what” that is or why that would be upsetting???)
Growing up in this way, worried and wary of every interaction I might have with others breeds anxiety.
I am left feeling I must try harder to please and to work hard to be considered a “good person”, often offering ingratiating and “people pleasing” ways to try to defuse any potential anger or irritation.
I have a habit of apologizing frequently and over almost everything, I have so often been called rude, thoughtless, deliberately callous, cruel, mean, as well as being mocked and bullied when people around me long term see I just “don’t get it”. Obviously it is my fault, but often I can’t figure out how this could be so.
No matter how hard I try in any real life situation, I am always out of touch, off in timing, of poor understanding and needing explanations for so many things.
These are every day struggles for most autistic elders (and our younger counterparts).
I come home from any social interactions exhausted, discouraged, self questioning… did I do OK?
Did I annoy them or make them angry? Why were they silent for so long, why were they impatient, why did they do this, or that??? What did they want of me? How did I let them down? Will they avoid me the next time they see me coming? I don’t even often come up with “I should have said” or “I should have done” scenarios. Such is the nature of my disability to see and understand enough of any interaction to be able to spot “where I went wrong” in most cases.
Confusing, baffling, distressing!!! All my life! All the lives of most autistic individuals, I’ll bet. ( I can only speak for myself but sometimes I do wonder how similar in experience some of my life has been to that of other older autistic individuals )
I am currently trying to expand my small world. I am attending adult classes and/or interest groups at the community college and trying to learn new things.
Autistic rigidity of thinking might have made my world much narrower than that of others. Old age is supposed to do that too. I am in a phase of “self improvement” and trying to keep mental flexibility.
I come home from each session with my mind spinning, still trying to “get” the nuances, side comments, interactions, and innuendoes, hints, gestures, and hoping I “got it”. As a diagnosed adult I can understand my autism is making things difficult for me to seamlessly “fit in” anywhere.
As a child it was so very painful and always at the end, it was simply up to me to try harder because I was not succeeding. It must be me, I must mend my ways, must change and “shape up”, “pull myself together”, “get with the program”, “straighten up and fly right”,
Always back to my own stupidity, lack of willpower, thoughtlessness, weak moral character, etc.
It has been such a relief to find out that everything was not after all “all my fault” and that autism worked behind the scenes without anybody knowing it. Today I can forgive myself for the social failures I experience still frequently, because I know it is the autism working that makes me “not get it” in any social interaction. I can forgive myself for that.
But the feeling of being a social failure and knowing my effect on others, that still hurts, and I have not found a way to alleviate that part of it. I know I am not alone, that there are other autistic adults out there who have similar thoughts, feelings and experiences. In finding this blog and exploring aspects of growing old at the same time as discovering your autism, I hope you find what you need.