Thursday, May 16, 2013

Guest Post- Samantha Croft- Inner thoughts of An Aspergirl in Communication

*This post was a guest on one of my old deleted blogs. I felt it was important to have out there. Used with previous permission. *

I was astounded to find my brain in someone else's post! This post was taken from Samantha Croft's Site HERE. Please visit her fabulous site on the inner life of a kind and thoughtful Aspie. This post was USED WITH PERMISSION. NOT FOR COPYING. Copyrighted by Samantha Croft. If you would like to use a copy for therapy or otherwise contact Samantha on her blog HERE. Thank you.

All of Samantha's words are in Black. I added some thoughts of my own in blue:

I have a very active fantasy life. I live more inside my head than outside in the “real” world. I am in control in my fantasy world, and no one can get me, can see me, or judge me, unless I say so. And I always look fabulous! (Yes I do...I am always shocked when I look in the mirror compared to my version of myself in my head:) Outside of my fantasy world, I am vulnerable. (Sometimes the depth of my vulnerability shocks me.) 
I create very elaborate fantasies, more often than not, about the future. It is not living in the future or goal-planning; it is living in the present and in the now, only inside my mind. (Yes! I have never heard it described so in the present but in my mind.) 
My fantasy nurtures me and fuels me. I am motivated and calmed by repeating the same scenario over and over; perhaps a conversation in which I picture the people and their exact dialogue. Often I am very aware of what I am doing, meaning I know I am fantasizing, and am an actual observer of my own behavior. ( I always know what I am doing and I am calmed by this process too. This is why this aspie process is different then Schizophrenia when the person can not separate reality from fantasy.) 

Sometimes I can live inside of my head for over an hour; basically rerunning the same images and conversation repeatedly. I start from the beginning and then do the whole thing all over again.  Kind of like being on an endless ride that loops. The fantasy could be a minute long or a few minutes long, but it is replayed so many times, that it feels much, much longer. ( I replay constantly.) My emotions match the fantasy; sometimes I physically feel the fantasy. The fantasy is not typically sexual, but more than likely involves a deep emotional connection with another or an elaborate design, such as reorganizing or decorating a room. (Yes, A deep emotional connection and I do feel it in the "real world" too. Funny enough decorating a room is the most common one for me too. That is actually one of the ways I fall asleep if my mind is busy- I redecorate a room...and usually put it into reality the next day or week.)

 I am coming to understand that when I have a fantasy I can turn to, whether the fantasy is a future job, vacation, friendship, or other, I do not focus on the concepts of illness and death, which are normal triggers for me in real life. (Those issues are my biggest triggers for me in real life as well and what I spend therapy sessions conquering.) Sometimes the fantasy is of an upcoming real event. For instance, before we moved into this house I spent countless hours organizing and rearranging all of furniture and belongings into the house inside of my mind, including what went in what drawers and cabinets. (I did that too in my new house!) For me, I see this as a type of mental stimming, a way of relaxing and calming my whole being. I have seen people do this with words, where they have to repeat the same few sentences aloud over and over; for me, it’s the same scene over and over in silence. (Exactly!) 

When a fantasy ends, typically because a future event I’ve imagined comes to be, or because reality sets in and the fantasy no longer seems feasible, I am left unnerved and searching for cover. If my fantasy is about a person, as was common when I was in relationships when I was younger, and the person disappoints me, this is detrimental to my fantasy. If I lose a person in real life who was an active part of my fantasy life, then I feel a deep loss in all parts of me. I feel a loss of the real life relationship and I also feel a loss of the fantasy relationship. Always, without fail, the loss of the fantasy is harder than the loss of the real person. I mourn over the images I created in my mind, and who I made the person to be in my mind. I then might confuse the fantasy person with the real person, inflating a person’s image. I do not mourn over aspects of the real person as much; except in unusual circumstances, perhaps after a very close connection or a long time together. (I have never had anyone explain or articulate my process so aptly. I also feel the loss of the fantasy more than the actual person sometimes and I do confuse my versions of people with their actual being at times.) I mourn over what could be more than what was. In fact, I could feasibly mourn over what could have been for years after a romantic breakup. A part of me believes the fantasy was attainable and very real. A part of me knows it was not realistically ever going to happen and that I would have been miserable. But the fantasy-seeking part of me typically wins out, creating havoc and heartache. (Yes! I really get this.)

The worst type of fantasy involves death and illness, in which the worst-case scenario plays out in my mind, over and over again. I slip into that illness/death fantasy-type when I don’t have a more positive fantasy to focus on, when I am under extreme stress, and sometimes when someone else is sick and I pick up on their stress. (I do this too! Or when I am sick or depressed. I can also tell when friends are pregnant sometimes before them because I think they are mad at me or I pick up on the hormonal change...)

 Another reason I fantasize is to avoid the stimulation of the environment. I often have sensory overload where the sights, sounds, smells, and textures are putting me into overdrive. Inside my fantasy world I can momentarily forget where I am and what is happening. In addition I can forget my physical pain or pending unnerving plans or upcoming events. (Sensory overload can sometimes be a form of torture and those who do not have it do not understand the need to escape sometimes. Picture driving down a crazy highway while it's raining. The wipers do not work, the radio won't shut off, and you can not get off the highway because it would be suicide- so all you can do is keep doing what you do- THAT is sensory overload and sometimes it's awful.)

I can be engaged in a conversation, and like a robot turn on “standard communication mode for humanoids” and still be deeply involved in my fantasy. I will nod when appropriate, smile, make occasional contact, and come up with reaffirming and validating statements, or perhaps a question, yet still be in my fantasy world. (Ha! I love that she mentions standard communication for humaniods! I think that is hilarious and exactly what I do. I can be in my fantasy world and carry on a conversation too!) I don’t see this as rude. I see this as necessary. I liken this process as me entering an oxygen chamber ever so often so I can continue to breathe, and if I don’t enter I will die. If someone wants to talk to me while I’m am rejuvenating my very breath, then so be it, but I cannot stop rejuvenating to give focus to a current predicament or circumstance. I do not view this is selfish or uncaring. I care and love people, and value them enough to want to listen. There are simply just times I cannot be entirely there. (I love how she explains this. I don't see it as rude either. I care and love people enough to listen too but I also need to keep myself collected and soothed.)

 Conversation alone is often too sensory overloading for me. Not only do I have the nonstop chatter in my head telling me how to act and what to say, but I also question if I’ve done the communicating job right; all the while reminding and critiquing myself inside my head. I’ve done away with the critical voice, thank goodness, by the expert coaches and evaluators are up in the bleachers shouting their observations. Take that along with the feel of where I am sitting, e.g., hardness/softness of chair, temperature of room, humming noises from electricity or fridge, clicking clocks, children talking, music playing, air fresheners, and the feel of my own body (pain, taste in mouth, tightness, cramps, etc.) and I am struggling stupendously just to remain inside my body. Add following the conversation so I can reply in the appropriate way, and I’m ready to collapse. (I have an inner critic too and I also notice all of the above factors in EVERY conversation. I have to constantly shut off the outside distractions. I really do struggle to simply remain in my body...I'm always exhausted...even after a good conversation.)

Plus, I always have this little voice in side my head that says, “Boring. Can I talk now?” (Oh I am so glad she admits to this! Guilty as charged.) I know it’s rude, and I am not more important than the person talking, and what I have to say is likely boring, too. (Very true) But I feel so much better when I am talking aloud, because I can process so much, and relieve so much tension. (EXACTLY!) And when someone else besides me is talking, her voice and tone and pitch and ways are likely hurting my ears and adding to my inability to pay attention. (I sometimes experience that...when I want to cover my ears...I don't though:) 

In addition, besides monitoring my own self and communication skills, I am monitoring the other person’s skills, and noticing miniscule “flaws” both in communication skills and in physical attributes. ( too. I hate this about is not that the flaws bother me- in fact I am probably fascinated or drawn to the beauty in these things... but I simply notice them...) Even the tiny hair on that freckle can distract me for a full minute. Then I have to come back and figure out what the person was saying before I was pulled into a freckle. Then I worry about his or her expectations and if I am a good enough friend or listener. (ALWAYS:) And then I wonder, over and over: are you this distracted and bored when I talk to you? ( Ha! I think that ALL the time!)

In addition, each word a person says triggers an avenue of feelings and possible alternative avenues for me. For example, at mention of dog, inside my mind this might happen: Did you say dog? Oh Scooby; I miss my dog Scooby; have I told you Scooby died. Why did he die? Maybe it was……Oh no! She is still talking and I missed most of what she just said. Should I tell her or just nod? If I nod is that lying. I should remind her I have Aspergers. Or maybe I should just pretend.” (I often go through the same debat in my head and then I wonder...does anyone still want to be my friend?) 

That’s just one word. Typically a conversation has much more than one word. That is why online communication is better for me. ( I ADORE online communication on blogs!) I can forgo a huge section of people pleasing. I can pause when I want to, skip sentences, reread for clarity, and take a long time to process information. Heck, I can ignore the person, go grab something to eat, and come back later. I can even scratch, fidget, or even doodle or work on something else, and the person isn’t offended at all!

In person, I concentrate better in conversation, if I can draw or listen to music or look at my computer or do the dishes or walk. I don’t want to try to give my full attention. I slip away too fast when I try to give my full attention. (Yes, this is why I fold laundry, pick up a book and read to people, choose movies or decide to walk around while speaking...or I have to be speaking or concentrating on a problem to solve or allowing someone to learn their own lessons through conversation....which is why counselling as a profession works great for me!:)

I dislike when my husband comes up to me to tell me about his day, if I’m not in the place to listen. I might need more time to process something, to listen to music, to slip into my fantasy world or to write things out, before I can actively listen. Otherwise, I too quickly slip back into my own thoughts and barely hear the first sentence spoken. This can be hard on him, as he feels rejected, ignored, or unloved. But I really cannot help it. I need my oxygen chamber. I just do. (I am the same way. Drives my hubby nuts..but when I am ready to listen I become engaged, witty and comforting.) 

My easiest moments are with my middle son who has Aspergers. We get each other to a degree people without ASD cannot. On our walks he will say to me: “I will likely talk a lot about video games, and probably repeat the same things over and over, and you might be bored, but I need to talk, and you don’t have to listen to everything.” ( I LOVE THIS because my middle son, Grey, gets me like no other and I get him and we have the BEST conversations...) As he is talking, he doesn’t check in to see if I’m paying attention. Pretty much whatever I do, my son will keep chirping away, unnerved and unbothered. At home I can turn my back to him and do the dishes while he talks, giving him no validation and not engaging at all, and he still talks. He doesn’t care. He just needs to get it all out. He understands this, and I am happy to be available for him, even if I’m only catching the bare bones of what he has said. (I love this too with my son. He knows I am paying attention to a degree that matters to him and I continue on...although in communication with friends I can not carry on my train of thought if they do this to me..if a child is demanding attention in the middle of my speech I lose all train of thought and have to squelch down irritation..because it took me so long to even get to the point of conversing without sensory overload...but with close people I don't mind if they cook or fold or do chores while I speak...I like it.)

Sometimes I think people demand too much in communication. They expect someone to be their everything, to validate not only what they are saying but also their worth and existence as human beings. It’s all wrapped up in confusing innuendos and masked self-doubt. (I agree.) For me, it is easier, if someone is just really honest and speaks from the heart (for example): “I think I’m ugly and unlovable, will you tell me you love me and I’m pretty,” instead of rambling on and on with only hints of inner turmoil. (I also prefer direct needs and direct articulation.)

Like I said, I get bored; especially of boundless surface talk, when the heart longs to speak. (I am so bored with gossip of who's who and what's what, or mundane daily talk...I prefer deep issues and like to skip the small talk and get down to the gritty. But most people can not tell I am bored. Polite proper gestures are ingrained in me from childhood and I am good at masking for the sake of another. My family and close friends can usually tell though.) I don’t get bored with deep philosophical conversation or conversation filled with emotion and fantastic news, only with the dull mundane. I really don’t like to hear a review of someone’s day, unless there is something of importance or something I can help with. I don’t mind listening. I’ll listen for a long, long time. I just will check out and back in again. (I would also add my interests- music, movies, books, psych or sociology to the philosophy.)

Of course there are times I can truly hyper-focus on someone, especially when he or she is in need. I will do my very best and likely pick up most of the conversation, but the cost will be utter exhaustion. Last time I was a listener to a friend for an hour on the phone, I spent the entire next day in bed. It’s more than the words, it’s the energy of the person, too. (I am the best when someone is in need. I can really hone in on the topic..but I will have to spend the day after at home listening to music or writing. Nobody knows this because I look like I am "normal" in the moments and like I have boundless energy.)

It’s a paradox and a half, as I long to be listened to and understood, but lack the skills most time to reciprocate. That is why writing is so very necessary and vital for me. I can write and write and not have to loop in my head or ask someone to listen to me. (Completely!)

I’d like to say I’ve grown a lot as a communicator, and really enjoy someone’s company, but the truth is, even when I’m with someone in person, I’m still inside my head 80% of the time. I think this is why Aspies are naturally drawn to other Aspies as mates. There is an unspoken acceptance of one another as is and a forgoing of all the typical social standards, and this creates an environment of rest and retreat. -Samantha Croft.
(I agree. In writing I can give the best of myself, while in person my readers may find me slightly "off" or "odd." Close friends know I am quirky. In conversation they know I love them and am trying my best in what I have. They know I have gifts to give within my limitations and they know I try to see as normally as I can...I can just be ME. They sense when I am bored and they joke about it. They are not usually too hurt or upset or annoyed because they know my heart is not just can come across that way. When they are...I apologize and explain all the things that were in my brain at that moment and then they say, "Wow, ok...never mind." They allow me to forgo social standards and create a place of acceptance and peace...and then I offer more to them because I am more at ease. This is also what I mean when I say, "If they only knew how much I deal with the inner self to give to them they would understand how much I actually sacrifice to be in the friendship." I don't think people realize how much effort I give to function at a level that satisfies:) 

This is by Samantha and SO good for Aspergirls. I would highly recommend for any who wish to understand women and autism to listen while doing chores or watch during downtime:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Symptoms of Inner Peace from Sarah Susanka

The SYMPTOMS OF INNER PEACE- Author Unknown. Found in "The Not so Big Life" by Sarah Susanka;
"1- A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than act in response to fears based on past experiences.
2-An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
3-A loss of interest in judging people.
4-A loss of interest in judging oneself.
5- A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
6-A loss of interest in conflict.
7-A loss of the ability to worry ( a very serious symptom)
8-Frequent overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
9-Contented feelings of connectedness with others and with nature.
10- Frequent attacks of smiling.
11- An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
12-An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it."

Peace is a state of mind and a state of being. It's also elusive at times. Don't feel too much guilt if this list is not exactly met by you.  "As you read this, you may be recalling that first event in your life when you were aware of loosing trust- in an adult in a friend, in your circumstances. These things happen to everyone. It's inevitable, part of being alive. But those events aren't who you are still who you were before those events. You simply received a shock that changed your experiencing of life. But it also fuelled your growth, allowing you to become who you are now. We are so used to thinking of things in terms of right and wrong, good and bad, that it's hard to fully appreciate that your experiences don't define you. You are much, much more than their sum. Those experiences are nothing more than what happened in a past scene in your movie. They are memories, and so be definition they are not here and now. When you can truly see this, you can begin to reconnect with your original self, the belief that no matter what happens you are always supported; you are never abandoned. And the way you know this is that you are still here now, still experiencing life, and still aware. That awareness never goes away- at least not while you are awake,"- Sarah Susanka (Emphasis mine* pg 196 Of the Not so Big Life.)

Lately, I have lost trust in people and was inevitable. It has been a journey to find steady ground again. The above quote by Sarah Susanka (home designer- check out my library for resource links) encouraged me to not take this season in my life as a marker of who I am. I have experienced several shocks to the system. I have yet to see the growth that is going to come out of it, but judging by past experiences, eventually there WILL be growth. My movie has yet to finish. Better yet, my life can not be captured by a is better and worse. 

Once again I am hoping to reconnect to my former self. I hope to find my inner peace again. Until I do, I hope that I will be gentle with failure. It's important to give grace to the parts of the journey that are messy. It's what I would want a friend to do. So perhaps I need to apply that knowledge to myself?

*IF you liked this post I would HIGHLY recommend this one: