As I’ve said before, I am me and I think I’m perfectly normal. I don’t know any other self, any other mind or body, and so how could I feel like I’m lacking or unusual? I can’t. And I don’t.
But I do spend quite a lot of time lost inside my head. It hurts, literally hurts, to be pulled out and forced to engage. Sometimes I can’t and I shut down. Today, staff was here and I ate my potato and typed and just went away for a while. Staff knows not to talk to me or anything else when I’m either shoving my face in the cat or typing. That’s my time, and that’s my signal to them that I need a break. When I’m ready, I come back again.
Nobody ever asks me what goes on in my head. They ask what I think, or how I feel, or what I believe, or for my perspective… but that’s different. That’s what my mind does, my being. But my head does its own thing altogether.
Two things predominate in my head.
One is the stuck. I’m always stuck. I get one thought, and that’s all that exists and that becomes my everything for the time being. As you may (should?) know by now, Elsie P is the number one subject of the stuck. I’ve been stuck on my cat for almost 14 years, and guess what? It’s not going anywhere. I can get stuck on needing something, wanting something, wanting someone, worrying about something, seeing something, going somewhere… you name it, I can get stuck on it.
There is good and bad to the stuck. On the one hand, I can be deemed obsessive and maniacal and even inconsiderate. So, your dad is sick? Well, I have a cat. My cat is Elsie Penelope. She’s nearly 14 and has little white toes and a nose like an eraser…
But the good is that accomplish a lot, most especially what I set out to do. I have a one-track mind, and if I have a goal, chances are very, very good that I’ll meet that goal. Like, if I want to write a book… or if I want to be a speaker… or if I want my dog… it’s gonna happen.
There’s another common theme in my brain, though, and that’s the chatter. My brain just goes, and goes, and goes… and it makes zero sense. You know how you dream when you’re asleep and it’s senseless? Well, my brain has auditory dreams 24/7 and they’re ridiculous. Sometimes I just sit and listen to the chatter… “Wigwam. Z, Z, Z. High school band pants. Pea-coat green…” and so it goes, on and on. It can be tough to catch, because it’s like looking directly at a star… if you look sideways at the star, it seems very bright, but if you look right at it, it’s not very bright at all. Well, with the chatter, if I listen directly to it, it gets very quiet and hard to hear. So I listen for flashes, and I entertain myself.
My revelations (that’s what I call a new realization or synthesis of two concepts that I’ve never joined before) do not usually come from within my mind. They come from without. I just… come upon them, and there they are. I probably get a revelation between one and four times a week, and sometimes that becomes the topic of the stuck for a few days. Then the chatter, well, who knows what it’s doing.
It can be really, really hard to focus beyond all this stuff! I tend to fall into my head when people talk to me. If you talk for more than… I should really time it sometime so I can be accurate… oh, say thirty seconds?… I’m somewhere else. The chatter has begun again (I can turn it off long enough to listen to a few sentences), and I’m back to the stuck. And then add in trying to sort through external sensory input… and really, I’m not really taking much in anymore.
The good thing is that the stuck and the chatter and the sensory issues weren’t quite as bad when I was younger, so I was able to learn. I know for a fact I couldn’t handle a classroom environement anymore. I wouldn’t take in anything. I’m lucky I remember what class I’m taking in bible study… but I honestly don’t know anything much that he says.
I’m not saying that every autistic person has the same head issues I do! Everyone is different, to be sure. I just thought I’d explain mine (believe you me that this was NOT easy to figure all this stuff out; I’ve been working on it for months to be able to type this about it).
I don’t like to leave on a negative (i.e., “Here’s all the junk going on in my brain and woe am I for it.”) No, no. That won’t do. And so, I give you, “How you can interact with me in light of this information.” Cause, see, I try really, really hard to be polite, so I’m not likely to stop you and ask you to change your style. I feel guilty. I spend way more time than I let on… well, confused.
1. Slow down.
2. Less words please.
3. No soliloquies. Give me a sentence or two, and stop. Let me take it in. Check if I heard you. Then continue. What happens if you give me more is one of two things: either I tune you out, or I latch on to one word or small idea within your speech and respond only to that, because I can’t process all of it.
4. I listen to the loudest thing, which includes the chatter in my head. I cannot block out something louder than you and listen to you anyway. I simply can’t hear you. If it’s too loud, we need to go somewhere else, or we need to switch modalities.
5. If I repeat what you say more than once or twice, or if I ask you to repeat it more than that, please write it down for me. Text it to me. Email it to me. Type it up on my iPod for me. It’ll sink right in.
6. If I’m not really responding and you’re frustrated (Dude, come on… I just told you my whole life story and all you have is “oh”?), ask me if I can type for you. You’ll get a lot more.
I hope I’m not asking too much. I really hope. I’m trying to make for an overall positive communication experience for both of us, keeping everything in mind that’s making it challenging.