onsdag 8. juli 2015

Name the feeling

1. I'm in a particular mood today, I don't think I know the word for it in English? It's a shade of sadness. I know several shades of sadness in my own language, but my command of English stops about there, when I need the exact right word for something. Right word at the right time.

It's a type of gloominess, I know that much. And it has to do with loneliness and longing, it's the feeling that makes it seem as if I’m never able to relax with someone, with the possible exception of my mother and sister (drawing lines to what I wrote last year on self-disgust, as if relaxing my personality is like relaxing my bladder, I actually have the anxious image that if I let my guard down I’ll wet myself). It's the feeling of what a kiss would be like on my lips, what the back of my finger would feel like against someone’s cheek, or in their hair. It's a nice kind of sadness in a way, because those things are nice.

If someone were to stick a pole into this sadness and stir around a little, I’m sure my eyes would flow over for a while, though there would be no sobs, and crying like that would feel like hugging a large happy dog, or a stuffed animal, something that’s nothing but soft and warm. Except for its tug on my consciousness, unsettling me a little, except for the questions about my life that intrude on me in this mood, it's mostly a pleasant sadness.

I know a word or two I’d use for it in Norwegian, but still can't come up with in in English, but maybe I can capture more with a description than with the exact right word anyway. So yeah, that's how I'm feeling today. 

2. Today it's Wednesday. The above was written last Saturday, 4 days ago, with the intent to post that day, but it got delayed. Feelings have changed since then... tiny epihanies come and gone, found and lost and revisited, as is the way of feelings and epiphanies, which really makes them into the opposite of epiphanies, I suppose?

Just read through my previous entry as well, from June, and it deals with the lot of the same, the same longing-hope-sadness as in this one. One feeling relieving the other, revisiting the next... if ther anything to say of larger scale development, it might be that I'm getting a sense of this. That feelings are always there, always confusing, the define my subjective experience, that is to say the entirety of my experience, so life will always have little bits of confusion floating around in it. It's the way of humanity really.

It's the realization that I'll have to spend effort, there's no way around it. Action or passivity, they all require effort. Laying in bed, frustrated from passivity, takes effort. I've talked about relaxation, calm... but that has to be something other than not expanding effort, right?

Understanding my feelings, too, sharing them with others... there will always be a measure of confusion. There will always be a measure of subjectivity, stuff that has to be mine alone.

I think moving out has done a lot to spur this recent blooming of feelings and confusion. Being alone with everyday tasks that I used to have help with before. Being responsible for every one of them... is teaching me how lonely responsibilities can be, and if I leave them to someone else, that's just a transferral of loneliness. Even doing things together... muscular action, raising an arm or a foot, I'm all alone in sending the mental command for that.

It's daunting, but not as discouraging as one might believe. Parts of it I'm looking forward to.

onsdag 10. juni 2015

Snapshot of thoughts about intimacy and sex

There are many thoughts that compete for space in my head when I'm reminded of sex, touch, more-than-platonic affection... When I see couples in the park, or they could be friends for all I know, like a young woman on her stomach, another above her giving a massage. An even younger man, with more than a touch of boy in his face and a sigarette, and a tough haircut, a woman or girl his own age inching closer. When I see someone in a really nice dress, covering what seems to be a nice body, waiting for someone else. Or to the other end of the scale, the grand stuff  – a TV show where someone acts out of love, sacrifices and is renewed for love. Where lovers have each other's back.

There's the thought that my life, both internal and external, has changed so much that in not too long, I could be able to take part in things like that again. Hanging in parks-things, if not the grand gestures. Or kissing. Then the other thought that maybe I won't, because behind each thing I've fixed so far, there has been new obstacles, and new ones behind those, on and on. And I think how for a while, I did go around doing those things. In so unhealthful ways, ways that couldn't go on. But there were flirtations... some of those nice thrills... moments of more-than-platonic affection... But it's so very long ago. And even I do meet someone tomorrow, who's to say it won't be the only time for yet another eight-year period?

Unlikely. The final thought to enter is that having a kiss, or a touch, or an orgasm with someone is not a very well defined goal, the goal must be to live a life where such things crop up once in a while. The goal is the have abilities (internal), habits (external) where I come into contact with people, where I can be good to the people I know

... the thought of "it's been so long, and who knows how much longer" intrudes, and is explicitly about sex now, and maybe it's not so bad after all? It's not that they are foreign to me, all those thoughts, they are me. Sexual frustration is a common feeling, sadness and longing are common feelings, they belong to me too.  As does hope, and looking forward, and meticulously working to change. Maybe the life I want is really a life where all those things belong, where they don't have to compete for space.

And maybe people to share them with, occasionally.

torsdag 7. mai 2015

Excessive rehersal of opinions

I am always, and I mean constantly, rehersing my opinions, going over the arguments, over and over again. It takes the shape of imagined conversations with people I’ve discussed them with before. Those of the discussions that have been heated in real life are heated in my imagination too, and the emotions that I call up are real. They are emotions like fear, anger, abandonment, and communicative frustration.

Rehershal of heated discussions usually takes precedence over fun or neutral ones. Which means, when I have a heated discussion in recent memory, or know I’m about to enter one, they’re the ones my brain picks to reherse. I reherse them more obsessively than the others too.

I can sometimes push them away though by thinking of things I’m going to write instead. (Including posts like these.)

Argument rehershals take up a lot of mental space, take attention away from aesthetic experience, and sometimes from necessary tasks. They provide a lot of mental noise, and a lot of emotional strain. And in the end, they don't work.

You see... when I’m under strain or stress, my communicative abilities become... less than they normally are. I’m... not sure if this is similar or not to when other autistic people say they lose language, and if it's not, I'm sorry for touching on an experience that I haven't actually shared. In my case I still have language, it's just harder to think trough what I’m actually saying, and it's hard bordering on painful to take in what [i]other people[/i] are saying and adjust my next response. It's painful in the way looking at sharp lights is painful. My emotional response to this is anger, which, of course, strains both me and the conversation further.

My cognitive response is to go into auto-pilot. (Or should I say auto-cue, like news readers are using?) Cling to the few scraps of thought I can find.

And I think the purpose of my rehershals is to feed my auto-pilot-auto-cue with lines for those moments. Only it doesn't work. Or rarely works. Because... ehm... people out in the real world tend to have other things to say than my mental models of them do when I reherse. And in my mind, they tend to nod and get it, when I finally manage to find the right wording. In real life people don’t do that, because they have, you know, their own points of view, not mine. And then most of the time, I don't really remember what I’ve rehersed anyway.

So I go over it in my head, try to cover every base, try to remember everything, everyhing, every expletive eventuality, every line I might know, all the time knowing that I won't, I’ll remember little and make use of even less. Much like... much like... when I have an exam and try to memorize the entire contents (if not the wording) of the textbook but know that I can't, but hopefully enough will stick that I’ll be able to reconstruct the rest, because I don't know how to take notes or plan study session in advance, and I have this number of pages still to read and this many hours left to study, and THANKS SWEARWORD I don't have to deal with exams anymore.

They're both exhausting, for many of the same reasons.

So, uhm, does anyone know any practical ways to train my brain out of this habit – teach it not to spend all this effort rehersing arguments it won't have any use for anyway? Or as a temporary solution, ways to get out of heated discussions before they end up on the schedule for rehersal? Perhaps an easier way to bring across the things I've just said in this post?

I sometimes wish I didn't have to have opinions at all.

tirsdag 31. mars 2015

Moving out, learning life

It's the first night in my new apartment. I've brought an inflatable matress, a sleeping bag, and some pillows, and that's pretty much all that's in here now. That and some toilet paper I bought earlier today. I brought a toothbrush, but forgot to take tooth paste. I have also brought some dental floss, but I have nowhere to dispose of it after use. So I'm skipping dental care this evening.

It's been a long time since I posted anything here, and I'm not sure I've even mentioned that I was planning to move out from my mother's... well, I've been planning to move out from my mother's even since before I moved in. Because for eight years I had a student apartment, but I never really lived there. Except the first couple of years. After that, visits to my mother's began to last for weeks, even months. Among many reasons for this was that the collection of stuff I had laying around there grew for each month I stayed, so it became more and my base of operations; at the student apartment, I shared kitchen and bath with up to four other people, which was more of a challenge than I was aware of at the time; and after a while, the habit of heading towards my mother's rather than home became so entrenched, it was mentally hard for me even to try anything else.

When I wanted to convince myself to go to my own place, it felt to me like a kind of anxiety. Thinknig about it now, it can also have been a kind of confusion I think might have something to do with autism... the confusion of making a decision, when you call up mental representations of every possible pathway and have to bring one to the foreground, and the effort of doing that is so high that you'd so much rather fall back on routine, turn on the auto-pilot.

That sensation feels very much like anxiety to me, and when I think of it, I don't believe it's restricted only to autism. Like with most other things I associate with autism, really. It's the degree and pervasiveness and extra effort of it that makes me different enough to benefit from a diagnosis.

Anyway, eight years is the maximum limit on student apartments, and seeing as I hardly lived there anyway, it was for the best that I eventually had to move out. (Apologies to other student that might have needed that apartment more.) And since then, I have been living with my mother for real. Which is a bit different, because then I can't just go somewhere else if one of us should need some time alone. And it's worked out well enough, we get along great, but, yeah, I've missed having the opportunity of privacy. Particularly over the last few years, when things have been coming together for me mentally, I've missed having a place to build a life in.

Or I should say grow a life, because that's how I'm trying to do it... that's why I left my mother's at around midnight, carrying a sleeping bag and a couple of pillows, even though I'm not actually moving out for some weeks yet. Because I want to start quite literally from the ground, learn how the place works, fantasize on where I will put all the furniture. (Same furniture I had in my student's apartment, only there is more than twice the space now to put it in.)

Same thing with tooth paste and waste bin – I'm thinking that because I don't have those things now, I'll remember to go out and buy them tomorrow, and that way, I'll learn from experience what things that ought to be present in a day to day life. Maybe I won't drift back to my mother's place this time around. (It also helps that I've learned a very big lot about myself since my last try at living on my own.)

Now, the apartment: I have been so very lucky. For one thing, it's only a five minute walk from where I lived before. That's why it was easy to go over just around midnight, with my sleeping bag and my couple of pillows. And it means I don't have to leave my neighborhood, which has been one of the reasons I've been reluctant to move until now – I've lived here as good as all my life, am familiar with all the streets (though for some reason not with street names), have my favorite coffee shop here, am even starting go get a favorite pub here. I feel at home here.

And for another thing, there's a convenience store in the block next to mine, a hardware store less than a block away (for when I need things like a waste bin. Or frying pan.) A bookstore and a movie theatre as well. That favorite coffee shop? If I lean out the window, I can see it from here. And for a third thing, it has a fairly comfortable size, and a fairly comfortable prize. I had really not believed I'd be able to afford something like this. And my landlord, well, I've a feeling he's a really good guy. If nothing else because the friend-of-a-friend I got it through says so, and that person has been living here for a long time.

That's what I'm planning to do. Live here for a long time. Figure out what's what, and how to keep up with change. Grow myself a life.

fredag 31. oktober 2014

to leak and stain and smell at the center of all attention

Back when I wrote about the fear of being found out, the fear that people I cared about would see within me and discover who I really was, a word I used to describe what that would be like was "disgust". A commenter on that post asked if I could go into what I meant about that, and I've been thinking about it... what is it about my inside to be disgusted about? Well, one answer is that my actual insides can be a little disgusting.
One image I get when I think about being found out is of someone barging in while I'm on the toilet, and at worst, while I'm in the middle of wiping myself. Another is that if I get too enthusiastic, too excited about something, if I really let go, there's a danger I might wet myself. I read about someone's most awkward sexual moment: when he shat himself in the throes of orgasm, and I was terrified to learn that such a thing could happen. If I were to dance closely with someone, I'd worry that I hadn't cleaned my underarms properly, or had forgot to change some piece of clothing; that I'd smell. If I were to get naked with someone, I'd worry that I hadn't cleaned my penis properly, that it would taste or look bad.
My body... I don't really know what to say about my relationship with my body. Sometimes, I'm not really aware of it at all, sometimes I'm hyperaware of it – this, I suspect, comes with the autism, or at least is magnified by it. I had some motor difficulties as a child, mild, but enough that it was noticed. A certain clumsiness, talking with a lisp, trouble learning how to hold a fork.
Well into my teens, I had problems with naming body parts: I knew the difference between an arm and a leg, but would frequently point to my elbow and call it a shoulder, and I couldn't quite tell where on my leg the hip or shin or ankle was.
And also a reluctance to take part in physical activity... Partly because I couldn't keep up with the other kids. Partly, as I've realized in later years, because I was overwhelmed and confused by the sensations that went with it. The things that happened with my body – sweat breaking out, nerves tingling, aches and pains being highlighted. Disturbed digestion, growing fatigue. Numbing of other senses. These sensations, they are so intense to me, so intimate.
So I suppose I don't get so well along with my body.
It's not that I'm particularly displeased with it. I... like it well enough, or don't have a strong opinion either way. I haven't been conscious enough of it to form a strong opinion. I know that some other people like it, because they have told me. I'm not particularly displeased with it – what I am is disturbed by it. It's been in the way a lot. It's been the locus of so many unpleasant sensations. And it's the source of a lot of unclean things...
My train of thought goes off in different directions here, and rather than try to fit them all together, I'll make a list of them and see where I end up.
When I read what I just wrote, it brings to mind a number of recurring dreams. One is where I know how to fly, but I don't like it at all. Once I'm off the ground, I can't get back down. I struggle to touch down, but the ground repels me, and I'm dizzy. Another is where I need to move, but rather than obey me, my limbs just tingle dizzily. Or when I'm in a foreign city and need to go to the hotel, but I have absolutely no sense of direction.
I suppose these are pretty common dreams. The thing is when I think about them, and then about my body-awareness issues, the emotional content is the same.
By the way, I just had such a dream. I had been to my cabin on the Swedish coast, which was not on the coast but in Gothenburg, which was not in Sweden but in Spain. And now I needed to get to the airport. It was a long trek, I had to spend the night at a hotel on the way, and when I finally got there, I discovered that I had lost my blue schoolbag containing the family dog somewhere on the way. I had to find him before the rest of my family joined. Was he at the hotel? I hoped so, but no matter how far I walked, I know I didn't get any closer to it. In fact I wasn't getting anywhere at all.
Physical exertion is one thing that will cause the body to leak. Mostly sweat, but bowels and bladder are also affected.
While it doesn't actually happen, it's easy to call up the image of me stumbling, knocking things over, walking into people – it's apparently something I'm afraid of. In these images I will try to tense up, but the exertion makes me lose control of my bladder. This has actually happened. There was a year or two of my life, not so long ago, when I frequently wet myself just a little, and I couldn't understand what caused it. Then I noticed how the muscles used to push the bladder had been tied together with those I use to reach forward. The way fingers on the same hand can be bound to move together, you know... When I stopped doing that, the problem went away. One of many little aches and pains that reduced body-awareness can bring.
The various body-sensations are the main reason I'm uncomfortable with physical activity, but there's also the matter of movement in the visual field. When I move fast, the world moves fast around me. Again, I don't know how is with others, but I think I'm more sensitive to movement than others.
The first time I sat in an open car... it was only a few years ago... the sensation was so intense I had to keep my eyes closed for several minutes before I got used to it. I get the same when I'm a passenger on a bike. Never learned to ride a bike myself, this could be some of the reason. And the one time I rode a horse – same reaction. The horse moved rather slowly, so maybe it's a vestibular thing as well?
Anyway, this also affects the bladder. Actually the beginning of those problems was on a plane trip. I suddenly began to leak, then became very conscious of such things – that's probably what made my muscle groups mix up. Plane trips are also more vestibular than visual... and come to think of it, so is my fear of walking into things. So maybe I should look into vestibular hypersensitivity someday.
Another thing: Not quite keeping track of my body means not quite keeping track of hygienic issues, like how I smell... And even though my personal hygiene have been adequate for a long time, I still get the fear that I may have overlooked something, neglected or forgotten some crucial part, a food stain on my shirt, a sour smell from my t-shirt, and did I remember to put on deodorant, and is my hair maybe to greasy? (I have long hair.)
There are just so many parts, all interconnected, and while there probably is a system to it, that system is hard for me to grasp... like those dreams. The ground repels me, direction escapes me, and there's the tingle, a restless numbness. (And this description I think fits autism in general, not just the bodily aspects of it.)


I have mentioned several times how writing and revelation go so well together. How a piece of writing is energized by revelation, and how the setup-payoff relationship between mystery and revelation leads me to discover things as I write. This piece, an answer to "how does disgust fit into this?" have led me to some big ones.
First, hypersensitivity. I have been aware that I'm probably hypersensitive to proprioception and muscle senses, and that I probably have an unusual degree of control over specific muscles. But on a larger scale, motor skills and body awareness have been recurring issues. The image I just mentioned, of the tingle, the restless numbness, brings a bit of sense into how the hyper- and hyposensitivies fit together.
And it's become clearer to me than before that I also have issues with balance. Not in a way that hinders movement, but in a way that can make me tense up as I move.
The other thing is that my feelings of disgust, and their contribution to my fear of intimacy, are a quite clear matter of social anxiety. I haven't recognized that before because it's a different kind of anxiety than I'm used to. The anxiety I'm used to is the one with unpleasant sensations, the one that feels like fear. But other kinds of anxiety don't come with a high experience of fear. They make you avoid things before you even get to that point. That's how I've been avoiding intimacy.
I think a good step towards being open to intimacy would be to calibrate my understanding of personal hygiene. Get a better grip of the unknowns. Learn what types of leaks, smells, and stains are acceptable, even expected (I mean, the sexual side of intimacy usually involves all three), and what types should be avoided, and then some effective ways to take care of them. And I suspect that I can find this knowledge easily, that I can ask around in places where such questions are appropriate. Perhaps even you, the reader, have some idea of what I'll need to know?

tirsdag 21. oktober 2014

I was vulnerable for a little while

I was about to write this piece on vulnerability... how I don't even know what it feels like. There's this seeming contradiction about me. I share a lot of personal information, but there's this sense that I never really open up. I've been trying to figure out what that means...

It might have something to do with showing emotion. I've had some real issues with anger in the past, created a lot of conflict when I was a child, hurt certain people in my early twenties, and today I'm uncomfortable with any really strong emotion. Or it might have something to do with showing agency... I've talked a bit about that before, had a thread on the old forums where I learned a bit about asking for things, and I've improved, but I still overestimate how much wanting = imposing, which is really underestimating the other person's agency, assuming that they won't say no if they want to.

I have also been wanting to write about an event I was to some weeks ago. I had a lot of good interactions there, some with single people not outside my range of attraction. But the thought of flirting didn't enter my mind, not in anything but a theoretical sense. In itself a good thing: Being able to enjoy myself without that agenda. In a broader perspective, it indicates a trend: The thought of flirting hardly ever enters my mind, in anything but a theoretical sense. It's never there as an immediate option. No wonder that I never get around to do it.

Now, last weekend, I went to a pub with someone I've known a very long time. We had a bit to drink, and got to talk about personal stuff and shared history, and for a little while there, I became vulnerable. For about a day after, I felt happy about it, but also anxious and exposed. And I could confirm to myself that there is in fact a state of vulnerability, and that it's different from just sharing information, and that I've been avoiding it almost completely for years. No wonder that I never get around to such a vulnerable thing like flirting.

To cross that gap for even a little while feels like letting go of everything. It comes with the socialanxious fear if letting bodily functions go, to leak and stain and smell at the center of all attention. It feels like letting go of boundaries, and giving up the right to have boundaries at all. It feels like losing sight of others' boundaries, as if my feelings and desires could crawl out of me and devour anyone close. And if I had a little less of those fears, me getting close to people would become a lot easier for everyone.

fredag 19. september 2014

I get a glimpse of other people sometimes

On rare occasions, I get it into my head that the people in my life have personalities. Then I step back and ask myself why this comes with the clarity of an insight. As if the idea had been foreign to me before. I don't think it is, at an emotional or interpersonal level at least. I don't think I treat people like zombies, or robots or things... I do worry about it some time, but I think they would react differently to me if I did. In fact, from the reactions I get, I seem to do a fairly good job at recognizing the personhood of other people.

Internally, though, there is a feeling of remoteness. Or maybe too much proximity. I interact with people on a now-to-now basis, I respond to their words, and their emotions – when their emotions don't overwhelm me. But I can easily get caught up in the immediacy of it. I respond to one particular facet of a person, and lose sight of all the other facets, lose sight of the whole. Like when I have a heated debate about politics with a friend, I forget, at least consciously, that he's also a fan of beautiful sunsets.

When I suddenly come to think of one of those other facets, that's when I get the clarity of an insight, and the sense that there's something I usually miss. And the sense of remoteness, isolation, existentially so.

There are arrows to be drawn between this analysis and autism, not surprisingly, as knowledge of autism is the clue I use to unravel it. Autism means a more fragmented processing of information, a more immediate experience of the world, a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. That's probably behind some of the seeming contradictions in my life (and from what I gather, many other autistic people experience similar things), like: How some of my senses can be simultaneously hypersensitive and numb. How I can be very strongly affected by other people's emotions, and at the same time have problems with empathy. How I'm good at seeing personhood in people, but at the same time lose sight of their personality. How I can be so open about myself, and still feel so profoundly remote.

Come to think of it, it's really not contradictory at all, the relation between sensitivity and numbness. When you try to look into a too bright light, the reflective response is to close your eyes.

I've spent the last couple of years changing, and the last five or six months even more. It's been a growth in emotional and interpersonal skills, an increase in maturity, a somewhat increase in my tolerance for intimacy. I am becoming more used to both people and sensory impressions. One measurable result comes when I'm writing fiction: I'm getting a grip on the personality of my characters, where before they were more like blurs. A similar thing is probably happening with the characters in my own life.

At the same time, I'm becoming more aware of things I'm missing (meaning both "overlooking the presence of" and "regretting the absence of"). I begin to warm up to the idea of intimacy, and I feel strongly that I'm not quite there yet. Insights of empathy followed by strong feelings of isolation are likely to occur more often in the coming months.

(The poetry challenge, by the way, appears to be abandoned for now. I'm quite satisfied with what I got out of it.)