One of the best classes I ever took in undergrad was an introductory sign language class. I’m not really sure why I decided to take it, except it seemed interesting and fit into my schedule well. I liked the idea of being able to talk to But it has been so incredibly, unpredictably useful for me, in ways I didn’t expect it to be.
Today was a busy day, where I met a lot of important people in boyfriend’s life. We went and talked to a lot of people and talked and hung out.* And then boyfriend drove me home (I should really pick a name for him).
The moment I got in the car, I was exhausted.
Talking started to be very hard, when I was talking just fine before.
I was quiet.
Very, very tired.
Interesting point: I can hold off my tiredness and my not-talkiness for a certain amount of time. I do have some control over it, but then once I no longer have to, and get to a safe place, I can switch it off. Or at least the waiting and the talking and the being-around-people switches off.
Then he came in with me to check that I was ok because I wasn’t really talking.
Helped me change into my safe comfy clothes and find my blankets.
Be safe and make sure I have all the steps I needed to calm down and go to sleep.
And through all of this, I was tired and stressed. I could talk, maybe not well, maybe not in full sentences, but I definitely was capable of talking. But it was so much easier to not. Sometimes I lose all my words, but not this time. And because there was another way to communicate, I did. Being able to communicate without having to use my mouth is wonderful. Even when I can talk, sometimes it is incredibly hard. It is so much easier to sign yes or no or food or sleep. (I know very little signs, and certainly don’t ever use enough for grammar to even come into question, but the little I know has been helpful.)**
I think it is ok to not talk sometimes even if you are still able to talk at that time. I think it is important if you know that you sometimes have trouble talking (verbally) to have alternative modes of communication. I think that it is ok to use other methods of communication whenever, not just as a last resort. It’s ok to put my energy towards different sources rather than speaking. I think that it can be ok to choose not to talk.
I think it is important that other people are also ok with using alternative modes of communication. I wouldn’t do this with anyone but boyfriend (partially also because he’s one of the few people I have this system worked out with), but I wish it was more ok to use alternative methods of communication. I know that being able to get across what I want without having to use my voice was part of why I didn’t meltdown today after a long, busy, people-filled day. I think it needs to be safe and needs to be acceptable to choose other ways of talking.
*[He is smart, though, and knows me, so one of them we met over food, so there was food as an excuse for quiet. The other one, we met at their (parent’s) house. However, they had a dog. An adorable, friendly mini Australian Shepherd who is my friend now. So boyfriend and his friend spent a lot of time catching up, and I spent a lot of time hanging with my new friends. We were there for almost 5 hours, which is a long time to spend in a living room talking with someone I had not met before. The only reason I was able to do it for so long was because of the dog. (One more reason why I should have a dog.)]
**Boyfriend knows a smattering of ASL that he taught himself while working at a summer camp in order to talk to a few of the kids there. Neither of us are particularly fluent, but it works enough for us to get our point across. And really, usually when I am that tired, I am on single words, anyway.