Growing up, we had a two-story-height roof in a mostly 1 story room, and balloons would escape and just float up to the roof, unreachable but still visible if you looked up. Even the adults couldn’t catch them, because even my parents didn’t have thirty-foot long arms. The balloons would just sit there for days, above our couch and our table and our living room. Eventually, they would float back down to the ground, but by then they would be sad-shriveled-not-floating balloons. The fun was in the floating and the bobbing and the magical-THIS-BALLOON-IS-FLYING.
That’s where all my thoughts and ideas are. I forgot to hold on to them or I miss the chance and they float away up to the ceiling. They are there, but by the time they come back to me, they are sad and are missing the parts that I was interested in. I miss posting things on here and figuring them out by writing about them. I figure so many more things out by writing them, but I keep missing the chance to grab them. There are tons of half-floating ideas that I think of when I am biking to school or walking to the bus or somewhere else. They are half-remembered ideas just out of reach and it’s frustrating.
- I have ideas about sensory overload and spoons on crowded buses home, but then I am too tired to write them down, and they float back up to the ceiling.
- I have a half-developed theory on my ideas and thoughts on Appropriate Social Behavior and eye contact and my semi-autistic family.
- There’s something I remember on my bike half a mile into the trip about keeping Bad Thoughts Out.
- There’s something about executive function and what bits and pieces I have and what bits and pieces are broken.
- Some more bits about thinking in general.
- There are other ideas there, too far away to work out what they were, but they are still there, hitting up against the top of the roof, bobbling around in my brain.
I can tell they are there, but I can’t tell what they are. I want to be able to reach out and pull them down and figure them out. I want to classify my thoughts and order them out so I can figure out how and what I’m thinking. And whenever I succeed in grabbing them, they are only half-there. It’s the sad old not-flying balloons. The essential part that made them good and interesting and desireable has diffused out.
I’m doing fine, generally, in life, but busy with TAing and actual lab work and grant writing and literature reviewing and wedding planning, and I just don’t have the tools available now to reach up and pull down those thoughts. I want to be able to figure out how to grab onto them right away so they can’t escape to the roof immediately, to take them and run to my normal-sized-roof room right away, where even 5 year old me can reach the string of the balloon if I stand on a chair. But I don’t have thirty-foot-long arms to reach the ones on the ceilings, and they always appear when I can’t grab onto them. It’s a minor annoyance. I don’t need balloons. I can get along fine without them. But they make life better and I want them.
|This is my collection of plants that I own. They are very pretty and
happy. I have to have plants at home or else it just doesn’t feel
like home. They are chilling out here enjoying the south-facing
window that they get to live by.
I talk a little bit about disordered eating habits in this post, as a heads-up. And also about guilt.
I am living alone now, and have been for a few weeks. I realized what I needed out of roommates and living alone was a better option for me at this time. (And I could afford it, although I have money-spending-issues*.) And also I want a furry friend, so I had to move into a pet-allowable apartment. I’ve been living alone with just me and my plants the last few weeks and I’ve had time to go through the different activities and parts of life and figure out why this is working and why my last roommate living together didn’t work, even though I have lived with people successfully and happily before.
The roommates that I lived with successfully
(1) understood the need for quiet/alone time, although we also would have the opportunity for parallel activities in the main room, like reading a book or watching tv together. An ability to be in the same room quietly is important.
(2) helped manage the effort of living together
Regarding point 1, my more recent roommate never bothered me when I was in my room. She was very respectful of that. If my door was closed, she would only knock if it was something relatively important. Or she would g-chat me. (An excellent way of initiating contact with me.) But I was never able to sit in the living room without conversation. I stopped eating at regular hours when I was stressed because I was too afraid to go to the kitchen during normal hours in case she would talk to me while I was there. And that’s just not a good thing to have happen at home. She was a very sweet girl, and we still are friends, actually (we were friends before, also), but living together just didn’t work out best for us.
Regarding the roommates I successfully lived with: we shared chores, so someone was always able to handle the something that needed to be done. But mostly it was making dinner together regularly. We didn’t always cook together, but we almost always (unless it was just eating leftovers) made enough for two. Often we cooked together, sometimes I made food, sometimes she made food. It added enough so that on bad days you could always find something to eat because chances were the other person was up to making food that day.
My last roommate didn’t cook at all. She mostly ate soup from cans. So that didn’t work. If she had, it is far more likely that I would still be living with her. If I had been able to share meals with her, I think the conversation would have been less of a barrier. But as it was, I was getting all the bad things about living with another person (a.k.a. there is always someone at your house) without any of the benefits I needed.
***As you can tell, food is very important to me. Both on a “I need food to survive and also get grumpy really quickly if I haven’t eaten” level and on a “I really enjoy eating and making delicious food” level. But I still have food struggles, mainly that when I get stressed I forget how to make the food or decide the food or eat the food. Also, when stressed, my foods-that-I-will-eat decreases dramatically.***
So it is ok for me that I moved out. Because being safe is ok. I don’t need to feel guilty about moving somewhere I feel safe. (I do feel guilty about it, but I know I don’t need to.) Because I feel safe at home here.**
Because now I can sit in my living room and work on things at my desk/table. I can work on my couch if it is something low-key like reading papers (which I have been doing so much of in these last few weeks of prelim-ing). I can go out of my room at any time of the day and it is ok. If I am sad or frustrated or mad, I don’t have to hide myself away if I start crying. (Which also means I can get things I left in the other room if I am upset.) Because the whole place is safe.
I can make myself dinner when I am hungry or at mealtimes, even when I am stressed. I can eat, even when I am stressed and tired. I can try to make new things, which I never ever ever could do in my old place unless I was sure my roommate wasn’t coming home. I can make snacks and baked goods. I can eat at the table, instead of in my room. I can take my time looking through the cabinets (although there isn’t much in them yet). I can cook things that require time spent in the kitchen, or time spent watching the pot, because I can stay in the room where they are, and it is safe.
I should feel safe where I live and I will feel safe where I live and I do feel safe where I live. (Except on windy nights when the broken screen on my window taps all night long but a maintenance request will fix that. And also that’s a different kind of safe.)
And the next person I live with will be boyfriend (who is now fiancé, who I really should give a proper name to) who makes me feel safer than any other person, except maybe my California family (but they have the benefit of added years of safety and familiar places on their side, while boyfriend can make me feel safe living 8 stories about the ground in the Midwest–I’ve never lived so far from the ground before.) Because I should feel safe where I live. And I will.
*AKA I get stressed spending any quantity of money because of some reason that I still struggle to articulate. I have never not had enough to meet my needs, so I am not sure where exactly this fear comes from. I think partially there is just something in the idea of spending money that I don’t understand. Where even though I know it translates into numbers, any values over $20 are bigger than I can really comprehend fully. So every few months I panic and get my accountant fiancé to explain all the numbers to me and check my finances and reassure me that I am financially safe.
**Even with the bad parts like going in elevators with other people and going through rotating circle doors daily, and scary things like those, I STILL feel safer here.
I’ve been thinking about friends and making friends and being friends recently. So here is post 2 of ??? in this set about friends (which is why they are also sort of repeating the same stories and ideas, as I go through and process different closely-related ideas, there will be closely-related similar posts.)
Sometimes my friends have friends who I do not know.
At my friend L’s wedding, I had struggles with that. Because she had other friends there and other family, and was busy with the getting-married-part of her wedding. So I didn’t really get to talk to her much, which was strange, because usually when I hang out with her, it is usually just me and her.
We had a pattern throughout high school, where we would go over to her house and study AP Biology and try to predict the theories we would learn in AP Calculus without reading ahead in the book, based on what we talked about last class. And we would read books and hang out and bake cookies and just sort of chill at her house quietly.
Whenever I hung out with other people with her, I would follow her around closely. She was homeschooled until high school and so by the time we were friends (sophomore year) she was still not quite as used to all the social things that happen at school and I was oblivious autistic me, so it got along well. But she was generally better at people, so I would follow her lead in social situations.
But then at her wedding, I couldn’t do that. Since I was a bridesmaid, there were various things I went to that boyfriend wasn’t there to be my social interpreter. But she was busy with other friends and family and his family. So I couldn’t follow her around. But it was also a very loosely-defined-casual-bridesmaid role so there weren’t really specific things that I had to do, so that didn’t help.
Sometimes my friends have friends who I don’t have.
And I don’t like that.
But I should. Because I have multiple groups of friends and they don’t all know each other. (I actually don’t really like when my friend-groups-intermingle… it stresses me out).
Sometimes my friends hang out without me, and that is ok, too.
One of my college friends specifically explained it to me. (Multiple times. Because I have good friends.) That it is ok when I hang out with one friend sometimes and not the other, and likewise, it is ok sometimes when one pair of friends hangs out without me. Especially since they would go do things like go to bars, and bars are not really something I do.
Also some of my friends like to do things more than I like to do things. Or at least things around people. So they would be lonely if they had to only wait around for me.
My friends have friends who I don’t have.
And that is ok.
In high school, I had one best friend, L. We had all our classes together, except I took French and she took Spanish. We sat in the hallways studying together before school, we read books together at breaks and at lunch. When we hung out on weekends, we would hang out at her house (or sometimes at mine, but usually at hers). I had other friends, too, but I never hung out with them without L. It just wasn’t and interaction thing that I did.
On days that L. did not come to school (which was very rare, but happened a few times), I was completely lost. The times I knew she wasn’t going to be there (like college visits) were fine; I could plan ahead and bring books to read or work on math or read for class during breaks. I could find places to sit by myself instead of wandering to find her. When she was unexpectedly not there, I struggled. I would wander around and around, trying to find her. Even if it was after a class that I had that she was usually in, so I knew she wasn’t at school today, I still would look for her. I wouldn’t be sure what to do.
Then we graduated high school, and L. went to the Naval Academy, and then went to (is in) med school and got married (last week!). She’s always been bad at non-in-person-communication, so we see each other a few times a year, and I send lots of emails, but that’s all. It’s great to see her, but she isn’t the friend that I center my life around anymore, because our lives are so different.
In college, I had another friend. We actually were acquaintances in high school, in the small group of girls that took all the same AP classes. C and I both majored in the same thing. Almost all of the friends I met in college (with boyfriend being a notable exception), I met through her. Including two other girls that I became almost as close of friends with. They answered my questions and were in many of my classes with me. They were lab partners and fellow TAs. I always had one of them to rely on in pretty much any social situation I was in. They were the friends I went on the Disneyworld trip which was my first big traveling-without-adults-trip and were safe when I melted down in Walmart. C. was my friend with whom I travelled through Europe for 6 weeks.
C. is much better at internetting than L, so we do talk really frequently. There is pretty much a constant thread of communication going. (I talk to the other girls frequently, too, but not quite as much.) But she isn’t physically here, she is no longer participating in basically all my interactions ever. I don’t have the same person (and set of persons) in all parts of my life.
I have always had one (or a small group of) close friend(s) who I did everything with. Social and school. I’m lost right now, without my gateway friend. I don’t have one to be safe. For me to follow around as I get used to the new social environment. To have in all my classes (I don’t really have anymore classes). To eat with and sit with and talk with. To be my buffer from the world.
Boyfriend does a lot of this, when he is able to. But he lives a 40 minute drive away right now. He has his own work and isn’t really integrated into this social group. They are friendly with him, just like C. and co were friendly to him. But he is usually not here.
I have to remember a few things. That I have only been here a year, and it took me a year to meet L. It took me a year before I was really close friends with C. That it isn’t fair to rely on one person to be a buffer between me and the world, to help me feel safe and facilitate social interactions. I find grad school weird because it is a combination of school and a job, it seems, where you sort of still have your main social circle being other students, though.
But I miss having one close friend who shared every part or almost every part of my day-to-day life. I miss having someone safe who is reliably around at school and at social activities.
One of the things I am most afraid of is making other people upset or angry. This tends to be a problem. When other people are angry, even if I know it is not at me, I am afraid. Even if it is something completely unrelated to me. If my sister is mad at my parents for not letting her go out somewhere with her friends, I am afraid.
The more tired or stressed I become, the less capable I am of distinguishing between actual threats and perceived ones. So things that would just make me minorly uncomfortable, like someone complaining about how their boss made them work over the weekend, or even things that on a good day wouldn’t upset me at all, like complaining about failed experiments, will make me afraid. And then I want to run and hide.
But of course, I can’t hide under my desk at work.
For several reasons.
Partially, the floor is disgusting.
Also, I know that if people saw me hiding, then they would be concerned and ask if I was ok. And that would lead to more human interaction when I do not want it.
When I am especially afraid, all questions are a threat.
I used to tell my parents to “Stop yelling” when they were saying things, without even a raised voice, when I knew that there was something wrong, maybe I was in trouble or a sister was in trouble. There’s something I don’t quite have the word for still. It isn’t yelling, because it doesn’t require a raised voice. It’s a-something-is-wrong voice and it makes me afraid, even though I know I should be safe.
I don’t know why I have this fear. I am not afraid of my parents. They did not unfairly punish me. Usually, they were pretty explicit about what I had done wrong and why it was not ok and what was going to happen as a result. The reasons were pretty explicit reasons, usually safety related or you-aren’t-allowed-to-hit-your-sister related. And the results were usually pretty reasonable punishments like apologizing to my sisters or going to my room to calm down or extra chores to make up for creating an unreasonable mess. There is no clear reason why I should have this fear of conflict.
I think part of the reason I am afraid is because I am never sure WHAT is wrong. Is it anger or tiredness or frustration? Even with boyfriend, even with my family, I can’t pick up on tired versus angry. It makes behavior unpredictable.
And lack of predictability is frightening.
And if I can’t handle the possibility that someone I know and trust and love might be upset, then when it is someone I don’t know, it can be especially terrifying. This is one reason why I try to stay away from all the activism and issues and current events and internet things that are always going on. Because I can’t handle them and they make me want to hide.
And that is maybe ok, to only float around the edges and contribute my personal stories. To share bits of happiness and some struggles. I should be good at floating around the edges by now. I’ve done it my whole life.
Because it is maybe ok to prioritize being safe and feeling safe.
boyfriend and I went back to our college
we walked around the lake
and I was distracted and happy
dashing around at daffodils and ducks
and the small purple flowers
and hidden spiderwebs
and stopped at our spot
the spot where we would go to sit out and watch the stars
the spot where we had our first kiss
the spot where he told me I was beautiful for the first time
(the first time anyone not-my-parents had ever told me that)
and we stopped and looked at the lake
and the ducks and the flowers
and then he got down on one knee
and asked me to marry him
And of course I said yes. And now it is the spot where we got engaged. Where we officially are going to tell people and start planning forevers. It’s full of overwhelming happiness, of bounces and bubbly feelings and everything amazing.
This weekend I learned that it is not only despair that makes me lose my words. Overwhelming happiness can also do it. But I don’t need words to express my happiness. There’s happy-flappy, jumping, spinning. There’s happiness everywhere. For maybe 10 minutes, I jumped up and down and flapped and hugged and spun. We couldn’t put the ring on for the longest time because it would have flown right off my flapping hands. There’s been days and days of “we’re getting married” scripting and he always responds back with the right words.
And now I can spend forever with the one person who always is safe. Who watched me flap and spin happily all day and smiled. Who talked to people for me when I was too happy for words. Who makes the world make sense. Who never stops watching out for me and making sure that I am alright. Who scheduled quiet breaks into the day so that I wouldn’t get overwhelmed. Who made sure when I got home that I slept and ate. Who drove home while I slept the whole drive because even overwhelming happy is exhausting. Who planned everything so amazingly wonderful. Who picked out a beautiful ring that I can wear underneath my gloves at work. With nothing poky, but with plenty of sparkly.
So right now my life is full of overwhelming happy.
I like things to stay the same.
I want someone to direct my life again. It was so nice when I was home and I did not have to decide the structure of my life. When food was just automatically produced at the times to eat. Time to sleep and time to wake up was generally predicted. Activities were planned.
I want to cling to things that are the same.
I don’t want to be a new real adult person.
I have no idea how I am going to get through the self-structured-self-ordered grad school life for the next undetermined-amount-of-time-that-is-probably-between-five-and-seven-years.
I want structure.
I want order.
Emotions are hard. I don’t understand them. I can’t figure them out. There are very very very few of them that I can recognize in myself. I have written about this before, and it is something I still have so many struggles with. Alexithymia. It is one of the things I hate most about the way my brain works.
It would be so much easier sometimes to figure out how to fix things if I knew what was wrong.
For instance, right now.
I know something is wrong. My stomach hurts, but not in a throwing-up/sick sort of way. More in a tied-up-in-knots way. My brain is jumbled and going every which way. I have been lying on the floor for the past… hmmm well, it has actually been over 4 hours. But I have been watching Scrubs, so it hasn’t been all useless. [Lying on the floor, admittedly, in itself isn’t necessarily a bad sign. My family lies on the ground all the time (partially because we never had enough chairs in our family room growing up, so usually at least one person has to sit or lie on the floor.] I haven’t cried, and I don’t think I want to cry.
I don’t know what this is.
I don’t understand how people can just know that they are nervous or jealous or embarrassed or tired. I’ve tried asking people. No one can explain it satisfactorily. They just “know” that that is what nervousness “feels” like. It is extremely unhelpful.
I want to know what I feel like right now. I want a name for the specific emotions. Because when you can give things names, then it is so, so much easier to start addressing them. I want to be able to categorize and classify my emotions. Because identification and classification are the first step to fixing something.
I want to be able to answer boyfriend when he asks me how I feel with more than a “good” or a “bad” or a “not sure”.
I don’t understand how this works for other people. I know the temporary solution. It’s on my giant flow chart in my closet. I haven’t eaten recently (because it is 2:19 currently and I ate dinner several hours ago). I need to eat. And it is after midnight. I need to go to sleep. But those are both temporary solutions to a feeling that I have had since before dinner, before midnight. Admittedly, the temporary solution is what I need now, because it is attainable. But I want a fix. I want this to be fixed. I want there to be a way that I can understand emotions that are happening to me and name them, because that seems like a basic self-aware thing to be able to do.
I don’t have words for them. And I know there are words that exist for them. I even know what the words are. But I have absolutely no idea how to map them on to the actual experiences that happen or the actual sensations that I assume are emotions.
All I have is correlative data, and so I cannot conclude any causation. But I’m going to hash out a couple things, and maybe make unfounded extrapolations, and use a bunch of probably-unclear-if-you-aren’t-me metaphors and say the same thing multiple ways until it makes sense to me.
The first thing
I know that when I am happy, I tend to spend time with people. When I am sad, I tend to hide in my room and stay away from people, except a very special few (boyfriend). The tricky thing to tease out, though, is if being around other people makes me happy, or if when I am happy, I have enough energy to spend time with other people.
So if we look at a simple correlation, we would see this.
So hey, you might say, this seems like a pretty good correlation. Maybe even causation, eh? When you are happy, you spend time with people. Maybe then, to be happier, you should spend more time with people.
But wait… the plot thickens.
This is not actually the complete graph. Anyone who knows me should know that I have an upper limit for time I can spend with people. The first graph I showed you was incomplete! It actually only included a small part of the scale! When you look at a larger range, you actually see this!
Being with people all the time is not a good thing for me. I need alone-time-breaks, where I can just chill out quietly and read some books or watch Netflix or spin in circles or look at leaves or swim or other things. There is an ideal ratio of time that I can spend with people that will result in maximum happiness ability. It is also more complicated because the amount of time varies depending on who it is.
Also, there are other factors that do affect this. It is a self-perpetuating cycle, a positive feedback loop, in many ways.
When I am sad, I do not have enough energy to do daily things (like eat or brush my hair or things like that). Because being sad seems to use up energy by itself, somehow. When I am happy, I do have enough energy to do daily things AND I have a surplus of energy. I can then spend that extra energy on fun things that make me happy.
What I think the answer is…
(1) Spending time with other people makes me happy
(2) But it also uses up a lot of energy
(3) Running out of energy results in meltdown, results in sad me
(4) Being sad also means lack of energy (possibly caused by lack of energy, is tricky to determine the cause of that)
(5) When I am sad, I do not have enough energy to make myself happy.
And now for some Terry Pratchett
It is sort of like this. (But with happiness instead of money. And the spending money is instead effort. OK, well, it is a complicated metaphor, and I’m not sure I can completely explain it, but they are the same colors and flavors and feelings of arguments, and I can’t really explain better why they are the same, but they just are.)
“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”
(I have maybe possibly been on a Terry Pratchett spree recently… But this is from Men at Arms and it is wonderful just like all the other books.)
Happy people seem to have more energy to be happy.
Comparing happiness and showering and enzymatic reactions
|It’s not perfect, I know. Like there is the increased energy of the state of the molecule/intermediates that is supposed to correspond to the level of energy I have. And then the lower-energy end-product (although that will vary depending on the reaction). People who are good at chemistry, I am sorry if there are other problems in this that make your head hurt.|
Another warning about correlations and causation
So I will muddle through the correlations. Run some experiments (try some new coping mechanisms). And honestly, the correlational data is important. Because not only does it give me some hints about what might be causal, it also helps me identify emotions. Because that’s also not something I’m the best at. It helps to be able to recognize that I’m not doing great before I am doing awful, because it’s a lot easier to stop things before I’m headed at high speed down to the land of sad-and-confused-and-upset-me. Because when I am doing not-great, I still have the energy to fix things.