Some people are under the impression that individuals on the spectrum lack emotion, that they have no sense of connection with other humans. I can only speak for myself, hopefully someone else, but the degree to which I feel is most times, completely overwhelming.
I'd like to share a story which I believe may serve as an example to help others to get an idea of exactly what I mean.
A few years ago, before my diagnosis, I was sitting at my daughter's middle school soccer game when I had a realization. That afternoon a gentleman stood next to me in a 3 piece suit and a trench coat. I knew this man to be the father of one of the girls on the team. I also knew that only a few weeks earlier this seemingly put together man had lost his 4 year old son to a long drawn out battle with leukemia. The news hit the family in such a way that it had fallen apart.
That afternoon I happened to have my son with me who was 6 or 7 at the time. My son is like me in a lot of ways. He can be painfully shy and socially awkward at times. I try to encourage him as best I know how to talk and play with other kids. I noticed that day, rather than joining in with the boys he sort of just stood by and watched from a distance. I sat and watched him and felt helpless.
It was also then that I noticed the dad in the trench coat next to me had turned around and was also watching the boys play. Instantly, my heart sank. I could feel the weight of his sadness like a ton of bricks. He didn't need to cry or look at me or even say anything for me to know this feeling was for certain. It somehow got absorbed without my acknowledgment. I could feel how he missed his boy, flt guilt for having my own and not being able to help him, and sadness for both of them struggling separately at that same moment. There was nothing I could do about it. Even as I write this, I am immediately taken back to that day. My lips are numb and my heart races and I feel so heavy.
I left the game early. I felt guilty but I knew the longer I stayed the worse I would feel and the longer it would take to recuperate.
This type of experience happens all too often. I used to take trips to animal shelters every week when I worked with the disabled. It was supposed to be a feel good experience , but I became so attached to the animals and felt helpless when I couldn't take them home I had to stop. This isn't the average sympathy I'm talking about. Magnify that times 100 , mix it with intrusive overwhelming thoughts, inability to concentrate , loss of sleep and severe depression and then you have what it feels like inside my brain when I sense hurt, sadness or pain in others. It reached the point where my kids would know which days I went by my demeanor when I walked in the door from work.
It's also not uncommon for me to gravitate towards the sad, broken people in a crowded room without knowing who's who. It's a feeling I've had my entire life. I feel sad for the lady on the bus with no shoes. It stays with ,me all day. While I work, while I eat, when I try to sleep. It has forced me both into and out of situations without having the words for an explanation. Probably why I feel so connected to animals, elderly and disabled. Probably why I picked a career in social work. Maybe that was my way of attempting to help. It has the ability to make me appear cold and callous and even selfish , when in reality I can feel the weight of every drop of emotion within an unidentified radius. Sometimes I have no idea how to deal with it. Feelings can be so overwhelming I can't do anything else but distance myself.
There is good news though. I do feel extreme happiness too, but it's a trade off.
The point is, having Aspergers doesn't make me heartless. In fact, it forces me to guard my heart with even greater precision than the average. So if my face looks blank in a seemingly inappropriate manner, I assure you it's not that I am lacking emotion. It's more like my way of doing anything and everything to keep myself from exploding.
Until next time.