Tuesday, February 16, 2010

burnout and the long walk

Life and its complications unfold
  • Moved to a new country and all the unknowns/changes/isolations
  • Married to a wonderful American
  • Reconnecting with the Aspergers Assocation of New England (AANE)
  • Dealing with an entirely new health care system
  • Unsure of how my Aspergers diagnosis will be affected by upcoming DSM change (and my hope that it just gets folded into autism, not wiped off the board as an irrelevant waste of funds and affirmation.
  • Finding day to day tasks variously difficult
  • Not having a heck of a lot to do that involves contact with other people
and the biggie
  • Painful awareness of of my limitations with social relationships.
During a long walk in the woods my guy J and I talked a lot about what being weird means, and what challenges my autistic stuff has in our relationship, and how, despite my growing depression at realizing how much I haven't developed in the first 30 years of my life, there IS hope. It is possible to develop.

But it is a struggle. I get burned out. I limit J in his need to connect in the world as a couple. The difficulties we have with each other in communicating and connecting has placed a strain on us. Rachel at journeyswithautism.com talks a lot about how her husband supports her and also sometimes struggles with things. I perceive the fortitude required to be in relationship.

I feel empty sometimes. J wishes for more connected 'adult' communication, that isn't about tv shows or dinner (artichokes!), that isn't just endless amounts of silence that increasingly make him think that there really isn't anything going on 'in there'. My defense response is that OF COURSE there is. My defense response is 'but this is only really a strength, that zen-like ability to be only in the moment without monkey mind messing up the serene landscape of my being.

But all those defenses come falling down, and I'm left wondering -- am I really vacant? I know I have ideas and thoughts lurking in there. I know that in the past I experienced sharing them as an exercise in inviting sometimes ridicule, invalidation, being dismissed, or just alienated. I feel stymied. I married a skilled orator, in that he can formulate complex thoughts, hold a conversation, remember different threads and synthesize complex themes into original thought.

I have trouble tracking each sentence, struggle with object relations, use incomplete sentences and get lost when I'm trying to verbalize a thought.

I really understand his frustration. I understand his drift toward giving up because it requires a mountain of patience to slow down that much and even help me work out what I'm trying to say and say it in a way that makes sense.

Spending time with a friend recently, who has two kids, prompted a moment that brought this all into a broader light; we were sitting having food, the 3 year old, mom and me. The three year old suddenly asked her mom, 'why is no one talking?' Her mom explained that sometimes there isn't anything to say and there are pauses in conversations and there is no need to talk all the time. But I left that interaction realizing that while I can be quite content spending shared time in silence, not everyone feels the same way about that.

Later I told my friend in a somewhat apologetic way that I was aware I'm not always the best conversationalist. She responded reassuringly that another friend of hers talks non-stop and this is far more tiring and annoying than a relaxed quiet presence. This was helpful, but when I shared it with J it was also an opportunity talk about how we feel alienated from each other because I don't communicate much.

It's not just silence. It's not just me. He spends a lot of time lately on programming projects, and I hang out beside him doing my own thing. But what I'm doing isn't all that mentally stimulating. A lot of what I do hints at some absence in me of internal drive and an intrinsic desire to keep exploring and growing.

I want to learn social skills. But I'm increasingly becoming afraid and isolated, preferring to hide out that fraak up yet another potential relationship. They start off fine and then they fall flat. Because they never get past a surface level of positive interaction. Once a person wants something deeper, it becomes evident that I don't quite know how to do that.

J and I have developed a deep connection over 3 years. He's sympathetic to a lot of what I'm trying to sort out. He's even sorted out some of the same autistic issues I'm dealing with. He can be a guide, breaking down some of the rules and directions/opportunities for learning. He can also get tired. Or wonder, how much is he supposed to just accept it all and forget about me changing, and how much can he push me toward change? Is he allowed to feel lonely, and angry about feeling alone?

I think he is. But my own tendency to take all of this insight and become overwhelmed and lost and then isolated, further pushing myself into a vacant place of understimulation and depression, means that our desire to hold hands for this long walk is perhaps waning. Our fear that we will be unable to prevent a kind of drift apart until our marriage is just an empty series of motions, that we aren't peers but roles, of functional male and helpless hapless female who is never sure of what parts aren't disabled, whether any direction that pushes beyond the safe borders of autistic comfort is even worth trying.

Burnout makes me scared.
The path -- the long walk -- makes me hopeful that there is somewhere to go.

I'm having a bout of debilitating pain that rules out doing much of anything.
I'm looking forward to a support group on Thursday (the pain should be gone by then)
For it's a group of other women with AS and generally I can relate with them and find useful insights that help me with some of the more troubled thinking above.

I'm not there at acceptance. Neither is my partner. I'm not sure I want to just accept everything (in the sense that none of it can change). I think some things can change. They have to change. They don't work. Like, pretending to hear someone when I haven't, just doesn't work.

I'm lost.
not so joyful, I guess.

Search This Blog