Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Some Thoughts on Isolation

I spend a lot of my time alone.  Even when I'm around other people.  For the most part, I don't even notice it.  I get focused on my tasks, or a game, or reading a book, or... or... or... I'm a things person.  Sometimes, a data person.  If I have anything other than a person to catch my attention, I tend to gravitate toward it.  It's something I'm fighting, because I know that if left unchecked, it would lead to Trainspotting-style binges of isolation where I would wind up laying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, and simply taking in the sensations of existence.  I've done it before.  Sometimes for days.

The thing is, for the most part, I don't feel isolated when I do this.  I know that I could get up off the floor and drive over to my mom's, or my aunt's, or to visit a friend.  As I get older, I'm even learning to limit the amount of time I spend alone, in order to keep my social skills from getting rusty (and mine rust fast).  I can tell that it's good for me--especially when I spend time with family.  The more time I spend around my partner's family and my mother's family, the easier it is for me to pick up on things I usually miss, like facial expressions.

You see, unlike a lot of people on the Spectrum, it's not eyes that I have a particular problem with.  It's faces.  The older I get, the worse it is.  When I was a kid, even a teenager, I had no problem looking at someone and convincing them that I was looking them in the eye.  Typically, I'd really be looking at their foreheads or cheekbones or something else in the vicinity, but I never got the impression that they were put off by this.  If I was having a particularly off day, I would watch my conversation partner's mouth, so that if their words stopped making sense to me, I could get some of what was being said by lip-reading.  In my mid-20s, though, that started to shift.  Now, it's hard for me to even look at another person's face.  As a result, I don't just miss small facial expressions--I miss it all.

Being around my family helps to mitigate that.

Except, that's when I feel most isolated.  Talking to them, knowing that they know what I am but that we haven't talked about it, that hurts.  I have one aunt that has regular conversations with me about autism, because she has a child on the Spectrum.  Other than that, I don't tend to talk about it.  I want to.  I've sat my mother down and tried to really open up.  It just seems like all that happens is a smile-and-nod, and then it's over, though.  It's something I've done that doesn't really interest her, but she'll listen, just like when I talk about Twitter or blogging or heavy metal.  My grandmother is worse, in her way.  She's never treated me differently from other members of the family for being autistic (don't get me started on the things she says about my being an atheist, though).  Instead, she says something like "but are you sure" or "that's okay, that will change as you get older" whenever I bring up a particular problem I'm having.  She started doing this when I was seven.  I'm thirty now.

I love both my mother and my grandmother, but I am never more alone than when I am trying to talk to them about the real challenges and obstacles in my life.  Even when I'm with my dad's side of the family, who I refuse to discuss any personal information with, I don't feel as closed off as I do when Mom smiles and listens and then takes the first opportunity to change the topic.  It's a dismissal that's somehow even worse than someone denying the existence of my condition at all.