How do you feel your feelings?

How on earth are you supposed to figure out what an aspie is feeling? What if they won't or can't tell you? What if they tell you everything is fine and then act like a monster - and still say they're fine?

There's often a disconnect between aspie feelings and aspie brain: your aspie knows they have a situation which requires feelings but the feelings don't seem to be there. Instead of experiencing the feelings and talking about them, your aspie is more likely to have the feelings independently, almost as if they happen to someone else.

"Yes, yes, of course there is a reason to be upset but just let me get on with my reading, will you? Yes, I'm fine!"

And then later, when the tin opener breaks and they cannot have special chicken-inna-tin pie for supper, voices will be raised, hands flailed, tears fall and those pent up feelings will come rushing in for something as stupidly simple and unimportant as a trapped pie.

The other situation, the really important one full of life-changing possibilities and endless worries is still not spoken of or cried for, you understand. Only the pie is cried for because your aspie wanted that pie, it was going to make them feel better and now it's stuck forever in the tin and it's all going terribly wrong and nothing can make it right.

Solutions for trapped pies are simple, so long as you have access to a shop. Solutions for trapped feelings are slightly more problematic.

This week, I have trapped feelings, readers. They are there, I know they are. I can sense them, bubbling away like bad soup, right under the surface. But do you know what I got upset about instead?

I bought new Christmas lights and I forgot to put them out and then it was dark and I went out anyway in the cold and the night and then it turned out the wires were wrapped in that special way and I had to undo them on the night-time path in my front garden and my hands were cold and I was struggling and it seemed so hard and if I pulled too much then the wires would pull and the new lights wouldn't work.

I undid them, my fingers twisting in the light from the street and me shivering in the cold and it was with no small amount of satisfaction that I wound them prettily around the Cotoneaster and then turned them on in their splendour.

I went indoors and looked at my feelings again, still having a sniffle about the lights but that bad soup was bubbling out of sight and I couldn't get to it.

Yesterday I went to the garage and had my front car light replaced. I sat in the waiting room and fretted over whether there would be other lights that had gone and whether my tyres would need replacing, right before Christmas and if my car was going to need more doing than I expected. All of this had my stomach in knots and I turned towards the bad feelings soup to see if it was ready, but it wasn't.

In the end, the garage man said to me, 'Merry Christmas! The light is on us, have a good Christmas.' No extra charge, no charge at all and I left with a smile.

Then in the car I thought of this small act of kindness when I'd been worrying so much and how it had made one tiny part of my life brighter and I cried as I drove home. There was no need to cry, but I still did, all the while telling myself off for it.

But I still couldn't see the feelings soup, only sense it there, while I cried over the kindness.

Then in the evening when I sat in my Christmas-lit living room, watching the lights sparkle on the trees and wondering if now I could think about everything, instead I thought about the long year since I lost my old dog, a week before last Christmas.

Readers, I can still cry over Tess, but other, more pressing sorrows leave me dry. Why is it, when I need to think things through, my mind will only let me feel these extra experiences, the ones which have no bearing on my problems?

Is it that the situations I face which are most difficult are just too much? I need to think only on those I can manage or process? Or is it more simple than that?

Feelings can be accessed accidentally or on purpose, but to truly feel something we have to connect to it and if we don't feel that connection then it has to wait. If it seems too complicated to make the connection, then the feelings are pushed aside.

And then another connection is made, a simple one, and away we go: tears, words, thoughts, movements, sighs, actions.

What we don't realise is that these small, simple connections which open the floodgate are actually bringing us into touch with the hidden feelings beneath. They are different, not part of whatever we need to think about, but they are still a part of us and if we need to connect, to experience emotion, then somehow or another it will be felt.

We may cry over the wrong things but we still cry. The feelings which seem closed off or seen through a glass darkly are part of a much larger, fluid state where we can dip a toe in this part and make contact with the whole.

Sometimes, feelings have to be viewed from overhead or from a distance. We need to look at the whole of a person and the complete picture of how they behave to understand whether or not they are reacting emotionally - and even then we may not be able to tell for sure.

Just be sure that somewhere, deep within or bubbling right under the surface, those feelings exist. The trick is knowing which moment reveals them and recognising that all moments flow together, part of one complete parcel of Time.


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How to give your aspie a quiet Christmas

How on earth do you get it through to family and friends how to treat your aspie at Christmas time? The time of good cheer and all things sociable is a nightmare not waiting to happen but which happens in real time for at least the next two weeks. And that includes those of us who like the season.

So what do you tell people? How do you tell them. Let me count the ways.

Please note

Avoid the obvious tactic of painting a great big sign and sticking it outside your front door with your direction of choice written on it. If you want to do that, go ahead, but your family will still knock on the door and say,

'Did you know you have a sign saying Piss Off at your front door? You did? Oh, well, I guess it wasn't meant for me.'

With that in mind...

It's a simple method and it's mainly in the execution (no, not that kind of execution).

1. Tell people to stay away.

Yes, stay away. Right away. Presents? Post them. Cards? Made for posting, damn it. Too late to post? We don't mind them late. Too stubborn to post things? Determined to deliver to your door? Deliver to the door then, just don't expect it to open.

2. When your friends and family turn up at the door anyway.

Don't open the door, but if they peer at you through the glass and you don't have the face to continue standing behind the Christmas tree, come out and wave them away like you would with pigeons.

3. When your friends and family think you haven't recognised them because you appear to be waving them away and not letting them in:

Hold up a pre-made sign with YES I WANT YOU TO LEAVE printed on it. Hold it close to the window as they will scrunch their eyes up as if they have lost the ability to read.

(This part of the process includes some waiting time as they stand, mouth open, aghast, trying to work out if you are serious).

4. They knock on the window and ask if you are letting them in (having decided you really cannot be serious).

At this point you will be tempted to fling open the door and ask them if they remember the conversation you had only yesterday where you told them you were not having any visitors over the festive season because your aspie finds it too stressful. Please resist this temptation. Of course they remember the conversation, they just didn't think you meant them.

5. A discussion takes place whereby your relatives decide how to deal with this latest madness from you.

Take the opportunity to close the curtains while they are having the discussion. If you do not have curtains or your blinds are flimsy, lie down on the floor and pretend to be in a deep sleep. This isn't actually a very good tactic but it does confuse people.

6. Your phone will now start ringing.

It's strange how, having seen you only yesterday and had that whole conversation about keeping away and then having come today and been kept away by you, that people who are wanting to visit will then call you to see why you are not letting them in.

7. If you have a toddler, or can borrow one, let them answer the phone. If you do not have access to this age group, please make sure you have pre-recorded an answer phone message containing a small song about Not Today, Thank You. Singing answer phone messages are quite unnerving and should get the job done.

8. Be prepared, after all your effort and suffering, for your aspie to ask you why no one is visiting. The fact that your aspie hates these unexpected visits and detests having to open presents in front of people means nothing at the moment of asking.

9. Don't forget to spend at least half a day planning how next Christmas will be easier because (fill in the blank with whatever got past your defences this year).

10. If all else fails, refer back to the giant printed sign posted at the front door. This counts as a Christmas craft and can be decorated to suit the message. Use as much glitter as you like and don't worry too much about teaching passing children new words.

Above all else, do whatever it takes to have a Christmas to suit you and your aspie first.

Not today, thank you
I want to be alone,
Not today, thank you,
Please don't even phone.
I want to have my Me Time
I want to lock the door,
And if you keep on phoning,
I'll not answer any more.


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A very aspie Christmas

'Come in! Come in! and know me better, man!' said the Ghost of Christmas Present.

And there, summarised by the spirit who wishes to enliven and embolden the hearts of all mankind we have the reasons most aspies hide from Christmas: we do not want to come in and we do not want you to come in and we really, truly, do not want to know you better.

Well, maybe at another time of the year, but at Christmas any comings and goings are likely to be from one safe place to another, with quick trips for absolutely unavoidable human conflict mixed in. And I actually love Christmas!

At least, I love the lights and the decorations and the cold, dark outside comparing with the warm gold of the inside. All that other stuff, where you get together with other human beings and are much more social than any other time, it galls me.

At Christmas we all love each other and our hearts warm up in ways we don't manage the rest of the year. We pat small children on the head and listen to their tales of reindeer; we help little oldlings across the road and stay for hearty good cheer as they tell us something or other, in oldlingese. We go into shops and are maddened to buy at the sight of all the staff in their Christmassy jumpers and the repetition of Christmas classics on the radio.

We are held up by the idea of Christmas, carried abreast as if it were a giant, tinsel-tossed wave taking us to untold shores of jollity and good humour.

Or rather, we take a look at all this and put that one foot back inside the door before anyone notices we have shown our face.

I have never quite figured out how this change in personality which signals Christmas spirit is meant to take place. I have plenty changes in spirit, I'll have you know, usually occasioned by other people and my inability to interact with them, but as yet none of those spirits has sent me out into the world in a fervour of reckless sociability.

But if I am confused by Christmas splendouring of hearts, then other people are much more perplexed at my apparent indifference to drawing them in and being drawn. I have no need to be drawn into anyone's heart, be it figuratively or (saints preserve us) physically. If you draw me in, you will be Dealt With - be warned.

I have never made a secret of my love of solitude so why is it so surprising that I wouldn't change my feelings for Christmas? After all, at times of change and great stress, do you feel like rushing out into the street and finding acquaintances to love? Well, maybe you do, maybe I shouldn't have asked, but I don't.

Keep your hugs, your mistletoe, your bottle of good cheer which I can't drink anyway. Keep your best cake and hand-made mince pies (I lie, give me those). Keep your expectations that I will join in and be one of you, just for the season.

I am not one of you, no more than I was in November or will be again in February. I am one of me instead and quite happy with it.

I have no Bah Humbug about me, though. I do love Christmas and am happy if you love it too. Just, let me be like the spirits as they take Ebeneezer round the snow-filled streets of his childhood and let me also tread unseen and unheard as others have their warm welcomings.

To me, the glow of the window in the dark street is far more welcoming than the sight of the door opening as you beckon me inside.


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