Empathy by any other name

A few days ago I was talking with a social worker about some of the issues I’ve been having, and we touched on my problems with asking people for help. I told him that even when I manage to identify the problem I need help with, I simply don’t know who to call. When I go over the list of people in my head, I can come up with too many reasons why I shouldn’t impose on them, why they have too much going on in their own lives.

And the social worker asked me, “How would it make you feel if someone needed YOUR help, but decided in their head that you’re far too overwhelmed or unemployed or autistic to be able to help them, without even giving you the chance to say yes or no?”

I said that I knew what he was trying to get at. That I was supposed to say that they should ask me, that I would feel hurt if they made assumptions about my ability to help. But I said I wouldn’t feel hurt. If they had decided for themselves that they didn’t want to bother me with something because of what – rightly or wrongly – they thought I was able to handle, that would be a completely valid feeling. And I wouldn’t feel hurt about them coming to such a conclusion, even if it wasn’t necessarily true. Because that would be their feeling, and therefore valid.

He stared at me. Flabbergasted.

I don’t think it had occurred to him that I would genuinely not feel hurt.

What hadn’t occurred to me was that others would be.

There you’ve got it. The limits of my theory of mind. And the limits of his theory of mind too, for that matter. Because that’s my biggest problem with Theory of Mind: pathologising it as something only autistic people struggle with.

© Agsandrew | Dreamstime.com

From what I’ve read, I believe empathy comes in four distinct steps.

  1. Perceiving that someone has a particular feeling
  2. Knowing the cause of their feeling
  3. Understanding why someone has a particular feeling
  4. Formulating an emotionally validating response

The strongest empaths, in my experience, are the ones that skip step 2 and 3. They don’t need to know the cause. They don’t even need to relate it to something they’ve experienced or felt themselves. They perceive an emotion in someone and immediately formulate an emotionally validating response. These are the people that everyone loves having as a friend, because they never even need to explain to them what’s wrong. As a Dutch idiom goes, people who “get enough information from only half a word”.

For the rest of the world, knowing and understanding are both needed to be able to respond in a validating and empathic way. Just look at the numerous occasions where a white person doesn’t understand the lived experience of a black person. Where a man doesn’t understand the lived experience of a woman. Where a straight person doesn’t understand the lived experience of a gay person. More often than not, this inability to match the narrated experience to a similar experience of their own results in miscommunication and hurt feelings, even outright dismissal and animosity.

“What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.”
“I can tell something’s wrong, you’ve been distant all evening.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. You wouldn’t understand.”
“But I want to help you. Maybe you’ll feel better when you tell me.”
“Well, I’ve been killing demons all day, and none of them have dropped a Magic Lightning Sword. And there’s supposed to be a 100 in 1 chance. I should have had one by now. Paul from the Guild got his after only 15 kills. That isn’t right. I’m sure there’s a bug.”
“You mean you’ve been moping because of a silly game?”
“I told you you wouldn’t understand.”

This is Theory of Mind. This is the third step. Understanding, or perspective taking as it’s usually called, requires being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s not perspective taking if it’s completely dependent on you having that same experience, being able to relate because you’ve gone through the same thing.

You can reason it out, compare their frustration over not getting a Magic Lightning Sword to your frustration when that gorgeous pair of shoes you saw is available in every size but your own. But reasoning it out is not something everyone can do all the time, because it depends on recognising the emotion is similar, even though the cause is different. And how can we really be sure that someone’s emotional distress is similar?

I care deeply for others. But my problems with empathy already begin at step 1. I can’t read non-verbal cues accurately, so I usually don’t notice that someone is feeling a certain way. And if by chance I do notice, I’m usually at a loss to identify it. I even manage to be oblivious when someone’s angry with me, unless they come out and say it. Then I move on to step 2, knowing the cause. I need a lot of information in this step. I’ve trained myself to ask a shitload of questions so that I can move on to step 3, understanding. Unfortunately, sometimes people resent having to explain the cause of their feelings. They tell me I know very well what’s causing it, and refuse to tell me anything concrete. They accuse me of pretending to be unaware so I can say I was innocent. This doesn’t help. I need to be told what they’re feeling because non-verbal cues don’t register with me, and I need to be told what caused it because I missed the non-verbal cues when whatever made them upset took place.

Once I have all that information, step 3 is the next hurdle. I depend mostly on reasoning here. I can understand the idea that the social worker mentioned, that someone would be upset because I didn’t ask them for help, but I can’t relate it to any experience of my own. It’s an alien feeling to me. Fortunately, I have a lot of training in trying to understand alien feelings. Most of the people around me experience the world in a way that’s completely different from my own. I’ve learned for example that another person wearing the same dress to a certain event as my friend can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how close my friend feels to that person. I’ve learned that feelings don’t need to make sense to be valid. I don’t always understand, but because they’re my friend, I will do everything I can to help them feel better.

Unfortunately sometimes step 4 gets in the way here as well. I’ve done all that hard work of perceiving, knowing, and understanding… and then my awkward social skills make me say exactly the wrong thing. Because I don’t always instinctively know why someone feels a certain way, I don’t instinctively understand what will help in processing that feeling either. By trial and error – mostly a lot of error – I’ve learned which responses get the best results, but it’s still not instinctive. I am constantly weighing options in my head, “Is this the time for a hug? Should I just make soothing sounds now or should I make them laugh? Do they want to hear affirmation or should I help put things in perspective for them?”

This is especially hard because I don’t have many examples to draw from. I can observe how non-autistic people show empathy towards other non-autistic people. But it’s only rarely that someone who’s not autistic does that towards me. Because my lived experience is so entirely different from their own. All those problems that I have with perceiving, knowing, understanding and responding? Those are the same problems others have with me. They can’t tell that I’m upset because I have a flat affect. They don’t know what I’m feeling unless I tell them. They don’t understand why I’m feeling that way because they wouldn’t feel that way in similar situations. And they respond in ways that don’t validate my emotions, but instead let me know how different I am for feeling like that in the first place.

Having problems with loud noises?
“Just ignore it.”
Feeling confused and lost because I can’t figure out which household chore to tackle first?
“Just pick one and be done with it.”
Struggling how to make friends?
“Just get out of the house more.”
Crying because life is just so fucking hard?
“It’s hard for everyone.”

Let me tell you something. That’s not empathy.

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Timing things

I haven’t had a single job where I haven’t at some point been disciplined for not arriving on time. Usually, the complaint takes the form of “You’re always late!” and that doesn’t mesh with my literal brain, so I’ll argue that I wasn’t late the past three days, or that I’ve only been 15 minutes late once in the last month and this was the reason, or something like that. Which then gives me a reputation for being intransigent and argumentative.

But aside from whether I’m actually “always” late or not, I do have a problem with timing things.

jablonec-stationWhen I have a specific appointment, I suffer from overbuffering. I’ll go, “Right… I’ll need to catch the 10:55 train, better be at the station at 10:50 so I don’t have to run… Hm, need to buy a ticket, never know how long the line’s going to be, better be there at 10:40… It takes me 5 minutes to get to the station… or is it 10 minutes? I’ve never actually timed it, better be on the safe side, leave the house at 10:25… That means I’d better have my coat on and my bag packed at 10:15, otherwise I’ll be rushing all over the place and panicking… OK, I’ll have to get ready at 10:00.” And the end result is usually that I’m at the station by 10:20, 35 minutes early. (Or, in even sadder cases, that I’m so stuck on the idea of leaving the house at 10:25, that I’ll be sitting on the sofa with my coat on for 15 minutes until it’s time to leave). Which is not really a problem, but it is a tad inefficient, and shows that I don’t really have a good grasp of how long things actually take me.

As soon as it’s a recurring appointment, though, I start getting careless. I remember that last time I twiddled my thumbs for 35 minutes, so I’ll just get myself an extra cup of tea and play on the laptop for a bit before leaving. And that’s when the real shit starts happening. Before I know it, it’s actually 10:45, and I have absolutely no chance of still making it to the station on time.

It’s even more complicated when it gets to work. I think in absolutes. The train leaves at 10:55, which is an absolute. One minute late and the train will have left. Even when I’m messing up how long things take, I still have a very clear end goal. With jobs, it’s not that easy. To my immense surprise, I learned last year that a 9:00am start time doesn’t actually mean the goal is to be there at 9. Because we’re dealing with people here, and their perceptions of me. The goal is that I should be seen to be WORKING at 9. So no getting coffee, no starting up my computer, no going through my schedule. I need to be AT WORK. And that doesn’t mean “present at the office”.

A complicating factor is that when I ask about starting times, I often get the answer of “oh, we’re not that particular about times, as long as you get the work done.” That is a lie. (And it has taken me nearly two decades to figure out it’s a lie). People get annoyed when I always get in later than they do, never mind that I’m also always the last to leave (usually by one or two hours). It doesn’t make sense. It’s all about messy human perceptions. It’s not about how much work I do, or how many hours I’m working. It’s only about how it makes people feel. And apparently, me getting in late makes them feel like I don’t really care about making an effort.

So, knowing all this, why is it still so incredibly hard for me to get anywhere on time?

Because I struggle. I struggle with timing, knowing how long things take me. I struggle with executive function, initiating the actions that will get me somewhere on time. I struggle with why it’s important, because to be honest, how it makes others feel is not a paramount motivation for me.

If there is a specific reason why I need to be at the office ahead of time (like manning the phone line that opens at 8:30, or having a website go live at 10:00), I can manage just fine. But simply keeping up appearances? Not logical. No motivation.

And I think the last part might be crucial. Because I’m hardly ever late for appointments with friends (although that’s also because the one-off schedule overbuffering kicks in there). But with people I’m not emotionally invested in? Not really. And maybe that’s why I get grief for being late for work. Not because it’s a rule not to be late, because others get away with being late on occasion, and I never get away with it. But because people can somehow tell that making them happy just by doing something completely illogical is not that important to me.

The problem is made up of so many unrelated but heavily interactive elements, that I have no idea where to start in fixing it. And I’m not even sure I want to fix it. Deep down, I just want to yell at employers to simply let me be. Let me do my job, because I do my job well and I put in all the hours and I always get things done on time. So why make my life miserable by focusing only on what time I get in? Is that really the most important thing about my job? Get a f***ing grip!

But this is the way people feel. Will I try changing them, or will I try to change myself?

Why veggies made me cry

Coping with unexpected changes. Sometimes I can manage. Sometimes I can’t.

I’m picking up my weekly bag of veggies at the shop.

Checkout lady: “You’re not on the list.”
Me: “Oh, I’m sorry, I should have picked it up on Saturday.”
CL: “Then that’s someone else’s bag. You can’t take that.”
Me: “Oh I’m so, so sorry! I’ll put it back right away.”
CL: “Do you want next week’s bag?”
Me: “Yes please.”
CL: “Right, then you can pick that up next Monday.”
Me: “I’m sorry? Why can’t I pick it up on Saturday?”
CL: “You can only order bags for Monday to Friday.”
Me: “Yes but I’ve always picked it up on Saturday.”
CL: “We only keep bags for one extra day. So then you want the Friday bag.”
Me: “I guess?”
CL: “Oh, I see you’re already on the list for pickup on Saturday.”
Me: “Yes, that’s the bag I want.”
CL: “OK, I’ll put you down for one bag.”
Me: “So I can’t get this week’s bag at all?”
CL: “[string of words with names of days somewhere in the middle]”
Me: “OK…”
CL: “[string of words]”
Me: “OK, thank you. Bye!”

[Walk out. Try not to cry.]

I’ve taken a look at the website and at the emails I get each week and I still don’t understand. Maybe she thought that I wanted to change my pickup day? Or something? Whereas I just wanted to know when I am allowed to pick up my veggies. Communication is so confusing.

And it basically means I won’t eat any fruit or vegetables this week because I can’t deal with the confusion.

Dammit.

Hang on, I’m different

This article is part of the T-21 Blog Hop. Although the name is reflective of Down syndrome, this hop is open to all blogs in the disability and special needs communities. Self-advocates, allies, parent advocates, all are welcome. Posts should be about advocacy or activism.

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In my entire road towards an autism diagnosis, it seemed a bit strange that I’d only talked to autistic bloggers, through blog posts and comments and email. On top of that, the majority of those bloggers came from the US, the UK, and Australia. Aspie Story and Blogging Astrid were the only fellow Dutchies I’d found so far. I still hadn’t met a single autistic adult in person.

So when my psychiatrist offered me the chance to participate in a series of group sessions for autistic adults to learn more about autism, I thought that would be a pretty good idea. Even though the session subjects seemed to cover a lot of ground that I was already familiar with, I was looking forward to meeting other Dutch people on the spectrum.

The group consisted of me and three other women. I won’t go into details to respect their privacy, but what really stood out for me was the reaction when I told the group about my own experiences in coming to terms with autism, about wanting to be autistic because it was the only thing that felt like all my experiences finally made some sense. About redirecting my energy and efforts towards things that would help me cope, instead of things that would make me appear normal. Allowing myself to be more visibly autistic.

At those last words, the entire group gasped in shock.

I’m not joking. I was the only one there who thought it wasn’t actually all that bad to be stimming in public.

Throughout the session, that impression was reinforced over and over. People were asking “If I don’t do things like that, then maybe I’m not actually autistic?” Looking for things that would prove they weren’t doomed for the rest of their lives. Looking for hope that maybe some day they could be fixed and be normal. Only seeing the negatives. I felt like I was the only one emphasising the good bits, the strengths, the FUN aspect of autism, the connection with other autistic adults, the recognition and acceptance that comes from finally belonging somewhere.

It was heartbreaking. It was exhausting.

So naturally, I decided to attend another networking group for autistic adults in the evening.

Yeah. That bit where I talked about learning how to redirect my energy and efforts to cope? I was lying. I’m used to a lifetime of pushing myself to do things. To push through the exhaustion. So of course it made sense to go to the evening gathering as well. Because autistic people, right? I can be myself there, right?

Wrong.

There was a pub quiz. People told me, like they always do at pub quizzes, “How do you know all that stuff?”, with the that-is-SO-not-normal look in their eyes that I recognise so well. I had my Tangle with me and people asked why I was constantly fiddling with it. People made remarks about how nice it was that this evening was just for high-functioning people and then looked at me and noticed me rocking. Unapologetically. Smiling. And I could see them judge me. Rocking is for Rain Man types.

In a gathering of autistic people who all tried to outdo each other in how high functioning they were, I talked about going non-verbal, and how emotions often feel overwhelming, and how hard it is to take good care of myself by eating on time and keeping my house clean. I made them laugh and nod in recognition. I talked about the energy and frustration it costs to pass for non-autistic, and why. I talked about not passing even when I try so hard. I talked about all the things that I read on all the blogs I’d been reading since the start of my diagnosis.

And in the middle of a discussion about high functioning and low functioning labels, and how maybe we should look at what a person is actually capable of, one of them said to me that maybe I needed a time-out to calm down, because I was rocking back and forth so much. And when I said I was just focusing on the conversation, and not feeling anxious at all, he didn’t believe me.

I still can’t truly come to terms with the fact that this happened. It happened. In a group of autistic people. It was just so entirely different from the autistic community I had experienced so far. The online blogging community. The community I’d taken to be… well, NORMAL. With their acceptance. The explanations that made so much sense. The empathy.

What I’d taken to be normal for being among our own.

In reality, the blogging community – that I accidentally stumbled upon when researching ways to get diagnosed as an adult  – was completely different from the real life community that I’d hoped to find. And it made me realise. My ENTIRE perception of autism as something that is intrinsically part of me, with the good and the bad, the meltdowns and the laughter, has been shaped by autistic adults who write from a place of acceptance.

What a difference that makes.

Acceptance has made me different.

Asking for help

I curled up into a foetal position in bed, where I had been reading a chapter in Business for Aspies: 42 Best Practices for Using Asperger Syndrome Traits at Work Successfully by Ashley Stanford. On a side note, why do subtitles always need to be so incredibly long and cumbersome? Anyway. Here I was, curled up, tears running down my face. Not because something had reminded me of work, which you would expect from a book with that long cumbersome title.

No. The author had written about asking for help.

Her example was a young single mother with a full time job who was having a particular bad day. Overload. The thing she ended up getting stuck on was having to clean two plates to be able to give her daughter her dinner. And. She. Just. Couldn’t. Her brain simply stopped. Meltdown.

The only thing she could think of to do in a meltdown was to grab her “need help” list. First item, call parents. Say “Dishes”. Mother says string of words. No verbal recognition. Move on to second item, go to neighbour. Say “Dishes”. Neighbour can read between the lines. Comes home with her. Does dishes. Serves dinner.

And I cried. And I got so upset that I had to leave my safe space, my bedroom, and get dressed and come downstairs. Because my bedroom no longer felt safe. Because that’s where I realised.

I don’t have a “need help” list.

© Yong Hian Lim - Dreamstime.com

© Yong Hian Lim – Dreamstime.com


This is what goes on in my mind when I hit my brick wall.

  1. I should be able to do this myself.
  2. I will look like an idiot for needing help with this thing that I should be able to do myself.
  3. If I call my parents, they’ll worry about me. Because I’m 36 and I should be able to do this myself.
  4. My parents are over 60 and they live 30km away and I can’t ask them to come all the way here to help me with something I should be able to do myself.
  5. My youngest brother lives 30km away and he has his own young family and I know he often feels overloaded dealing with his own stuff. I should be helping him, not asking him to help me.
  6. My younger brother lives 70km away and doesn’t have a car. I can’t honestly ask him to help me with something this small and that I should be able to do myself.
  7. My best friend lives in London. I’m not even going to calculate how far away that is. And she’s busy with work and getting her law degree and doesn’t spend much time online these days, so I can’t whine to her about how difficult this thing is that I should be able to do myself.
  8. My ex works close to where I live. I can ask him, but he enjoys it when I need help because that makes me dependent on him and that might mean I want to get back together. And I’m afraid he will make jokes about sleeping with him as a thank you, and I never know if it’s just a joke or am I actually expected to sleep with him.
  9. I have another friend close to where I live. I can ask him, but his wife hates me because she thinks I flirt too much even when I’m not aware of doing it. And I’m afraid he will make jokes about sleeping with him as a thank you, and I never know if it’s just a joke or am I actually expected to sleep with him.
  10. Another good friend lives 60km away and doesn’t have a car. He would help me with this thing. But he never answers his phone or email. And besides, I can’t honestly ask him to travel all this way to help me with something this small and that I should be able to do myself.
  11. I don’t know anyone else close by.
  12. People will know I’m not the strong person they always say I am if I ask for help.
  13. I should be able to do this myself.

The stuff about being seen as not strong, or as a helpless idiot, are on that list because it wouldn’t be accurate to deny that they’re a part of the problem. But they are far less important than the fact that I simply don’t know WHO to ask. I know there are people willing to help me, but the practical obstacles to them actually getting here and helping me are HUGE.

And I don’t feel I’m worth all that effort. Other people’s problems always seem bigger than mine. What’s not being able to do my dishes compared to not being able to spend enough time with your children, or not having the money to jump on the train at a moment’s notice, or feeling exhausted from doing a full time job and getting a degree at the same time? I simply can’t feel that sense of entitlement. Other people’s problems should have priority to them.

But when I do manage to overcome all those objections in my own head and reach out and tell people I’m not coping, the results aren’t always favourable either.

An example of that happened recently.

I’d started a new job at the same time as I started the diagnosis process for autism. I soon got overwhelmed. Not only was the diagnosis draining my resources, but the job was something I’d never done before and I soon realised I didn’t have the knowledge to perform it accurately. After two and a half months, I crashed. I told my employer I had a burnout and asked for sick leave. I also asked him to get me in touch with work health services (this is a legal requirement in the Netherlands so wouldn’t be an additional burden for my employer) to help me get back to work as quickly as possible. I made an appointment with my GP and I called the clinic where I was doing my diagnosis to say I was having a crisis.

My employer asked me if I was OK with signing an agreement that I was not suitable for the job (which would qualify me for unemployment), and when I agreed he didn’t log my sick leave and didn’t get work health services involved.

My GP said that because of the diagnostic process, she thought I’d be better off asking the clinic for help because they had more experience with that sort of thing.

And the clinic said they couldn’t help me until I was officially diagnosed.

I was in crisis. I was losing my job and completely unable to function. I was desperate and asking over and over if there was anything anyone could do to help me get through this and start working again. And they all said I was on my own.

© Eladora - Dreamstime.com

© Eladora – Dreamstime.com

It’s just an example, but this sort of thing happens too often for me to be able to write it off as a fluke. Or as just bad luck. Or as people being stupid and inattentive.

No. This has to be me. This has to be the way in which I ask for help. It has to be the words I’m not using, the emotions I’m not showing, the way in which I am wired SO DIFFERENTLY from others that even professionals don’t recognise my despair.

Does that mean it’s my own fault for not getting the help I need? NO. MOST EMPHATICALLY NO. I can’t help being this way. Other people can’t help having their own preconceptions about what “asking for help” is supposed to look like. It’s nobody’s fault that I don’t match those preconceptions.

Does that suck? YES. MOST EMPHATICALLY YES. But I don’t have the power to change the world in one fell swoop. I will have to start small. Small changes. Creating awareness.

Does that mean I need to tailor my needs to fit what people expect? To make my needs fit a predictable pattern? NO. MOST EMPHATICALLY NO. But I will have to take responsibility for my own needs. Those needs are mine. I need them met. I will just have to get more creative in getting them met by others.

And the crying? That hasn’t changed. I need to forgive myself for crying about the fact that I have absolutely no idea how to make a list of people I can call when I need help. It’s OK to feel sad about that. Maybe I will never have a list. But I need to stop feeling like a failure for not even knowing who to call.

Lists are an autistic thing, but they’re not an impairment

So, after the success of my huge list of things that I think make me autistic, I figured I’d give it another go. My childhood interview was pretty much a fail (more about that later), so I knew I needed some way to show the diagnostic therapist the impact that the autistic stuff has on my life. Which goes against every instinct I have. Because I hide my vulnerabilities and I concentrate on my strengths. Which is a healthy thing to do. Except when a diagnosis is completely dependent on having a significant impairment. “Needing some acknowledgment and validation” is not a diagnostic criterion yet, unfortunately.

Writing this list took me countless drafts, different set-ups (Word or Excel document? Order by categories or severity?), innumerable tears, and 11 days. It was a really hard thing to do. But it was necessary. I also toyed with the idea of making it funnier by listing examples, but then decided against that because I need this to be as bleak and depressing as possible. I might have to cheer myself up with writing a list of things I’m awesome at. Anyway, without further ado, the list of things I suck at!

FINANCES

I have no overview of my bank account balance.
I don’t pay bills regularly.
I have no idea which bills have been paid and which haven’t.
I have difficulty prioritising payments.
I have no idea of the amount needed to cover my monthly expenses.
I have difficulty assigning budgets.
I sometimes buy things I can’t afford.
I’m unable to save up money for big expenses.
I forget to open letters and bills.
I have problems organising important documents.
I forget to do important things like apply for unemployment.
I forget to return important forms.
I have difficulty replying to important emails.
I have difficulty writing job application letters.
I get upset about making phone calls to companies and organisations.

PERSONAL CARE

I don’t take regular showers.
I don’t brush my teeth regularly.
I have difficulty remembering to put on deodorant.
I wear the same underwear for several days in a row.
I sometimes forget to shave my armpits even when I’m wearing something sleeveless.
I bite my nails and nail beds, sometimes until they bleed.
I pull out my hair.
I pick my nose even in public.
I sometimes forget to go to the toilet and end up wetting myself.
I forget to eat breakfast.
I usually have no energy to make dinner.
I postpone making appointments for the dentist, the doctor, and the hairdresser.

HOUSEHOLD

I don’t do my dishes regularly.
I don’t clean my kitchen work area regularly.
I don’t vacuum and clean my floors regularly.
I don’t clean my toilet and bathroom regularly.
I don’t do laundry regularly.
I don’t maintain my garden.
I don’t tidy up after myself.
I leave my dirty clothes in a pile on the floor.
I forget to throw food out when it’s gone bad.
I often use knives and plates from the day before.
I forget to bring empty bottles to the recycling bin.
I don’t change my sheets regularly.
I sometimes forget to take out the garbage.
I have problems keeping my clothes and shoes organised.
I forget to water my plants.
I don’t clean the cat’s litter box daily.
I have problems throwing away things I have no use for.

WORK

I’m often late.
I call in sick too often.
I don’t know how to pick my battles or agree on small things even when privately disagreeing.
I don’t know how to voice my opinion in an empathetic, non-confrontational way.
I get very upset when my own priority list gets changed by my manager.
I have difficulty handling criticism that I think is unfounded.
I don’t know how to handle tasks I have no knowledge of.
I have difficulty asking for help.
I try to postpone phone calls to customers as long as possible.
I have difficulty answering emails when I don’t have a real answer yet.
I always follow unimportant rules (like no private internet use at work, or wash up your own coffee cups).
I get upset when other people don’t follow those rules.
I get confused when there are implicit rules that nobody says out loud.
I have problems with lying to customers to protect the company’s interests.
I have difficulty handling unscheduled meetings.
I get upset when people are talking close by or when the radio is on while I’m trying to work.
I get upset when a ceiling light malfunctions.
I don’t like company outings that involve more than just having a couple of drinks.
I have difficulty joining coworkers for lunch unless explicitly invited.

FAMILY AND RELATIONSHIPS

I forget to congratulate people on their birthday.
I forget to plan a visit or send a card when someone has just had a baby.
I don’t often take initiative to meet up with family or friends.
I don’t call family or friends to ask how they are.
I forget to give small compliments.
I need to be explicitly told that information is private and not meant to be told to others.
I have difficulty not focusing on solutions when someone tells me about their problems.
I have problems in the early stages of a relationship because I get obsessed with the person.
I don’t know how to keep a conversation going when I’m not interested in the subject.
I rehearse conversations in advance.
I get upset when someone is late.
I don’t know how to talk to others about my own emotions.
I feel more connected to my cat and my books than to most people.
I often have trouble thinking about what someone else likes to do, unless they tell me.
I don’t know how to introduce myself to strangers.
I often say inappropriate things.
I often take things too seriously.
I have problems not interrupting people when I think of something interesting to say.
I get very upset when I think people are not listening to me.
I am too trusting of strangers.

FEELINGS

I have problems coping with changes in plans.
I always order the same things in fast food places.
I have irrational food dislikes that I disguise as allergies.
I get upset when I’m in a crowd.
I get very upset from loud or ongoing noise.
I get upset in brightly lit environments.
I don’t like having the TV on.
I have problems personalising my environment (like hanging up pictures).
I have problems disconnecting from dreams on waking up.
I have problems watching thriller or horror movies and knowing it’s not real.
I don’t get anything done when I’m sick or in pain.
I get angry when being complimented on something that I think is undeserved.
I get stuck on things needing to be perfect.
I hide in my bedroom for weeks when I feel unable to cope with things.
I hate myself when looking at this list.
I want to be perfect.
I don’t want to be normal.

Words are fucking difficult

Apologies for the NSFW language. But not really. My words have decided to go play hide and seek again tonight. Not as badly as the night of my first blog post, because I can still write, although it takes a bit more effort than usual.

But the talking?

Yeah, not so good.