I have a sense that I am getting stuck in a bit of a ruck. My life carries on in a content enough kind of way but it feels like something is missing. My current background goal is to be aware of the times when I have some kind of emotional reaction to things. Now for the neurotypical I guess this would be a frustrating exercise. I say they because they might have so many emotional subtleties over such a short time that if they were to write them down then they wouldn’t have much time to do anything.  Perhaps that is my fantasy.

I am autistic of a type that doesn’t really feel emotion, let alone understand one when it does register. Lately I have been more wondering more about this phenomena and when I started seeing a therapist I decided to make it a goal of mine. My working theory is that I do actually feel a range of emotions but that in order to survive, I learnt to suppress them. I say this because they are fleeting examples when I do seem to feel happy or sad rather than the nothingness.

For instance, this evening I completed Week 6 of my Couch to 5Km training (25 minutes continuous jog) and ate a stuffed baked apple and custard as part of my evening meal. I really enjoyed the fluffiness and taste of the apple, the sweet spiced dried fruits it was stuffed with, the creaminess of the vanilla custard and particularly the caramelised toffee bits formed in the bottom of the dish. I can even still feel that glow of happiness now as I write. And you know I think that feeling allowed me to get over my inertia, sit down and write something.

As for sadness, well I certain felt that when I played some music with my friends last week. The music we played used to belong to another member of the Scottish Recorder Orchestra, but she died of cancer this year. M used to live near Inverness and in the days when I took the train, we would often sit together on the return journey back from rehearsals and just chat for 30 minutes. I have no idea over what level of friendship we had, and I can’t pinpoint what it is I miss, but I do know that I feel sad when I think about her.

And as I am here, perhaps I should document some emotional events that happened today.

In bed this morning, I read an article about a man who didn’t take his own life because of what a friend said to him on his mobile. There were certain parallels with my own life and as I read it, the tears streamed down my face and I was hit with waves of emotional energy. Exploring that article is probably for another post, for now the point is that reading about the guy’s story left me rather vulnerable. I noticed this when I left the bedroom to hear another person speaking on their phone upstairs in the house. I thought I was in my home alone and I felt rather anxious knowing that somebody else had been there all along. I then had problems finding my shoes which pushed my emotional control nearly into meltdown. Thankfully I managed to gather enough strength and concentrate on the issue, logically working through places to find the shoes in the end.

I was conscious that my schedule was to run tonight so I decided to walk into town and catch the bus back this evening, rather than do my usual cycle so that my legs weren’t too tired. On my walk down the hill, I saw a car drive through a red light at some temporary road works. I was indignant as this flagrant breaking of the law and shouted out at the driver. Now it was a convertible car so in theory there was a chance the driver would hear my anger. But I don’t usually shout out about the breaking of rules. A part of me acknowledged that the reaction was both rather autistic black and white thinking and unusually emotionally expressive for me. This suggested my mask of normality was rather stretched thin.

I was going to write about the anger I felt when an ambulance turned it siren on just before it passed me in more detail but the previous sentence really sums up I think why I have learnt to suppress my emotions.

I wrote, “my mask of normality was rather stretched thin”. I believe I initially suppressed my emotions because that was the safest thing to do to survive as a kid. The need to fit in is a powerful motivator and being neutral is the easiest way of blending in growing up. Keeping control means that I don’t stand out and attract attention. I could pretend to be part of the group even though I always felt alone. So often strong emotions are tied to judgements and since autism seems to have rather black and white thinking, I am prone to angry outbursts. I have that about me. I have a rule that nothing is black and white but I have to be in control to apply it.

Sorry I am struggling to think. Time for a break. I hope I can continue this tomorrow.

It is much later now. Rereading what I have written I can see why I stumbled. I started by wanting to examine why I felt I was dissatisfied but switched to writing about my adventures in emotion land. Then I switched to looking at what I thought the origins were for that difficulty and reiterated things I written about before and losing my thought process.

I think this writing reflects the difficulty that a lack of emotional understanding can lead too. The day was really set up by the resonance I had with the near-suicide news story which stretched thin my control and ability to survive and function. There are times when I wonder if this new adventure I have set myself on, the exploration of emotions is really worth it because I seemed to cope better by supressing this emotional side of myself.  Am I trying to become something I am not? But equally I don’t think it is one or the other, one feels emotion or one doesn’t. When I look at how other people respond in difficult situations, often those choosing public service professions must at times put aside their emotions to keep going. Police investigating a violent crime presumably struggle with emotional reactions but manage to put them to one side in order to continue the investigation.  Perhaps the problem then is not in feeling emotions but being able to appropriately deal with them.

But I think honesty also comes into play. We are taught to play games with each other as humans. We are not taught to be honest about how we feel. Being given a present, we are taught to say “thank you” even if we dislike it. It is believed generally that to discuss issues at work is a negative thing, and doing so would have a negative effect on a career progression. I think the societal rules makes it more difficult for autistic people to understand emotions because in a sense, the verbalisation of our emotions are not balanced and often false. I think it is part of the reason I find other autistic people a comfort and a challenge. They are a comfort because we can relate to each other and we tend to be honest about our experiences. But they are a challenge too because they are often more honest with their emotions. I certainly need recovery time after my weekly meet up.

As for the dissatisfaction I think that is about a loss of creativity. I wonder if the creativity and emotional examination are tied together though. Purely on an energy level, dealing with emotions is draining so it seems natural that my creativity might take a plunge. Perhaps though, the suppression of emotion provides fuel to my creativity. That would suggest that I need to find new ways to channel the emotion. Rather than using the energy derived from supressed emotion perhaps I need to find a more way to channel the direct emotion into creativity too? And there, I think, is a good time to stop.