It’s always a roller coaster ride for me when people I don’t know begin talking to me in public places.
Just this morning, as I was standing in Starbucks waiting on my Tall Chai Tea Latte, a woman I have never before met randomly started talking to me about how horrible her morning has been. Within moments, I felt as though I had sunk into an awful depression. The air left my body, knots tangled within my stomach, and I wanted to cry.
Holding myself together, I found a good breaking point in the dumping of her sadness, and left her with the standard platitude of “I hope your day gets better!”
The walk back to my office was unbearable.
Upon entering the elevator heading to my office, I was greeted by a cheerful elderly man who was having quite an amazing day! His smile, twinkling eyes and joyful vibes invaded the cold space I was inside and suddenly my life was warm. My heart was full. My mood had switched completely.
This is an everyday occurrence for me.
One of the common stereotypes I hear a lot about Autism, is that autistics are unfeeling and don’t have a single bit of empathy within them. To those who believe this, I applaud you. Sarcastically. Please, allow me to reeducate you.
I’m autistic, and I am not unfeeling. The truth is actually quite the opposite. I feel way too much, all the time, and I struggle to process it. Not too often have I been able to control it myself, but I attempt. Sometimes, the reason why I go into a disassociative state is simply because I’m processing too much emotion and temporarily my mind will shut down.
When I say I shut down, I don’t mean that I pass out, become catatonic or whatever extreme mental image is currently filling your imagination. I simply become unfeeling. I may for a few moment go into a daze, and in extreme circumstances I may begin crying (my version of a temper tantrum) until I can work it out.
When you hurt, I hurt. When you’re happy, I’m happy! When you cut your finger and you’re tsking, and whining about the pain, I’m internally freaking out because I’m picking up on all of your frustration, anxiety, discomfort, etc.
I haven’t yet met anyone with Autism who lacks in empathy. Sometimes, we’re unaware of why we feel that way, or what is causing it. But we feel, a lot more than most people are aware of.
Like this morning – when I empathized with both the woman at Starbucks, and the man in the elevator. I had never seen either of them before, but in just the few moments I spent with each, I took an emotional journey.
To some people with Autism, any one of these moments could have spiraled them in to an uncontrollable anxiety attack. The anxiety is caused as a result of not being in control of our emotions. If it hadn’t been for the man in the elevator, I could have for a majority of the day been battling with the negative feelings I was feeling from my first encounter.
What we pick up can sometimes override our own personal feelings. In times like these, I feel the most extreme anxiety and confussion.
Eventually I would have called my boyfriend, or my friend whom I call my Swiss army spirit person – and their empathy for the way I absorb and react to the environment around me would have been my saving grace. However, not everyone with Autism has the ability to communicate these moments to seek help. So you have to become familiar with the signs, and recognize above all else, that having Autism doesn’t mean we’re without empathy.
Rather that we feel too much.
So it’s important to check the energy you put into the world, and onto other people.