It's just that I don't care...




Now, come on, aspies, if you were all being brutally, exquisitely honest, how many times have you been tempted to respond with, 'I don't care how you feel, do what you like.' Insert other suitable words instead of feel, such as cry, or behave, or anything that other people do and expect a response for and away you go.

The emotional detach can be a wonderful thing, if you happen to be in the middle of a hurtful situation and there is no fast way out. This ability to disconnect and feel only the soothing waves of placid emotion, or to feel a numbness, a cosy blankness inside, it can be a life-saver - perhaps literally.

It's not that we are depressed, though it maybe sounds like that. It's more fundamental: it is a retreat into an inner place that is untouched by the stupendously irritating world of emotions. We are there, you are outside and you are not getting in.

This is an extreme reaction, often to a series of smaller events or one big one, where the aspie drifts away. It's a quiet meltdown, an unnoticed one. It is a leaving behind of the worries of the day and retreating to somewhere else.

But in the middle of this serenity, which can be so good for us, is the other side of the coin. What happens when this wonderful calm becomes a disinterest in someone else's feelings or situation? This is where I need you to read this honestly and not tut to yourself about what a horror I am and how you would never do that.

It's the old lack of empathy argument at work. Let's look at it like that, from the non-aspie side of life. You have a crisis or a difficult situation, you need to explain and talk about it and your aspie glazes over and asks you what time you'll be making dinner. You repeat how you feel, it's obvious your aspie didn't get the point of what you said. You state, without subtlety, that you are upset and need support.

Your aspie, devastatingly, says, 'Hmm, I know, you already said.' And they go back to what they were doing.

You challenge them and ask why they don't care, what about all the times you supported them? Doesn't it work both ways?

At this point, you may get some emotional reaction, as it is a good way of reminding the aspie that you're the one clearing up after their sensory blowouts and so, perhaps, you deserve some support in return. Or, you may get another terrible reply, like, 'Yes, but what can I do to help? There's nothing I can do is there?'

Logically, in so many situations, there is nothing your aspie can do to help, so they lose interest and turn away. You've talked about your problem, they've ascertained there is nothing to be done and that's that.

Well, it is as bad as it sounds, frankly. Your aspie truly is turning away from you at this point. They are saying they can't or won't help and they're serious when they ask about dinner. There really is no limit to the selfishness sometimes.

From the aspie side of things, it is as logical as not being able to help you but there is more to it. Your stress and upset and wailing is so distracting from being an aspie. Sometimes, aspies are just getting through their day, being themselves and doing stuff that works and doesn't make the feelings muddy. Then you come and are saying all these things which make life complex and demanding and actually need a response from the aspie - a response that has nothing to do with the aspie themselves.

They don't want to deal with your drama. Life is full of drama, it's like always living on stage with the lights shining down and someone shouting, 'Cut!' just when you got to the good bit. You can never work out what's going on because no one gave you a script so it's a constant improvisation, with real-life consequences.

Then, on top of all that, the very person who is meant to make it all more bearable and shout cues from the front of the stage, they hop up onto the boards and start improvising too and expect you to join in! And they expect you to be able to be able to shout cues to them and make it all bearable.

When did that happen? When did it become the aspie's remit to sort out anyone else's problems? And anyway, how often have we offered you advice and had it laughed at or tossed away as impractical? Aspies don't forget, you know. It may be that the advice we gave before was laughable but we still offered it, we gave it thought and tried to help, in our way.

And now, after all that, with the drama of the stage and the previously unwanted advice, you now want us to step up and make it all better? Really?

Yes, behind very turning away there is a lot of anger, fused together with the stress of life itself and the belief that you should stay in your role as supportive other, the cue-giver who does not belong on the stage and should only be waiting to make life okay when the aspie cannot stand the glare of the lights for one more second.

Horrible, horrible aspie. If we were totally honest, we might offer up, 'I just don't care,' as our first response. In a way, it would be completely true. We don't have enough left to care about your problems because by caring, they become our own and we live them and see them and feel them. Most often, you see, it isn't a lack of empathy that plagues us but a mis-placed empathy that, once released, knows no bounds and will not go back in the box.

Better, then, to avoid helping in the first place and keep a tight grip on that Zen-like calm we hold so dear. Better to fob you off with an unkind word and hope you're feeling better soon, so that we don't have to worry we'll be alone on the stage.

Better that we don't give in to the panic and the rage and the suppressed emotions which sway us into the path of imminent disaster, suddenly, terrifyingly, taking you with us because it is your disaster this time and we have to come along for the ride.

Yes, behind every calm face and blank response is an aspie staring into the spotlights, wondering who lies behind in the unseen theatre. Where will the next voice come from? What shall we say this time? Will we have good lines or bad? What action takes us forward to the next stage of the story?

Forgive me, readers, I am an unkind aspie and perhaps your aspie is unkind too. Sometimes, the best you can hope for in the middle of a crisis is for your hand to be touched on the way past or for some flowers to be ripped from the garden and placed, in size order, in a vase where you might see them.

And sometimes, the last thing you want is an aspie trying to solve your problems because once we get a hold of something, we can't let go and you never know where you might end up. Better to stick with the flowers and just get on with making tea. It will be all right, so long as we are together.

Amanda

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