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Aspies can't face their problems





Apparently, I'm burying my head in the sand these days.

I don't like the image of the ostrich with its head in the sand - that leaves too many unanswered worries, like what happens to the rest of it while it isn't paying attention (yes, I know that's the point), or what if there are loads of bugs in the sand? Or another ostrich got there first and they end up underground together, eye to eye?

I was relieved to find out this is a myth anyway, and the poor things hide their heads in bushes instead. Not much better really, and as much chance of meeting eye to eye with Cliff from down the road, but a slightly less solid place to stick your beak.

I've been accused quite a lot of times (a very very lot) of sticking my head in the sand. If I don't look at it, then it'll go away. Or if I ignore it, the same result. If I hide from it deliberately, not just pretending it doesn't exist but going out of my way to avoid it and be out of sight - that is definitely ostrich-like.

It's just so tempting, though. Turn away, cover your face, hide under the bed, behind the sofa, next to the pot plant, behind Auntie Gladys, in the pot cupboard: so many hidey-holes to choose from and aspies know them all. Rather like a little child, though, our hiding places are never as good as we think they are and we will always be discovered.

Real-life is like that. You think you can trick it by diverting off down a side street and the next thing you know, you're back where you started and have to make the same decision - only this time, it's a worse decision because you left it too long, ticked everybody off and probably missed your opportunity to make it easier on yourself.

Why divert, then? Why bother running off in the first place? Why not just learn from experience and make the stupid decision or face the problem? I've been asked this more often than I've been accused of being an ostrich and there's a different answer/excuse for every problem I've avoided. But shall I tell you the real reason? Or would you like to know why your aspie does the same thing?

It's simple: given the choice between a hard, fast stop in a place where there is only one way left to turn or being able to make a choice and run off, even if we don't know where we're going, the aspie will almost always choose to run. Fight or flight? Not quite.

Think of it more as an attempt at freedom. We must be free; we must always be able to feel the cool wind of an open place where we have at least two options to choose from. Having grown up and kind of learned to survive in a world with very clearly prescribed rules of behaviour, we are in the habit of bending the rules to accommodate ourselves. If we didn't, we would go mad. Sometimes we still go mad.

So it becomes second nature to test the way ahead and, if we see it narrowing down to one path, to start feeling the heebie-jeebies. Do I want to be on that one path? What other paths are there? How many choices do I have? Can I divert later, if I wait or should I divert now and be safe?

Do you detect the element of panic there? Yes, panic and the need for freedom often go together. It comes from the panic we feel at being trapped, you see. Having done all those things we have been forced to do in the past, like school, work, family visits, uncomfortable situations, ongoing bad relationships - we are now at the point of taking our chances for escape when they present themselves. That way, you know you're in control, even if it means making bad choices.

The key to success without having to flee is to have a back-up plan. If you don't have one, then you don't have choices either and feeling like you have a choice is the only sure way to dampen the panic and keep the sense of freedom. Even if the back-up plan is not very good, or seems absolutely terrible to your nearest and dearest, it will help with what you need to do.

A good example of this would be my (admittedly awful) approach to starting a new job. I promise myself I don't have to go back if I don't like it. Yes, that's bad enough, but there is often more than that. I decide I will go for the first day and then decide but, as an added back-up to the back-up, I also promise myself if it is really bad, and I can't take it, then I'm going to walk out during the first day if I have to.

When I get there, I give the car one last loving look (my means of escape, you see) or I visualise the walk home if it's close by, and in I go. This helps me to stand the first day, and probably other days too. If I can 'see' the means of escape, then I can almost touch it too and it makes the hard parts more bearable.

So, at both ends of the decision-making process, there is the sense of escape. From the avoiding of the decision or problem, to the aftermath of making a decision or facing a problem, the aspie is in a place where he or she must make their own plan on how to cope with the situation.

Sometimes, readers, our back-up plans are never used. We face what we have to and succeed, or it turns out slightly better than expected and we cope. And sometimes, don't we just need that plan?

Right now, I feel the need for an escape route. I may be giving in to my ostrich-like tendencies, according to other people, but while my mind might be buried in a metaphorical heap of sand (hi Cliff), it is buzzing with possibilities and scenarios, all the while using this haphazard hiding place as a way of working things out.

Don't underestimate the hiding aspie. Yes, it is a rubbish hiding place and everyone can see them, but that might be because they only need to feel as if they're hidden to work things out. Just because you can see them doesn't mean they have failed to hide. Perhaps they have succeeded, if it means you have noticed there is a problem. And, after a brief spell behind the pot plant, they might be ready to come out and tell you the plan.

Amanda

My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
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