Friday, June 13, 2008

Transitions and changes

I've been sitting on this one for a couple days, before posting it. Note that some of the effects I was having were likely hormonal-induced - ah the joys of being a female aspie... In any case, here's the post, for whatever it's worth.

"The shortcomings that can occur in this method such as the basis instability, the collision of hash table, and the noise sensitivity will be discussed. Among them the noise sensitivity is a serious problem. This can always cause the recognition procedure to fail." -- Kao, Chang-Lung

So, usually I'm pretty flexible, I think. I handle changes and transitions pretty good for an Aspie. Some days, when I'm stressed, it's harder. And it always catches me by surprise, and worse, catches others by surprise.

A couple days ago was an example. I had a good but full day. Had everything planned out and things went pretty smoothly. I even got my last paper of the quarter finished. Woot! Then had the eye exam (my and my son) from hell - I hate when they shine the damn lights in your eyes, and worse is flashed light, and there was this machine that we had to flash my eye repeatedly (to take a picture) because she couldn't explain clearly to me what I was supposed to do and when I finally understood (after a dozen flashes into my light-sensitive eyes), we got a decent picture of each first try. So, I wasn't in the best shape after that but I survived, so I went to Costco and grabbed stuff quickly since I was on a deadline, and managed to get checked out reasonably quickly. Even got the stuff home okay and son helped unload. Headed off to pick up sweetie for a meeting.

Then, in rapid succession, I tried to park (and had trouble with other cars and shuttles and buses) - but parking there is always a hassle. So then I finally park and call sweetie to tell him I'm there (cuz we have a meeting to go to, so there's a deadline to beat), and my bluetooth earbud doesn't work, but I don't realize that at first, and finally realize that he's already answered and I just can't hear him thru the damn earbud, so I put the phone up to my ear and say hello a couple of times and FINALLy hear *him* but of course, by this time we're both frustrated.

So I tell him I'm there and he says to meet him in the lobby of building 40. So I go there and of course, it's locked, because it's almost 6pm. So someone lets me in and I wait, and he arrives and we go to get food.

We'd planned to just grab and go - he wanted to be to the meeting on time (so did I), and he worried that my usual "take a bit of many things" style of eating there took too much time. So I'd already offered to just grab a salad. This is what we planned this morning. But - there's a barbecue. So he says we should get barbecue. It smelled awful, and I was confused because I thought he wanted to grab and go, and then thought well, maybe he just wanted to have something besides salad. I tried to explain that he could grab whatever he wanted, we didn't have to have barbecue, but that didn't work. And he somehow got the impression I was upset at him.

So then, I have to try to explain why I'm upset. I wasn't upset at him. I was just tired and stressed out and having trouble with all the changes of plan that were happening (the phone, and the bbq, and sitting down to eat instead of grab-and-go) and the horrid smell of the barbecue (it ended up much better than I'd feared - I was able to get some reasonably unsmoked stuff - it smelled like they were doing severely "hickory-smoked" stuff... or over-using the liquid smoke or something.) but I can't explain things like that on the spur of the moment well. I'd gotten my tastebuds up for a fresh, light salad, and suddenly I was facing heavy, strongly flavored hot foods. He wanted to know what was wrong, and kept wanting explanations but my explanations weren't helping things at all and I was just getting more stressed because how do I describe all this when I'm already stressed. I tried saying I was just tired and he responded that maybe we should just go home.

I finally managed to say, "Just let me sit quietly for a minute to settle down." And he let me alone so I could regroup. And the evening ended up turning out just fine.

I want to be clear - he wasn't being obnoxious about his questions - they were perfectly valid questions and he wasn't yelling or chastising me or anything, just I couldn't explain well and it wasn't getting better with me trying.

Yeah - I normally have no obvious problems with changes and transitions (or when I do, I cover it pretty well) but sometimes, like after the hectic quarter I've had, it's just harder to cover. Sometimes, I get reminded forcibly that, oh yeah, I'm really not neurotypical, even if I can often pass as normal these days.

So - how does it feel - changes, transitions...
it feels like standing on a moving surface - having to constantly adjust and shift balance while juggling multiple fragile plates and smile dammit and don't forget to make eye contact, and don't talk too loud or too soft, and don't swing your arms too far, and remember all the things you'll have to juggle tomorrow too, and here - add this teacup in to the juggling and oh - the surface just started shifting on another axis, so don't try to keep balance the old way, gotta do the new balancing act - but suddenly, and by the way, there's only room to stand on one leg now... and why are you acting so upset? Explain yourself coherently dammit!

It's not always this bad. It's rarely this bad. I've worked really hard on dealing with transitions, being flexible, not being too tied into expectations while still managing to not completely get lost in the chaos and shifting sands of spacetime...

Just, sometimes, it's hard. Sometimes, I can't just suddenly go with the flow. And it's even harder when I'm trying really hard to meet someone elses's deadlines and schedule. I can easily go with the flow if I can just go with the flow and don't have any external deadlines to meet. I just can't do both at once. If I have to *be* somewhere, then I have a deadline and I'm in "logistics" mode and switching out of planning and logistics mode while still maintaining some hold on the logistics and planning... it's just not easy for me.

I don't know if I'm explaining this well. I'm trying to just give you all a view into what it looks like from the inside, not *always*, just sometimes. And I'm not saying there's anything anyone needs to do different, just trying to explain now so that maybe, when I'm in the midst of another time where I'm having trouble, I can maybe just say "remember the post on transitions and changes? I'm having one of those days right now." The hardest part is convincing the other person that it really truly has nothing to do with them. It's a reaction to all the little things that all happen within quick succession on top of each other to unbalance me.

What does help: just give me some space and time (quiet, no demands or questions or processing) to decompress, to regroup. Don't try to interpret my bodylanguage or tone of voice when a sudden change or transition has happened - mostly, you'll probably not be terribly accurate. I'm likely not upset at you, or angry, or anything like that. I'm most likely, just trying to re-orient myself to the new situation. And frustrated at my own lack of flexibility. Mostly, I just need to be informed of the new situation and then left alone for a short time to re-integrate everything.

It's like trying to modify a list while sorting on it, (or trying to modify a hashtable while it's being rehashed?). It's often a pretty unstable process. Let me just finish processing everything first, then we can go on from there.

1 comment:

gminks said...

I had a day like this yesterday too - but I experienced it from the other side. I am not the Aspie, my daughter is. It has taken me a long time to learn that when she get stressed I have a limited number of questions I can ask her -- she reacts just like you described you did when you were overloaded.

I have to tell you it's hard from the other side too, but your description of switching from logistics mode to planning PLUS logistics mode makes alot of sense! If I am with my daughter, and unexpected things happen (esp. if it's a BIG change, or several minor ones in rapid succession), someone has to go into planning mode. Usually that involves collaboration with everyone - and that collaboration piece definitely makes things worse.

That's why you get the non-Aspie asking all the questions, and not understanding why you are snapping back at us when we are just trying to get things back on track so you'll have a new plan and you'll be happy. We realize you don't mean it, but if the changes are big enough it has frustrated us as well and it's hard to figure out what to do and make sure you are really ok.

Nice post - thanks for explaining it so well.