(My apologies to John Steinbeck)
Well, what can I say? I’m an aspie and I have pronounced aspie traits. I’m 47 years old and tend not to throw tantrums these days when things get a bit out of hand, however that doesn’t mean I’m 100% immune from the looming spectre of the dreaded aspie meltdown.
At the weekend my wife and I drove from London to the Guilford area for a friend’s 50th birthday bash. Although I was hesitant and somewhat dubious about going to a party I decided to attend because (a) I like the friend in question (one of my Wife’s oldest friends I’ve ‘adopted’) and (b) I thought I could handle it.. After all how bad could it be?
We arrived at the venue and it was quite small with benches round the outside and a couple of tables with buffet foods laid out. They were playing 80’s pop hits on the sound system and it was all very cosy and friendly – initially! Not everyone had arrived yet and we were some of the first people to turn up. More and more people started to arrive and floor space began to get eaten up. I found myself being unintentionally ushered up against the wall between a bench and the buffet while people split off into groups and chatted noisily around me. My wife is off chatting to some old friends and I’m standing there, trapped with no route out.. no, that’s incorrect, I had a route out. I just needed to say “Excuse me” and move. Of course, 20/20 hindsight is a wondrous thing. No instead I stood there feeling increasingly more and more anxious while being bombarded by music too loud for the size of the venue and the oppressive mix of multiple conversations battering my senses.
My wife looked over and her face dropped. I didn’t realise it at the time but according to her “post mortem” of the situation I’d started rocking and fidgeting with my fingers and cuffs. My “tell” is when I start constantly wringing my fingers over and over while keeping my arms tight up against my chest. When I’m really stressed I rock back and forth slightly, the faster I rock , the more stressed I’m getting.
I was at the brink of screaming when my wife grabbed me by the arm and guided me out to a quieter back area of the café/bar where the party was being held. But alas the damage was done. I was shaking, I became non vocal, was rocking violently and was chewing on my fingers.
People kept coming over to see if I was ok, unfortunately sitting down next to me and putting their arm around me didn’t help my feeling of being trapped. My tactile defensiveness was cranked up to 11. In the end, the proprietor of the establishment let me out the back of the bar – there was NO way I’d be able to walk through the crowd again. Luckily My wife and I were staying in a hotel across the road for the night so I had a bolt hole. I dread to think what would have happened if we were driving home or were staying miles from the party venue.
I felt awful. Not only had I ruined my night, I’d (perceived) to have ruined my wife’s night, my wife’s friend’s night and the night of her guests. As it transpires my wife informed them of my problem and they were all quite understanding.
I hate letting myself down like this. I’m 47, I feel I should be able to cope. I was supposed to be going to the MCM comic con this month but that’s a no go now. I can’t even begin to face several thousand people in a loud crammed exhibition centre.
As I get older I find myself getting increasingly isolationary. I seem to be losing the ability to cope with crowds. It’s a worrying trend and one I need to keep an eye on. Perhaps it’s not just me though? Perhaps other aspies have the same problem. Or perhaps.. going back to John Steinbeck..
“Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”