Tag Archives: aspergers

The Care and Feeding of Me

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I’ve seen so many articles in the last few years that seemed to be geared towards “educating” normal people on how to treat people with forms of anxiety. Like how to take care of introverts, hyper-sensitive people, people with anxiety, and other personalities that simply don’t tend to follow social norms. And at first it wasn’t such a big deal. I read that first one on introverts and thought, that was a nice way to break the ice. It was new and innovative and I saw no harm in it.

And then more popped up. And then more, and more again. Each one repeating the same maxims like, “don’t pressure us to talk,” “don’t take it personally if we don’t make eye contact,” “don’t be offended if I don’t want to talk to you.” Some were helpful. Some were border-line demanding/whining. At first I was happy because it was reaffirming that a lot of the things that bother me (loud noises, big crowds, talking to strangers) bothered other people and that it was okay.

But you know, the more lists I see now, the more people post about how they should be treated specially, how they require warnings and notices for everything, how they are highly intelligent and therefore deserving of more allowances, and generally how much “better” they are than normal people, I started to get annoyed by these lists. I knew they were about people like me, but I was starting to want to distance myself from these listicles.

Sure, I don’t like to be uncomfortable in big crowds, but sometimes I have to endure them—I table-run at conventions! And sometimes I don’t want to go to parties, and celebrations for my friends, but I do it anyway because my friends want me there, and people I like are worth making sacrifices for.

If I posted this list and insisted that everyone adhere to it, I’m like that one jerk who goes to a Mexican restaurant and demands eggplant Parmesan. “You don’t serve eggplant Parmesan? Well too bad! That’s all I can eat and you should accommodate me!” When in truth I should either a) try some Mexican food, or b) take my business elsewhere.

The world isn’t meant to accommodate me. I have to adapt to the world. That means pushing myself into situations where I’m uncomfortable. It means practicing until I get better. It means gathering my courage and realizing that if I want anything from the world, I have to be willing to meet it on its own terms. And if I’m not up to the challenge, I need to make a quiet retreat until I can try again.

I’m also not so arrogant to believe that I’m the only one with problems. I may hate crowds, but maybe someone else is really nervous without them. I hate loud noises, but what about people tormented by silence? I hate talking to strangers, but what about the person who’s worried they’ll talk too much? Everyone has their hurdles, and we should be insightful and compassionate enough to help people who are obviously uncomfortable.

Most importantly, we should be brave enough to be honest with our friends and family. Instead of posting passive aggressive lists online, why not try telling our friends how we feel. “Go out to the club tonight? No thanks, I actually don’t like loud places so much. Maybe we could do something else like Pho?” “Yeah, I’ll go to the Christmas party with you, but could you introduce me to some people? I have trouble striking up conversations,” and most importantly, “I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Do you mind if I excuse myself to collect my thoughts?”

Anecdote: For the longest time I would get panic attacks at checkout counters. When I was with my husband, I’d always say, “I’ll take the kids to the car and fasten them in while you finish up here.” And leave before he got to the register. He never knew exactly what was going on, and I really didn’t want to tell him I was having a panic attack, but one day we were shopping without the kids. I didn’t have excuse to leave him so I had to be honest and say, “The checkout counter always gives me panic attacks. Can I just meet you when we’re done?”

And darling hubby, just shrugged and said, “I figured it was something like that. No problem.”

After that, I started to get fewer panic attacks. It was enough to know that he knew what I was going through and that I could walk away from the register without having to explain it or make an excuse. Our openness actually helped me with my anxiety.

Living in a bubble, untested, untroubled, and most of all, alone, is no way to live. We stagnate, we fester, we’re never forced to challenge ourselves so we never win and we never grow. I’ve seen too many people who have shut themselves off from the world because the world would never bend to fit their needs. You can’t live like that. You’re a human as much as everyone else. You’re special, but so are they. So here’s my:

CARE AND FEEDING OF HUMANS.

  1. Never assume.
  2. Ask how they feel or what they would like.
  3. Treat them like individuals with their own lives and interests.
  4. Feel free to help them understand you.
  5. Try your best to understand them.
  6. They will make mistakes. Forgive them and try again.
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Character Spotlight: Orin

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In incredibly late character spotlight goes to Linus’ second son, Orin.

 

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We first hear about Orin in Must Love Dragons, in the following exchange:

“Why does the little boy look so worried?” asked Morf.

            “Oh that’s Orin, my five-year-old. He was just a little scared. The artist had a mustache. Orin is terrified of people with mustaches,” Linus clarified.

            “Smart kid,” laughed Morfindel. “Is it only mustaches?”

            “No,” sighed Linus. “He’s also afraid of dolls with glass eyes, crows, the kitchen stove, coat stands, that spiders will crawl into his shoes at night, and the hole in the privy…to name a few,” 

It’s plain to see that Orin has a lot of anxiety over seemingly ordinary things. He’s very sensitive, high strung, and imaginative. He snaps out of it often enough to pal around with his sisters (who he gets on well with) but will then lapse into a thoughtful daze or suddenly panic and run for his room. This is because while Orin has a brilliant imagination, he doesn’t know how to control it or separate it from reality. He spins beautiful stories that enchant him, but he also has a flair for the macabre that broods and festers in his mind until it haunts his dreams and torments him daily.

Linus is at his wits ends over what to do with such a boy. Carson was bad enough with his fondness for staying indoors reading, but he was tough enough that Linus didn’t worry too much about him.

Orin is the one he worries about. Linus is most worried because Orin is acting now very much like his brother, Palmer, had as a child. Linus is frantically trying to find a way to “snap Orin out of it,” for fear that he’ll turn into a cold snobbish sociopath like Palmer did. Sadly this involves a lot of hamfisted attempts at therapy,usually resulting in Orin developing new and original fears at an even faster clip.

Orin is somewhat based off of my son who is also very highstrung and imaginative, but he’s also in part based off of myself and all my myriads of irrational fears. My nickname at school was “crybaby,” and I was constantly scaring myself with my own morose imaginings.

Over time Orin is going to find ways to deal with them, but he’s going to reach out to another family member who understands a bit more about what he’s going through—Palmer. We’ll just see how that goes.

Fun Facts:

*I got the name Orin while remembering Little Shop of Horrors, although there is NO similarity between my sweet boy and the homicidal dentist.

*Orin is classic case of a child with Asperger’s with ADHD (which I have), but of course in Linus’s world he’s simply labeled as “flighty,” “particular,” and “having an old soul.”

*Orin is a philosopher by nature. He’s always one to argue about why things must be done, why that is the case, and whether there’s any sense in it. 

*Orin doesn’t get on with Carson, the latter of which sees Orin as a pest and an annoying tail.

*Orin is very clever but gets poor marks at school for not paying attention and for going on tangents about his flights of fancy to his classmates.

I’m not going to go into the three youngest children, Fia, Lenny, and Elsie, since they are really too young to talk about. I may do after a few more books with them come out.

That’s it for the brood of Linus. Feel free to make any suggestions for next week’s character spotlight!

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