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Friday, July 2, 2010

The Day I Will Never Forget

Today and tomorrow are something I fear. For me, I have an associative memory system and this creates a hyper-sensitivity to certain numbers, or in this case dates. July 2nd and 3rd are the most tense for me.

This is the 10th year I have shook in fear of the coming of these days. You see, 11 years ago my life changed on those two days. Before those two days I never truly had an emotional conversation with someone my age and I certainly never had experienced that "connection" between two people. 11 years ago I did.

I have wrote about this incident several times, and the person with whom I shared this connection had a chapter about them in the first book I wrote, as well as the two books I have yet to be published. This event, 11 years ago, was life altering.

The odd thing about this was that I never saw it coming. 11 years ago today I was at a convention in Minneapolis and while I was sitting in the empty exhibit hall this person came up and just started talking to me. I am not an initiator of conversations, and what made this a HUGE exception was that this person was a girl

For the next two days we were virtually inseparable. We toured the building and played many games of Uno, but most importantly we talked. I didn't, and still struggle, talking to anyone much less girls. This person though, who is named Linda in the book (not her real name), took the time to talk to me and I was hesitant at first, but we spent over 11 hours in two days just talking.

When it was time to leave, and I watched her disappear into a mass of people after a goodbye hug, it was the most crushing experience I have ever had.

So, if I have this story in my book why am I writing about it today? It still hurts and with each year it feels as if it hurts just a little bit worse. If you don't know the full story Linda and I kept in contact, but due to some disagreements and over reactions on my part I have not heard from her since Feb. 2000.

So yes, it still hurts. I was asked two nights ago in my Q & A segment of my presentation on my take on friendship and love and I must admit I squirmed. Those concepts are so difficult for me, but what truly makes it dangerous for me is that I have realized I won't know what level of emotion I had for a person until they are gone.

For me, 11 years ago was something that had never happened and has only happened once since. I felt a connection, and if anything I can smile right now throughout the tears I am fending off in knowing that I am able to share that connection. It is there, somewhere, but it is there.

What I hope you take from this is that an event, like this, may stay with a person forever. Heck, someone not on the spectrum may struggle with the memory of that first experience where there was a connection with someone else. I have some similar experiences that don't involve people that have stayed with me, and I think it is important for people around a person on the spectrum to realize this.

Every so often this event from 11 years ago will get me down, and for the first three years or so my dad always downplayed what had happened, but now he doesn't and this helps. Minimizing the experience is like minimizing my pain now. In my mind I would think, "If he says those conversations I had were not that big of a deal and that it will happen again why do I hurt now and why hasn't it happened again?" In other words, don't downplay or disregard the emotion.

I try to stay very unemotional, but today I will be. I don't experience emotions too often, but when I do they are strong and will distract me from what I am trying to think about. Mild emotions elude me as I either be the happiest I have ever been, neutral, or the saddest I have ever been.

It was the tragedy of this relationship that started the ball rolling that would eventually allow me to write. As sad as I am now I can smile knowing that. With each thing I write I feel as if I am thanking her in a way. I don't know if she ever thinks of me or knows that I wrote a book and I don't even know if she knows I was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Regardless, I have this tragedy to thank for everything that I am now and while a few tears may be shed today (too late!) I will crack a smile knowing that I am able to communicate on the emotional level and that through hardships come great things. Linda, wherever you may be, thank you.

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I will be posting this weekend. Tomorrow I will re-write an article laying the groundwork for "The Sunglasses Experiment" that will start Sunday. I am not yet sure what my writing format will be whether my entire blog will be dedicated to that, or if it will be a mix between my normal format and the experiment. Also, I may be posting multiple times a day should my experiences warrant it.

9 comments:

  1. Excellent post. It's good to know that someone who is actually suffering from the autistic spectrum is speaking out about it. Makes a change from those "experts". I have Asperger's as well, so I can sympathize with Aaron on his views.

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  2. Ho Aaron!
    Saw your add on Facebook.
    I'm a mother of 2 twin boys, aged 4, diagnosed with autism.
    I hope and pray for them to grow up and be as intelligent and wise as you are.
    That feeling you felt when you "lost" Linda is a very common thing and it's called love, I guess. You felt in love for her and only saw it when she went away. Lots of people feel that... Lots of people have difficulties in feeling and exporessing emotions. That's nothing wrong with you hun!
    I wish Linda could read your blog, and let you know some news about her. You are a wonderful person and do a very important work. Thank you Aaron for being there, making presentations and teaching people how to deal with autism and asperger. Big hugs (sorry... guess you don't like hugs, huh? But I'm a mother of 4. I give hugs. LOL)
    Margarida

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  3. Margarida,

    It is actually somewhat funny to see when a hug is coming my way. Usually from my mom or dad, I will see it coming and will do a imitation of dead weight while squirming. So I guess you could say I do hugs, but perhaps maybe it would be better said that I tolerate hugs :)

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  4. Well dear, at least you don't feel very unconfortable about hugs.
    They express that people really care about you, especially your mom and dad, right?
    And I hope you feel good by knowing that people care about you.
    You are such a bright and good looking young man! Hope that experience with the sun glasses really works. My boys are getting pretty good with eye contact, especially the youngest twin (LOL) who loves sun glasses. But he doesn't speak yet. Only a few words and he sings a lot of songs only making the sounds of the music and not the lyrics. When I see someone so bright as you raising awareness about these problems I get a new kind of hope. Maybe my boys will be able to help you one day... :)

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  5. Margarida,

    Once again, thank you for such kind words. I do this for the one word you said, "hope". To know that I am having an impact makes today just a little less sad.

    If you haven't seen it, I wrote it April on how this became my passion. It is at http://lifeontheothersideofthewall.blogspot.com/2010/04/autism-awareness-month-and-how.html

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  6. Dear Aaron,

    I just came across your blog, my name is Perla and I an also an Aspie. I was reading when I came across this part
    "Those concepts are so difficult for me, but what truly makes it dangerous for me is that I have realized I won't know what level of emotion I had for a person until they are gone."
    I read it and I knew exactly what you meant. I broke up with my boyfriend just 2 months ago, because of an anger outburst I had, where I unfortunately also said many hurtful things that I did not mean but was extremely stressed and tired when this happened and he refuses to forgive me, even after we spend 2 years together and for me it feels as if it just happened yesterday and in my heart I feel like I am waiting for him to come back, to call and all be like it was the day before.
    People tell me I will get over it but I know I will not. Like you we used to talk together for hours and hours, spend all night by the beach just talking, we would share all our plans, discuss everything we did together. Since we broke up I have even difficulty talking to others, I just don't feel I want to talk, they don't seem to understand what a deep mark leaves in our soul this mental sharing and how fundamentally important it is for us to be able to connect mentally so deeply so fully with another person. They also can't understand that once we find this perfect connection, NOTHING else can replace it and once we lose it, the lose is so deeply felt that nothing else can replace it. Even time can't heal that lose. It will remain just as painful as the very day it happened. I am so sorry to know now that even after 11 years it will still hurt as much, because I am not sure if I manage living another 11 years with this pain...
    Perla

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  7. Aaron,

    I have Asperger's myself, and I just wanted to say that I know this feeling quite well--possibly more intensely than you, actually.

    I am 20 years old and in university, and I met the most amazing girl on my first day (let's call her S). We were exactly alike, same hardcore work ethic at school, we laughed at all the same things, same idiosyncracies, etc--not to mention that she is extremely beautiful. We'd hang out after class, and we would just randomly stare into each other's eyes and smile for about 30 seconds or so.

    So one Monday in late September/early October '09, I'd been psyching myself up all weekend to ask her out (she had just broken up with her previous boyfriend the previous Thursday). That day, she comes to class holding the hand of this guy that she had previously told me she found very off-putting, and they sit down beside me.

    You can imagine what happened next for someone with Asperger's--full-blown meltdown in the middle of class (I have the quiet meltdowns where you withdraw into yourself). I was tearing up, shaking, and I said barely two words the entire time (I am usually very chatty).

    So not only did I have a similar situation to you, but I had the meltdown in front of her and her new boyfriend, and they knew full-well that they were causing it. Being in such a state of shock, I couldn't think clearly enough to remove myself from the situation before it turned ugly.

    Luckily, S is the most mature girl I have ever met, and she came online that night to explain everything to me and patch things up (I know any other girl who I'd done that to after knowing them such a short time would've crossed me off their list instantly).

    She is now easily one of my best friends, but I am going insane thinking about her all the time. I relish every second I get to spend with her, but feel extremely melancholy at the same time. Whenever her boyfriend is mentioned for any reason, I feel this sudden burst of something inside me. I don't know if it's anger, hate, or just plain old jealousy (it's the first time in my life I've ever badly wanted something someone else had).

    People have told me the only way to get her off my mind is not to associate with her anymore. This I cannot do, as like I mentioned, she has become one of my closest friends, and I can talk to her about ANYTHING (except this, of course). She talks to me about stuff, too--let me tell you, it is one awkward position for me to be in when she once in a while tells me about some argument or another they've had.

    So I am stuck in this place. I am on anxiety medication, and I've talked to a few others who do not know her, which helps a little bit, but I am never free from thoughts about her, despite my absolute best efforts. I am a hardcore video gamer, and even my trip last month to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (the mecca of all things gaming) couldn't purge her from my thoughts for more than a few hours.

    After reading your post, I am a little worried, because I would hate for that day and this feeling to haunt me for the rest of my life. If they ever broke up, you can be dang sure that I would be there for her with a cleanly-washed shoulder to cry on, but as it stands I really must get her off my mind before I go insane.

    Like with your situation, S has absolutely helped me to communicate on a more emotional level than I ever cared to, but being stuck with the single life after getting a taste of the strongest feeling on Earth feels terrible. I know you probably don't have any answers for me, or you'd have used them yourself by now. I just wanted to say that this feeling is not unique to you, and it is nice to find someone who has had a similar experience to you.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Daniel

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  8. Star, As time has gone by I no longer am haunted by the experience 24/7. It used to be everytime I heard her name, her home town (the year that NFL team was in the Super Bowl was hard!) or her home state I would cry. As years go by it is just hard during the dates of the year that I associate to her. I have a saying that says that, "Whatever is now is forever." That line may sound scary, but now changes, sometimes daily, which will change forever. I don't know if that helps, but slowly it may fade, but each person is different so your experience may to be different.


    Mr. Pickles, first off let me say I am envious of you going to E3. When I worked at Game Stop I had the chance to go way back in 2002, but money got in the way.

    I too had an experience with someone else much like you explained.

    Hearing this along with my story has me interested in just how hard relationships are for us. As you said, I don't have answers, yet, but I do want to explain to the world why this is so deep for us and just one person may haunt us for a long time.

    To both thank you for sharing your story and letting me know I am not alone as well!

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  9. Aaron:

    In my search to overcome these emotions, I've found something that has helped me tremendously in a very short period of time: hypnotherapy. I was put into a very relaxed state where the therapist was able to speak to me on a subconscious level and, through her words, remove at least eighty percent of my anxiety surrounding my issue inside of an hour. We obviously have some type of problem in processing certain kinds of information or events, and the way she spoke (while not making me forget entirely) has allowed me to put events into perspective and clear my mind. I have a few more appointments scheduled, and I cannot believe how free I am feeling!

    If you are open to it, I HIGHLY suggest you look into this kind of therapy--it works wonders! :D

    Regards,

    Daniel

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