Friday night is one I am going to remember forever. Not for a short time, not for a while, but for the rest of my life.
The day started off great as practice for the USAC .25 series was ran and it was without a doubt the smoothest day of the year. That was great, but after the day's events the group decided on a place to eat and I didn't know what to expect. It was explained to me, but all I knew was that if a place has Mongolian in the name something is slightly askew. I was right.
Everything I knew about restaurants was wrong as I entered. It was noisy, and the menus were more for show than actually used. If you haven't been to a place like this what it is, to put simply, is you got over to these three bars and pick out your meats, veggies, and sauces and put them in the same bowl then go to the grill where they, well, grill it. What may sound simple was overload for me.
First, I have a real dislike of seeing raw meat. I don't know why, but it just makes me want to shake. Secondly, I believe food is never supposed to touch. Thirdly, I hate sauces. On top of all this the people that work the grill are loud. VERY LOUD! And they also have a VERY LOUD bell they ring at times that I couldn't determine why they were ringing it.
I had trouble deciding what to do so I eventually decided on just one bowl full of meat. I was being consumed by the loudness of the place and making decisions was quickly becoming a task I was not capable of. One person saw my food choice and told me that, "You can't do that, it will be to dry. You need to try some sauces."
After hearing that I went to the sauce bar and stared in awe of all the choices. Truly, there were more sauces on that bar than I had ever seen in my entire life. As I stared like a lost kitty in a tree an employee came and explained to me the logic in the display of the sauces. I was handed a little spoon so I could try the sauces and while she was talking I didn't process one word she said. The grillers were still yammering away and the music was blasting.
She told me to try some teriyaki sauce so she poured some out on my little white spoon and without thinking I tried it and it was a shock to my system. To say I didn't like it is to say one simply doesn't like a broken foot. No, it was more than simply not liking; it was a complete and utter violation of everything I thought about taste! Needless to say I didn't choose that sauce, and as she went away I stared in befuddlement as to what to do next. Do I break and try a sauce? Do I do some veggies? Oh, and why can't I get some quiet to think?
I began to walk in an erratic pattern and my mind started "thinking harder" which is always a recipe for a blog post. My thoughts were racing and I quite literally did not know what to do next. This was all new to me and I went from a lost kitty in a tree to a lost puppy on a busy interstate. I knew what was going on within me and yet I couldn't do anything about it. I was in the truest states of overload and I wanted anything, ANYTHING but to be me at that point in time. If I could have vanished I would have.
James, the USAC .25 series director, saw me and came over and asked if I needed any help. I tried to answer, but words weren't working. I tried to speak but nothing was there. In all my life I have never had this happen. It was awful, horrifying, and sad. There was so much I wanted to say, and yet not a single word came out of my mouth for almost 15 seconds. I tried, and tried, and eventually I said, "I...I... I don't know what to do."
My pile of meat in my bowl was taken to the grill where the cooks had a good time laughing about my selection. "Son, where's your veggies?" was the first question and I was not in a state to respond to it. Then, the cook saw me and my bland expression while I stared off into space and he said, "Dude, what's wrong with you?" Such a tragic question that was.
Eventually, after several more bell ringings and questions my way that went unanswered, I made it to the table with my food and I ate. It wasn't dry at all and I ate it, but within me was a storm of self-hatred that I haven't experienced in a long time. I felt as if I let everyone in the group down because I look forward to these dinners and I have been coming out of my shell over the course of the season, but here I regressed all the way back into my former anti-social self.
I ate quickly and retreated into my chess.com app on my iPhone. This was my defense; I had to get my mind off the events that had happened. What I try to do when I go out into the world is to not have my autism be visibaly noticed, but I failed in a big way and I was hating myself for it.
After a while James asked why I was so down and I said, "Because this shouldn't happen!" And he responded, "Why shouldn't it?" and with that answer I remembered that I am, in fact, on the autism spectrum. That sounds like an odd statement, but it's true. I don't go around in my head saying, "I'm on the spectrum... I'm on the spectrum..." It's only when there is an event that happens that I am reminded. Sometimes the reminders are small, and sometimes the reminders are on a gigantic scale like this one was.
As the night wound down I began to swing from hating myself to thinking about how good of a story this will be for my blog. The hatred went away as I began to think, and I told James this, that I am lucky in that I could explain what occurred. I could explain that it wasn't anything anyone did but simply that I was overloaded. It was a new place, and a loud one at that, and it was too much. Yes, I could explain what happened but there are those that stay in a state like I was in, with that being the state of not being able to speak to explain what is going on and why something is bothering them. It happened to me and as I write this a tear is coming to my eye as I think about the prison I felt I was in.
My mission in life is to spread awareness and understanding and I always try to put a positive spin on my stories and challenges. I'm not sure how to do that on this as this truly was one of the worst experiences of my life. Maybe the positive is this; once again my passion for my job has been increased. For a brief moment I lost my voice and some people, in the past, have thanked me for being that voice for those that can't speak. I thought to myself that, "There isn't anything more tragic than wanting to say something, and needing to say something, but being unable to." and I experienced that. However, as I said, my passion for this has increased. Thanks to my work with my blog those around me didn't think I was the oddest thing in the world and I don't think they now think anything less of me and that is what I was afraid of. When an event like this happens I am always concerned about how I will be perceived. This shows that awareness and understanding are critically vital to the well being of those on the spectrum. The need to know is great because imagine if they had no idea about the challenges a person on the spectrum face! What was a gigantic issue could turn into a cataclysmic event, but that didn't happen. Instead, space was given and over time conversation was slowly introduced. Yes, without a doubt, what was a perfect storm that induced a severe overload has know kindled the perfect storm within me to continue my journey in describing my life on the spectrum.