Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Extreme High and Extreme Low of August 16th

Wow, yesterday was a day with such a severe swing. Of course it began with the circus of me trying to make that video blog. Oh, if you could have seen me staring at my monitor with my hand poised to press record only to stop, think, and repeat the process. And then I would start, and then hate it, so I went right back to square one.

Once that circus was over I drove to the Crisis Intervention Team Training Committee meeting which I am a part of and as I sat down I was given the recap of the evaluation and I noticed something odd. The recap is the ratings of each presenter in the CIT 40 hour training. I always am the 2nd or 3rd highest rated and have accepted the fact that I will never be on top because the guy that is always first is a 30+ year SWAT tactical expert and is an amazing presenter. This time though, on this sheet, on the expertise side of the column was my name, on top! ON TOP! 1st place. He got me on the presentation side and I got 2nd, but for once I was first.

I am somewhat competitive with my scores and I don't really compete per se with the others, but rather with my own score. The system is 1 bad to 5 good and my average was a 4.88! Needless to say I was elated for a while. Then reality happened.

For lunch I made the customary trip to Taco Bell. I haven't written about a trip there in a while as nothing worth writing has happened, but yesterday one such event did happen.

As I walked in I noticed that it was busier than I am accustomed to it being. In the waiting line the density of people, or rather the personal space one had was much less than normal. When I am in lines such as this, or confined areas, being around people creates an anxiety that is tough to explain; I try to breathe less and I try to make myself smaller in the space I am in. I know there is an expression on my face; I try to hide it but the level of discomfort is so great.

Once I got to the counter I was already frazzled, and then I was asked the most fearsome question I know, "Hello, how are you today?" In my presentations I talk about my struggles with this and it was one of my first blog posts. Once again I had trouble coming up with an answer to this question as I was wanting to be anywhere but there. If there was a hole in the ground outside I might have just left there and crawled into that hole and hid for 12 hours because I was at my limit and after 10 seconds I finally said, to answer the question, "I'm here." Typically I ask this in the form of a question, but yesterday the only polite way to answer that question was to explain it as factually as possible.

I ordered and I noticed that the price was different and as I looked at the receipt the amount of volcano tacos was off by one so I had to speak up which was highly difficult. I did it, and then I walked to the waiting area and, well, waited.

Once again the confines were tight and no matter where I stepped I was in the way. It was awful and every step I made I walked in the path of where someone else was going. Then two people walked by and one person said, "Hello, Aaron" and I swore I had never seen that person before. I'm sure they work at TouchPoint, but I couldn't place who they were. Perhaps if I wasn't in the state I was in all would have been fine, but I was in that state and this "hello" just added to the confusion I was enduring.

What was going on? I don't think I have ever had such a reaction in public; it felt as if I were falling in the literal sense as there was an extreme physical reaction going on within me. Perhaps panic would be the only word to use that would fit what was going on within me.

Time was dragging on and there were so many orders in front of me. I wanted to leave right then and there and forget the food, but then that would be $4.86 wasted and then I'd still be hungry. I had to stay despite every thing within me telling me otherwise.

When my numbers were called I grabbed the food, truly grabbed in a rude way, and proceeded to storm out of the Taco Bell shaking shaking my head at in disgust. I couldn't believe the way I felt. This is something I never experienced before, well, maybe I have mildly, but the close quarters in that Taco Bell yesterday, and the prolonged exposure to that environment created a true fear and panic within me.

So that was my yesterday. It started off with such an amazing event, but as I said reality set in. Of course, I don't want this to depress you! However, I feel it is vital for those not on the spectrum to understand the nature of what happens within. The physical experience of this event is something that I am shaking just thinking about as it was that bad. Why did it happen yesterday? I'm not all that sure, but as I always say I'm glad it did as it allows me to translate the events and paint the picture of the challenges that we face. Sometimes the challenges are small, and other times they can be a deep chasm that evokes a true physical response. Through understanding of these events I hope those around us have a better understanding of what we face and through that, yes, through that understanding I hope better choices and decisions can be made and to know that we aren't trying to be evasive, defiant, or disobedient, but rather there are times when our world is too much, and yesterday I experienced that.


  1. I am so blessed that you write this blog. Oh how often I have concluded that your struggles mean you are mad at me, or I have done something wrong. If I had been home before you left for Indy yesterday, I am sure that if I asked you what was wrong I would have gotten, "I don't know," or "Everything." Through your writings you have allowed me and others to gaze deeply into your soul and experience with you the Autism experience. If you, the reader, have someone with ASD in your family please, please, please don't assume that if that someone seems to be rude, aloof, angry, sad, irritable, or whatever, don't assume it' your fault and get defensive, or they don't love you.Through Aaron's willingness to allow the world to gaze beneath the surface into his life, he is not only changing lives and families, he is changing his father. God bless you my dear and gifted son.

  2. Hi Aaron this is Teri Slover up in Kirksville, MO and I can attest from working at Taco Bell myself that the greeting you got is the one that is expected by customers from taco bell employees. You probably went into the taco bell at the wrong time especially with Lunch and dinner being the most busiest times of the business if you go any other time I can let you know that most taco bells are slower especially in the afternoon.

  3. These kind of events are usually the ones I HAVE to avoid if I can, because it tires me beyond anything else. For people who don't know yet, I have Aspergers and am chronicly fatigued.
    Such events have such a huge impact, that I end up tired and dizzy after it and everything happening around me is just too much. This means that everything I planned after it (even if it's just the rest of the workday) suffers from it. It can even mean that I can forget about all other plans.
    Sometimes when the impact is REALLY big (luckily this is a rare occasion) I rudely walk up front and ask if I can get a fast service, because I have Aspergers and am chronicly fatigued and feel like I'm about to faint (that's the exact explanation I give, because it's the quickest way I can get them to understand).
    Most people think I'm rude doing this. Just using my disability to get what I want. This is not true. I wouldn't do it if I didn't need to. The thing is... If I don't, I'd end up having to explain everyone around me that they lost me for the rest of the day and maybe even the day after that.
    To save me from having the most horrible feeling in the world, I just ask for a few seconds from other people.
    I'm sorry people for asking that. I truly am. But you'd take a few seconds to help a guy in a wheelchair up a ramp too wouldn't you? Then please take these few seconds to save my day.

    Note: This is because I also am chronicly fatigued. Most people with autism probably wouldn't have to cancel their whole day because of such an event. I'm just trying to show how much of an impact it has, by showing what it does to me personally.

  4. It is tough... but it is a community skill that can be trained and improved to a point that is functional.

  5. I have always instinctively known, that when my daughter was lashing out at me during her meltdowns (verbally and sometimes physically) she was not attacking ME personally.