Monday, October 31, 2022

Halloween Terror

A couple days ago I went to a Halloween Party. It was the first time I dressed up as anything in at least two decades. Minus the prospect of free candy, I've loathed all things Halloween since I was aware of it, and on Saturday my two least favorite things, Halloween and a wide-open social function, met face to face.

I didn't think it would be "that bad". I hadn't been to a party that was outside of family in an amount of time I can't define, but since that time I've presented to huge audiences, and I've stood front and center at the world's largest sporting event with the pressure that is indescribable unless you've experienced it. So, how bad could it possibly be?

Walking into the house where the party was, I was instantly struck by the amount of people. There was no two-by-four in sight, but it felt as if I had taken one right across my head as a fog descended upon my thoughts. The noise, the unfiltered crescendo of voices never ebbing made it impossible for me to discern actual words, and the costumes made it impossible to pick up on the slightest social cues. Ever heard the old adage of a deer in headlights? Those deer didn't have a thing on me!

In a situation like this, it feels as if I become a prisoner in my own body. The flood of adrenaline supersedes comes front and center and the fight, or flight, or possum mode engages and I'm unable to do anything in a timely manner. It's at this time I feel the most alone.

Most alone? Even though it looks as if I shut down, the thoughts on the inside don't slow up. I'm fully aware that I'm locked up, I'm fully aware that I'm standing in an aisle way and people are having a hard time getting around me, and I know that if anyone looks at me, they're going to be a bit confused as to why I'm doing my best gargoyle impersonation. I do know this all, I'm fully aware of it, and on the inside I'm screaming; you can't hear this scream but it's there despite my stoic, blank outside.

These situations are a no-win for me. I don't want to be seen, I want to escape, I wanted my girlfriend to enjoy herself, but my options are bad either way. Admit to how bad I'm feeling and she may feel bad, lie and say I'm fine and I have to endure a pain that shouldn't be felt by anyone.

The minutes went onward and there was no respite. I was still frozen and in the prison cell of my brain I yearned to have what everyone else has. How was everyone else having so much fun? How were they so free? How can I be a public speaker and do it with ease, but a social function like this creates a social paralysis that inhibits my ability to speak?

A couple hours went by and eventually I was able to escape to the car. I was sad. I do what I can at all times to put myself in a position where no one will see the autism in me. I should be okay with it. I, of anyone, should know that I have my limitations that balance the immense skills I have. The exact things that make me shine in the right environments creates the prison I can't escape in others. I should also know that no one is perfect. No one is normal. Those at that party might crack under the pressure I love to experience in the Indycar flagstand, or perhaps they'd freeze up giving a presentation to a large crowd. I do know this all, but in the midst of the storm it's impossible to see the light being hidden away by the clouds. In the midst of the storm the only desire is to either be out of it or to have the abilities of those weathering the storm as if it's the best weather day of all time. It's true, one person's social storm is another person's Chamber of Commerce weather day, and maybe being human lends itself to that hint of envy of "what they have", but it's okay. It truly is. I made it through the storm, my wonderful girlfriend understood the dynamics, and I'm writing this today and letting you in on what it feels like to experience such an event so that, if you know someone on the spectrum, you might have a bit of a better understanding next time there's a situation like the one I experienced and what potentially could be said when words fail us.

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