It’s a funny phrase that. One of the few funny phrases which make complete sense to me however, as the act of putting on different pants for different situations can be an actuality.
I don’t deal very well with idioms. I didn’t know until I was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (Aspergers) that there was a reason for this. I didn’t know that when a friend said it was raining stair rods up in Cumbria, no one else got a literal visual interpretation of this which resulted in sheep impaled bloodily by stair poles.
Yes, really. Being Aspergers (it’s not something I have. It’s something I am.), somewhat ironically results in some of the funniest moments, images and conversations. My partner has become all too used to answering ridiculous questions such as ‘why do people say things they don’t actually mean?’ and ‘why on earth do people say such ridiculous things and never even crack a smile while they’re doing it?’
In fact, the reality is, my partner is my responsible adult. We joke about it a lot and it started as a joke way before the diagnosis. But he is. Telling people he has resulted in some wonderful conversations so far, most notably with the nurse doing the pre-consultant weighing and blood pressure checks. We covered her partners Cerebral Palsy and my Aspergers with ease and comfort only given when two people are not trying to avoid saying the wrong thing but instead are genuinely interested in how something affects someone and the workarounds which result.
And that’s the greatest gift a diagnosis gives you. Freedom. It’s not an excuse, it’s a reason is something I have typed in the last 8 months more time than I can count. I ask for no ones sympathy and no ones extra effort. I simply ask for understanding. Are you asking me to do something which is so easy you wouldn’t spare a thought about it but that for me requires 3 hours of psyching myself up to do? Or vice versa – are you asking me to do something I can do in my sleep (oh look another idiom which is highly amusing when taken literally) which you expect me to take days to do? Are you assuming that the thing which was so easy it took minutes means everything I do is so easy it take minutes?
That’s what it’s not an excuse, it’s a reason means to me. It’s what diagnosis means to me. It means I can cut myself some slack but you don’t need to. It means no longer crucifying myself every single day because I can write a nationally published article which over 10,000 people will read with no editing at all, but I can’t cook. Social situations baffle me and sometimes terrify me if they combine expectations and a role I am supposed to be performing but I don’t know what that role is because no one else needs it to be explained in minute detail. It means I can turn to you and say no. No because this will be too stressful for me and this is why. No because you haven’t explained in enough detail what you require from me and until you explain more I cannot deliver the thing you need me to deliver. No I wont be the first person someone interacts with face to face for your brand but online? Oh absolutely. No problem. And here’s why.
Is that making excuses? Is that asking too much from you? Is that not an interaction you have the time for?
Well bully for you.
Every single day, I put my big girl pants on. Every single day, I do something which scares me a lot. People say that to people as a motivational tool and I’m sorry but I am not the right person to say that to. Every single day, there will be something that I have to do in order to keep a job or keep a relationship or friendship which I do not want to do because it scares me, but I do it anyway. It’s exhausting. No, that’s not an exaggeration. It’s so damn tiring – the psyching yourself up, the self talking that everyone tells you will help but doesn’t, the visualisation techniques everyone tells you to use but which are flipping useless when you have no imagination, the constant warding of the anxiety gnawing in your stomach which means you can’t east until the thing is over…
So we come back to putting your big girl pants on. We come back to cutting people slack. We’re back to walking in someone elses shoes. Can you imagine that? Can you actually imagine fear of that level every single day? How does that taste after a week of it? A month? A year? Can you taste the acid in your mouth from all the anxiousness? Or does it taste metallic, that fear? Can you focus and concentrate and do your best work when you can taste that taste in your mouth? Would other people telling you to imagine the audience with no clothes on work if you had no imagination? After a while, would you start to wonder why that didn’t work, why you couldn’t self talk yourself through, why visualisation didn’t work? Would you start to feel like a failure, despite confronting your fears every single day?
What I am is not a failure. I am a warrior. Every day I face my fears and I do something brave. I am scared and I do it anyway. I may not do it well. I may not do it perfectly but I do it. Every single day of the week. Sometimes my anxiety levels are out of control – those are the days when I have to do more than one thing that terrifies me. Some days my anxiety levels bubble along quietly, barely registering on my consciousness. Those are the days when everything is easy, everything is a known quantity and there is nothing unexpected. They are rare.
So here’s a thing. If you know someone with Aspergers, or you suspect you do, and you’re getting frustrated, annoyed or irritated, think about this. Think about the battle which is going on in their brain. Think about how tempting they may currently be finding it to leave the situation which is no doubt causing them twice the frustration, annoyance or irritation it’s causing you. Think about the strength of character it’s taking them to stay.
Life isn’t easy for anyone. I get that. You’ve got children and emotional baggage and affairs and all kinds of shit going on. I get that. But those things, they fluctuate. They change. Our Aspergers doesn’t. It is a state of continual stress and anxiety that you only experience during times of divorce, moving house or planning a wedding. Those things are easy for me. But the other days. They are not. And we all know which way life is weighted.