Tag Archives: autism crowds

Autism: Give Me An Out

I woke up with such a bad headache (this has been happening a lot lately) that I didn’t think I should go to church, but it dulled as the morning went on – and really, I would rather go than not, even when I don’t feel like it.

When we get to church, we often say “hello” to a few people, get our sermon notes, and go to our seats. While my husband might stop to visit, that part of the church at that time very quickly puts me in sensory overload.

  • The fan running above me.
  • The doors opening and closing.
  • People all around me.
  • Open spaces.
  • Lots of voices.
  • Children running around.
  • Sights, smells, sounds… it is all just too much.

And when I have to stand in there – which is true of any such space (I hate being in warehouse stores for these reasons even more) – I quickly start going into meltdown mode.

Mostly my husband recognizes this and gives me an ‘out.’ He might stay, but I am able to comfortably excuse myself and go.

Perhaps on this occasion it slipped his mind how hard this was for me. Maybe he thought he would only talk for a moment, and it would be okay. Possibly it was because on this Sunday there were fewer people in the foyer when we got there.

Easter 2015

Whatever his reason, I found myself ‘trapped’ there in that foyer with no polite way I could find to excuse myself. We stopped to say “hello” to one couple, and he ended up staying to tell a long story about how his jaw was broken. To include me, I suppose, they kept looking at me while he told the story, and I couldn’t get away.

It wasn’t about his story, or about the couple we were talking to (or he was, anyway.) In that type of situation I am being bombarded by all sorts of sensory stimuli, and I can’t block it out. It was all I could do to try and hide how irritated I was getting.

Finally the story was over, and we started to walk away. I thought I might be okay, though I was still struggling. We only took a few steps, however, before he stopped to talk to someone we didn’t know.

She had just moved to town a few months ago, and was new to the church. My husband was trying to make her feel welcome. I know we are supposed to do that, and I saw the value in it as he was speaking, but… I was already doing pretty bad, and wasn’t able to handle any more.

I know that I didn’t do as good a job of hiding my irritation – and again, it wasn’t about what my husband was saying, or about the person he was talking to. I was feeling trapped and overwhelmed, and could find no polite way to escape.

So the irritation, I am sure, showed loud and clear. I was crossing my arms and hugging myself as I do when I feel that way. I was looking away, trying to block things out, shifting from one foot to another… I am sure it didn’t help her to feel welcome, but it certainly wasn’t my intention to come across that way.

Really, it was all I could do not to go into full meltdown, crying and running away, right then and there. Of course, she wouldn’t have known that. She wouldn’t have ‘known me from Adam,’ as they say (or should it be Eve???) and certainly wasn’t aware that I am Autistic. It isn’t like I have a neon sign on my forehead announcing that.

So instead of seeing that I was in sensory overload, and needed to get out of there, I am pretty sure that in her eyes, I just seemed rude.

Finally that conversation was over, and we went in to our seats – but I was crashing hard! My husband tried to talk to me about other things. He tried to hand me my sermon notes to read over. He tried. But I couldn’t. I was done. Like I said, it was all I could do not to cry and run away, and I was having such a hard time… I guess ‘regulating’ myself might be the right term.

Then the worship music came began, and the calm washed over me, and I was okay.

But I wish they understood how hard such things are for me and would always give me that ‘out’ I so need in these situations.


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Autism: Candy Crush

I spent the entire morning, or just about, playing Candy Crush Saga on Facebook. They gave me unlimited lives for two hours, and at that moment it became absolutely essential that I distance myself from the person just behind me (who caught up while I was away at the lake both times.)

Screenshot from 2017-10-03 11:26:17

I kept going and caught up with the only person on the board ahead of me. She passed me several months, or more likely, over a year ago.

When I passed her, I wanted to distance myself from her as well.

It becomes a compulsion. I just have to do it, and much as my mind is screaming to stop, I keep going. I am not competitive. Not at all. The thing is, though, that I don’t like seeing other people on the board with me. I don’t know how I managed in the beginning when the board was filled with people around me, but at some point I found my icon alone on the board, and felt like I could breathe again.

It irritates me to see other people there. I don’t know if it is the clutter of the board, or… More likely when people – or even icons – are around me, I feel watched. I can’t function well when I feel watched, and it always leaves me feeling anxious and irritated. It is like having someone in the kitchen when I am in there; I just can’t.

Only I am not competitive. It didn’t bother me after she had passed me far enough that her icon wasn’t on the board with me. It was only when it was there that I had to get past.

So I spent the morning playing Candy Crush on Facebook. It is such a waste of time, and most of the time, I don’t even enjoy playing. I keep telling myself that I will stop playing – someday. But there again is one of my fixations that I can’t seem to overcome.

I am on something like board 1900 (higher, really, but I don’t want to open it right now to check, or I likely won’t complete this post.) So I think, knowing me, is the only way I will give up the game is if either I complete it or it stops working on my computer.

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Posted by on October 13, 2017 in Experiences of an Autistic


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Autism: People Watching

Last night my husband took me into town for a free music concert which happens every Wednesday throughout the summer. It was unexpected, as it was only the second time we went down this year (the first time was while my mom was visiting, and wanted to go before she left.)


Since I wasn’t expecting it, I had prepared a large meal for my husband and son that night, and was holding off on my shower until just before bedtime as usual (when I am going out, I will have it in the afternoon.) As a result, I had 45 minutes after supper to have my shower and get all of the dishes done. For a while there, I was quite overwhelmed.

I did end up getting all of this done, and was only about 5 minutes later than I had hoped when I was ready to leave – but I also had a large wet spot on the clean shirt I had just put on, from doing the dishes. I can’t seem to wash dishes without some of the water getting on me. At least this was clean water – but it still made me quite self-conscious, and I didn’t really have time to pick out a new shirt.

Anyway the weather is still very hot and dry, and my shirt was dry by the time we got down there.

The band was… well, my husband described them as bluegrass. The music itself was fine, but I really didn’t like the lyrics. My husband thought they were ‘fun.’

There were a lot of people there, and I very much struggle in crowds. We did sit near the back, on a short ledge, with a garden behind us. We sat beside someone I went to school with for my building trades program at college a few years back. I didn’t talk much to her – I am not good with people – but I did enjoy visiting with her dog!

Most of my time there, at the music concert, was spent in ‘people watching.’

People really confuse me. This has been true my entire life – and I have spent just about my entire life, as I was last night, on the outside observing.

There were children dancing, and some adults too. Some people sat in place, tapping their feet to the music. Others were talking, visiting, hugging, laughing.

Some parents were playing with, laughing at, or dancing with their children.

People were… living.

Fully present in the moment, and (maybe it just appears that way to me, but) not even self-conscious about what they were doing, or how they were interacting, or how they were coming across to others, or…

The thing is, no matter how hard I try, I could never come across as being spontaneous, or… free. For no matter where I am, or what I am doing, every detail is being analyzed in my mind, and I am aware of… everything.

All I do is forced for it seems nothing comes naturally to me. And when I watch people – not just at the concert last night, or at church, or… but everywhere – I see that a lot of life for most people seems to be just that – natural. And maybe that is what people have been calling me on my entire life, while I believe that I am doing things the same as they are: they are natural, and for me, it is all forced.

So they don’t trust me for seeing that my responses are forced, they believe I have something to hide – when in truth the only thing I am trying to hide is that I don’t belong here. Not just in that place, or this city, or that church, or… but in the world.

Nothing is natural – except maybe, just maybe my interactions with dogs. Nothing is natural, and it makes me really sad – for I really do want to be free like them.


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Autism: Not What I Meant

Evenings are not the greatest time for me to visit at the best of times. Even on a good day, I am tired and crashing, and really looking forward to bed shortly after supper is over. On a harder day, I can barely even function, and speaking is nearly out of the question.

That day was a harder day. While I have very much been enjoying life recently, I am not used to so much activity. Part of it was about me – I had the appointment out of town, after all. It wasn’t like we would have gone if it weren’t for that.

Part of it was just another person’s normal. When you live less than a 5 minute walk from the grocery store, I guess you tend to go more often – and I admit, it is nice to have fresh fruit and vegetables more often, and not just on weekends (when I am less likely to enjoy them since the kitchen is more often in use.)

Some of it is due to having a visitor – we talk more, and walk more, and go more places just because we really don’t have all that long together. Besides, it is nice.

But it is also exhausting.

We have the vehicle, and so have been going with that type of ‘normal’ – frequent trips to the grocery store and such. Crowds wear me down, though – so though we might only spend 10 minutes or so in the store, and though I am pleased that we were able to go and get fresh foods, at the end of the trip I am tired.

And the walks? I think they are wonderful! It is calming to be out in nature, unlike the time spent in town. I love the smell, and the view, and enjoy the conversations (though my son is a lot quieter these days – perhaps he would talk more if I talked less, and maybe I would try it if I weren’t afraid of putting too much pressure on him to speak and having him stop coming altogether.)


As I said, I am enjoying these days very much – but it is well beyond what I am used to (though likely still a lot less than other people do in a typical week.) So I am happy, but so very exhausted.

That day was harder because it was the third day in a row of what I would consider extreme busyness. Tuesday we went to vote. Then we went to the grocery store for a few things, for a walk in the afternoon, and then to the movies (which I have done more in the past 5 months or so than I have likely in the last 5 years.) On Wednesday, we drove nearly an hour to a much busier city (population about 50,000 I think! – and yes, that is 50, not 500) It was so busy, and so tiring – but we did have a picnic in the park, which was nice.

Then on Thursday we went to the thrift store for bag sale, did a little more shopping (not that we’re buying much, but… potatoes, bananas, fresh vegetables… I don’t do errands like that, but it is ‘normal’ for some, and besides… I don’t have to drive!) and had another walk. Not so much, but I was crashing. I was crashing bad. I mean, I hadn’t even been able to catch up on writing my journal since being out Tuesday night. And I was so, so tired.

So when I did go out, and they asked if my mom was tiring me out (for I was obviously exhausted) and I said, “yes” – so they prayed and joked about trouble with mothers wearing us out, well… that is not what I meant.

But I was so tired, I couldn’t explain it well. I love having my mom here. And the fact that I was exhausted for life group this week doesn’t mean she is draining, or asking me to do too much, or… It is just that my normal is so much less than what other people expect, and I do get drained from it. Yet what they heard was not what I meant, and I really hope it doesn’t come back to her and leave her feeling bad.


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Autism: Freedom For Now

We had this vehicle that was sitting in our driveway for many months, not being used. It wasn’t our vehicle, but we had agreed to store it for family.  Since no one was using it, my husband asked if it would be okay for us to get it insured during the time that my mom was here – and the owners agreed.

Suddenly I have a vehicle – not that one, for it is a standard. I can drive standard, but… I am anxious enough driving an automatic. With the standard, there is so much more to think about, and so many more issues that could arise.

For example (and I guess this is the worst one) when I have to stop on a hill in the standard, I am painfully aware of how close other vehicles stop behind. When the light changes, and it is time to go, I not only have to think about the lights and the traffic in front of me – but there is the brake, and the clutch, and the gas, and the gears, and… the vehicle that will roll backwards before it moves forward.

It is all too much – like city driving (which I don’t do – at least not in or near the city I learned to drive in.)

So my husband will take the standard car to work, and I will have the use of our automatic van during my visit with my mom.

Only he didn’t just get insurance for the 2 months while my mom is here, but for six months!

It feels really strange.

I haven’t had free access to a vehicle for a long time. In fact, in our first 9 or 10 years of marriage (even after I got a job outside of my home, and with different shifts from my husband) we only had the one vehicle.

When I was going to school, and had to travel to and from the job site frequently (we were building a house) my husband decided it was best to get a second vehicle for convenience. But when I stopped working, well… there really wasn’t enough reason to justify the expense of a second vehicle, so the extra went to the wrecker (we only ever buy well used vehicles) and we were back down to one.

It made sense. It did make sense.

If I needed to get anywhere, I would have to drive down to work with my husband, and pick him up at the end of the day, in addition to doing my own thing. Sometimes I did, but… driving into town and back once causes me severe anxiety (just being in town without driving causes me strong anxiety.) By the time I got home, I was nearly always crashing – and going out again was really a very difficult thing for me. So I didn’t do it often, and have spent most of these years at home.

Then I qualified for door to door bus service – only I had a bad experience with that, and was afraid to try again.

Instead I have been home. I like to be home, but with no accessible way to leave home, I have felt trapped and isolated.


And now, suddenly, I have a vehicle again. I drove into town today to pick up a few things for my mom’s visit – and town was busy! I don’t know why it was so busy on a regular Monday not altogether close to tourist season, but it was.

I arrived home worn out and exhausted, and very anxious about having to go out again to pick my husband up at the end of the day… but then, I don’t have to, do I?

It feels strange, but I am grateful for the sudden freedom that having a second vehicle allows. Perhaps not worth the expense long term, but it is really nice for now.


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Autism: Struggles With Peopling

On Christmas day this year, my husband and I were invited to sing Christmas carols for a church service in the retirement home where his sister-in-law works. This is something that my husband does a couple of Sundays every month (though in different retirement homes) but not really something that I do. I like to sing, but I am not really good at it (I struggle with auditory processing, which seems to be getting worse as I age, and though my hearing is good I don’t ‘hear’ well in groups – which means I can’t hear myself to ensure I have the correct tune.)

Easter 2016

Thankfully my cold, which had already lasted for two weeks, seemed to be over. My throat was raw from coughing so much for so long, but I felt okay. This was good as the sign on the door said anyone having cold or flu symptoms was not allowed in – it made sense.

So I walked in with my husband, feeling very conspicuous, as I always do when walking in front of people. I was carrying my husband’s guitar for him, as he had books and other things to bring in as well. My sister-in-law wished me a Merry Christmas, gave me a hug, and asked how my new dog was doing. Then I followed my husband into the room.

I held his guitar for a while until he directed me to where I could put it down, and then I just stood there, not knowing what to do, as he got organized. After several minutes of standing awkwardly, I said to him, “I don’t know what I am doing,” so he told me I could sit in one of the chairs in front of us. “We’ll be front row people,” he said. So I sat.

My husband’s brother, and two of his adult nieces came in after that. They all wished me a Merry Christmas, and asked about my dogs. (At least they know where my interests lie! I probably wouldn’t have been able to talk about anything else.)

The room was full of seniors. Like babies, seniors don’t cause me the same level of anxiety. After a point in people’s lives, many people seem to lose that… maybe demanding, judgmental, competitive nature (or whatever it is that causes me to fear even people I have never met) and become almost harmless once more. I am still very anxious if I have to interact with them, it is just that being near to them isn’t as hard.

My husband talked a little, and then played his guitar and sang. His brother and nieces stood up at the front and sang as well (his sister-in-law was working, and had to be with the residents.) I stayed in my seat to sing, for that is where I was told to go. I am not sure if he meant that I should stay there the whole time, or if I was supposed to get up to sing with the rest of them – but there I was directed, and there I stayed.

After several songs, my husband’s brother spoke of the birth of Jesus, and how there would be no Easter without Christmas. When he was finished, we sang again. Up to that point, I was doing okay.

And then we were supposed to visit.

My husband and his family went off and ‘mingled.’ They are good at that sort of thing, but it meant I was left alone where I was sitting, trying to force myself to get up as well. A man sitting two seats over from me with his wife came over to me and started talking. He had lots to say, and used questions to get me talking, and still I felt very awkward.

He knew my husband from the thrift store where my husband works, and asked me if I was involved in the community. “A little,” I said, thinking of church and life group. Not much really.

“You must have children at home,” he said.

“Well, I have a son. He is twenty,” I replied.

Twenty!!!” he said in shock. “How is it you have a twenty year old? What is your secret to staying so young?”

My husband is twenty-four years older than me, and his brother and sister-in-law are only a few years younger than him. I understood the question, but didn’t know how to answer without sharing my entire life story.

“I don’t know,” I said awkwardly.

He kept trying to keep the conversation going, but I am horrible with that. Thankfully that is when my husband came back, and started to talk to the man. But, as tends to happen to me, at that moment I started coughing uncontrollably. I just could not stop. That was something that used to happen to me every time I was called to talk in grade school, and even something that happened a lot when I was working front desk at the motel… I feel really anxious and awkward about talking, and start coughing uncontrollably.

As I was coughing, I worried that they would think I had gone in there sick. It might have been aggravated by the raw throat I had as a leftover from my cold, but mostly I think it was just the fact that I had been required to visit. Too much talking mixed with too much anxiety. It doesn’t do well for me.

Since I couldn’t stop coughing, my husband decided it was time for us to leave – and I did; coughing all the way.


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Autism: Trip to the Theater

My husband got off work at 4pm so that we could attempt to go see Mary Poppins at the local theater. Except for the “pay what you can” Thursday shows, which don’t have advance ticket sales, they were sold out for all 12 of their showings (including the free dress rehearsal night.)

Easter 2016

He got home angry at 4:30pm because the van wouldn’t start, and he had to get jump-started. Plus he had to wait through two trains. Very unusually, he was upset, and I was still feeling okay. He showered, we ate, and got ready, and were at the theater for 5:20pm.

Although the theater didn’t open to sales until 6pm, we were still numbers 96 and 97 in line (the tickets were numbered, and given in order.) Although we were allowed to stay in the theater at that point, though the show didn’t start for an hour, it was really crowded in there. We ended up waiting in the lobby of the movie theater across the street as it was warm, and nearly empty.

When we went back at 6:30, the lobby was extremely crowded and I was quite overwhelmed. My husband went over to a wall, and I backed into a corner, hiding behind him to block out the people. We were called in to find seats according to our ticket numbers (first 1-20, then 21-40 and so on.) It was miserable waiting, but they got through it quickly. We got our seats in the second row from the front, on the end of the right side (facing the stage) right where I wanted to be.

My words can’t do the play justice. It was… amazing! Magical – truly (tables that broke and went back together. Dishes that seemed like they would fall, but didn’t. Cakes that decorated themselves. Toys that came to life.) It was like a large city, professional production on a small town stage. Fabulous!

Behind us sat one of the actors from another play we saw there: I Had A Job I Liked… Once. That one had a very small cast, and he was one of the two main ones, and it was a highly serious, and very sad play. My husband talked to him at intermission, and I awkwardly said several times how it was one of my favourite plays ever (which it was, but I also loved Little Shop of Horrors, and Man of La Mancha – which was done at the highschool, and I was loving Mary Poppins. There have been so many good ones.)

Then he told us that some people walked out from his play because the sexual assault theme was too much for them. Then the whole play came back to me… I stand by what I said, but… awkward. (By the way, this isn’t a fame thing. He is just a kid from town who was in one play I know of. This was about talking to people. I am as awkward with everyone, including my 17 year old foster son when we see him around town, though he lived with us three years as a child, and was in my daycare for two years as a toddler, and we tried to adopt him.)

People are hard. Crowds make me cringe. Leaving home was stressful. But that play? Wonderful!

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Posted by on December 23, 2016 in Autism: Out in Public


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