by Laura Nagle
I am taking a break from twitter. Sometimes, the conversations there are not entirely good for me. I become overwhelmed by various forms of negativity. The negative harms me; it causes me exasperation and pain.
Yesterday I turned off twitter and left the house for a long walk to burn some very much unneeded mental and spiritual energy. But I consistently found myself walking too rapidly for my own good. Not only was the small journey less enjoyable than it could have been, but it also left me with tendinitis in my left Achilles and far more than my usual rheumatoid arthritis pain. Today, I can barely move about the house. Clearly, I did not leave twitter for a vacation soon enough!
I have some theories about my autistic tribe. Well, let me be more correct in my terminology: I have hypotheses about the people of my tribe. I will list the relevant ones here and then go on to what I consider to be some likely effects thereof:
1. I think that, contrary to popular belief, we may not be unemotional but, at least sometimes, hyper-emotional.
2. I think that, contrary to popular belief, we may not be lacking in empathy, but that at least some of us, some of the time, may have too much empathy.
3. I think that we may have leaky membranes separating us from the external world, and that as such:
A. Factors of that outside world may leak into us easily as we lack defenses.
B. Our internal state may leak factors of us uncontrolled into the space about us.
I think these hypotheses may be true of at least some members of my tribe, because they are true for me, and also because others have expressed similar thoughts. So these ideas are somewhat more than my projection of my specific personality onto others. These specific points of consideration are true for at least some of us.
These matters of our being and operation do have real effects upon us. They certainly have an effect upon me. During the past few days, several people on twitter have made statements that seem to be aimed more at the generation of heat than light. My problem with these statements is not that there is essential disagreement between us. I do not take issue with disagreements between people. The problem has been the method by which some have expressed their beliefs. In so many of these comments, there has been a generally insulting tone toward anyone would disagree. And this tone has caused me trouble. When someone hurls a wide statement against anyone other than believers in a narrow and specific belief, then anyone not within that belief group is likely to be slighted or worse. That group of persons who would be scorned for disagreement has included me.
I find that I can ward off the negativity of only so many of these sorts of statements. After a while, after the reading some number of these things, I find a negative energy creeping into me. I find myself feeling the harm of undeserved criticism and the downside of emotions that I cannot even name. I find myself feeling anger toward anyone who would make such a comment in such a blanketing and hostile way. I find myself wanting not to argue in a formal and civil way, but rather to hurl some snide statement back at the one whose statement caused me harm.
And you see it did cause me harm. I am a spectrumite. My life is not so easy and not so rewarding as are the lives of a great many “normal” people. I live with doubt, and anxiety, and fear, and all manner of negativity each and every day. I live on the precipice of self-loathing, and depression, and despondency. Negativity I have; negativity I am sensitive to. Negativity leaks in so easily and sets off even more negativity.
For I do not like anger toward others, especially when I am the one harbouring it. I do not like the idea of vengeance, but even more when I myself feeling a primal drive toward it. I do not like that some external conditions can set off my imperfections and drive me toward a lack of concern for others and toward a dislike for them. I fear that the porous membrane that allowed the hurt to flow into me so easily is now allowing my hurt to flow out and onto others. I dislike my negativity because it hurts me and because it can hurt others — even more so because when it hurts others, it hurts me for having done it.
And of course there is this: so many of my tweeps are fellow spectrumites. And they are trapped in a world that does not work much better for them than it does for me. They have all my issues to deal with and that includes pain entering them and flowing from them so easily and with so little control. And the hell of it is that I fear that we hurt each other all too often and too deeply. How we seem to need the emotional flywheels and buffers of NTs! How worn out and decayed I can feel sometimes after time spent on twitter. It isn’t that anyone actually tried to hurt me. It just happened.
There is an underlying pain to much of autistic conversation. So often, it is the pain of what a person is going through. But this I can easily handle. When we stand with one another against the blows of the world, I feel the pain and the strength of togetherness. There is hope in such pain. The pain I cannot deal with is that which leaks into me and then evokes within me not the warmth of care and a desire to help, but rather the pain of coldness and rage. The pain I dislike is what I feel when my own imperfections are triggered: it is the pain of feeling myself reduced.
So I am going to take a twitter vacation for a little while. Some of the aspects of the twitter atmosphere have poisoned my very soul. I need some time to clear my self.
About the Author: Laura Nagle is in her mid-fifties. Although she was diagnosed as autistic while still in elementary school, she has no memory of it. Until she self-diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome several years ago, her life had been a blind exploration of autism. She firmly believes that she might have been able to accomplish more with her time had she been aware of her deepest self and been able to develop a life to fit. She presently owns a small architectural business in Williams, Arizona and is living without assistance. Her goals are to be part of the founding of autistic culture and to use her life’s experience to assist others on the spectrum to live better lives.
Twitter Vacation first appeared on her blog, Laura Nagle — Professionally Autistic, and is reprinted here by permission.