Celebrations and Being on the Spectrum

Posted by Ginger, Volunteer Mentor @gingerw, Dec 19, 2021

This time of year, especially, there are many gatherings. Be it family, friends, co-workers, neighborhood get-togethers, so many opportunities to put our coping skills to work.

Last night I went to a community holiday parade. Everyone was braving the weather, which hovered in the high 30s. Jackets, gloves, hats of all kinds, and also behaviors of all kinds, from adults to children, very young babies to family dogs. For me, it was a test to see how I would handle it all. Not too well, it turned out, even though I chose to stay on the very outskirts.

Many lights [steady and/or blinking]. Much gleeful shouting from children happy to be "set free" to play with friends and race around until the next event. Adults with exclamations of greetings and latest news. Horns honking, singing, "ho ho ho" being heard over it all. People pressed together. The combination of it all was too much after about 40 minutes, or less.

As someone on the spectrum, formally diagnosed with Asperger's, sometimes it is easy to spot fellow spectrum residents. In a store, the child you might see having a severe reaction, may be over-tired, hungry, or having an autistic moment in response to the external stimuli. Likewise an older child or adult may simply shut down, or try to mask true feelings “in order to fit in” with the majority of people.

How are you doing in this time of year? Do you hibernate at home? Do you make sure you carefully chose your times to interact with crowds? What about other times of celebration? When I was working and management insisted on parties, I chose to be absent, take care of myself, and to heck with how others thought of me.
Ginger

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Autism (ASD) group.

Where I live, come the first of the year you cannot even count on being able to hibernate at home any longer in the future. I suppose the elimination of single family zoning is way too controversial to speak of on here, but even the prospect of the inevitable elevated noise level that follows is anxiety provoking to one on the spectrum like myself.

Having crowding next door just won’t work for someone like myself. That & the further declining air quality. As like many people with Aspergers I don’t like change, so moving away from the noise & air pollution would not be a easy prospect either. As I would be moving far away from my family & their support. Not a smartest of moves when older.

It seems unsettlingly out of my hands, and as if it is considered a massive sin these days to want to continue to live in peace & quiet. Now I know how my grandmother felt when too many of the fields of Amherst were not just being plowed up, but cemented over for university related expansion. I haven’t figured out how to cope with this one yet.

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Because I was not diagnosed until my 40’s, I was just weird until then. I have developed some coping mechanisms out of self preservation. Never more than 3 or 4 and preferably 2 people at a time, myself included. No parades or parties. Just visits with a few loved individuals. I love the little twinkle lights but not too many, never mixed colors, and never blinking. I really avoid most children that I don’t know, the potential for screeching is too high. I still love the holidays, but on my own terms.

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@linh

Where I live, come the first of the year you cannot even count on being able to hibernate at home any longer in the future. I suppose the elimination of single family zoning is way too controversial to speak of on here, but even the prospect of the inevitable elevated noise level that follows is anxiety provoking to one on the spectrum like myself.

Having crowding next door just won’t work for someone like myself. That & the further declining air quality. As like many people with Aspergers I don’t like change, so moving away from the noise & air pollution would not be a easy prospect either. As I would be moving far away from my family & their support. Not a smartest of moves when older.

It seems unsettlingly out of my hands, and as if it is considered a massive sin these days to want to continue to live in peace & quiet. Now I know how my grandmother felt when too many of the fields of Amherst were not just being plowed up, but cemented over for university related expansion. I haven’t figured out how to cope with this one yet.

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@linh Are you able to place yourself in an environment where you can "tune out" the noise and stimuli? Perhaps some noise canceling headphones or white noise? It sure might make a difference. Where I live now, there is mostly quiet, as we are in a rural area, but before moving it was terrible living in the city. Too many noises, lights, and people for my comfort! Yes, cemented over fields seem to make a lost hospitable environment.
Ginger

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The new laws allowing for single family neighborhood racket (I will spare you the details) to occur are being implemented this January. I think everybody has their own differing space requirements as to what makes them feel comfortable.

This reminds me of a friend’s elderly mother-in-law who shared a room in a senior nursing facility. She was stone deaf, although she couldn’t hear one word she still did not want her roommate having the T.V. on after a certain hour when she was asleep. Even though she didn’t hear one word, she didn’t want that noise in her space! I feel the same way. The city slickers are taking over here I’m afraid.

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Wow, I can totally relate to all these messages. I might have to find out if I have asperger's. I seek quiet, loud noises totally annoy me bright lights hurt my eyes. I think I need a diagnosis here. Thank you all for sharing.

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As someone who is just learning about being on the spectrum, I have always been a homebody. Sometimes it gets lonely, knowing family are out doing things. But I have begun to learn that mentally if I am unprepared or tired then I will just not enjoy myself. I enjoy being asked, or feeling included somehow, and now am beginning to feel less guilty about wanting to stay home all the time. It's just who I am and I need my time to rest and recover from work and the general bombardment of social situations the holidays put on us.

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@robynvixin

Wow, I can totally relate to all these messages. I might have to find out if I have asperger's. I seek quiet, loud noises totally annoy me bright lights hurt my eyes. I think I need a diagnosis here. Thank you all for sharing.

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Welcome Robyn, I believe both @auntieoakley and @gingerw were diagnosed as adults and may have some pointers to offer. I think knowing more about the diagnosis also helps those around you understand.

@jonperyer, I extend my welcome to you too. You mentioned that you are just learning about living on the spectrum, too. Did you only recently receive a diagnosis?

Declining social invitations is certainly everyone's right. How do you decline but also let people know that you enjoyed being invited and included?

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@colleenyoung

Welcome Robyn, I believe both @auntieoakley and @gingerw were diagnosed as adults and may have some pointers to offer. I think knowing more about the diagnosis also helps those around you understand.

@jonperyer, I extend my welcome to you too. You mentioned that you are just learning about living on the spectrum, too. Did you only recently receive a diagnosis?

Declining social invitations is certainly everyone's right. How do you decline but also let people know that you enjoyed being invited and included?

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I saw my doctor about my suspicions at the end of October and am still going through the process of receiving a diagnosis. It's definitely been a journey of self discovery lol, a life time of things suddenly making sense. I think now that I am aware I try harder to explain my thought process to my family, why I react the way I do towards certain situations. It will take time before they understand it, but its nice to finally not feel like I am just crazy, or broken.

Lately if I don't feel like going out, I just let my family know I need to rest tonight. I don't feel as obligated to be a part of the group all the time, now I know rest is important. I still stress out about hurting others feelings, but that's just part of who I am, and I am starting to finally understand more about who I am which has been really nice.

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I have found that if I share my diagnosis to those around me, and explain that I just see and learn things differently it does help them to understand. The one thing I make sure that people I care about understand, is that I can not handle being in groups of people. I either shrink away or overcompensate then worry it over and over in my head for days.
When my friends and family invite me, I tell them how grateful and happy I am to be invited even though they knew I would probably decline. Sometime they even send me pictures of the event which then makes me happy. Before I knew why I was this way, it would make me sad, but I have learned to enjoy it. I get all of the fun without the discomfort.
How do you enjoy the holidays without feeling bad about yourself?

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@jonperyer

As someone who is just learning about being on the spectrum, I have always been a homebody. Sometimes it gets lonely, knowing family are out doing things. But I have begun to learn that mentally if I am unprepared or tired then I will just not enjoy myself. I enjoy being asked, or feeling included somehow, and now am beginning to feel less guilty about wanting to stay home all the time. It's just who I am and I need my time to rest and recover from work and the general bombardment of social situations the holidays put on us.

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I skipped a party Christmas night, expecting too many people and the host's prize fish stew to be unappetizing. Turns out I missed one small child who screeches loudly without any interference from his parents, and at least one person who tested positive for Covid later that night. Biting my tongue to keep from saying "I told you so" and keeping my distance from the partier till he can test in a few days.

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Good for you for trusting your instincts and staying safe :P. I chose to stay home this thanksgiving, and worked a fill in for Christmas. I generally avoid any gatherings with more then just my Aunt and cousin. I havn't met many people since moving here besides my coworkers. And I tend to be pretty quiet at work. Covid has definitely been one more thing to worry about, as much as I try not to.

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@jonperyer and @robynvixin Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. We are brave, those of us on the spectrum who choose to put ourselves first, and our health [physical/emotional/mental] As @auntieoakley mentioned, telling those close to us about the fact we see things and respond differently, is one way to introduce our style to others. You know, many [on the spectrum or not] wish they had the guts to "just say no" when they want to step away from festivities and crowds. We do it for our own preservation! It's a must for us, once we realize just how much better we feel.

Take care of yourselves, however that means. Be gentle on yourself. Write out the emotions going on in your mind and heart. Congratulate yourself for learning about what makes you the best you can be. And come to Mayo Clinic Connect.
Ginger

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