I often find myself lost in thought. Last week the gas engineer came out to check our house complies with the gas regulations for the next year, in terms of equipment safety.
They have serviced the boiler every year since we have been here, they are a great couple, he works, she organises, and they are funny, professional, and just generally good people.
But as I sat waiting for them to arrive, I caught myself going through the “Deaspification” ritual that I assume is part of my coping mechanisms. Deaspification is a temporary condition caused by having to interact with people not on the spectrum who you don’t want to give you the “but you seem fine” speech.
I’m not sure how to put it in words, talking about this is new to me, so I will just Do My Best like a good “ex-guiding-movement-gal”.
My internal dialogue floods with questions to myself. Can you remember their coffee preferences? Black with none and white with one I think. (Wrong here, black with three and white with two for future reference, but at least it opened the conversation).
People who do not have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder like to think they are memorable. If you can go that extra step and remember names, and two or three information bits, then you are on track for being Deaspificated.
What can I remember about these people. Coffee preferences, the wife makes lace in her spare time, the son was going to come in the business, the husband has an intermittent bad back.
Now I have little things that make them feel I remember them and I am interested enough to store away things about them.
It gives me conversation openers. And the coffee one gives me an excuse to get out of the room. This gives me the initial space to flap (mentally) about the fact that there are people in my house that don’t live here. It gives me the time to recompose myself and plan my next conversation.
I don’t need to initiate conversation, but if spoken to, I can use one of my three other bits of information to divert attention from myself.
Phone rings, they have been held up on an emergency, will come tomorrow.
Breathe. Relax. Feel strange. When you have focused all your energies expecting something to happen and preparing for it, its hard to let that go, and move on. It’s almost as if you had waited in line for a ride at a theme park for several hours, and right as you get to the gate, they tell you it has shut and to come back next time. You want to argue, but know it is pointless. You knew it was going to be a scary ride but you had psyched yourself up for it, and not going on means that the thought of queueing tomorrow is worse than the actuality will be.
Another situation. Someone is being treated unfairly and is unable to represent them-self to the various agencies that need to be coordinated. On my day to day existence I avoid contact with authorities, I couldn’t function buying goods at a shopping checkout without a huge amount of prep time. But it is easier somehow to slip into the role of being an advocate for someone else. The problems are not mine, so I do not have that emotional investment about what happens if I mess up, and I am safe in the knowledge that even if I don’t help much, it’s still more than the person would manage alone.
It is all about roles. About acting. I know I can pass as a simulacrum of myself, or the version of myself that I let others outside of my immediate family see.
My parents and most friends do not know me. They know the me they see, they don’t see the bare me that my husband lives with. They don’t see the even barer me that is evident when I choose not to keep the coping strategies turned on. They see the Deaspification Model. The sum of the learnt behaviours, the situation analyst, the outcome of many failed attempts.