Working in customer service can be difficult for anyone. However, having aspergers or autism adds to this challenge. For a year now, I have worked as a hostess in a restaurant. This job has taught me a great deal and helped me to grow. One of the biggest lessons was how my aspergian brain affects my work, especially when dealing with customers.
Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that this is my own experience. There are people with aspergers who have never experienced these difficulties and those who had more troubles that I did not mention. Despite those differences, this post will hopefully resonate with people on the autism spectrum. My goal with this post is to bring hope, humor, and camaraderie to fellow aspies as well as show people without aspergers a glimpse of what an average day at work is for those on the spectrum.
Okay, so my brain did not literally blow up as my aspergian thoughts first think whenever I hear this phrase. However, today has been extremely long and stressful. I am ready for a break. Job training, internship starting, finishing up a rough night – there was a lot going on that made me anxious. The important thing to remember is that I fought my way through it and am still in one piece. Expect for my brain which feels like it is in pieces.
On a brighter note, I have had over 4,000 views and over 3,500 visitors in the past day! Usually I have over 100 but not much more. Somehow, my post from some months back about Ten Things Not to Say to Someone with Aspergers has been circulating on Facebook in the United Kingdom and Australia. How amazing is that?
One of the loneliest feelings in the world is being surrounded by people but not feeling part of the group. I have struggled with this for years. Even places with friendly and kind people can make you feel miserable if you do not belong. The theater, youth group, retreats, parties, my own home – I can feel miserable just about anywhere.
There are many reasons for this loneliness. Some might say that it is a normal part of the human experience. We all get caught up inside our heads and become nervous that everyone is judging us. Since we cannot read minds and know what people think about us, we have to guess continually how they are perceiving us. This can lead to us assuming others are trying to exclude us when they are simply focusing on something else.
When you struggle with depression or an eating disorder, getting outside of yourself and noticing the world around yourself can be difficult on some days. At the same, many people with mental illness care deeply for others. Many are caregivers to the point where they wear themselves out and are left wearied each day. Finding a balance between being stuck in my head and focusing on others to the point of hurting myself is difficult. Many times, I go to one of the two extremes, but I am trying to get better at loving others and myself.
Even though caring for others can be stressful and tiring, this selflessness can be very healing and life-giving. We are meant to help one another, rejoicing in good times and mourning in hard ones. As someone with aspergers, empathy can be a bit confusing for me. I previously wrote about how I both take on the feelings of others but also struggle to read people. However, the overall function of empathy is an amazing thing that keeps us close to others.
Everyone loves in a unique way. We need to find the way that works the best for us and those around us. This video shows one way that comforting others and empathy can look.
Mario and I made an eatable necklace as part of Christine’s present. This is a practice one that we made for him.
Sorry, this is coming out so very late! Today has been hectic, to say the least. My sister, Christine, turned 21. Mario and I spent the day together. We went to see a show, buy gifts, make gifts, have lunch, read a book, etc. Then I had to finish working for the dinner cruise of retreat center that I live at with my family. Just now, I finally tumbled into bed.
However, so much has been on my mind lately that I have thought about writing about on this blog. Instead of just bombarding you with information that might be boring or strange, I would love to hear your opinions on some topics. These could be addressed in posts this week or later this month.
Last night, my co-worker and I were discussing how her ten-year-old son is being bullied at school. Hearing about such young children with great sensitivity being treated unkindly brings back horrible memories. I am thankful to my parents for homeschooling me because my experience with teasing could have been much worse. Still, the cruel way that some kids treat others breaks my heart.
One of the hardest parts is that many of those bullies are suffering too. Few kids are mean naturally, in my experience. Some are hurt by their parents while others have been teased themselves and are trying to protect themselves. One child might have a behavioral disorder and another is struggling to understand with a sibling died. Whatever the case, bullying others is still wrong. Yet, realizing the pain of even the unkindest of people is important. This video really touched me and validated my views.
Unless one says goodbye to what one loves, and unless one travels to completely new territories, one can expect merely a long wearing away of oneself and an eventual extinction. – Jean Dubuffet
A handwritten note on top of my pillow was one the first thing that greeted my arrival to my own bed. It read “Sad news – [my dietitian's name] is leaving.” My heart plunged as I realized the reason she had not responded to my emailed questions for the past few weeks.
That is it. She is gone without a goodbye or explanation. This feels like deja vu. Just last summer, my previous dietitian (who was an Olympic athlete that I greatly admired and enjoyed) left. Thankfully she gave me a bit of warning. However, my doctor left last minute too last May. All of this loss adds to my misery over leaving Oxford and my friends there as well as being estranged (but maybe willing to return to) my therapist and still suffering from heartbreak. Why do people have to keep leaving after being so close to me?
So, on Sunday I went to a pub and stayed out after midnight. For a girl who has never been in a bar before, I handled this new experience pretty well. Or at least the best possible given the circumstances.
The pub had a Celtic band, and random people would break out into Welsh song during quiet moments. Although the environment was fun and the setting quaint, there was barely any room. As the evening continued on, the room became more and more crowded. Pretty soon, several people pressed up on every side of me and my social anxiety began to increase.
Yesterday, on my way to the Bodleian Libraries, I passed a little Russian Orthodox Church. The Eastern Orthodox denominations have always captivated me. An urge to wander in suddenly struck me. Although small, the building looked beautiful, and after missing Sunday Mass, the idea of praying in a church sounded amazing.
Going against a bit of anxiety that welled up, I crossed the street and opened the huge wooden door. To my surprise, the room was a rather cramped meeting space with a relatively small but majestic nave of the church behind a barrier.
What shocked me even more (and added to my anxiety) was the fact that the priest and three nuns were the only people present. As the door swung open, they all turned to me in confusion. Right away, I longed to bolt. What a stupid idea wandering into an unknown church all by myself.
Today I walked to and from the place we are staying by myself either very early in the morning or later in the evening. Both times I was alright but anxious and did not feel quite safe all alone. However I was too scared to talk to anyone.
Do you ever feel like you are on a roller coaster when it comes to relationships? At one moment, others seem to enjoy your presence, and you begin to trust yourself with others. Perhaps people could genuinely like your company and think you are fun.
Then the world seems to shatter as someone sneers at you, ignores you repeatedly, and grins knowingly at a friend while turning their back to you. Suddenly you think about all of your worst qualities. Of course thinking others could enjoy you was stupid. They would never accept your ungraceful remarks, know-it-all demeanor combined with obvious ignorance, and disgusting looks. If you were in their shoes, you would hate yourself as well.