This past weekend I went to an underground Halloween party full of girls dressed like Peter Pan and guys dressed like grandmothers. We were crammed between gladiators and Obama with ebola, watching a guy with a lizard tail emerge from a plastic cocoon in front of a giant paper mache clown face. I was with my boyfriend and our friend and we got drunk and smoked weed.
The only difference is that all three of us have Asperger’s. That means sensory overload has always been a problem.
Different people get overloaded by different things. My stressor is crowds. Crowds make me zone out. My brain gets fuzzy: weed/booze or not. I can’t focus on a conversation for very long even when I can hear the person next to me. Sometimes I’m with friends who don’t know I have Asperger’s and they ask me if I’m “having fun.”
I know what that means. It means I look completely spaced out. But I always affirm that yes, I am having fun, and I just keep on going.
My friends didn’t. After an hour and a half they both felt it was time to go. And let me tell you, that was an ENORMOUS relief. We went home, passed out, and slept until 5:30 in the afternoon.
I never used to go to parties. I had no one to go with. Now that I do sometimes, I feel obligated to stay as long as possible. To not space out. And definitely to not fall asleep. I often fall asleep at parties when I’m overloaded. Sometimes they don’t invite me back. But if it’s an open-minded crowd (you know, the kind of crowd you should be hanging out with) they just laugh it off and let me be.
We all want to push ourselves to do as much as we can. But if we push ourselves too hard, we’ll get exhausted and not be able to do anything at all. It’s important to accept your limitations so you can make the most out of what you can do.
It’s also important for autistic people to recognize when we’re overwhelmed. A lot of us don’t always know how we feel. It’s called alexithymia. I have it. My boyfriend does too. It’s taken us a long time to figure out our boundaries and we both struggle with it still.
Learn your tells so you’ll know when you’re running out of energy. For me, I get inattentive. I lose things. Other autistic people get headaches. And plenty of us sleep more than most people consider normal.
Everyone has energy limits. Ours just tend to be lower.
And that’s okay.
*Picture from VICE.