If I could put a list together of all of the things Dale was ever anxious about, it would be a mile long and probably repeat and contradict itself numerously.
Something that tends to be misunderstood is that Asperger’s is a cause of Anxiety/OCD. When I was first getting to know Dale, I was silly enough to think that. I wonder how many other people think that?
Anxiety and OCD is a completely separate diagnosis to Asperger’s, and not every Aspie has them. Dale just so happens to have the whole kit and caboodle. Dale and I both agree that he copes with his Aspergers very well, but that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t have the down days where he can become depressed, wash his hands 20 times in an hour, become anxious over very small things and sometimes have anxiety over them things over and over again.
He does have his bad days and it is very obvious when he is having a bad day.
Dale has his sign posts that let me know ‘I’m not Okay!’.
One way of knowing, is when he rubs his hands together. He used to do this A LOT! In fact, whenever I’d look at him he’d be doing this even if it’s a situation he’d been in before. Then about a year ago, he just seemed to have stopped doing it. Since then, I’ve only seen him do it once; Today (I knew why though. His Cochlea Implant had run out of battery so he was completely deaf… and if there’s one thing Dale absolutely hates, it’s being deaf!).
Another way of me knowing Dale not all there, is when he’s unresponsive. I don’t mean in the sense you can’t talk to him, but when he keeps conversation short. VERY short. When it’s very bad, you can hardly get a word out of him. There’s been times when he’s almost seemed to be given me the cold shoulder. Luckily, I know that it just means ‘I’m processing something’. Eventually he’ll open up to me (mainly when we’re alone in the car or we’ll sign to each other) and let me know. He’ll very often apologise for himself, so he does recognise when he’s being off. One thing I’ve never known him to do, is lose his temper though. He’s very very patient it seems with both me and himself (although I do think he gets frustrated with himself sometimes).
Dale doesn’t withdraw as much as he used to, mostly because he’s trying to force himself to be social, which, rest assured, I do tell him that if he needs to decompress he just needs to let me know and I can either take him home or, if needs be, explain to people if he’s shut himself down; playing on his phone or something. We haven’t quite got to that point yet, so he’s coping well, but I’ll be ready for when he does need to escape.
As mentioned, when Dale isn’t 99.99%, his Anxiety goes at 120mph with no break pedal. It’s almost as if his head searches for things to worry about and to over-exaggerate. When this happens, Dale becomes incredibly tired and again, a little offish (what do you expect when his brain hasn’t given him a moments rest?). Gladly, when he’s having a full on day with Anxiety, when he sees me in the evening I’m able to cheer him up; either by talking the anxieties through with him, or just taking his mind off of the matter. Talking it through works the best I find. Also, surprise gifts cheer him up!
It’s harder to tell when he’s depressed. Mainly because he tends to deal with that in private and I’ve only been aware of him feeling depressed twice in my 1 1/2 years of being with him. I’m not saying that’s the only time he’s been depressed, it’s just the only time I’ve been aware.
If I had any pointers to give to people…
If you’re around people with Aspergers often, I would definitely advise learning their individual behaviours. Not everyone is like Dale, who can be quite verbal with what he is struggling with. Sometimes it’s a matter of trust. At the beginning of our relationship, Dale wouldn’t tell me things because he didn’t want me to think him being stupid or not being a Man. Luckily, Dale and I are in the kind of relationship where trust is very important, but it still had to be earned. I had to prove myself to Dale. It did come easy, but not without some speed bumps.
When they need to decompress or zone out, unless they’re like Dale and don’t mind touch, I would strongly advise to not abuse the situation and give into temptation to hug them. Even with Dale, I don’t hug him when he’s zoned out, and I’m one of Dales ‘safe people’. I’m not saying he would reject my hug if I did, but it would neither help the situation or help him feel better. I limit my touch to either a hand on the knee when it’s serious, which seems to have similar effect to a hug but with limited touch, or when he’s being a mega butt-head (when he’s not completely zoned out, just having a moment) I’ll put my hand on his cheek. That helps keep the situation light-hearted. When he worries about my thoughts about him, I’ll kiss him. I keep to these 3 without really changing them about so he doesn’t have to try and predict what I’m going to do or read into what the touch means.
Keep it real! Don’t flap about with eloquent metaphors or spinning fantasy tales. When Dales out of it, he needs cold hard facts. Things he can understand in plain black and white. Me telling him tall tales of wishy washy hopeful dreams wont bring him back to me sooner. If anything, it will confuse him. Most of the time Dale will prompt my answers through simple yes or no questions i.e “Do I have enough money for this?”, “Will I get ill?”, “I touched… and I didn’t wash my hands, is it hygienic?”. Yes you do, No you wont, Yes it’s fine. Dale can understand that. Not “Well if you save up [x amount of money] and in a couple of months you’ll meet a little man in a green suit who has money and then sure you can afford that” or “Uncooked chicken will make you ill, and because the chef was well trained and all the hygiene laws were observed, I’m sure the chicken wont give you food poisoning” or even “E-coli can travel from toilet seat to your hands, and then if you put your hands in your mouth, then you’ll get e-coli, but because the toilet seat was clean and you only touched it quickly, I’m sure you don’t have e-coli and it’s likely you wont get ill”.
Aspie’s can tell the time, but they can judge the amount of time. So saying in a couple of months it will be fine is a poor choice of words. A couple of months to me means maybe 2/3 months. To Dale, it could mean next year or next month. The uncertainty wont help him either.
So yeah, Sorry, that’s a long one, but we haven’t written in ages and nothing much has happened, however in the next month quite a few things are changing and happening. So hopefully more posts 🙂
As ever, thank you for reading. We may start keeping daily blogs which will probably be shorter and simply tell the day to day happenings rather then a lengthly boring blog for you to read.
Dale and Alli,