Hi all, I'm new to this page. I'm self diagnosed ASD and going through the process of getting a diagnosis - I'm 47 and only realised I may have ASD a couple of years ago. I'm currently doing a college course for two days a week, after being out of work for a few years. I apologise for probably too much detail in this post but I have problems condensing what I want to say.
I'm really struggling today, after what most people would see as a minor thing yesterday. The tutor paired us with random people to research something - the woman I was put with I hadn't spoken to much before. Everyone else paired up, so I went across the room to her, she sat writing and didn't look up, so I asked her 2 or 3 times if she wanted to work together (I think that was the point of the pairing!). She carried on writing, and eventually said 'if you want to' without looking up. So I immediately felt uncomfortable and stressed, so said I'd go and research online and we'd compare notes after, to which she unenthusiastically said ok. I had problems getting online, plus the computer room was really noisy, so I couldn't concentrate, so had hardly got any info. I tried to explain this to her, but I felt like she was irritated by my very presence and just carried on writing (she was basically copying from her friend's info who was sitting next to her). We were due to present the info to the class, which always stresses me anyway, so I was feeling stressed and near to tears. Basically, I felt a bit useless, the info I did get she just ignored and we used hers, which I had to quickly copy. I tried to tell her I couldn't get online and am not good with being put on the spot to find information to present in a rush. She said 'don't worry, I'll help you', but it felt patronising, and I also felt patronised by her friend, who half overheard something I said, and took it upon herself to explain the whole point of the module to me, like I was an idiot. I took myself out to the toilets for 5 minutes to try and get myself together, where I was in tears.
I really wanted to leave early, but felt unable to, although I did eventually excuse myself ten minutes before the end of the lesson, as I desperately needed to get out of there. I know this sounds like a small thing, but things like this really affect me - today I feel tearful and frustrated that I came across as stupid, or not contributing, and patronised and ignored, and that I didn't say anything to her when she first ignored me - as I don't process things like that until much later on. I suppose I'm asking if other people feel like this, and how they deal with it. I don't want to leave situations every time I feel uncomfortable, but in my experience if I don't at least get a break, then it builds up and gets worse. (I mentioned to a couple of friends in the class that I was 'a bit autistic' but I don't think anyone else knows, or the tutor, although I did mention it on my college application form)
You say you're 47 and this is a thing that happened 'at college' but you don't mention the ages of the other people - are they younger?
Honestly though, that scenario seems more like the other person's issue i.e. they were annoyed at having to partner with someone other than their friend so you were off to a tricky start through no fault of your own...
...then if they are younger they may have felt as someone older you may have wanted to take over (though to be honest, who can guess WHAT someone else is thinking?) and just taken the immature approach of ignoring you...
An age difference could also explain the behaviour you perceived as patronising - young people tend to think anyone not in their age group is probably senile and/or stupid...
It might be worth speaking with the tutor so that you don't get paired randomly, but with someone you feel comfortable being open about your possible ASD with and who is able/willing to see past the difficulties and focus on the strengths that you have (might be handy to think in advance what these are).
But in more general terms, getting forced into an uncomfortable situation, cocking it up and feeing upset/angry/frustrated afterwards and obsessively running over it again and again with that affecting your mood for hours/days... yep, that's all totally 'normal' for most of the folks here I'd say...
It's a course for adults, so there are a range of ages, the girl/woman in question I guess is around 30, the other woman is around my age. I kind of cringe a bit re-reading my post, as there's a part of me that can see it sounds so petty, but things like this can really get to me. To be honest, I think it was her being rude, though she may not have meant to be, as I can't see what i did wrong - it was the tutor who told us to work together. The other woman can be very bossy, and think she knows everything.
I think the frustration I feel is because I can't instantly process what's happening, I just know I don't feel comfortable, and am used to thinking things are my fault, probably due to low self esteem issues. Then afterwards when I think about it, I'm annoyed at myself for not pulling someone up for their behaviour, and then go over the things I said and wish I hadn't said them, as I make myself look stupid or say that it's my fault when it isn't.
The course finishes in a few weeks, so it's not worth saying anything to the tutor now. I haven't had an official diagnosis yet either. I feel stressed the moment he decides to move us around and put us with different people anyway, and this has made me feel worse. We didn't get time to do the presentation in the end, so will have to do it next week, so I'm considering not going in - I have exams soon anyway, and feel like studying on my own at home will be far more beneficial than a few hours of college which will stress me out and wipe me out for the whole day.
I'm wondering how other people cope when they feel like that - do I try to stay in the situation, which often makes it worse, or do I listen to my instincts which are telling me to escape?
Thanks for the reply, it's nice to know other people understand!
Poppy71 said:I'm wondering what how other people cope when they feel like that - do I try to stay in the situation, which often makes it worse, or do I listen to my instincts which are telling me to escape?
I only got diagnosed recently myself and I'm still tying to answer this with the support of my psychologist.
I think it boils down to:
Catch-22 and no one answer for all situations.
I think 'taking 5 minutes' and 'leaving early' show a good compromise of the 2, if you can couple that with a bit of retrospective analysis and use that to write a mental 'script' to use in case you run into a similar situation might be one option?
You have to decide if the end result is worth the stress & hassle - as you say, the year is nearly over so you have all summer to sort your mind out.
If it were me, I'd tough it out and finish the year off well - it then gives you options do decompress and process it all later.
And just remember - people are weird - there's no point trying to guess their motivation - the other person may be under a load of stress themselves which is affecting their immediate behaviour. Odds are you will NEVER see any of these people again when you've done the course so don't sweat it.
Poppy, your post is not petty at all and there is nothing to cringe about. This is autistic life. Things that appear to be minor for NT have huge effect and can take you out of functioning effectively for a long time, and this can build up overtime into a crisis. So it's good that you share and process this.
The team tasks like this are always triggering for autistic people. Because they are unstructured. The truth is they are hard for everybody. Just think of the Apprentice... people with experience and skills become a pathetic bunch of clueless.
The girl you described probably was feeling awkward and uncomfortable and her behaviour shows her own problems. It is certainly not your fault and not a response to you, she did not behave like this because it was YOU. She behaved this way because of herself. Who knows, maybe she is on the spectrum and struggles with interaction and group work. She shown herself that.
Just try to calm and regain your balance. Choose the action that enables you to stay productive and to learn. Apart from scheduled lectures, seminars and labs, when I was revising, preparing exams or assignments, I only went to college for specific purpose. A question, a team task. Otherwise I nurtured my zen state in my room.
It is a dilemma. I've been conditioned all my life (like most people have) to not give up or run away when a situation is difficult, and beaten myself up about it when I have done that, thinking that it means I'm weak/lazy whatever.
I'm now trying to stop blaming myself and let myself off things I can't help, but not to use ASD as an excuse. It's hard to change 45 years of thinking 'it's my fault/what's wrong with me/why can't I cope with the simplest things that everyone else seems to cope with' etc.
I think now that I should have gone home saying I'd got a headache or something, but even that seemed hard to say when I was in a state of stress, and would still have drawn people's attention to me, which is the last thing I want when I'm feeling like that.
I've tried thinking of a mental 'script' for when similar situations arise, but in a state of stress my brain doesn't function properly so I end up just waffling or saying the wrong thing!
Thanks for your reply. It's so nice to have people that really understand, rather than be told to 'just don't worry about it' or 'just chill out/don't be stressed' (even if the advice was well-meaning). If only it was that easy!
My problem is that if someone is off with me I immediately worry if it's something I've done/said, which could be something I'm totally unaware of doing.
I think having had a stressful week and exams looming isn't helping, I'm generally feeling drained and tearful, and putting off my revision as a result. I'm going to take your advice and try and nurture my zen state
Have you though about talking to student services? It might be worth getting extra support. The college I went to have extra support in the form of guidance advisors and specialist mentors. Might be worth asking about. They are usually really good.
I only have a couple of weeks left and then exams, so I'm definitely finishing the course, I may just not go in to that particular day's class this week, I'll see how I feel. Toughing it out - well I've done that for 9 months, and am proud of myself for sticking with it, but at the expense of feeling totally drained sometimes for days afterwards. As my priority at the moment is passing my exams, not attending classes, I'll have to put revising first, and for me revising in my own space is usually best. I'm over my meltdown now I think, but don't want to risk another one so close to exams. Thanks for the reply.
That type of extra support only applies to 16-18 year olds, there's no such provision for adults in the college, unfortunately. I did put on my application form that I was waiting for an ASD diagnosis, but no one ever spoke to me about it. I suppose I could have told my tutors, and asked for certain things to be taken into consideration, such as group work, needing a short break in between stressful tasks etc. In the end I suppose I'm still aware of the lack of understanding and stigma attached to ASD, and wanted to prove to myself I could 'cope', and not draw attention to myself. Also, I haven't yet had a formal diagnosis. I can also have days when I cope fine with things, so I think that makes me think that if I can cope OK some days, I 'should' be able to cope all the time! Also, the course finishes in a few weeks.
Although it's been a couple of years since I realised I likely have ASD, I'm still coming to terms with the reality of this, and only now realising I'm 'allowed' to not push myself too far to do things that I find really distressing - I still have that kind of way of thinking that if I just keep trying I'll get there in the end, if you see what I mean. That's not to say I've given up on everything and want to take the totally easy route, but to recognise when I reach a certain point of discomfort and acknowledge it. My post was a very convoluted way of asking people at what point they stop pushing themselves to cope with an uncomfortable/potentially distressing situation/meltdown, and at what point they acknowledge that they have to take themselves away from the situation.