What goes on in the brain of an autistic adult? The answer isn’t the same for everyone. While we do have some traits in common, our brains are all different from one another.
(This is the part where you think “no duh”.)
I don’t know about everyone else’s brain, so I’ll talk about mine.
So…I guess I should start with the sensory issues.
I need to wear glasses, nothing special there. I notice things that stand out. If it looks out of place, I will notice and investigate it. This is how I find pocket change on the ground and add it to my piggy bank. This is how I organize things. This is how I notice something is wrong with a human or animal.
If something sounds strange, I will notice it. Some sounds I find quite pleasing; the squeaky toy is the first thing that comes to mind. Super loud music and certain droning noises bother me. I’ve been to a concert one time and the volume was so loud, I could feel my heart vibrate to a rhythm that wasn’t its own. I left in tears and vowed to never go to another concert. I also can’t filter out noise. Like, if several people are talking plus the TV is on, I can’t single one out and focus on it. It all becomes a blur of noise. Trying to single them out is like trying to literally separate purple into red and blue with your eyes.
Smell is the most important of the five senses for me. At times, it can pick up things other people can’t…but I also seem to be more prone to stuffy noses. I identify smells with everything. Different people have different smells, and I’ve come to associate house smells with the people that live in them and leave their scent behind. When a delicious dessert or other bad food is in front of me, it’s not the sight that tempts me, but the smell.
My taste? Since I’ve started my cooking experiments, I’ve developed a sort of taste craving or instinct. Like “this would be better with pepper” or “nutmeg does not go well with this”. Other than that, same as any other human, I guess.
Touch is the one sense that comes up most when it comes to those with autism. I hate shirt tags and I’m able to feel fleas crawl on my skin. When it comes to contact with other people, I only allow myself to be touched if I want to. If someone comes up to suddenly hug me, I’ll either back away or tense up. Then again, it’s more of a mental thing than an actual sensory issue.
Now, what goes on in my head? Story ideas, music, obsessions, plans, arguments and conversations.
It’s different from other people in that I actually feel the lack of connection between my brain and body when I’m thinking. When I say “lost in my own world” or “trapped in my own head”, I mean that I’m deep in my brain to the point that it feels separated from my body and the rest of the world. It’s like, there’s the world as itself, my body a pond, and my mind a bubble that’s sinking to the bottom. It makes sense to me, but it might not to you.
I guess what’s unique to me is the conversations and arguments I have with myself. Usually when a problem comes up, my mind is automatically divided into several voices or characters. It’s usually the “me in the now” or the “Id” and the “me that thinks about then and the future” or the “Super Ego”. Or it could be the “rational, factual me” and the “flighty, irrational me”. The “me in denial” and the “me in acceptance”, the “crying me” and the “reassuring me”, the “I should have done differently” and the “I have to make the most of what I have”, and so on. It just helps to automatically divide myself and assign roles for discussion and recombine afterwards, kind of like a jury deciding on a verdict.
No, I do not have DID. I am fully aware that it is all me.
At times, my brain is silent, though it’s rare. I would have to be in an intense state of focus or interest for that to happen, like if I was watching an exceptionally good movie for the first time. There are also times when I withdraw further into myself than normal when I visit certain locations. The biggest example is the beach. For some reason, when I visit a beach, I withdraw further in. Maybe because there’s a lot of open space and no one around? Maybe they just feel melancholic?
Oh yeah, there’s also empathy.
My sense of empathy slowly developed over time. It seems to be at its strongest point now in my young adult years. If people are happy, I can feel it in the atmosphere. If people are depressed, upset, or fighting, the negative energy makes me ill to the point where I need to leave. It’s like a resonance thing going on: good energy makes me feel happy and negative energy makes me sick. This extends to animals as well, particularly dogs. At times, I get a sense of how people and animals might feel on the inside when they’re not outwardly expressing it, but I get it wrong most of the time. So…I guess my empathy only works when it’s obvious?
To sum it all up: my brain is a mess, but it’s unique to me. Do you know how your own brain works? Actually take time to think and analyze it all. How does it work like everyone else’s? How is it unique to you?
…Okay, now I sound like a school teacher assigning psychology homework. Until the next blog!