No Half Measures

Hello everyone, this is a personal post so this may well be less funny or less interesting than a lot of my other posts but I write these mostly for myself and for those who care about what goes on in my head on an emotional level, rather than just poking at my throbbing satire gland (it’s a part of the brain found almost exclusively in bemused British people like myself or David Mitchell). Now as some of you may well be aware, I fight an ever-shifting war in my head against the forces of anger and misery, two emotions that want total dominion over me as a person and to completely eradicate all feelings of joy, hope or ambition. I can often keep these two demons at bay with some macho gusto and a dose of laughter but then sometimes it comes on like a surge, as if turning the taps to get a glass of water and instead causing a flood that sinks half the country. I can’t fully explain why this happens but I’m going to attempt to do so on this page, mostly for my own benefit if I am honest.

Going back to little Jacob, ages twelve and under, my emotional scale was not really that vast, as expected of a child, but it was always dramatic. I couldn’t be slightly happy, I had to be really happy. I couldn’t be slightly upset, I had to be bawling with tears and so on and so on. Whilst this made it easier to tell what mood I was in when, it meant I could switch and overreact for no apparent reason but to me it felt like the world wasn’t reacting enough, making me feel like I was an anime character in a stage production of Pride and Prejudice – jarring, inappropriate, misplaced. As I grew older and wiser and started to develop feelings such as sympathy and affection, I tried to learn what it meant to be human, to react like a human being to certain scenarios but the emotions that eluded me the most were anger and empathy. I had no empathy and too much anger and I was essentially selfish; I maintained these personal relationships because these people could offer me things I wanted like praise, an audience or they were the ones who shared their food with me. I know that sounds horrid but this is the basis upon which relationships are formed, I just didn’t know how to make those relationships more meaningful. You all do it, you are attracted to people that can offer you things you want, like love, companionship, shared interests and so on, you don’t form relationships based on what you can give other people, you give people things because you expect something in return even if it’s the satisfying feeling of being a good person.

Move on ahead to age sixteen and I’ve developed past a world dictated by my selfish desires and my anger, swearing to wash my hands of my previously violent nature. I reacted with such anger because I was confused and scared by the conflicts, by criticism and anger gave me power, it scared the people who used to scare me. However, anger is not a way to live in a world of adults and as a man legally responsible for his own actions, I had to settle down. I also became more and more confident in romantic affairs, having learnt from a long run of failures and whilst I’m currently single, the relationships after I left school lasted longer and I still talk to those ex-girlfriends because I was more emotionally mature in my decisions, rather than a selfish fool. Love is complex, undoubtedly, and I’m no expert now and I have my drawbacks as a lover of course but I like to think I’m much wiser now and if I were looking for a long-term relationship, it’d work out much better now than it would if I was looking four years ago. Incidentally, if one of my ex-girlfriends is reading this, don’t this as me saying “Our relationship was meaningless”, take it more as “I have matured since our relationship and the fact things didn’t work out between us helped me to learn more about myself”. I imagine I could probably maintain healthy relationships with one of my ex-girlfriends if they met me now as this Jacob and not as the respective version of myself they dated X number of years ago.

Today, I have become much more aware of my emotions and can slide into them to a certain degree, rather than switch and jump around like a teleporting pogo stick on a roundabout. I can be slightly annoyed, really annoyed, pretty angry and then furious, rather than “Back off now or I snap… YOU WISH TO CONTINUE? THEN YOU WISH TO DIE!”. By the same token, I can now be pleased and then happy, rather than just very happy provided you did something I really wanted. I still suck at gratitude though, comes off as sarcasm but then when you’re as sarcastic as I am, I think people just struggle to tell what’s sincere and what isn’t. The only more British sounding curse is “He must drink tea to survive… but cannot stand the taste!”. However, a difficulty I now face is once I’m set onto a mood scale, from annoyed to angry or displeased to abysmal, I struggle to switch unless something happens to dramatically pull me off the scale. For example, say I receive some bad news – If I am not met with good news that puts the bad news into a realm of obscurity, I get more and more depressed about my situation in really, a rather stupid way.
“Oh, another person is ignoring me on Facebook. Oh god, this is typical, I get attached to someone and then they start hating me. I bet they tell their friends I’m a twat, maybe they want me to die in a hole so I can’t keep messaging them, asking them to come have a drink with me. I have no friends really, they all hate me. I hate me. I’m going to try and hide in the corner until I become one with the wall and cease to exist”
Now logically, I know this is stupid and the logic centre of my brain is shaking me vigorously as it tries to suggest that said person is busy, or in a bad mood, or left their Facebook logged on but isn’t at the computer. However, the nasty little gremlins take this scrap and stretch it into a full on reason to want to disappear off the face of the planet. So unless this person responds with big smiles and hugs and we get really chatty pronto or similarly, someone else I want to talk to chimes in and gets cosy with me, the gremlins win. I know this is stupid but I can’t help it and need to find a way out of it.

Far be it from me to lean on a loser’s limp but I’ve been dealt a bad hand in the emotional aspect of my brain. Sure, I have a natural talent for writing and constructing great sentences off the top of my head but I lack natural empathy, I cannot grasp complex emotions except by emulating them through intelligent guessing and I seem to have unreasonable senses of guilt despite not feeling the pain of others. Allow me to explain, empathy works by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and internally reacting how you would in their situation to then share their pain and guide them through it. You help someone grieve the loss of a loved one by internally creating the emotions you would feel if you lost a loved one, or remembering an instance in which you did. By doing this, you share the pain but you know it is a hypothetical scenario you only created very briefly in your subconscious to give you a sense of understanding. I can’t do that. I use logic to emulate empathy by making an intelligent guess. Oh your dog died? You must be… sad… yes, that’d make you sad. What helps sad people? Sad people want food right? I will fetch biscuits and then this will make them better. Only in cases where I have been in their shoes (losing a loved one, being bullied for being different, having rotten siblings) can I feel their pain but otherwise I’m just guessing. I can’t read faces either, unless I’ve known the person and interacted with them physically on a regular basis for a few months. I know it, I’m terrible. Despite all this and knowing my limitations logically, I feel guilt. If you’re crying and in pain and my advice has been useless and you don’t want biscuits, I want to cry because I’m useless to you. I blame myself that the person isn’t happy. As a result, I often put up with a lot of abuse on an emotional level out of guilt, and admittedly, the desperate hope that I’ll get the respect I deserve one day.

Emotions are hard and if you read this thinking “The fuck is this guy saying? Is he a robot or just thick?” then you’re a lucky sod, your emotional register is as sound as a pound sterling. However, you might somehow relate to this article, perhaps you have AS like myself or maybe you are just very very intelligent on a number of levels and if so then you’ll understand why I’ve written this and why I act the way I do at times. I want to conclude by apologising for people who feel they are inadequate when they can’t “make me smile”, it’s a near impossible task and it is not your fault, gremlins have just got into the works again and I usually come out of it given time and quiet support (or the sudden realisation something great is about to happen to me)

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4 thoughts on “No Half Measures

  1. We’re more similar than I first realised. This is an amazing insight into your mind and I thank you for writing it. Most of it I already knew but the way you put it here inherrantly reminded me of myself, my own emotional register and suchlike.

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    • Thank you. I thought I should put this up to help people who interact with me understand what to look out for and that when I’m in a bad mood, it’s not their fault explicitly if they can’t cheer me up. Surprisingly, this has been one of my most popular articles – I think people become fascinated by the emotional aspect of my thought processes

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    • I’m not sure if I quite follow by “a touch of bipolar”. I have always had an extreme emotional register from childhood and this has been put down to my AS but for me to class as having bipolar disorder, I’d need to be having extreme ups and downs. I only have the downs of present. I can see why it would come across as bipolarity and I once thought so too but I’ve been told that’s not the case, I just have a very limited emotional range by nature

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