This is the internet weblog of Bix Frankonis.

Blowing A Speck Of Dust

There’s a newsletter item by Alex Danco over in my link log today that I also need to address part of a little more directly over here because of…Kierkegaard?

After the pandemic’s first wave recedes, our jacked up emotions will stick around. Tiny little inconveniences and provocations are going to drive us crazy. Kierkegaard put in his diary once: “I can cheerfully struggle against a storm… , but the wind blowing a speck of dust into my eye can irritate me so much that I stamp my foot.” The smaller the affront, the more upset we get – because what we’re actually upset about is our inability to cope.

Not for nothing, but often this can be the experience of being actually-autistic: I’ve been able to address, say, medical crises at the animal-related nonprofit I used to manage, with nary a twitch nor flail. Unexpectedly spilling coffee on the kitchen counter, or swept-up cat litter onto the floor instead of the trashcan, can set off a frenzied flurry of shouted invective that I’m sure never has endeared me to any neighbors.

Our “jacked up emotions” do “stick around”. Those “tiny little inconveniences and provocations” do “drive us crazy”.

It’s one of the earliest things I talked about when I first started blogging about my midlife autism diagnoses.

In physics, it’s usually described as being “equal and opposite” but of course the wrinkle when we move from physics to psyche is that the impact of what might be deemed the same stimulus is going to be different from one person to another, especially when we’re talking about brains that aren’t neurotypical. Any given stimulus could be a mild annoyance to a typical brain, yet the emotional equivalent of a sharp stick to the eye to an atypical brain.

Reactions, in other words, are the things we cannot control. Responses, however, are the things that we can.

I cannot control how my brain reacts to stimuli. I can, sometimes, control my responses to my environment. More, sometimes it’s true that reactions to certain stimuli happen at a comparatively slow enough pace that even there I can control how I respond. My inner reaction might be more severe than I let on with my outer response. Where that line is, I have no idea. I’m sure it varies.

Really, what I’m saying is that if you’re experiencing what Danco is, and small, usually-unexpected pokes can send you raging, maybe remember that next time you don’t understand an autistic person’s meltdowns.

That way you feel these days, like there’s just this constant, underlying hum of pressure? We’re often that way all the time, just from having to navigate a world that doesn’t much take us into consideration.

This post originally was published 2 years ago by Bix Frankonis on Posts older than a decade might not reflect my current views.