I have a longer post to write about my and John’s important conversation yesterday but first, let me recap how I came up with that idea that John is working on his communication skills with my diagnostician, Oriana Morrison-Clarke. I don’t think I ever put the details here.
I broke up with John in January, it was totally on a whim, but then I felt we had issues that we weren’t talking about and I got really overwhelmed. I felt that John didn’t really know what to think about my blogging and also that he was worried that blogging is going to negatively affect my mental health and that I’d get myself into trouble with Home Group. But every time I tried to talk about it, he’d say he’s fine. Although I admit the way I tried to approach this issue was very gentle so possibly he didn’t get my ‘we need to talk’ alert.
So finally I broke up with him to get out of that situation, but also, in a way, to show him that I’m a strong person (that means I don’t need him to worry about me).
After we broke up he started listening, but at the same time he was apprehensive. I didn’t know how to move on from that and it was also difficult for me to decide what I wanted because I was sure that if we get back together and he’s still worry about my blogging, I won’t be able to cope. Then my mum died and we agreed we’ll talk a bit later, when I process things at least a little bit.
So after a little while I reached out and he replied with ‘Didn’t you say on the blog recently that I made you unhappy?’ and I thought, what is going on? John basically made me pay attention to his feelings in non threatening way. That’s not how he communicates.
I presume I am very good at seeing patterns in communication but I don’t know if every autistic person is like that. But it took me a little bit longer to come up with the idea that he works with Oriana. At the time I just thought he read an article or something, and is using advice from there.
Later on, when we met, I noticed that his body language changed into much more gentle one. You know, I always thought that John talks to me the exact way that I want to be talked to when I have problems. I can’t explain what it is about his choice of words but if I don’t know how to deal with a difficult situation and I talk to him over emails, things become clearer to me. That is over emails. If we met in person and we talked about the same thing, he would use the same reasoning but his body language was putting me off – he would be waving his hand in the air and hitting it against his thigh, which is what men sometimes do during difficult conversations with other men when they want to get listened to.
But I was his girlfriend. I didn’t want to be talked to like that. But I didn’t know how to tell him, especially as I knew it’s just something he picked up at work and he’s repeating it with me. I was worried that by commenting on that I’d confuse him and anyway, why did it bother me? I’m autistic. I shouldn’t take no notice of his body language, shouldn’t I?
I was aware, unfortunately, that John might notice that I only want to talk about my problems over email and not in person and he may misinterpret it into, possibly me not really appreciating his advice, but I didn’t know how to handle that.
And then, he came to stay with me and he wasn’t doing that any more. His body language was gentle and I thought again, what is going on in here. That was the second change I picked up on. Then there were other, smaller changes in his communication, that I won’t be listing here, as it would take too long, and it probably wouldn’t even make sense to someone who’s not in the same situation as me.
Finally, over a week ago, when I was going through the period of exhaustion and was on the edge of another psychotic episode me and John had that conversation that made me realise something important about how I see myself on an instinctive level.
I was very confused at the time, but I guess that is why this worked. Normally it wouldn’t. It made me think that possibly when I’m confused I became ‘more autistic’, I follow my instinct which is why I may occasionally put myself into trouble.
So basically, I had to postpone our date. It was Saturday morning and I felt like on the edge of psychosis. There was no way I could make any effort for another human being, but at the same time I felt like I couldn’t disappoint John. I couldn’t weigh my options at all and John then made the decision for me and I just followed his lead because of the language he used.
He suggested we’ll meet on Thursday instead, he’s going to take leave and we’ll go on a trip. He gave me choice of two places to go to and I thought two choices means I’m on the right track, so I need to keep going. He then said ‘both of (those places) are supposed to be really nice and worth a visit’.
After seeing this sentence I felt like the email is a board game and I’m a meeple. And if something is really nice and worth a visit (positive vocabulary used twice; twice means something is important), I’m putting myself there. And, as that was planned for Thursday, that means I’m seeing John on Thursday. So this way John guided me through the complicated decision if I should postpone our date or not. And I was convinced it didn’t just happen like that, the choice of wording that worked for me was not a coincidence.
The trip didn’t happen yet. John couldn’t take leave, but that’s OK, I don’t mind. The most important thing is that I felt safe at the time, when I was so vulnerable.
Finally, two days ago I asked John if he was in touch with my diagnostician. He said no, but used some strange vocabulary and also wasn’t in the slightest surprised that I asked that question.
Yesterday I thought, I’m not satisfied with that answer. I can’t continue like that, sorry. So I thought, I need to ask John again, but in a way that he gets my ‘serious conversation alert’. I thought for a bit how to do that and came up with the idea that if I notice so easily when people say something unusual, maybe he does too? So I started with asking if he’s aware that I blog about our relationship. He said he deleted the link when we were on a break.
So I emailed the link to him and said ‘please remember, whatever happens, I love and appreciate you a lot’. And it seemed like it did the trick, he read the last post, this one where I say he wasn’t surprised when I asked him if he was in touch with Oriana.
He was rather perplexed at first and said I’m accusing him. Which I really didn’t mean like that at all. But anyway, we had a serious conversation. It wasn’t a difficult or confrontational one at all. But it was serious and about us. Probably the first time in our relationship.
I don’t know what to think about it now. His communication skills improved a lot in a very short time. But then he insists he didn’t do anything to improve them. He suggests it must have happened subconsciously. Possibly, but… I just don’t know.
I did have the idea to contact Oriana myself, but then, what would that achieve? I wonder how neurotypicals see that: I’m the patient so it can be argued that if I need to know what’s happening around me, that need has higher priority than John’s need to hide the truth. But then, when I see the entire situation as a ‘game of meeples’ it becomes obvious to me that if Oriana tells me that, yes, she was working with John on his communication skills, it will be like if she kicked meeple-John out of the game.
It’s really strange BTW that although my social imagination is poor, I suddenly gain a new insight if I think about social situations as a game.
It has to be John that tells me the truth. He needs to understand that I love him and appreciate all the effor that he is making. And I don’t think any less of him if he occasionally needs help with his communication. He’s not a communication specialist, is he? He is a safety engineer. No one would think any less of him if he hired an accountant to do his taxes. Shouldn’t we treat communication the same way?
And, of course, I wonder what Simon Baron-Cohen would say for that.