Actually Autisti, Anxiety, Aspergers, Autism

The #ActuallyAutistic Working Lunch

 

I can do lunch, at home. I can even, occasionally do lunch at a restaurant with my wife.

But the ‘working lunch’ for  me, is just a recipe for cruel and unusual punishment.

The build up

Regardless of whether or not I know the cullinary venue for a particular business meeting there’s always the anxiety anticipation.

  • will it be noisy
  • and will that be compounded by ‘music’ well into three figure decibels
  • how’s the heating/air-con
  • are the tables about the size of a bed tray
  • what are the waiting staff like
  • is there anything edible on the menu
  • how long is the line

I am way outside my comfort zone, in fact for me, this is extreme sports!

I am heading into a war zone.

The warm up

As I head over to the restaurant, briefcase in hand, I’m spooling ‘Two Tribes’ (Frankie goes to Hollywood) over and over in my head, a kind of mental echolalia, as I prepare for my version of an NFL game, a business meeting ‘over lunch’

This then gives way to my usual internal dialogue about how business lunches are just (fill in the blank) and that it is all just one big (fill in the blank) NT costume party that I am being forced to endure, despite having a medical exemption.

The restaurant

I get there early, I always do, usually way too early because I am paranoid about being late.

It also gives me time to select the right table or booth, the correct seat and set out my office desk (I mean place setting) in preparation for my roller coaster ride.

Client arrives, some redundant noise about the traffic, the weather, the restaurant (blah, blah, blah)

I know I mustn’t appear ingratiating or worse yet patronizing, but at the same time I need to appear to be at least partially engaged and to avoid appearing….aloof.

I’m masking.

It’s all such a crock of ______ why do people waste so much time on this and place such a high value on it and why do they force people like me to endure this?

This of course is an intellectual silent dialogue with myself, emotionally I’m getting agitated.

The waitress arrives so now he’s scanning the drinks menu like it was an autopsy.

I wait because I know that is part of the script.

He orders something inane, I order water, room temperature.

The clock is now ticking and I have about 5 minutes to select something from the menu that I don’t want to eat, because I’m not hungry, because I’m at work.

He seems to be able to talk non stop WHILE reading the menu and all without breathing.

I’m looking around at the artwork on the walls and thinking how wonderful it would be if someone would just smash him in the face with a frying pan so that I could just leave.

He orders something which I forget as soon as he says it, I order the tuna salad, no cheese, no croutons.

The costume party continues as he starts to talk about the menu, my anxiety heads North.

 

The Food

It arrives and damn it, the waitress just plonks my plate on top of my note case (or stands there in silence, until I move it)

My work area has now been disturbed, so it’s ‘wrong’

I grab for a Xanax (I always carry them whenever I leave the house) and try to figure out which sleight of hand to use to……….

All of the above took a split second, what follows happens in slow motion.

It’s always the same fantasy, but here’s what I would dearly love to do with my ‘order’

  1. Move my ‘order’ the the place next to me (or the next table) or
  2. Politely ask the waitress if she can take it away (so that I can have my desk back) or
  3. Throw my plate against the wall, in my dreams (then chug 2 Xanax)

 

Epilogue

I know intellectually AND emotionally that neither my client, nor the restaurant have any idea that I am Autistic, much less having fantasies about plate spinning.

I know that 98% of the population are not reacting how I do in a public setting and more to the point that they would never imagine in their wildest dreams that anyone could feel  how I do over a simple meal (for me) and a retail transaction for the restaurant. So I attach no value judgement to any of this.

My fantasies are just an escape from a grotesquely charged anxiety episode.

I am not arrogant enough to think that my experience of this microcosm of social interaction is typical within the Autism community, but perhaps it will resonate with some.

Either way and #AskingAutistics, I’d love to hear about your experiences/feelings with work related restaurant outings.

 

Actually Autisti, Anxiety, Aspergers, Autism, Bipolar

#Aspergers in the social minefield

Anxiety Van Gogh

 

Imagine you are flying in a 2 engine prop plane, about to make your first jump.

You’re scared of heights and you don’t have a reserve chute.

The mother of all thunder storms is crashing all around you and one of your engines has caught fire.

This isn’t Ohio either because you are flying over the middle of the African continent and you are going in!

Below you is a raging war, you don’t have a gun or even a knife and you have no military training.

You have no food and you haven’t eaten in over a day.

Actually Autistic, actually anxiety

This is how I often feel when interacting with people.

It doesn’t even have to be a ‘social’ event, where at least a modicum of verbal reciprocity is expected/demanded.

At the grocery store I don’t have to socialize or even interact very much but there’s always the anticipation.

Will it be crowded, will there be a long line at the checkout, will I feel like taking a baseball bat to the speakers spewing out that ‘dumb them down’ elevator music. Will it be too cold (should I carry a hoody)

The Mall is much the same only amplified and there is a tidal wave of people and the conversation is deafening.

Quick change

Nobody at the grocery store or the Mall has the slightest idea how I am feeling or what I am thinking and it’s not their fault.

Most happy shoppers are not hypersensitive to noise or averse to crowds (more than 3 other people in the store) and it would never occur to them that ANYONE would be freaking out the way I do when purchasing food for the week or making a commando raid on a retail entertainment stadium (a pilgrimage to most) to purchase non-food items.

It isn’t meant to be this way.

Taking off the mask

When I reach my threshold, I can assure you, that the mask is OFF!

It isn’t so much me taking off the mask as the mask falling off, as I just lose it.

They come as a pair.

In a restaurant my order arrives and it doesn’t look like the picture in the menu…….you’d think they’d tried to poison me. Again, not their fault, that’s just the way I am wired.

I’ve left full trollies at a grocery store, before checkout for reasons that I can’t even remember now and I’m not even including my #Bipolar responses…..that’s the subject of another video.

Coping strategies

My coping strategies are quite simple.

I minimize social interaction/human contact.

There are situational exceptions, which I’ll cover in a future post.