For a couple of years now, I have wanted to write something about autism, and empathy. I wasn't sure what, though. I (as usual!) don't fall into the same belief system as anyone else I know of about this subject. I find most views to be be extreme.
On one side, I see the ones that think we have no empathy, or at least the typical capacity for it.
Then , the other that contends we have too much to the point we're all empaths.
I don't believe either of those to be true for myself, or my boys from what I have experienced, and known of ASD. So, where does that leave me?
It leaves me in the middle with another explanation.
Today, I was quickly browsing through my Facebook newsfeed. I came across this post from Chasing Rainbows about the passing of their disabled son. I still cannot stop crying. I have a pain so big inside of me from seeing this that I am almost immobilized with grief. I have experienced that kind of grief before. I know what that kind of pain feels like. I am overcome with sadness for this family. These sorts of situations effect me deeply.
However, it's not unlikely for others around me to not know how deep I feel anything. It's not lack of feeling anything that is the issue, but rather expressing it. If someone shares something with me that is deeply tragic, or even is visibly upset in front of me, I would most likely feel so overwhelmed that I would not react at all. I may not know how to react even if I am not overwhelmed.
Sharing emotions with others is s highly social event. I process most social situations on an intellectual scale. Meaning, I don't do it intuitively like NTs do. So, when it comes to processing a shared emotion I tend to shut down. It doesn't tend to come out the same way. My brain often can't process it, and puts it back for later. Later, is often an inconvenient time that is completely unrelated.
Say, I am around someone, or an environment with high emotion, especially negative emotion during the day.I can usually get through that time pretty unemotional. It's only when I am laying in bed that night, or alone later (sometimes even a day or two later) that the extreme emotions catch up with me, and I am overcome by them.. It's not unusual for me to lay in bed completely overcome by sadness, or anxiety after being around that emotion via someone else. I can't hardly sleep when this happens. My brain can't switch these feelings off, and I am left with all this residual emotion.
Processing emotions is primarily a solitary activity for me. I don't like to share this with others, and I don't want to. The feelings are way too overwhelming, and confusing to do so. I have just now gained the ability to feel, and name my emotions with any degree of accuracy. I'm in my 30's. Think of how hard it is too sift through other people's emotions coming at me if my own are unfamiliar. The sorting process is overwhelming in, and of itself. I often find that my mood has shifted for no discernible reason. This is me, just keeping track of me, much less others.
Not responding does not equate not caring. We can't always read facial expressions, or body language cues, but we can feel just the same as others, and deeply care about the well being of others, even if we don't always know how to show it, or feel to overwhelmed to show it. Please don't mistake us for being cold, or uncaring when we don't react the way you do. On the same token, I dislike being thought of as some magical being that has super powers. I'm just human, even if process things differently than most.