TOAA Reflections:Are Negative Emotions Necessary to Heal?

by Melissa K. Vassar-Belloso

TOAA Reflections

Are Negative Emotions Necessary to Heal?
By Melissa K. Vassar-Belloso

So I know I’ve been reflecting a lot lately. Part of that is adjusting to a new medication but part of it is really starting to have to deal with the emotional roller coaster of healing from some personal relationships I’ve had to come to terms with. You might think my fingers are falling off because I posted two surprise blogs today but I actually wrote the anniversary one a few weeks ago. Now it should be noted that despite my last few posts I love my mother very much. She’s a wonderful person who’s always been in my corner. I think having to deal with me changing somewhat with my autism becoming more apparent the last two or so years it’s been difficult for everyone around me to adjust.

Being that I am on the spectrum I can only partially interpret that situation so it gets extra confusing for me. But today I went out wit my mother a bit. We had a nice breakfast and I helped her at her office but on the way home I broke down a little. I always hate having conversations because I can’t always regulate my emotions well in them. Sometimes they’re too intense and sometimes they seemingly shut off when my mind can’t process anything more so I tend to avoid conversations most of the time. After I got into the house something very strange occurred to me though. I felt a little better. Even though we were yelling and crying I strangely felt a little better than I have been the last few weeks. I couldn’t really figure that out right away and it made me wonder. Is it possible that you have to have painful conversations sometimes to make progress in relationships?

Quite honestly, relationships baffle me. I sometimes wish they had a manual of some kind or people could give me some hints. Like, what do you want me to say or how do you need my face to look right now? It’s not that I can’t do those things. I can show emotions, albeit not always appropriately, and I want to learn how to interact with people. The problem is trying to communicate to people that I’m trying if that makes any sense. I think what I wanted to say to my mother was that it hurt because she felt the need to tiptoe around me in interactions. I want to learn social skills and if people just act naturally around me I can learn to read and understand them with time and practice. It’s not a matter of teaching me. I just need people to interact with me like I’m an actual human being to them.  The problem is trying to curb people from acting creeped out around me. I realize I’m not making faces or putting a tone to my voice and that’s not something I can help. Just understand that as mean as I sound or look, I’m not a bitch. I’m really not. I just can’t emote and you do not want me forcing a smile. It’s way creepier than the blank face. Just trust me on this one.

I think the only thing I can determine is when I want a relationship with a person but I can’t go much farther than that. I don’t understand types of relationships or what I’m supposed to do to maintain them and a lot of times I don’t always feel a need to be around people. I think growing up my parents thought I was antisocial and that wasn’t the case. I’m just super content by myself and I want people when I want them. There’s a very distinct line between me time and social time. But I think what scares me the most is that a lot of the time I just can’t communicate to people in a way that’s clear. I do have empathy but it’s inconsistent and I don’t really know what to do with it. If you can imagine, I kind of handle emotions like a normal person handles a hot potato but internally in my mind. It’s there and I have it but it never goes anywhere beyond tossing it around in my mind.

But it puzzles me a lot that expressing things in a negative fashion can lead to a positive feeling. I don’t understand people crying at weddings because crying registers as negative to me and I don’t understand people who are remembering a deceased person fondly  at a funeral because I associate smiling and laughing to a happy event. Emotions are very confusing would be the bottom line I guess. But maybe the discovery here is that walking on eggshells around anyone is counterproductive. It confuses me as a person on the spectrum and it means the people doing it around me have to internalize. I don’t think either thing is healthy.

I think if we have problems with people and the relationships matter to us we need to talk to the person, because even if that conversation is awkward it’s a start and maybe it’s a step toward healing. I’m not sure how correct that is and I know most things I say won’t make sense to a lot of people because they come from a broken perspective on social practices but I think that we all need to stop sneaking through the relationships in our lives on our tiptoes. Stand firm and talk to people. You can always make changes and work at it. You can always learn better ways to understand each other. But if we don’t even give the other person a chance  and the basic respect every human being deserves, then you can’t even get started and you might lose a person that’s important to you. If a person on the spectrum can understand that with limited social prowess then I think it might be something we can all wrap our minds around if we try.

I still think talking about emotional things is pretty scary but maybe if I try to look at them as a possible stepping stone instead of a roadblock and you can give me a little wiggle room and understand I’m more than what you can’t see on my face or hear in my voice, we can try to communicate better.


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