He can feel overwhelmed in large crowds, and even with four people he is uncomfortable, preferring no more than two others. I was wrong to say that is “almost an advantage” of a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, but I think I was on to something: the diagnosis can help him recognise the difficulty, and accept it, where without a diagnosis a sense of inadequacy and self-hatred might make him deny it and try to fight it, and only get more flummoxed by it. And the diagnosis can help others accept it too. I would rather someone simply accepted it, realising that it is within ordinary patterns of human diversity, noticed it and allowed for it, but if he explains it to someone and that permits them to accept it, that is something I suppose. Not everyone will say, “Oh, go on! Don’t be silly! You’ll love it when you’re there!”
Introverts unite! We’re here, we’re uncomfortable and we want to go home…
This is part of a healthy teenage, to recognise such limitations and enforce boundaries to self-protect around them. If your boundaries are accepted they need not be overly rigid or protected with anger, and you can push them a bit, try things out, and be helped if you find it too much. If you recognise your gifts, and they are accepted, you can use them to help you flourish as a gift to the community. I have not quite finished my teenage yet.
Then again, we wanted to go to the cathedral. Initially we just parked any old place, and found a caff, and planned what to do next. “You’re going home tomorrow,” I said, “so I think you should get to decide what you want most to do”. I am not sure he had thought of it. He suggested the cathedral. The guide book had said this was dull, but we assented. Getting there was difficult.
Because of physical difficulties he could not use the Metro. He could not descend stairs, and anxiety stopped him using escalators. We might have difficulty with buses. I noticed there was car parking about half a mile from the cathedral, and suggested we park up and walk there. They had lunch in a restaurant, I sat outside with an apple, biscuits and Nutella, in the square by the Military Museum because I had spent too much on lunch previously. There was a busker, some trees and statues, lovely architecture, and a bus station.
Then we set off towards the Cathedral. It was not easy. The tiny cobbles on roads and pavements are uneven to walk on, pavements are narrow and roads are steep. Then again much of Portugal has steep hills, and many cathedrals are surrounded by narrow streets on mediaeval street plans. I find it picturesque. Half way, he needed to go to the toilet and spent ages in a caff.
I sympathise with the graffiti artist, and my photographing it like a pleased tourist is a similar gesture back.
And one of us pointed out the orange trees. I am glad to be somewhere so foreign: the architecture, the way of covering facades with ceramic tiles, and the oranges:
After, we waited by the cathedral while one of us went for the car. We could not all have walked back.
“They do not consider disabled people”, he said self-righteously. I wanted to say, no, you’re not thinking of others, of “disabled people”, you’re thinking of yourself. I was irritated by his inability, and by the restrictions it placed on us, irrationally feeling he could try harder. I wanted us to do things he could enjoy, and felt with these difficulties he should not have come to such a hilly place and spent some time planning what he could actually do when he got away. My acceptance is limited by how much I am inconvenienced.
He made a loud, wordless noise. “Just processing emotion,” he said, and I thought, how wonderful, to be able to do that and recognise it. I need to process emotion: I said several times how horrible I found Fatima, not because I thought he did not understand but in order to process my emotion. It is not just Aspergers.
He ate something that disagreed with him, and was sick in the car. At one point we were stationary in the fast lane of the motorway, fortunately in a traffic jam, as he was sick on the central reservation. And I noticed how he caught it in his lap, rather than the well of the seat, thinking this very considerate of him. Self-sacrificing, even. Generous. I can forgive a lot of non-standard behaviour for that.
I write of different people on different days.