And then the bandages came off…

Last week I was in a training session on Zoom — more precisely, a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion healing session. It was a small group, so as we went around and introduced ourselves, we were asked to share something that had brought us joy in the last week.

When my turn came, I had to be honest and say that nothing had brought me joy in the last week; that the dark tunnel kept getting longer and the light farther away. I was able to mention something that had given me a little lift —a blog I found here called Mickey’s Journey. Mickey’s parent posts pictures of his latest accomplishments and they are very touching. I see joy in those pictures that I have lost.

I have been struggling to come up with a metaphor for how I have been processing the autism diagnosis I received eighteen months ago (at age 57). The first few months were a honeymoon period of relief — but since then, a new reality has been sinking in.,

I just remembered a scene from M*A*S*H that seems to sum it up. Colonel Potter is telling one of his many WW1 stories. After being wounded in an explosion, he spends a month in a French hospital with bandages over his eyes. He is tended by a nurse called Colette and is very comforted by the sound of her voice and the touch of her hand. (For context, Potter, BJ, Hawkeye, Frank and Radar are stranded overnight in a broken-down bus and are passing the time sharing tales of “When love conquered all.”) Then the day comes for the bandages to be removed. And there she is. Colette. And obviously nowhere near as attractive as Potter had expected, because he jokes, “I pretended I was still blind!” He then goes on to say that love did indeed conquer all, but he “couldn’t have done it without the bandages.”

Nurse Colette represents my life — and all the things I have done. All the things I have cared about. All the things that have given me comfort. But now that the bandages are off, it does not look so good. There was a time — not so long ago — I had no regrets. Now I regret almost everything — all the way back to my first choice on my university application at age 17. I have made poor choices for friends, hobbies, education and jobs. I have allowed myself to be influenced by people who did not have my best interests at heart. I have allowed myself to be comforted by watching TV and drinking wine. I have filled dozens of notebooks with writing that no one will ever read.

Life is pretty decent right now. I have a good job that I can do from home. And I live in a nice neighborhood. But I have had a lot of disappointments and sadness along the way. And I have embarrassed myself so frequently without realizing it at the time. I can not think of a single event that does not make me cringe to think about. And on top of all that, despite having been using the internet since the early 1990s, I have become very fearful of being online, something that is almost impossible to avoid now. At least three times a week I am terrorized by fears that one of my accounts/devices has been hacked. Every surprise behavior of my iPhone prompts several hours of research to reassure myself it is either expected behavior or an annoying iOS bug. Unfortunately, my job is in IT, so my newsfeeds are always full of reports of the latest zero-day vulnerabilities and zero-click malware attacks on one platform or another. I am in a permanent state of fear.

I am not one for video games because my hand-eye coordination is lousy and my reactions are too slow. But sometimes I have had puzzle apps on my phone or iPad where I just try to top my best score. Most apps allow you to abandon a game without seeing it through to the end. Once I realize a game has gone off the rails and that I am not going to beat my best score, I tend to abandon the game rather than waste any more time with it. If my life were one of these games, I would probably abandon it and start over.

But I suppose I could put those bandages back on 🤕

5 thoughts on “And then the bandages came off…

  1. I’m sorry you feel like this. I don’t understand exactly how your autism diagnosis got you to this point. Why do you now regret things that you were OK with at the time? It sounds like you made your decisions based on the information you had at the time, which is the right thing to have done, even if you would now handle them differently.

    I don’t see the TV and wine comfort as problematic unless you were indulging to excess. Nor do I see the problem with writing for yourself. What upsets you about them?

    The internet fear sounds like it could be a form of OCD where the obsession is the fear your account has been hacked prompting a checking compulsion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good point. It’s possible the autism diagnosis isn’t what’s driving this. It’s just that I’ve always been able to view my life through a “happy” lens — acknowledging the times that weren’t so good, but finding plenty to be happy about also. I think this is the first time in my life I am experiencing genuine sadness — and so am viewing my life through a different lens. I cannot pinpoint the source of the sadness. Perhaps I’m just soaking up the sadness of the world around me.

      I do have OCD tendencies — but generally just for things where the consequences of not doing things correctly are serious, e.g. leaving heaters on when going out, leaving doors unlocked — and securing internet accounts and devices certainly falls into that. But I don’t have more subjective OCD tendencies. For example, after cleaning the cat’s litter box I am sure to wash my hands before doing anything else. But I don’t feel compelled to wash my hands after cuddling my cat, even if I am about to eat.

      Thank you very much for responding. I appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think there’s a lot of sadness out there at the moment.

        OCD doesn’t have to be for hygiene or on trivial things. It’s measured by how anxious a thought (e.g. of internet accounts not being safe) makes you and how much you want to relieve the anxiety by doing something else (e.g. compulsive checking).

        Liked by 1 person

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