Eyeballs eyeballs eyeballs


It’s been a long time since someone’s really been insistent with the eye contact while I’m squirming and trying to get away. I noticed today exactly how much I react to that.

So I’m sitting there in a doctor’s office, and he’s leaning towards me and sticking his face up to mine.

And I’m sitting there trying to think in a way that, were it in words, would go something like this:

Okay… he’s got to…. EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS he’s got to be unaware… EYEBALLS!!!! …he’s… uh… eyeballs… uh… EYEBALLS!!!!!!!!! people like him think this is EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS …some people think… EYEBALLS!! …some people think this is friendly… EYEBALLS!!!! EYEBALLS!!!! EYEBALLS!!!! he really doesn’t mean anything EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS he doesn’t mean anything EYEBALLS EYEBALLS he eyeballs doesn’t eyeballs mean eyeballs anything eyeballs bad EYEBALLS EYEBALLS he doesn’t understand why I’m turning EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS why I’m not coming up EYEBALLS why I’m not coming up with words EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS oh crap hand going banging head EYEBALLS EYEBALLS oh crap not right thing to do EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS stop hand now EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS is he saying something? EYEBALLS EYEBALLS am I trying to type something? EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS oh crap better remember EYEBALLS EYEBALLS remember EYEBALLS what I’m trying EYEBALLS what’s he saying? [shading eyes as if staring at sun] EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS am I saying something? EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS what’s going on?  EYEBALLS THREAT BAD EYEBALLS THREAT BAD EYEBALLS THREAT BAD EYEBALLS THREAT BAD EYEBALLS THREAT BAD… segmentation fault

Etc. Until I finally reached some point of shutdown. And where every EYEBALLS is not just the picture of eyeballs but of something very threatening about to eat me or something. I unfortunately in all that couldn’t figure out how to tell him that it was his eyeballs that were unnerving me, and I’m not sure I did a very good job of convincing him that I’m not that freaked out all the time. It wasn’t just eyeballs either, it was leaning at me with eyeballs. I tried briefly to remember that people like him consider eyeballs to be friendliness, but it got drowned out in the swamp of eyeballs, and all thinking got drowned out in the end in a sea of fight/flight.

Note to anyone who interacts with me: Eyeballs do not help, unless by “help” you mean “extinguish everything but eyeballs and fear”.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods, which tell me who I am and where I belong in the world. I relate to objects as if they are alive, but as things with identities and properties all of their own, not as something human-like. Culturally I'm from a California Okie background. Crochet or otherwise create constantly, write poetry and paint when I can. Proud member of the developmental disability self-advocacy movement. I care a lot more about being a human being than I care about what categories I fit into.

22 responses »

  1. Do you think it would help, in general, if people wore mirrored sunglasses when they interacted with you? I know it might sound facile, but Richard Davidson, the researcher who spoke at the MIND and who knows Dr. Gernsbacher and her son, said that there were some teachers who found that if they wore mirrored sunglasses when teaching autistic kids that the kids did better.

    I’m doubt that that’s the total answer to eyeball overload, but I’ll take his word for it that it at least was an improvement in that classroom with those kids and those teachers who tried the glasses.

  2. Charlie has always looked out of the corners of his eyes at things—I feel very much now that he is definitely looking but is not at ease looking directly at something. Like EYEBALLS.

  3. I don’t even know his name, and I doubt I’m going to see him again. It was one of those “random doctor assigned to talk to you a few weeks before a procedure but you’ll never actually see him during the procedure” things.

  4. This is my autism, perhaps. There are some instances when someone has locked on my eyes and they are talking that I it pains me to keep looking. I find myself struggling, my eyes are killing me and I want to squeeze them tight, or shift my gaze. But this person has locked on and I feel I may look rude if I decide to gaze out the window. This just happened to me on my trip to Israel and it has happened to me before.

    I find parties and galas, even restaurants much easier — talk is brief and it is more permissable to shift your gaze to the goings on around me. So I consider, in a way, I can understand the pain of EYEBALLS.

  5. I thought that a more polite way to react to someone staring at our eyes than looking away would be to close your eyes? That way you can look as if you are concentrating hard on what the speaker is saying.

    Jeremy Brett used to do that on TV when he was playing Sherlock Holmes and it alway looked OK.

  6. If someone is trying to make eye contact with me I wouldn’t notice most times because I am not focusing on there eyes, anyway it is hard for people to try it on cos of my glasses. another thing you can do is roll your eyes wildly, that puts people off make em dizzy trying to follow it. Etiquette schmetiquette I don’t care at all about putting people off :)

  7. Pingback: Ballastexistenz » Blog Archive » Eyeballs, redux.

  8. I have been forced to learn a lot of eyecontact becuase of teaching (hard to tell if they understand, when I couldn’t look in their faces… well, sometimes it’s hard to tell anyway…) but I always have an easier time looking at eyes of the second row or further back. Somehow the first row’s eyes are so much more intimidating…

  9. Pingback: First hand understanding « If it ain’t broke…

  10. oh yeahhhhhh i so relate! EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS…….. i hate hate eyballs, photos of eyeballs, glass eyeballs on taxidermy and dolls. it’s a shape that’s threatening and overwhelming, but i don’t know why… i perseverate on the idea, the word, the squishy reality of eyeballs. ick. i like to look at people’s shoes instead. even empty eye sockets in skulls freak me out.
    sorry my smartass eyeball hat link has moved, for a new picture go to http://www.raventones.com/photos.html & scroll down just a bit. I often carry a set of cardboard eyballs with me as a shield when i do leave my land. I whip them up in front of my real eyes. People either get embarrased and go away or they laugh and then we can dialog about it.
    its ok to say NO to EYEBALLS.

  11. I am generally NT. However, as a young child (maybe 3 or 4) I remember one particular night getting totally freaked out by a big toy riding horse that we could sit on and rock and bounce. My night-light was on, and I could see the light glinting off of those big plastic eyeballs. The horse was watching me, staring at me!

    I’d hide under the covers and look again, and it’s STILL watching me and it won’t stop! I basically flipped out, got out of bed, and ran off crying to mommy to tell her about evil horse in my room. After that the toy horse had a pillowcase over its head when I went to bed.

    Also when I was older I hated doorknobs, and doors that swing inwards towards me so that I can see both doorknobs and the bolt. The knobs look like huge alien bug-eyes, with the bolt as the mouth. And of course the light reflects off the knobs in a way that seems to “watch” me wherever I go in the room. Nearly all the time my bedroom door had a t-shirt hanging over both knobs so I wouldn’t see those alien EYEBALLS EYEBALLS EYEBALLS staring at me.

    At some point around 14 or so, I went out and bought new door handles for my bedroom. with deep brown doorknobs, so they wouldn’t be so reflective and would stop staring at me.

    I hate huge photos of people in magazines where there’s a face staring out from the page. Most of the time I’ll put my hand over the picture, or fold the page over so I don’t have that face constantly staring me down. Yes, of course it is inaminate and just a picture, but still it unnerves me.

    In general I have a very hard time looking people in the eye when I talk to them, and most of the time I cannot figure out what is meant by “look me in the eye” because last I recall most people have TWO eyes. Which one am I supposed to be looking at??

    I think staring at the bridge of the nose between the eyes is a better place to look, since then you seem to be looking in the right spot even if you aren’t really staring into [one of] their eyes.

  12. I discovered a couple of months ago that the recommendation had been made from my speech therapist to my instructors to make sure that I was looking at them during lecture. I was appalled at how lacking in understanding she was, considering that I had specifically said during evaluation, repeatedly, that when I look at people’s faces (even mouths are too much very often for me), that I cannot process spoken language, let alone produce it. And the memories from elementary school of staff who would physically move my head to try to force eye contact…and then they would yell at me when I started screaming and pushed them away and hit myself! I don’t care how uninformed about autism or whatnot they are, there is no excuse for school staff to forcibly move a child when that child is not hurting themselves or anybody else. It was all too frequent, though, and I had mostly very nice teachers during elementary school – mostly it has been staff who are not teachers who did these things. Still, I am so thankful everyday that it did not become atrociously bad, as is all too common. The worst physical stuff was from my peers; the worst things were when the adult staff condoned attacks.

    I remember when I was very young that I terryibly afraid of the doorknob. Then he was a friend (I think it had something to do with Disney movies…)

  13. I like Amanda Baggs. Amanda, if this is your blog, I wanted to tell you that you’re lucky for being more autistic, but then again any autism is good. I’m autistic. HFA
    I am for neurodiversity and positive autism awareness. I am for all functionings of autism where some activists/advocates aren’t. I love my people: my second family: people on the autism spectrum.
    Please E-mail me if you want to.
    I also have a petition.

  14. Pingback: How (not) to ask me questions. - Ballastexistenz

  15. I can relate to the whole eye contact thing. Normally I am pretty good with it and can do it. But when I am with new people or people-of-atthority I stare at the ground.

    Though I do try to keep eye contact durning professional occassions like interviews

  16. Pingback: Autism Blog - Neurodiversity on show | Left Brain/Right Brain

  17. I have spent time with people who asked me to look them in the eyes, i don’t think its normal, its normal to look at someones eye ocasionally when you want to see how they are taking what your saying or what they feel about what they’re saying. I reckon that you don’t really look at their eyeball, it must be changes around the eye which make the eye expressive. I find trying to look people in the eye because they ask me to uncomfortable.
    It is not necessary to stare others in the eye all the time it is rude to do so, it is usually a act of defiance a sort of eye wrestling but some stupid psychiatrist has, i suppose, decided that it is natural to look people in the eye fixedly.
    I saw a psychiartrist on the television explaining the importance of eye contact, first he explained it and then he demonstrated it, suddenly becoming immobile and staring at the camera. He looked really odd and tense while he stared at the camera and when he had finish and dropped it, relaxed and looked normal as he had done before he started staring fixedly at the camera. It was ridiculouse and funny. Humans are odd they suddenly take up ideas and become convinced of their rightness, however abnormal they are.
    It is difficult when psychiatrists do this, theirs is such a ample feild with many poeple adding to it year after year and few people who have enough of a grasp of it to criticise them. People just believe them, don’t apply their knowledge or normal criteria to what they say, consciouse that they don’t understand enough to judge the themes psychiartrists bring up. I listen when i can bare to i find them disturbing and then wait for events to back up what they say or to prove them wrong, and then i can comment, but this is a long process.
    Psychiatry is so new, humanity has not had time to really discover when they are abusive and when usufull or when just silly as they are over eye contact.
    I suppose a good straight look when you greet somone is indicative of strength and necessary to try and calculate what sort of games the person who is talking to you is likely to play, though really their expressions have not allowed me to understand them, only knowing their ideas has done that.
    Sometimes looking people in the eye is a pleasure such as when snogging or making love when the other is looking at you lovingly, but otherwise it is only necessary as a way of checking on the others humor every so often.
    ANother thing i have found on the same subject is that i thought i should always look kindly at others or brighten up peoples day with the expression in my eyes. I have been working on my ideas or had them worked on by forcefull people, and found that this is inadequate as an idea. If you meet someone who is trying to dominate you, for example, it might be more adequate to look back defiantly or with certain firmness, you need life experience to know that a smile wont melt them or make them happy they like domination. Of course you can’t always get it right so just be willing to try trail and error.
    I was a painter who painted models and rooms and i found, as someone said on this blog that you don’t normally look at two eyes at once that eyes normally focus on smallish patches of whats in front of you or jump around the scene to peice together the scene. I read about this last in an art history book that talked of studeies done on aeroplane pilots which had shown that their eyes darted round any scene put in front of them picking up informacion, blue above, must be sky, is there earth underneath, type of thing, it is the brain that puts it all together and makes you imagine you have seen the whole scene as a peice. This means that people usually chose a smaller feild of vision than two eyes, one eye, when they are looking at a person. It is my experience that i look at one eye, rose macaskie madrid.

  18. Pingback: Eye Contact – or the lack thereof: Don’t push it | Walkin' on the edge

  19. I hardly drop responses, but i did some searching and wound
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    And I do have a couple of questions for you if you tend not
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  20. I’m amazed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s
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