Daily Archives: November 22, 2006

Change, rapid and otherwise


I’ve just noticed that I had a bad migraine, gone all over the house looking for pain meds (that should tell you something about how bad it is, I almost never use pain meds), and not found any. The going all over the house alerted an automated system where someone checks in and sees what’s going on. This is done in a fairly non-intrusive way, and I can hear when they’re listening and when they’re not based on assorted beeping. And so I told them what was going on, and they helped me figure out how to borrow ibuprofen from a neighbor.

Just a few years ago, I was in so much pain that I spent most of my time curled up on a couch, and did not think to ask for pain meds until I’d spent so many months that way that I had to retrain myself to sit up for any length of time. And I didn’t even think to ask for pain meds then — someone else, through fairly careful observation, was the one who figured out I should do so. I didn’t recognize what I was experiencing as pain, and even when I noticed, I didn’t realize I should tell anyone.

I worry when I make these sort of posts that they’ll be read in an overly maudlin way, or through an overly individualistic sort of lens, and that’s certainly not how I intend them.

Someone told me recently in chat that she’s surprised at how fast I must have had to change in the past few years, given all the things I’ve learned and crammed into that time period. I can remember sometimes during that time, experiencing things where someone would treat me as if I was a certain way, that I’d been the month before, maybe, but that was now not there at all. And not really knowing how to react to this. Someone told me at the time that most people aren’t prepared to keep up with that rate of change in someone else, but that people do change that fast sometimes.

I told the first person (last night?) though, that I’m not sure whether seemingly rapid change happens all that rapidly, or whether it’s a bunch of little things in the background over time that add up to something that looks very sudden. A bunch of little things in the background over time is certainly how I’d characterize the way a lot of things in my life go. They only get noticed when they combine in such a way as to jump into the foreground, often in a spectacular way. But the little components and stuff are all there, all busy lining up, all the time.

I don’t just live my life in this foreground-land that other people notice, either. The constantly shifting patterns of the world are always there.

The fact that I notice them is in some ways constantly visible, in the way I respond to my environment. Anyone who knew what they were looking at would be able to read the way I move in more detail than I even always care to think about. They would even know the tiny ways I can use slight modulations in my reactions to communicate with other people who know how to read that kind of thing. They would see, in short, what I see when I look at a lot of autistic people presumed unaware of their surroundings for reasons totally unknown to me.

But, the “foreground” stuff is much tinier than that, and it seems that that is what people pay attention to. A very tiny sliver of the amount of stuff that’s going on, and that’s what people base their entire ideas on. That’s how we can be presumed unaware, or aware, at the drop of a hat, based on some pretty arbitrary criteria.

But even so, I’m still amazed that I noticed I had a migraine, and then took all those steps in terms of doing things about it. Some of that is stuff I learned, some of it’s made possible by the environment I live in, some specifics are made possible by the electronic surveillance systems running in my house. But being able to do that sort of thing, even sometimes, does amaze me. But… if anyone turns this into some kind of disability-inspiration thing, just please spare me, that’s not what I’m talking about.

As I was writing this, I found out that another autistic person will not have any chance to experience life any more, in the way I’ve just described, or any other way. There’s been another murder. I’ve long since been no longer surprised. It’s just a matter of bracing myself for the inevitable over-sympathizing with his murderer. Again. And again. And again.