Helpful Hint: Pay heed to what your mind, body, soul and spirit are telling you. They know best what you need to keep you healthy and therefore happy. If they are telling you to binge sleep, for example, give in you will see and reap the benefits. Too often we ignore what our four aspects are telling us, thereby becoming exhausted, sick or both.
So, allow me (too) monoblogue:
First of all I would like to thank all of our blog viewers, visitors, and followers during my and Christina’s slips and misses in our blogging. Christina and I view this as our responsibility to possibly assist others. When we miss our commitment to this diablogue, it deeply disappoints both of us.
I would also like to thank Christina for understanding picking up the slack while I was down. I am fortunate to have a wife, friend, and partner like her. I believe that she is one in a trillion.
She is unconditionally supportive, curious, and smart. She should not underestimate herself or how essential she is to this diablogue. Christina arguably has and is performing at least half if not more of the research into autism. Christina is also responsible for at least half again, if not more, of the ideas, insights, information and work-arounds we discuss and implement. I do not believe that I could successfully or happily do life or the diablogue without her.
It was Christina who had the idea to seek out a diagnosis, and thank God that she did. Also she is the editor of the blog, taking my disjointed and disorganized thoughts and words and cobbling them into something that is understandable to autistics and non-autistics alike. Trust me when I say that this is no easy task. If you do not believe me, just ask her.
Last post Christina said, “And so tonight, Sunday, as Ken binge sleeps on, I’ll post this and he’ll read it when he awakes sometime Monday. I hope he approves of my ramblings!” Ramblings? Hardly. I believe Christina is incapable of rambling. She always has something of value to add. I too learned from her monoblogue.
For example, from her previous post, I learned about the natural pruning process in the non-autistic brain as opposed to the lack of pruning processes in the autistic brain. Please refer back to the images and descriptions in the previous post.
Also, I learned about how the autistic brain had received the same social stimulation as the non-autistic brain, but unlike the orderly firing of the latter, it “lit up like a Christmas tree.” Also, I read her comment about how some researchers dub autistic brains as “chatterbox brains” and “noisy brains.” As a refresher, please refer back to the images and descriptions in the previous post.
It has been stated that multi-tasking is extremely challenging, if not impossible, for autistics to perform. I think I now better understand why and how based on the information presented in Christina’s monoblogue.
I now theorize that quite the opposite is true—in fact we hyper-multi-task, leading to overload. The chatterbox brains and/or noisy brain description is quite apt. I now think because of the more abundant synapses at each spine and the extra wiring— not all of which is connected like the non-autistic brain—in fact contribute to what I call a hyper-multi-tasking brain. However, because of the lack of synapse pruning we have shortfalls in the filtering and executive functioning processes of the non-autistic brain.
I think our brains literally try to process everything simultaneously, leading to what I call hyper multi-tasking runaway. That now explains the pain, confusion, debilitation, and exhaustion that I feel. After prolong exposure of pain, confusion, debilitation, and exhaustion I will become overwhelmed and overloaded thus eventually and inevitably this will induce the inescapable unavoidable binge sleeps that Christina mentioned.
Christina, see what you have done for me here? You have provided information that I previously was unaware of. Christina, you are an indispensible partner. I know I do not tell you nearly enough. You are the essential other half of my whole. Thank you.
Christina you can speak for me anytime. I only hope that I am equal to the task when you are unable to diablogue with me.
That being said, back to what we both want and like and what I believe we do the best, and that is our diablogue. Next time we will both write, as usual.
~Ken (Binge slept like a baby, thank you and love you Christina)
Helpful hint: Be careful what you assume about autism. Science and psychology know very little, really, and surprises are likely in store in the coming months and years.
So, allow me to monoblogue:
Yes, this is a departure from our usual diablogue. Early Sunday, Ken asked me to write this blog post myself as he binge sleeps. He can do nothing else at this moment. He has been sleeping on and off, in between required hours of work, eating, and essential family business, since returning from our profoundly affecting university organized and Elder-led indigenous sacred sites excursion. We’ve also recently experienced a rapid-fire series of life events, mostly positive but a few hard ones as well. He urged me, as he tucked himself into bed at 3 pm (likely for the night and for most of Monday as well) to explain his occassional absolute need to sleep however I saw fit. He asked this of me both to help others better understand the toll that busy “ordinary” life cognition takes on Aspies and to avoid missing another post—we missed last week due to the aforementioned trek.
So, today the page is mine. I will try to do well with it. However, rest assured that such monoblogues will appear only occasionally. We work best, in this blog, as a team. I think we have something unique to offer as we genuinely ponder, question, and laugh together about living as a mixed brain couple.
So, why does Ken have an urgent and recurring (about once every 2-3 months) need to binge sleep? One big reason is that he has a far, far noisier or busier brain than most of us, and when it over-fires during intense social experiences or for extended periods during rapid change and happenstance—either or good or bad—he MUST, that is MUST shut his brain off to recuperate, cope, and survive. He has done this all his life, but after his late diagnosis a few years ago, he finally understood more about why.
Let me paraphrase some of the latest autism science to explain this—though I will undoubtedly oversimplify things. Autism has been called one of the most complex conditions studied today; most agree that there is no single factor, such as a gene or environmental event, that determines it. Also, about 60 percent of autistics have significant cognitive disabilities, leaving 40 percent with average or above abilities. Nobody knows why some brains move in one direction and some in the other. Still, across all variants, there seem to be similarities in the kinds and locations of brain differences. This is why Ken can relate to, and often explain, infant and child autism responses and reactions; it’s because he experiences many of the same things—to different degrees.
Research shows that autistic brains are structurally, electrically, and chemically different from non-autistic brains. For example, the individual hemispheres are larger, thicker, and contain more folds, yet the corpus callosum, the tissue that connects the hemispheres, is smaller (or even absent in severe autism), thus reducing cross-hemisphere communication. Temple Grandin has described “grand trunk rail lines” of thinking activity travelling longitudinally back and forth along these “grand trunk rail lines” of the individual hemispheres of her brain rather than across to each hemisphere via the corpus callous using each of the two hemispheres simutaneously. This helps account for her, Ken’s, and other autistics’ astoundingly intense focus. When on task and “in the zone” they are undistracted by social phenomena such as wondering what’s for dinner, considering the appropriate response to a colleague’s email, or attending to what’s happening nearby. Ken calls it tunnel vision, but it seems to affect all his senses. This focus and clarity of mind is one of the key gifts that the high-functioning autistic brain offers the world—hence all those people posthumously diagnosed: Einstein, Shakespeare, and innumerable art, math, and technology geniuses who drove, and still drive, the world forward.
Science also suggests that autistic brains grow faster in early childhood but that the normal pruning (removal) of unused cells in areas that control cognitive and emotional processing does not occur. This means that there are literally more physical connections, more synapses, in an autistic brain. Way more. Look at this image from Columbia University Medical Center:
The image above on the right shows a brain cell from a non-autistic brain that has undergone normal pruning during childhood and adolescence. The image on the left is from an autistic brain; it has more abundant synapses at each spine, the result of less natural pruning.
And look at this image:
The “neurotypical” brain on the left has lit up in response to a complex but ordinary social situation such as interpreting multiple, rapid-fire verbal and body language interactions at a meeting or encountering a highly emotional and seemingly irrational adult. Specialised wiring in the (left) non-autistic brain efficiently sorts things out, leaving plenty of brain capacity to deal with the situation. In contrast, the autistic brain on the right has received the same social stimulation, but it lights up like a Christmas tree—there is much more wiring and not all of it is connected like the non-autistic brain. With all circuits firing in intense or unexpected social situations, it’s no wonder that Ken describes the feelings as painful, confusing, debilitating, and exhausting.
All these and other structural, electrical, and chemical brain differences prompt researchers to dub autistic brains as “chatterbox brains” and “noisy brains,” brains that takes in all available stimuli and have trouble filtering, sorting, and responding in socially appropriate ways. This helps us understand autistic peoples’ challenges with overstimulation from social situations, lights, sounds, voices, smells, and touch. In autistic kids, overstimulation episodes are often called “meltdowns”; they can manifest as screaming sessions, physical outbursts, or even self-harm. Ken also has meltdowns, but because of his particular autistic makeup and what he calls his age, stage, and experience in coping, they look a lot different.
For example, when over-stimulated suddenly or for too long, Ken can go quiet; make a quick exit to a less stimulating place; get a migraine; become unusually intense, verbose, or incoherent in his speech and hold eye contact for too long; forget people’s names; become unable to process simple input or instructions; slow down at green lights and go through red lights; or physically stumble. And finally, if the overstimulation is serious enough, Ken will seek out a bed and fall into a deep “shut down” sleep that can last for days with only the briefest of wakeful moments to drink and use the faculties. If I attempt to rouse him from such a sleep he will act as if in a stupor, and I can understand why. His brain must cool down. He needs shut down time to process all the stimulation and for some of it to bleed off in various ways.
Often, fascinatingly, he will eventually wake from a binge sleep episode having “dreamt solutions” to complex problems. And he’ll be refreshed and invigorated, ready to go at life again. But if the demands of work or personal life interrupt a critically needed binge sleep, his compulsion to rest will be prolonged and he will simply nap or nod off at every opportunity for days, weeks, or longer, getting his binge in pieces, but getting it nonetheless. Ken needs to binge sleep about every couple of months, depending on what’s going on in our lives.
When Ken and I encountered the foregoing and other brain images and explanations, we theorized that the extra synapses and “grand trunk processing railways” also contribute to some very positive attributes of high functioning (and savant) autism. Ken makes lightening fast and often unconventional connections when solving problems. He is a master problem solver and an innovative and divergent thinker—sometimes stunningly so. He’s also amazingly witty and funny, almost always having something smart, delightful, or insightful to say in response to, well, anything! We figure that his billions of extra synapses—those little arms reaching out and connecting diverse parts of his brain in net-like ways—are at least partly behind these gifts that solve real problems and make people laugh. If you’re curious to read more about this positive take on autism, I suggest you scan this thought-provoking article on how autism indeed remains in the pool of human diversity because it serves an evolutionary purpose, aiding mankind’s advancement: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mom-am-i-disabled/201703/why-does-autism-still-exist
However, the rest of us are stuck with our ordinary, neatly pruned, but not nearly as creative or Google-like-quick thinking abilities! But we don’t melt down as often or in the same ways; we can handle all sorts of tricky social situations with little trouble—including, when necessary, ‘letting things go’; and if we binge sleep, it’s probably for other reasons.
And so tonight, Sunday, as Ken binge sleeps on, I’ll post this and he’ll read it when he awakes sometime Monday. I hope he approves of my ramblings! Maybe we’ll get him to respond to—and in some way extend or spring from—this post in his own monoblogue in the next post. Perhaps he’ll add some useful data or correct something I might have assumed about him or conjectured about autism. Then it’ll be back to diabloguing the way we usually do.
Helpful hint: Be generous of heart to those who unknowingly torment you. They know not what they do. Keep working to forgive and educate. Education and connection are the death of ignorance and torment.
So, let’s diablogue:
Christina: This is a touchy topic.
Ken: That is correct. And perhaps somewhat controversial.
Ken: Controversial in that the majority of the torment of Aspies is unconscious and thereby unintentional.
Christina: You mean that people don’t like to hear that they are doing it… or they won’t really believe it?
Ken: People keep unwritten scorecards on each other. When I start a friendship, or a job, things are equal. Then I start to question things. Or ask for things I need. They start to judge me and see me as annoying, threatening to their position or authority, intense, overbearing, or just plain odd—but not in a good way. I will start to lose points on their scorecard and become lesser in their eyes.
Christina: They stop picking you for the team.
Ken: Fall out of favour. Consider me last when they have tickets to give away. Start subconsciously avoiding me and stop asking for my opinion or advice. Exclude me from the loop. Sabotage my efforts. Try to discredit me. Pass me over for promotions.
Christina: This happens lots then.
Ken: These kinds of reactions and behaviours have happened multiple times in multiple different scenarios for as long as I can recall.
Christina: Slow, steady, disconnection from people.
Ken: In these instances I redouble my efforts and try harder to regain points and return to their favour.
Christina: Does it work?
Ken: Often it has the reverse effect. In trying to even the scorecard, I overcompensate.
Christina: They think you are showing off or climbing the ladder or one-upping them— or something else that’s not true.
Ken: Correct. Thereby, instead of gaining back the points, I lose even more.
Christina: And over time…
Ken: I lose friends, colleagues will interact with me less, and I lose employment.
Ken: In my view, because of who I am, I have to work twice as hard to get half as far ahead. And the end result is that I work twice as hard and fall twice as far behind.
Christina: I can’t even follow that! But it sounds destructive.
Ken: It becomes immoral and unethical.
Christina: You mean others’ behaviours towards you?
Christina: But they don’t know they’re doing it, usually. I think it goes back to the natural tribal response of disassociating with others who are not like us in some way. In your case it’s very subtle. Social differences, multiple small social infractions—some even too small to notice. They pile up and cause a natural human aversion response.
Ken: Eloquently put. I could not have said it any better. In most instances, it is never overt, mean-spirited, or hateful. Your word subtle captures it perfectly. I would only add two words to that, which are “unconscious and unintentional”—very few people directly target me. It just happens.
Christina: So my question to you is, is it really unethical and immoral if it’s unconscious?
Ken: Yes. Because the outcome is the same. The truth is that ethics and morals have been breached. I’m talking about fairness, equality, and inclusion of all.
Christina: No matter what the cognitive diversity—or any diversity.
Christina: Do you ever just tell people what’s actually going on—as you see it?
Ken: Yes, when I become overwhelmed and it has become the straw that has broken the camel’s back.
Christina: How does it go over?
Ken: Often not well. Most believe themselves to be, and genuinely are, quite ethical and moral. So, when I inform them that they are behaving in a less than ethical or moral manner, it shocks them. First they don’t believe it, then they become hurt, then they deny it, and then they become defensive.
Christina: And finally…
Ken: This is when the truly unethical and immoral treatment surfaces. They ostracise me or strike out in some of the ways I previously mentioned.
Christina: That’s the torture in our headline.
Ken: Or rather, torment. Torture is a bit strong.
Christina: Although when I see the effects—your anxiety and depression and self-flagellation, I would say it’s not too strong.
Christina: Low self-esteem is chronic in Aspies.
Ken: Correct. However, this phenomenon is just one of many causes.
Christina: Ok. I really think we need to lighten up for next blog!
Ken: Perhaps we should talk about my odd and broad sense of humour.
Christina: Bad jokes, puns, and incessant wordplay included? Sounds funny!
Next post #19 ~“Aspies’ Odd and Broad Sense of Humour”