At any given time, I cannot tell how I’m feeling emotionally. Sometimes physical sensations can be understood and named in the moment, but actual emotions are slippery and defy categorization.
Even once I’ve managed to grab hold and examine the emotion sometime in the future, it remains largely a mystery to me.
“How are you?” elicits mild panic, which I can clearly see once I’ve gained the distance of time and reflection.
How am I really? “Fine” is safe and scripted and almost never the truth, which creates unexplainable dissonance within. Most other people don’t want to hear more than that anyhow, I’ve heard.
“Pretty good” and “All right” feel less false for some reason. Maybe because they deviate from the script and are slightly more personalized so I don’t feel quite as much like I’m acting and playing a part, even though I am.
“Tired” is one I like to use although I know that’s never what Husband means when he asks me. He wants to know about emotional states and whether I’m happy or sad or frustrated or something else maybe? I can’t usually delve any deeper than that until it’s been at least a day or two since I felt the feeling in question.
Even with time and distance, most emotions remain mysterious and hazy.
If someone else shares their pain with me, I feel it intensely. Sometimes I feel it when they don’t share it with me explicitly, but it helps when they name it for me. Otherwise it’s more difficult for me to understand.
Often a physical sensation will allow me to determine my emotional state; such as when I’m tired and eventually remember that there was a death in the family around the time when I became increasingly fatigued. A friend of mine has suggested a couple of times that perhaps this is a type of synesthesia where the emotions get cross-wired with the physical feelings creating a different way of experiencing them.
Not all Autistics have difficulty determining and naming their emotional state, but I do. The clinical name for this difficulty is Alexithymia and non-Autistics (allistics) can experience it as well.
This is one of my favorite posts about Alexithymia in general written from an Autistic perspective. There are helpful checklists and resources available there.
As for myself, I’m still in the process of working out what this means in my life. I have known about it for several years now, but it’s a difficult topic. I’ve struggled to really look much into it. Emotions weren’t valued in my family of origin so, to compound my natural difficulties, I wasn’t explicitly taught many helpful things about emotions either.
Being a birthworker for many years has helped me see the value in being aware of and working with one’s emotions. I’m pretty good at helping others with theirs after all those years of practice, but applying those things to myself in the moment is impossible.
The best I can do is to frequently reflect on my life, go through checklists, and keep applying new information as I learn more about how this affects me specifically, and that’s pretty good progress 🙂