I like to give myself a time out when I’m overstimulated or overwhelmed. In my bedroom, with the lights off, lying in bed in the half-dark–that’s a time out. There’s nothing punishing about it. In fact, it’s my joy. It’s rest, and rest is everything to me.
My circuits get overloaded sometimes. Probably that could happen to anyone. But being crazy and having the autism, maybe I get this extra. Yes, it can have to do with senses. I get sensory overwhelm.
If get too much info from my senses, and I can’t take anything in anymore. I can’t handle too much light, sound, tactile stuff. Even smells can freak me out, when it’s too much. Clothes hurt me with tags and seams. But I have to keep wearing clothes. If people bump me, I can get to the point where I’m going to scream.
I remember when a friend came to visit, and it was our first time being together in person. He was driving Ming’s car as I rode in the passenger seat, and he bumped me a few times–his right arm bumped my left arm. He’s tall and long-limbed. I explained that intentional caring touch is great, but being bumped is hurtful to me. And I said I wanted to let him know before it got to be a big issue. I can’t talk well, once I get upset enough.
Funny how something can sound like a threat, when it’s really a warning for everyone’s benefit. “If you bump me one more time, I’m going to scream,” sounds like a threat, huh. But when I’ve said that to Ming, it was just an honest prediction to let him know.
He doesn’t even notice he’s bumping me, but I have a huge response inside. I don’t like being upset by being bumped, so I try not to react. But that means people don’t know I’m upset. It can be shocking–to them I’m suddenly freaked out, but it wasn’t sudden at all. It’s been building up, but they just didn’t know.
safe to tell the truth
I don’t wanna make other people dreadfully cautious about hurting me. But there’s an aspect where someone thinks I’m upset and having a huge reaction about something when it’s the first time, but it’s actually the twentieth time. To be a good friend to me with my particular needs, some people check in with how I’m doing, creating a safety with me where I’m allowed to tell the truth. It goes a long way with helping me do well.
Some friends automatically do this. In fact, my closest friends are all like that. It’s a form of access intimacy. They notice what’s going on without me having to light shit on fire. Thank you to the caring, sensitive people who meet me halfway.
If Ming and I have an argument, sometimes I need a time out. Not that I don’t want to talk more. He’s extremely important to me, and I love to communicate with him. But if I get angry past a certain point, I start making less sense. The conversation becomes unproductive, and I don’t want to be hurtful to him by calling him a bad name.
Also if I’m angry like that, I don’t want to get violent. I’ve yelled at Ming and even screamed, but I don’t want to ever hit him or be destructive toward property. There are a lot of difficulties in life, and I really don’t need to add domestic violence to the list.
So I take a time out before I get to that point. Thank Mother God I have my wits about me enough to remove myself from the situation for some time. I give my nervous system a break, and calm down enough to be the person I want to be.
Another way to think of it is energy. I build up too much, so I need to have a time out so the energy has a chance to dissipate. I process a little of the anger or overwhelm, to bring it inside of me and become ok with it. Then the energy is less.
With an amount of energy that’s more usual for me, I can think better and not freak out. I have a better chance of making sense. If I can reduce the pressure, the energy can be used, rather than like a water hose all flopping around every which way.
Many people enjoy vacation, as a time out. When I was a young person, I loved the time out aspect of smoking cigarettes. I liked to go outside and smoke to take a break, remove myself from whatever situation I was in for ten minutes, regroup, get a new perspective, pace my day.
Nowadays I can go outside for a stretch break or take a walk around the block, but meeting an addiction need is uniquely comforting. Addictions like smoking cigarettes could be conceptualized like this: causing yourself a problem you can solve over and over again. But of course the addiction creates bonus problems.
If I need time out, it’s not to punish, hurt, blame, or annoy anyone. I’m really doing my best. When I need a rest, it wouldn’t help anyone for me to override that.