I had an 'incident' at work today. I use that term in preference to 'meltdown'. But that's what it was. It's left me drained. The only way I can try to make sense of it is to write about it.
Some context. As I've said in other pieces, I was finally diagnosed with Asperger's three years ago, aged 56. It's really hard to put across the impact of that. You go through pretty much your whole life - from the age of 6 for me - feeling different. You don't know why you're different. But you are. You can't make friends. You can't make sense of your lessons at school. You can't work to the plan that's laid out for you - the plan that everyone else seems to understand. But you don't understand it. You try, but you fail. Constantly.
So you have to put up with what goes along with that. Bullying. Ridicule. Being called an idiot. Stupid. Incompetent. Incapable. Dull. Unfriendly. And on and on. And why should you expect anything less? You get things wrong all the time. You can't keep pace. You don't fit in. So maybe that's what you deserve.
There's something wrong with you.
So, you fail at school. You carry that with you into the world of work, where you still don't quite fit. You still feel you're getting laughed at, talked about. You still get things wrong. You still can't make friends. You still don't understand whatever it is that everyone else seems to understand. And the problem is - no one will tell you what it is. It's like a conspiracy going on around you.
You develop tactics to try to deal with this situation. You study others. You try to see what it is they're doing. You try doing it yourself. But somehow, it doesn't work. You get it wrong in some way. You over-compensate. Or you make a fool of yourself. You get your leg pulled all the time because you're an easy target for leg-pullers.
So you try something else. You become a people-pleaser. You agree with what the purple people are saying one day, to keep in with them. Then, the next day, you agree with what the green people are saying. Then the blue people. And so on. You have these conflicts going on in your head, because you think some of what the purple people are saying is wrong. But you don't want to upset them. Likewise, with the others. And then one day you end up not really knowing what you know. It's all confusing. There are all these different wiring arrangements and cross-patches and conflicting codes... and none of it makes any sense. And in trying so hard to please everyone, you end up displeasing the one person who really - in essence - matters. Yourself. You feel like a cipher. Or a puppet, with your strings pulled in all directions.
You go from job to job to job - never sticking around for too long because you invariably end up with too many people not liking you for one reason or another. Maybe you just don't seem friendly enough. Maybe you don't enjoy the gossip. Maybe you don't fit with any of the cliques. You never seem to progress with anything because you're not in anything long enough. And so you go on, through life, finding the whole thing a puzzle. You take refuge wherever you can. Often, in a room by yourself with your head buried in your special interest. Computer gaming. Reading. Writing. Collecting stamps or train numbers. Whatever. You might even turn to something that gives a bit of relief from the weirdness, and the anxiety it all causes. Drink. Drugs. Something like that. Something that makes you feel more like you can fit in. Or something that makes you not care less that you can't.
And so you wind up at a certain age - perhaps middle-age - and you look back at it all and wonder what it was all about. And you wonder if the rest of it is going to be any better. You have a bit more wisdom and insight now - you can pass yourself off out there with reasonable authenticity. But you're still different. And you still don't know why. But you have to go on. Because what else is there? You don't know if it can get better without trying it. But your past record doesn't give you much hope.
And then one day you find yourself in a situation where you are pretty certain that you are doing the right thing. At least, you're certain that you are doing the right thing in the context of the other people around you, even though - underneath it all - something tells you that it isn't the right thing after all. And then you suddenly find yourself completely wrong-footed by those other people around you. They don't think you're doing the right thing at all. So they then proceed to completely undermine you. They take away your authority. They bombard you with evidence of where you're going wrong. You get all the stuff you've had all your life suddenly thrown at you all at once.
And then the regulators in your head - the ones you've worked so hard to keep steady - suddenly hit overload. And you do the only thing you can to relieve the pressure. You punch the wall. And then it all resets itself.
Except, it doesn't. Because suddenly, in that split second, those other people have seen another side of you that doesn't make sense to them. And before you know it, they're backing off, running for help, reporting you... saying they don't want to work around you again.
So you come home - your head filled with static - and you sit down, and you think to yourself
How do I get them, finally, to understand? How do I get them to listen?
And you really haven't got a clue. Because you've tried everything you can, many times before.
And none of it has ever worked.
Whatever you do - you're wrong.