Saturday, 6 July 2013

Death and Emotions

I have had trouble coming up with ideas of what to write about so I have posted nothing in a while.  During that time our eighteen year old cat died, an old friend who moved away several years ago died, and then a week ago, the horse I leased died.

In my head, I know what I want to write about but I struggle to translate it to written or verbal language.
Many people believe that autistics either have no emotion or have inappropriate emotion based on some of us having flat affect or in the case of inappropriate emotion, we may actually have been thinking about something else that is still in our mind rather than what is currently happening, kind of like a time lag.

Death can be harder for some autistics because it means change.  The person or pet is no longer around and never will be again and other people who knew the dead person/pet may act differently.

 I had many pets die when I was young so I knew and understood death from about four years old.  Each time I was always extremely upset and was especially devastated when my first dog died.  It takes time but I always get over each little animal death through lots of tears and time.

The first person to die who I had spent a lot of time with in my younger years was my grandmother.  At the time, I had been going through so many changes in my life - recently moving out and getting married were the two big ones.  My depression and anxiety were already bad so my grandmother dying almost put me over the edge.  I seemed to cry continually and then, even though I was in my twenties and didn’t live at home anymore, I got in trouble for crying at a celebration of her life about a month after she died.  I couldn’t be happy when I knew I would never see her again. 

It seems that it was okay that I cried over my pets but not a person and it seemed that there was a time limit on how long I could cry.  Over the years, with each family member who died, I got better at not crying.  I guess this was partly because I just wasn’t as close to those family members.

Another problem is that I get a feeling inside of me when people I know or hear about in the news die but I don’t know what that feeling is and I don’t know how to deal with it.

I know when my pet dies, I am definitely sad but when people die, whatever I feel seems to depend on the person.  It is very confusing.  When some people, like family, have died I get puzzled because I don’t seem to feel upset like I should based on what I have observed in other people.  With other people who die, I get appropriately sad.  I’m not sure why there is a difference.  One would think I would be sadder with family than friends and pets but that isn’t the case.

An old family friend, who moved away several years ago, died recently.  I felt very sad and cried for a few days after, as opposed to not crying at all when my mother died.  She was my mother so I knew her my whole life but somehow, it was different.  I do miss her and know she would have been very involved in all of Micah’s activities.

Our friend and his family lived around the corner from us on our old street.   He and his wife were part of a church team that helped people with issues in their lives so I was there regularly.  They were also friends of ours.  Many of my issues related back to my undiagnosed (at the time) asperger’s but there were still other things that they helped me with.

I believe part of the reason I felt so sad when my friend died is that I never felt judged by him.  I felt more comfortable in the presence of him and his wife than I usually do around other people.  There was such peace at their house.  I never felt that way anywhere else.

A week ago, the horse I was leasing had to be put down unexpectedly.  He colicked badly and the vet had to euthanize him so he wouldn’t suffer.  He was a great friend and partner.  We competed twice together in the Sea-To-Sea para-dressage video competitions, coming in first and second.  He loved practicing for the tests. 

Ben was also a very smart horse.  He knew the look of my water bottle and would take me for drinks without me asking when we took a break.  He lined up perfectly, even performing a quarter turn on the forehand if needed to line up on the wall. 

He was sneaky at times and used his water break trick as a way to try and get out of work.  It was funny that he figured out that he just had to take me for water instead of just refusing to work but it was still not allowed!

Another trick that Ben learned was to stretch his neck up and flip his lip if I told him “Do mint” and touched his upper lip.  Of course, he received his mint for doing it! He was a very kind and gentle horse and I will miss him very much.

Some people think that we autistics have no emotional attachment to others.  This is not so.  We may just show it in different ways and may also not know how to interpret our feelings.  It does not mean they don't exist.