Research published online on May 19, 2017 examines the notion that Aspies and others on the spectrum camouflage their autistic personalities in order to manage social situations.
The study entitled, “Putting on My Best Normal”: Social Camouflaging in Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions* looks at a number of issues ranging from:
why females in particular are often diagnosed later in life,
if the fact that so few females are diagnosed is due to the feminine personality being more successful at camouflaging, and
that perhaps camouflaging can be detrimental to our mental health.
Before I read the study, I wrote this blog in an explosive mood after experiencing severe anxieties about taking a bath. I didn’t post it because I was afraid of what my partner would think if he read it.
After what I read in the study, I realized that by not showing him the blog I was camouflaging, masking my anxiety–though honestly, not very well.
Why did I take a bath? Because it’s such a normal thing to do, and I felt that I must be weird to be so resistant to sitting in a tub.
What follows in the resulting blog are my true feelings about the situation. Looking at it now that a little time has passed, I realize that while some of the blog sounds reasonable, logical and fairly intelligent, other aspects simply seem to be the rantings of an angry child.
Here it is then, one Asperger personality, my own, unmasked and unleashed!
The Bath: A Source of Anxiety for Asperger Me.
As an Aspie, maintaining a relationship can be a challenge.
My partner thinks of baths as sensual, delightful, peaceful and meditative experiences. Candles, essential oils, music, time for reflection.
There is no music in my bathroom, I told him.
To break the ensuing period of uncomfortable silence, I spoke up. I said Baths are boring. Which, granted, was probably rather inconsiderate. That’s when he brought up the essential oils, candlelight, reflection etc.
You have to sit there. I said. Doing nothing.
People who take baths seem to think that to truly enjoy bathing you have to sit in the water … like forever. I am not tall, but my chest is always out of the water. It gets cold. I soak a cloth in the warm bath water, but it quickly gets cold too.
I could catch a chest cold. Not to mention the other alternative: die of boredom.
You haven’t learned how to let go, he says. How to be one with the water, breathe in the aroma of the oil, enjoy the sensual texture of the water against your skin.
It’s tap water, okay? Tap water.
You want me to be at one with the water? Take me to a warm ocean, where the air is fresh and salty, the water buoyant and in constant motion. My body, floating, swaying with the sea, caught up in the ebb and flow, me at one with the sea responding to the universe. Now that rocks! Moving in tune with the moon’s gravitational pull … that’s a sensual, soul-saturating sense of unity.
But a four-foot tub filled with tap water? Come on!
You have to learn to relax, he says. He means be STILL. Unfortunately to actually be still is a physical impossibility for me.
I have a familial tremor, which means my body is in constant motion whether I am consciously moving it or not. It also means my adrenalin is always, to some extent in fight or flight mode, under which circumstances, unless I’m sleeping or comatose, it is pretty much anxiety-producing to be still.
But okay. I had a bath. I believe I stayed in that tub for ten whole minutes. Maybe eleven.
Because I know it’s important to him. I just don’t know why it’s important to him that I have a bath. I shower every day. Sometimes twice a day. I’m a bit of a clean freak. But it’s important to him that I try, so I’ll fill the tub, light the candles and sit there as long as I can bear it.
Next time? If he brings in a portable CD player and puts on some Celtic music, I’m going for twelve minutes.
*More about this study can be found at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5509825/