Planning a night out!

Tomorrow night will probably be the first time I’ve socialised since my diagnosis about ten weeks ago. I say probably because I don’t actually know if I’ll make it yet.

About four times a year a small group of mums in the village meet at someone’s house for an evening of shared food, wine and gossip. Everyone takes some homemade food along, makes the effort to put on make up and to wear fancy shoes, which always get discarded at the door anyway. Its a relaxed affair, and everyone eats far more pudding than they mean to.

I manage about one in four of these occasions, crying off with made up excuses or genuine headaches. The anxiety is usually more than I can handle. And even if I don’t drink I am likely to have a stress-induced hangover for 24-48 hours afterwards. But this time they are onto me. They now know I’m autistic.

They’ve kindly reassured me that there will only be six of us, most of whom I’ve known and liked for over ten years. They’ve told me, “just come if you like, there’s no pressure at all.” And, love them, they mean it.

But, beyond the basics of what to wear and what food to take, here are just some of the things I will need to plan for in advance:

What time will I leave my house, what route will I walk, how fast will I walk, what exact time will I arrive, who might already be there, what face should I make when someone answers the door, what are the best replies to make to Hello! How are You? Alright? (Or any other of the myriad of opening lines people make), where precisely should I head for when I arrive, who might be in that space already, where should I put my contribution, what should I say, should I accept a drink (I have a very low alcohol tolerance), should I have a mini speech ready or will there already be a conversation in progress, hmm… do I actually have any mini speeches, how should I start them, end them, say them without boring people or confusing them…?

Each of these questions will require me to visualise the situation or run through the words multiple times with several variations so that I will have less to spontaneously react to on the night. Because once the evening is in progress I will have enough processing to do in terms of: where will I sit, what will I eat, when will I go to the loo (it’s astonishing how difficult it is to work out when it’s the right time to get up and leave the room, I don’t know how school kids manage this at all!), and, most problematically, when is it an acceptable time to leave?

Because all the autistic folks reading this will know that however much you might be enjoying the occasion, trying to follow the threads of conversation is a bit like playing chase for a few hours across a busy motorway. It’s knackering and highly stressful. And the sooner you can get home to spend a few hours lying in bed awake to process all the information you took in but didn’t have time to deal with, much like a manual defrag on a PC, the better.

But I do honestly want to go. I’ve known these women since our eldest children were toddlers. We’ve seen each other through crises and new babies. We’ve camped together, babysat for each other’s kids, met extended families and drunk many gallons of coffee over the last twelve or so years. They helped us move house eight years ago this week when I was teetering on the edge of a major breakdown.

So, I need to find a way to do this. To quell the anxiety that even though they say they want me to go that they might rather I didn’t. To decide to not worry if I stumble over my words, knock over the wine, offend someone, eat too much (eating is my stim process), fall over or bore everyone. Does anyone have any tips?

I also want to apologise to those of you who are still waiting on some actual detox and food posts! Trying to figure out what autism means to me is taking up all of my thought processing at the moment. Writing some of it down is my personal detox. As soon as I can I’ll get back to it, but I think autism is going to be this blog’s theme for a bit longer.

Love to all of you!

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7 thoughts on “Planning a night out!

  1. This is so real. I’m afraid I’m probably going to come up a little short on advice. But I think it’s important to remember that these people ARE your friends – they know you’re autistic, and they seem accepting. I think they WANT to see you. Would it be possible for you to go just for a little while, say, 1-2 hours (if that doesn’t make it too much of a palaver of effort for only a short excursion)? Maybe even let them know in advance (text/Facebook message one of them?) to say that this is what you’ll do? Set out the length of time you’ll be there for, what time you’ll leave and so on? Explain that you’re a little nervous (I know that’s an understatement) as this will be the first time you’ve seen them since your diagnosis.

    Do any of them read your blog posts? I know I’ve only recently started blogging, but beyond my (anonymous) Twitter account I’ve started to share my blog with a select few close friends – people I’ve known for years who’ve seen me ‘through thick and thin’. I’m not diagnosed yet, but I’m trying to ‘prime’ certain people to be understanding when I am.

    Probably the above isn’t that much help, but it’s all I can think of for now! I probably won’t have to face a situation like this for a while (and I’m also more of an autistic extrovert – social anxiety *in advance* of social situations isn’t something I suffer with as much as some. I agonise about the logistics and practicalities, yes, but not so much about the interaction. My problems are more with being oblivious to people’s responses to my talk during conversations, getting angry at being interrupted, over sharing of my personal information etc. My real, horrible anxiety tends to come afterwards in the dissection/post-social event-analysis 😖).

    Whatever you decide to do, the best of luck with it x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hiya lovely lady! You are right, setting the time in advance is a good plan. Just one of them do read this blog, and she messaged me to say she has to leave at 10 so I’ve told her I’ll use her as my cue to leave too – one worry down!

      I’ve got a question about your autistic-extrovert status! Are you aware of the issues you outlined while they are happening or just at the dissection stage?

      I do tend to keep fairly quiet apart from making occasional inane comments that I think are relevant and funny. But people don’t tend to crack up laughing and praise my obvious quick wit so, um…. 😕

      I’ll keep you posted – thank you so much for your reply! Xx

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m more aware than I used to be – mainly because of cues from hubby and other people close to me. But I am a complete and utter motormouth – I struggle to remain a silent observer. I’ve learnt – for the most part – not to just butt into conversations too often, but I have something to say, I get incredibly frustrated if I don’t get to say it in full. My pet hate is being interrupted and then the conversation moving on before I’ve had the chance to finish what I had planned in my head to say.

        I’m better at managing it through practice – working towards a teaching qualification helped. Lots of observations (both of other people, and them of me). And teaching itself.

        For years I was puzzled because a lot of the descriptions of introverts vaguely resonated (being exhausted after extensive periods of social interaction, crossing to the other side of streets to avoid making small talk, sensory overload etc), but it didn’t quite ‘fit’. I assumed I was some kind of ‘atypical introvert’ who was pretending to be an extrovert…but no. Autism explained it perfectly. I am sociable – just not neurotypically so. It’s got me into a fair few scrapes! 😳

        Glad my suggestion was useful. 😊 I hope you have a lovely time tonight xx

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Hey Flo. You can do it! Everyone needs time with friends and they sound like a really supportive bunch of women.

    Of course, you can always fall back on the Bach Flower Remedies – White Chestnut, for what Dr Bach called the gramma phone remedy, to quell those constant thoughts that don’t go away – and if it’s totally panic at the thought of going – everyone’s fallback – Rescue Remedy! 🙂

    Naomi xx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I suspect a lot of non-autistic people share many of those concerns as well , albeit to a different degree ( I know I do anyway). Hope you make your necessary preparations and have a lovely time. Does it help to arrange to go along with someone you at least know someone will be arriving at same time?

    Like

    • Hi Vicky! I was going to ask in the post if allistic (non-autistic) have similar issues and to what extent. I always thought that everyone had exactly the same experience but it seems that, while anxiety and social anxiety is common, some of the specific issues with filtering and processing the information we need may be less so.

      Oddly, I do like to turn up alone because I need to arrive at the exact time I decided previously! Other people’s timetables are never quite the same 😉 Huge thanks for your reply xx

      Liked by 2 people

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