Aspies sometimes have problems getting ahead in life. We may be intelligent and creative, but because we don’t really play well with others and are easily stressed and overwhelmed by social situations on the job and most of us aren’t good at schmoozing with higher-ups and playing the political games that are required to move up in an organization, many of us overlooked for promotions or just treated badly, as if we are mentally deficient. Many Aspies are underemployed, especially those of us who have an exceedingly low self image due to having been badly damaged by our psychopaths. If we were cursed with psychopathic parents, we were never given the tools other children were blessed with to succeed in life. Someone with Aspergers entering the workforce without life skills and survival tools is severely handicapped. It seems like some sort of cosmic joke that Aspies and malignant narcissists seem to be thrown together so often. It happens often enough that there has to be something more there than sheer coincidence, but I’ll save that thought for another time.
I read a study recently (I will find the link later) that found that people who are quiet and don’t talk very much are seen as less intelligent than gregarious, outgoing people. Many people with Aspergers are painfully shy and don’t make small talk easily. When forced to socialize, our attempts can be awkward and sound stilted or just weird. Unfortunately that probably makes us seem kind of slow. Socializing and engaging in small talk are extremely draining for someone with Aspergers, because it’s hard work. It just doesn’t come naturally.
In a way Aspies are like narcissists in that we have to “rehearse” how to act. The difference is a matter of conscience and emotion. The narcissist has no problem assessing a social situation and the appropriate way to behave, but for them it’s all cognitive. They are chameleons. When it comes to empathy and emotion, however, they are at a total loss. Since they can’t feel anything, they have to first decide which emotion is appropriate and then “act” like they feel that emotion. Aspies have the opposite problem. We can feel empathy and compassion, but have trouble expressing it. We are not good at putting on masks. We might seem cold and aloof but we are not. That’s why so many of us prefer solitude, where we don’t have to be “on” all the time.
Currently I work part time in a company where we are sent out in teams (or sometimes alone) to clean houses. It is a low level, grueling job, but I chose this over other service jobs because it seemed to require less social interaction than most of the others. I could just go to a house, clean it, and leave. I wouldn’t have to deal with customers in my face all day, or with office politics. It’s a good set up if I’m working alone (which I prefer) but most of the time I’m sent as part of a two person “team.” My regular partner is great, and respects my odd personality and knows I do a good job. I still get to work independently and she never has to check up on me.
Today I had the worst day an Aspie can have. My regular partner was off, and I was assigned a “special” (first time cleaning) that requires a lot more than a regular spiffing up. These specials can take all day. I don’t mind the extra work (and they do pay quite a bit more), but I was partnered with someone I knew I was going to have a problem with. She’s a very loud, extremely outgoing, rather aggressive personality and she is only 19 so she isn’t very mature either. Just being in her presence was triggering and causing mental overload. She just kept talking, and talking, and talking. I really didn’t know what to say, so I made polite noises and felt very triggered and overwhelmed. My stress levels were reaching dangerous levels–when I become sufficiently stressed, not only do I get pounding headaches, but sometimes my natural passivity and agreeableness breaks down and I snap and say something I regret. I wanted to jump out of the car and run away. By the time we got to our assignment, I was almost ready to quit my job. It didn’t help that I hadn’t been able to smoke in her car, and was having a major nicotine fit.
When we got inside the house, I started with the master bathroom, attempting to stay out of her way while she did the dusting. I let my mind wander to other things as I cleaned, such as what I might blog about tonight, and what I could cook for dinner. But my partner kept coming in and asking questions, or worse, telling me I was doing my job wrong. She is not my boss, but I’ve noticed some of these young girls act like they know everything even when they don’t, and try to tell people what to do when they have no business doing so.
Like most Aspies, I dislike confrontations, so I let this pass the first few times. But by the 3rd or 4th time, I had enough and snarkily told her I knew how to do my job and she wasn’t my boss. She didn’t seem to like that, and whined that she was “just trying to help.” That made me wonder if she is a narc.
She kept talking and talking and talking. I wasn’t even listening to what she was saying. I had a pounding migraine and I felt like a raw nerve. The car ride back to the office was painful. She seemed like someone with ADHD, with all the fast talking and jarring topic changes in mid-sentence. But even worse was that she was constantly checking her phone WHILE SHE WAS DRIVING. She kept asking if her driving scared me. When I told her no (which was a lie), she started talking about how she likes to deliberately scare this other girl when she drives because she acts so afraid. Yep, I think this girl is definitely a narc.
I was so stressed and keyed up on the ride home that all the muscles in my face and back of my neck hurt and I thought I was going to throw up. For an Aspie, having to deal with a person like that all day feels like a day on the battlefield. It’s very debilitating.