I’m never able to get Jacques Tati’s 1967 film Playtime completely out of my head. There are phases where, for a few months, it’s on constant mental rotation…and then there are quieter times. And then the cycle repeats.
“All the world’s a stage.”- let’s use that. For the sake of convenience (and the fun kind of negligent over-simplification), let’s call human reality The Stage.
It’s odd that we change. Years pass, memories of different selves accrue. I think the mind can have a difficult time reconciling those different selves with their varied, contradictory shapes.
I remember having a much stronger sensory awareness when I was a kid. My nose would haunt me, for example. I would smell something unpleasant, and a sense of unease would settle over me for days. I’d grow moody about it, troubled. Sometimes, for reasons I didn’t understand at the time, I would lash out at others well after the triggering scent.
The Sensory Connection
The goal of this ongoing series is to examine the interplay between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and depression. As mentioned in Part 2, it can be difficult to untangle one from the other since depression can hide behind autistic traits. But there’s another factor involved with ASD that can also allow depression to persist unchecked: sensory issues.
To cover the role of sensory issues in this dynamic, I’ll make 3 points.
After graduating college in 1998, I decided to pull a disappearing act. My social deficits had not improved over time…I was alone, confused. I didn’t understand how to move forward in my life, so I withdrew. I established new routines that allowed me to both avoid people and more easily manage my sensory issues. For the next decade, I worked a graveyard shift, slept during the day, and had very little contact with the rest of the world.
I experienced significant social delays when I was growing up due to a variety of issues with non-verbal communication. I had a tough time understanding the structure of conversation; I couldn’t quite grasp all of the codes and unwritten rules that accompany an interaction. As a result, I wasn’t able to successfully begin making friendships until high school. (It’s worth noting that Asperger’s Syndrome did not yet exist as a diagnosis when I was growing up; the delays could have been shortened with a diagnosis and proper guidance.)
It was only when I finally made those friendships that I began to understand some of the reasons my social life had been difficult. Having a peer group meant that, for the first time, I was able to compare shared experiences. And in that sharing (which involved hanging out, talking, exchanging thoughts) it became apparent that my mind was processing information in a different way.
What I learned from that insight: I was not only struggling with social pragmatics (the structure and unwritten rules of conversation). Creating friendships was also difficult as a result of perceptual differences. Differences I had never noticed until I began to converse more openly with others.
I can think of one example that hopefully helps clarify what I mean.