An autism treatment and an epiphany

I read a thing recently that articulated a big reason why The Pedant and I fit well together, so I emailed him about it (NB: The Pedant believes he’s on the autism spectrum. I’m not sure if that’s true, but he does have issues figuring out his emotions and understanding other people’s):

So apparently there’s an experimental fix for autism (or at least for certain aspects of it). Something about poking certain parts of the brain with electromagnetic impulses. Apparently it’s been useful for clinical depression, too, which interests me. I also find it fascinating that this treatment made the guy able to “read” people IMMEDIATELY. I thought Aspies were lacking the ability to LEARN how to read people’s emotions, and therefore if you could take away the Asperger’s there would still be a learning curve. But no, with this guy is was like someone flipped a switch.

Here’s the article: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/03/18/an-experimental-autism-treatment-cost-me-my-marriage/?_r=0

But here’s the bit that really resonated with me (read the above link or don’t; that’s fine; mostly I’m writing to you for this quote):

“…And the hardest thing: it cost me a marriage. When I met my former wife (a decade before the [treatment]), she was seriously depressed. She’d accepted my autistic even keel, and I accepted her often quiet sadness. I never really felt her depression, so we complemented each other…”

“I’d lived with my wife’s chronic depression all those years because I did not share it. After the [autism treatment], I felt the full force of her sadness, and the weight of it dragged me under.”

Yeah. This illustrates precisely why your self-described lack of empathy totally, totally works for me. I don’t want a partner who feels my feelings right along with me. Those people get overwhelmed and leave. It seems like that won’t be an issue with you.

Anyway, I found it interesting to read what it’s like for someone who can’t sense other people’s “vibes” to suddenly be able to. I probably could’ve told him it’s not such a great thing. I’m a walking antenna, myself – I pick up EVERYONE else’s feelings, all the time – and most days it feels like way more of a liability than an asset.

Speaking of which, you too tend to be on an “even keel” like the guy in the article (not sure if common Aspie trait or coincidence…?). And that’s awesome ’cause it gives my antenna a rest.

The “even keel” thing had not precisely occurred to me before. I’ve noted in the past that I find The Pedant comforting because he’s not prone to mood swings or temper tantrums – my dad was, and to this day whenever anyone (but especially a man) yells, it rings alarm bells all through my body. So it’s nice to have a partner who never makes me fear violence. But now I realize that’s not the only reason I like his level personality. I also like it because I absorb everyone’s emotions like a sponge, and he has way fewer of them! Mostly around me he’s just neutral or content or aroused. There’s not a lot of anger or sadness or grouchiness ever.

I wrote that email in the wee hours of the morning. It’s evening now and The Pedant just replied:

Good evening,

I’ve read that article. As much as the author wanted to make it read as a rough ride which was worth it in the end, it seems to me like a nightmare to suddenly be vulnerable to everyone else’s emotions.

If that’s your default, then I can understand why you’re more comfortable with me around.

I replied:

It didn’t read to me as “worth it in the end” at all. I thought the author was going more for “huh. So THAT happened…”

Your presence is a warm fluffy blanket for my brain, yes.

Or a tinfoil hat. 🙂

I’m glad The Pedant seems to be finally getting that his empathy malfunction is a feature for me, not a bug. I mean, it would be a bug if he didn’t understand my feelings and therefore dismissed them, but so far he seems to take my stated feelings and mental states seriously, so it’s fine. Optimal, even.

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