It’s widely known that people with Aspergers can become extremely exhausted after social interactions. Coupled with being a natural introvert, this doubles the exhaustion. Extroverts gain energy from spending time with other people. They actively seek out social situations in order to feel good. It works the opposite for introverts and Aspies. Social interactions drain us physically, mentally and emotionally. Most neurotypical people I have spoken to have a hard time understanding this concept and how it works so I devised the Phone battery Analogy to help explain it. 

It’s pretty simple really. Extroverts and Neurotypical people are like the old Nokia phones. You know, the ones that you could use to call, text and play Snake on? The battery would last about a week without needing to be recharged.

Me, I’m a smartphone. I don’t mean that in the sense that I’m superior to everyone else, not at all. We all know the battery life of a smartphone is shit. You have to recharge it at least once a day. If you’re lucky, your battery will last until it’s time to go to bed and put it on charge ready for the next day. Every app that is running in the background drains the battery a bit more.

For me, and people with Aspergers, every social interaction is like opening a new app and leaving it running. It constantly eats away a little bit at your remaining battery life.

Think about how many social interactions you have on a normal day. You might see a neighbour on your way out to work in the morning and make small talk. You might take delivery of a parcel from the postman. You have to go to the shop to buy lunch, or get petrol on your way to work. If you have kids you have to drop them off at school or nursery and be around a multitude of other parents, children and teachers. Then you get to work and reply to emails, take/make phone calls, interact with colleagues. You have lunch together. You have meetings. Then you go home and spend the evening with your family, or go out with friends, or spend 2 hours on the phone to your mum.

Add all those interactions together and that a hell of a lot of apps open and draining your battery. Interactions that require more input and contribution from you, public speaking, being the centre of attention, leading a meeting, being in a large group setting as opposed to you taking more of a backseat or gentler 1-1 situations, these are like the apps that use a lot of data, which makes the battery run down even more.

To overcome this, how we ‘recharge’ our ‘battery’ is by having time on our own. This can be hard if you have a busy day with lots of commitments and expectations on you. If you want to eat lunch alone you may be seen as anti social. If you work in an open plan office and put headphones in to listen to music so you don’t have to interact in office gossip, that’s also seen as antisocial. Sometimes you have to wait until you get home and everything is done before you can have that alone time. By that point you are pretty much wiped out.

That’s when I go into what’s called ‘hibernation mode’. I have to shut the rest of the world out, turn the lights off, ignore my phone and just lay in bed in the dark having a rest. If I don’t get adequate alone time, or time to hibernate, it has a huge impact on my ability to function. Imagine trying to check Facebook, emails and Whatsapp your friends on 1% battery and your charger is broken? You can barely see the screen because Power Saving Mode has kicked in and reduced the brightness to a minimum. You can’t instagram your dinner because the you haven’t got enough battery to open the camera app. The phone literally can’t perform that function due to low battery. This also applies to me – when I go below  certain battery point, I can’t perform certain functions.

All those things that your phone does to conserve battery is what my body does to conserve mine. It starts getting rid of things that are non-essential, like being able to form a coherent sentence, cope with incessant talking or the filter you need to apply to stop yourself from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. When I’m in Power Saving Mode, I’m very tired, irritable and sometimes a bit of a bitch. I have no patience or time for bullshit. I have no consideration for the needs of other people around me. It’s a race against time to get myself ‘plugged back in’.

The Aspie Mermaid x

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