It was a beautiful, warm and sunny Spring day that the Adults with Asperger’s meet fell upon hence Abington Park was slightly astir as all British parks are when we are graced with warmer temperatures.
Surprisingly, in spite of the apprehension and anxiety that plagued me throughout the days leading up to the big day, during the car journey I seem to remember a lot of laughter and joking!
At the time taking my momma to accompany me was slightly embarrassing. 26 Years old and needing mommy? Not how I wanted to make my first impression. However her presence was not only very much appreciated but, as it happened, crucial.
Walking up the path to the café, I spotted what I correctly assumed were the group leaders. It took less than a second for it to happen… I had lost my humour, my nerve.
‘My legs. I can’t feel my legs. Are my feet still normal? Am I walking? Yes, of course I’m walking don’t be so silly! My feet are fine. I mean they could be more attractive but they’re working fine… My tongue is too big for my mouth, does your tongue get bigger as you grow more anxious? Mom you do the talking… look I’m at the café already. I better keep an eye on my feet though, I’m likely to trip now that I can’t feel my legs…’
I was gone. Anxiety’s prisoner.
My mother held my arm lightly for just long enough to steady me as we got to the group. The only words I could muster were to ask her to talk for me until I was ready. Although not thrilled to have to talk for me again, my mom obliged. Thank something holy for mothers!
The leader, for my blog let’s call her Gina, took my name and started to explain today’s itinerary. I couldn’t focus.
‘Am I standing weird? Cross your arms. No! Don’t cross your arms, don’t you remember reading that body language sheet?? Crossed arms look stand offish, hard to approach. Is that such a bad thing? I don’t want to be easy to approach yet I don’t know if I want to talk to anyone. Shut up of course you want people to talk to you that’s why you’re here! Arms to your side. I feel so tense, why are my hands shaped like claws?? Oh gosh I’m standing like a velociraptor… the ones from Jurassic Park. I wonder if anyone here likes dinosaurs? Lucy, don’t just stand here looking at your hands you weirdo, just relax your muscles. What do normal people do with their arms when standing still?’
We were instructed to go take a seat in the café, I let my mom take the lead. Many years before that moment she had been finding me places to sit that fit my quirk for adequate seating, she could do it this time too.
‘I am pretty sure my airway is closing up, yep I am going to not be able to breathe in 3 seconds’
I was introduced to another newcomer.
‘I can’t breathe. I need to leave’.
A 22 year old named Chloe. Standing with her arms crossed tightly to her chest.
‘Lucy. You’re thinking. So you’re breathing’.
Accompanied by her Auntie, she too was trying to find a place to sit. As I sat in the booth, it was her Auntie who asked if they could join. I realised then it was solely me at the table, my mother had gone to get us a milkshake.
‘Well done. Breathe in, breathe out’.
‘Of course’ I told her. She motioned for Chloe to sit first, placing her niece opposite me. I was expecting a awkward silence to follow, however the Aunt proved to be incredibly talkative and inquisitive. Some may be put off, personally I felt it took the pressure off of me to come up with a subject to talk about. I just had to answer questions, which I could do very well. As we got to what could have been the 15th question, it was clear Chloe and myself had some things in common. Including having been diagnosed late… and not having yet finished education or had a job. By the time my mom took her seat at the booth, a weight had lifted off my shoulders.