A short while before I started on this autism journey, I always considered myself as just run of the mill depressed. Nothing special and nothing too bad to justify a book or album deal where I explore the depths of my depression and the book has a title like: “Ma, Dad sold me for a pack of cigarettes and some chewing gum and possibly a blow job”. And not even depressed enough to justify the God awful poetry I would write.
One incident sticks out in my mind that sort of straddles both my continual depression and this supposed autism. I use the word “supposed” because I bounce between acceptance and denial about all of this. Anyway, a fun part of the depression I had was that I would also suffer from anxiety. Social anxiety for sure, which links into elements of Asperger’s Syndrome. But a generalized anxiety about everything and anything. Though it is interesting to think that maybe anxiety is a very Twenty First Century condition. We are always connected to each other. We are never more than a text, tweet, call or the plethora of other means of communication away from losing friends, jobs and our minds. The constant availability of the news and the repetitive nature of the news cycle means that every day is the same and the news we get is all doom and gloom, has made people anxious. Anyway, I digress.
I had gone to Asda, the big Asda not the local Asda but the Big Asda, with my wife and child. We had done all of our shopping using one of those scan and go things. I am sure they are doing someone out of a job, but they are kind of fun. It also makes paying and going away much quicker and you don’t have to speak to anyone. We scanned all of our things and we processed the payment. I took the receipt and placed it into one of the bags. I didn’t pay any attention to which bag as who does?
We wheeled the trolley around to the main entrance and exit when my wife realized that she had forgotten to get something. She took the child and went off to the cake aisle to get a cake. I pushed the trolley through the electronic security gates. I never pay attention to these as I have never need to. I might say a friendly “hi” or “bye” to the security fella if I catch his eye – not that I am actively trying to catch his eye, why would I? We aren’t going to date and over a lovely Italian dinner he regales me with tales of shoplifters and people setting off the machines. It would be nice and afterwards I would spend a day or two thinking about texting him but not wanting to seem too keen, after all, he is a security guard and has his pick of shoppers and shoplifters. Anyway, I push the trolley through the gate and the siren goes off. It is a loud, splitting beep. I feel like everyone stops and stares at me. The security guard approaches. I stand stock still. A rabbit in the headlights. A deer in the crosshairs. I start to panic and desperately and route through the bags to find the receipt. I can’t remember seeing it and I do not know where it is. The security man is trying to reassure me but all I can feel is this desperate need to find the slip of paper and to prove that we purchased the steaks. I can feel the sweat start to accumulate, I hate the feeling being covered in sweat. Just the idea of being sweaty when I have not been playing sport or working hard makes my skin crawl. And I am now sweating.
My wife has returned by this point and is trying to calm me. It is not working. Much in the same way that King Cnut didn’t hold back the tide. I am now in full on panic mode. My breathing is quick and I am almost tearing through the bags to find this damn receipt. I fully believe that everyone in the whole supermarket are now staring at me. They know I have messed up and they are talking in hushed tones about me. I am blaming my wife, the bags, the shop, everything. Because I bagged this on my own how was I supposed to know where I put something. Because I was the only one bagged the items. I am being totally irrational but I justify it in my head.
We eventually find the receipt and my hands shake all the way home. I feel my breathing calm as my wife goes through grounding techniques.
It is a story worth telling for several reasons. Firstly, I think it shows that I can be overwhelmed by emotions that I may not understand and a certain element of this is definitely linked to an overall social unease. Another is that I found it, particularly in this instance, found it impossible to do what a “normal” person would do. They would calmly look through the bags and say that it was probably the steaks, and they will get to it in a moment. They may even move the trolley out of the way and out of sight. None of this I did. This makes me wonder, was it the anxiety or was it this autism. Was it a combination of both?