I have long had this discomfort having conversations, especially about emotional topics. It feels like I’m playing out a script: I speak, you speak, I speak, and I can see the galleys of dialogue that we’ve been working our way through. As if the point of conversation is not to connect with another, but rather to work through this scripted dialogue successfully and without deviation.
Sometimes my mind drifts in the middle of a conversation. It’s accomplished what it wants to, and it wants to switch its emotional state to meet its new needs.
The song I’m listening to right now is “Ghost in the Machine” by Dawes, which is a different song than the one with the same title from The Police.
(I got distracted when I realized that that’s the name of an album by The Police, not a song; the corresponding song is “Spirits in the Material World”.)
My brain is not naturally linear. I have to force my brain to think that way if I want to communicate with most people, because otherwise people have trouble following my threads.
So I have to pull out the script and do my best to follow it. I’m told this means I’m organized, but I feel like it means that human communication is inherently flawed. We take this yawning, roiling mass of thoughts and force it into an extruded string of linearity so that others can understand it.
I feel like this right now:
I used to think I was broken, that this was yet another way that my brain didn’t work. So I’ve limped through scripted conversations, feeling like people’s attempts to connect with me have just left me feeling more alone.
So many conversations I’ve wanted to interrupt with, “Okay, I’m good now” and boom, it’s over.
When I was a child, one my father’s parishioners died. He had been an old man. I was crying at school, and a parapro tried to counsel me through it. I mentioned, just for context, that he’d been a principal at the school years ago, and the parapro latched on to that detail and just started going on about how it’s painful to lose a role model like that.
That’s my first memory of feeling like I was locked into a script that I didn’t know how to navigate.
I used to think I was broken, but now I realize: So many times in my life that I thought I was broken was because my thoughts were being assessed by neurotypical rules.
My thoughts are birds and butterflies, and others have demanded that they walk in a straight line along the cold concrete, when they’re meant to fly chaotically.
My mind is not broken, it is a work of complex beauty. And I’m so tired of trying to coerce it into scripts it was not meant to follow.
I’ve often felt the freedom of talking with other neuro diverse folks who share a verbal or mental style with me. It can be a bit like drinking from the firehose, and I have to try not to get too hung up on actually needing to understand everything, and accept that there’s going to be omissions and repetitions, on both sides. Assuming the folks I’m speaking with are _also_ on board with things not being linear, it can be a wonderfully complex and fulfilling conversation!
I think your “script” concept is actually more literally correct than you might think. A great many people in my experience, myself included at times, have certain trains that literally cannot get off the tracks once engaged. The only way to stop having a specific conversation is to finish it, like how sometimes the only way to get a song out of ones head is to listen to it all the way through. This is just another example of neurodiversity, but because it’s a bit easier to follow for neuro typical brains, it’s a bit more accepted, only being frowned on mildly for being tedious or repetitive. I personally try to be accepting of those, and if I already know this script then I can try to enjoy the variations on the theme, or gauge the person’s current state by the different ways in how they tell their story.
Your ability to follow a script at need is actually an amazing ability you have developed. It’s akin to learning a new language, one that has very different rules from the one you started with. As most anyone who has learned very different languages will tell you, this is not easy and should be applauded! But I do hope that you get some time to speak your naive tongue too, sometimes.