Monday, April 25, 2016

Dealing with Disappointment (When You Have Asperger's)

I don't handle disappointment well.

I'm dealing with it right now, even. This blog post is my way of coping, because if I let it get to me, it'll ruin my whole day.

Here's what's bugging me:
  • A friend said she'd come over today, but she can't now because she's not feeling well. She has a lot of health problems so I do understand. I just made the mistake of looking forward to it. I cannot rely on anything, because if I do, I run the risk of being disappointed.
  • I also thought someone made breakfast, but none was to be found... I was hungry. Another disappointment. 
  • My new editing software didn't arrive in the mail yet, even though it was supposed to arrive today at the latest. I can't get back to work until I get that software. Disappointed again.
  • I've missed exercising in my routine several times this week because other tasks took longer than expected. I hope I'm not losing progress.

Now, these may seem fairly minor to most people. And even I think they are minor! In fact, I can't help but view my pouty reactions through the eyes of "normal" people, and see myself as a toddler throwing a tantrum.
But I was expecting pancakes!!
^ I don't want to look like that.
I want to move on like everyone else! But my brain just can't handle it. I try, I really, really try. But I can't.

I'm lucky that I can hide my inward reactions, so hardly anyone can tell when I'm disappointed. I don't want them to know, because they won't understand what led up to it. Most people don't see the tiny stressors building up: routine changes, unexpected events, people not sticking to their word, etc. They only see the end result, which in children on the spectrum (and some adults, even) is either a meltdown resembling a tantrum, or a shutdown resembling non-compliance. I can keep myself from melting down or shutting down because I've learned how to control it over time, but it just makes me depressed later when I'm alone.

I used to have meltdowns when I was little--I'd kick holes in walls and whine excessively. I don't do those things anymore though; instead, I keep it all inside until my anxiety inflates to the point where I can't even take care of myself anymore.


I have accepted the fact that my reactions to these things will always be extreme, but it doesn't stop me from getting annoyed and wanting to change it somehow. Not just any outward reactions that may sneak out (i.e. seemingly irrational complaints or anger), but also my inward struggle with change. That's why I'm here, writing this post. It is helping distract me, at least.

An important thing to know about Asperger's: You can cover up a behavior as much as you want, but that alone won't fix the mental stress that causes it.
Problems need to be tackled from the inside out. See this video for a better explanation: "How Asperger's Works" from Asperger's Experts
I think it's better to take that sort of approach, rather than methods that strictly focus on behaviors, such as ABA therapy. "What is ABA?" from Ask an Autistic

Thing is, I don't want to just refrain from lashing out or whining or voicing my discontent. For sure, I don't want to annoy people or hurt their feelings! But I feel it is more important for me to look inward, to figure out what I can do to lessen the impact of unexpected changes and redirect my focus in a healthy way. For years I have only stuffed it down or ignored it, as I felt that maintaining an appearance of outward normality was more important than my inward well-being. I came to this conclusion just now. My original draft of this post just screamed "I WANT TO BE NORMAL!!" and I didn't even realize it. This could be a reason for my feelings of anxiety, desperation, and alienation in my life. This could be why I feel like every time I voice a need, I am just whining or seeking attention. This is why I haven't prioritized my own thoughts and opinions in the past and seen them as equal to others.

I feel more human now.


A disappointment can ruin my day unless I own up to it. It's like a monster I have to fight.

Kinda like this guy.
I didn't want to it to win, so I replaced my original expectations with new ones I know can be achieved.

I decided I would go to the library today to write this. For sure I will make this blog post! This is something I can control. My mom also made breakfast for me because I asked and explained I couldn't handle it today (usually I make my own breakfast--I'm a big girl. I'm lucky to have a mom who understands my issues though). I also decided to watch a movie with Matt (my fiancé) when I got back because we are both available to.

My backup plan was to play video games if plans didn't work out. Backup plans are helpful, too.

I just have to keep in mind that anything new I put into my schedule takes some time to warm up to.
My brain likes to resist change... perhaps it thinks it's a disease? :P


I wonder sometimes whether other people's reactions to the concerns of ASD individuals, like distress over disappointments, would make a difference for particular aspies. I know it has helped me, as my family is understanding about my anxieties, but I sometimes still feel bad about my reactions, because they can be perceived as me being wimpy or immature. I'm constantly fighting my longing to look normal with my desire to be myself.

But like I said earlier, I'm still slowly climbing out of that rut.
My needs are more important than how other people perceive me or react to me.

In conclusion, here are some things that help me deal with disappointment and unexpected change:
- Replacement plans
- Backup plans for the replacement plans
- Time to process the change
- Willingness to face the anxiety or carry on in spite of it

How do you deal with change? Have you ever felt guilty for struggling with it (or for any of your differences?) How do you balance your own needs with external pressures? Comment below with your thoughts, I always appreciate your feedback!


  1. Hi there. I'm so glad I saw this post shared on my social media (I'm in a group for people with Aspergers). It's so relatable. I struggle with anxiety also and I can often forget that it and aspergers can be interlinked. Like you, I often find myself making a big deal out of small disappointments and chiding myself as I know mentally they're ridiculous but my mind won't turn off the repeated thoughts.

    The bad thing is that I am also such a hypocrite. With my social anxiety, I have been known to cancel plans with groups and yet that happening to me would let me feel let down.

    I think in both experiences it's because I psych myself up for social things. On one hand, if I do choose to go then I don't want to be let down but on the other hand, the pressure might be too intense so I wimp out. Is this something you experience?

    Again, thanks for making this post. I shall now check out the rest of your blog when I have more time :D.

    1. I do that a lot, too. I mostly relate to the fact that I cause distress for myself ironically. I am aware that I have issues with disappointment and changed plans, but sometimes I will fail to meet my own expectations. Even simple things like not going to bed on time, forgetting to exercise, as well as the occasional canceled social plans. But most of mine revolve around time and routines more than social things.