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Thoughts on Grief and Alexithymia

According to Wikipedia, alexithymia “is a personality construct characterized by the subclinical inability to identify and describe emotions in the self. The core characteristics of alexithymia are marked dysfunction in emotional awareness, social attachment, and interpersonal relating.”

There is also a high co-morbidity rate between alexithymia and autism spectrum disorders. I think this is what leads to the incorrect popular belief that people on the autism spectrum do not feel things.

I do feel things. I feel lots of things. Intensely. But I have a lot of difficulty working out what exactly it is that I am feeling. I put considerable thought and effort into figuring out what I’m feeling. And I don’t even know whether I am right in the end.

I do not express those feelings in the normal way either. I often smile at completely inappropriate times, because this is what I was taught to do. My natural, blank expression made people uncomfortable, so I was taught to smile instead. So that’s what I do. It’s become a habit, and I now have very little control over it. My default has changed from blank to smile. This makes people like me more, sure, but it’s no better an indicator of how I actually feel than a blank expression is.

Yay, I’ve been trained to smile. Now you feel more comfortable around me. But I feel no different. It’s not about my feelings at all.

Anyway, my step-dad died on Thanksgiving. And I felt bad, of course. But I didn’t react. And this led me to feel guilty, because not only was I aware that I wasn’t reacting like a neurotypical person would, but I also had absolutely no idea what I should do.

I am over 1000 miles away from my family. I am the only one earning income at the moment, and that is only with a part-time job. I can’t really afford to fly home, nor can I really afford to miss work. But is that too logical? Would a “normal” person just go ahead and go anyway? I can’t bug my mom, asking her what I should do. She really does not need more burden right now. But I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I am failing to do the correct thing.

And even if I’m not crying, I am grieving. Due to my communication issues, I never got really close to my step-dad, but I did love him. Whatever flaws he may have had, he was always kind and generous to me. He went out of his way to help me when I needed it. He never demanded more from me than I was able to do.

So yes, I am sad, even if I may have inadvertently led people to believe otherwise. I feel sad and lonely and useless. And all I can really do is carry on as usual and try not to express my confusing feelings as irritability and anger.