Work Awaydays

Does anyone else really struggle with work away days? I’ve got mine coming up tomorrow. Its always been one of the most stressful events for me at work - where I’m basically fairly functional. I hate ice breakers so much. I hate that you have to appear interesting to new people on cue.

I think as I’ve become more confident in talking about my autism, and partly through this project, I’ve become more confident in gently asserting that I don’t want to take part in things. And explaining why. So I will go to the awayday tomorrow. But I’m not going to the icebreaker. And I’m going to take my laptop and my headphones and if I’m not enjoying it I’m going to wander off and calm down.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely become more assertive about not doing things I don’t want to, and I also think that as people get older, they lay off the pressure for you to conform. I was/am part of a group that used to do this team-closeness exercise called The Elephant Walk where people hold hands and walk round in a circle getting tighter and tighter while touching each other more and more intimately (OMG it is freaking me out just describing it) and the first time I did it was awful, the second time I did it, it felt like I’d been physically violated (I had nightmares) and by the third time I just excused myself as not wishing to take part and sat at the corner of the room - and everyone was fine with that. I wish I’d done it the second time as well. That was people over the age of thirty, but when you’re in your early twenties I think people take it as much more of an affront if you don’t want to join in - I know people used to try to pull me onto dance floors and things, but they don’t know. Maybe that’s the world getting more progressive though, I’m not sure. But I definitely think there’s a lot more scope to say “No” than we often think there is, especially if you try to be part of the team in other ways that you’re more comfortable with.

I found this image very comforting:

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I love that eyore image.

That elephant activity sounds terrible!

I’m thinking a lot about consent at the moment, and the importance of people having a say over what happens in their lives. If you have to participate in something you don’t want to do, that’s a non consensual activity! And society is set up to encourage teams and participation, and less so to respect people’s boundaries. So I’ve been thinking about ways I can ensure that people have space to opt out of things, or know that its okay do things in a different way.

My reflection on the awayday was that I should have told the organisers that I would like to come but I’d also like them to make available a quiet space for me to retreat to, and I wanted to know exactly what was on the agenda and what people were expected to participate in so I could work out what I wanted to attend and what I wouldn’t feel comfortable with.

Just to say that I went away on another spiritual weekend thing last weekend and I had a conversation with one of the leaders at one of the lunchtimes about how I felt about exercises that involved intimate touching, and how this affected autistic people generally and me specifically. A couple of days later we were closing with an exercise that involved walking with our eyes closed down two rows of people touching us that were obviously freaking me and a couple of other people out and my teacher remembered that conversation and stepped in and imposed a load of rules about how and way people could touch us that you know, still meant it was not something I would have chosen to do voluntarily, but for the sake of the group I did but I didn’t have nightmares about it afterwards. So yeah, it’s not nice having to step up and vocalise sometimes but many people do try to accommodate you once they know, and it’s wasn’t just this aspie that benefitted.

I think there are lots of really good reasons people shouldn’t be put in a position where they have to touch other people! There should always be graceful opt outs for things like that. Its not just autistic people who are affected, people who have experienced abuse for example might also find that really difficult.