Monday, September 28, 2009


There are things about autism that are positive. I have a fantastic memory. I can read at the spread of light. When I can focus, I can really focus. I have a connection with cats like nobody I know, and I'd like to hang onto that, thanks. Then there are things that are neutral. Sometimes, I need to type instead of talk. My hands don't like to my still. I like to watch the same movie 50 times in a row. There are things about it that make life more difficult. At 21, I'm not ready to move out on my own. I can't work full time. My organizational skills... don't exist. But what I want to talk about now is possibly the most frustrating, the most isolating, the most debilitating aspect of autism: friendships.

Growing up, I had one best friend. I'd known her since I was 6 years old. I had this friend all the way through until we got to high school, when the pull from making other friends got to me too much, I think. Her other friends thought I was weird, and they made no secret of it. They blatantly wanted nothing to do with me. They forced her to make the choice between me and a normal high school social life, and I can't say that I blame her for the choice she made, but it certainly hurt. Aside from that one person, I've always tried to hold back, tried to contain what makes me different. It results in having acquaintences that are hard to maintain, because it's hard for me to act that way, and that are hardly worth having because I don't act like myself.

Before you say, "Just be yourself!" it's so not that easy. I want to just be myself, so badly, but if I did that, I'm fairly certain that anyone would go running the other way. Even around my very closest friends, those who really know me, I have to work extremely hard. I have to get the right words out. I have to remember to say "I'm frustrated" and not just yell at them, which would scare them off. I have to remember to use words, not tears. I have to talk about things that they want to talk about, even when I don't understand them. I have to figure out how to respond, and show I'm listening, because I'm almost always listening. I have to limit how much I talk about my cat. I can't help but think that anyone, anyone, even my own mom, would be run off by what and who I would be if I didn't work so hard to control myself. It's not easy work, either; it takes a lot of effort.

In general, I can do it. I wear a filter, all the time. Well, it falls off when I'm by myself, but as long as someone else is around, that filter is there. It's basically a filter of impulse control, that makes it so I can do everything I just listed above. But sometimes, that filter comes loose. I know that people can tell when it does. When my emotions are intense, it tends to happen. And every time it does, I'm afraid that I'm going to run off whoever it is I was around.

Friendships are really, really hard. I wish I didn't have so much ugliness in me that needed to be filtered. But, I do, and so I'll keep that filter on. The few close friendships I have are worth the hard work it takes. Autism, or anything else, isn't going to get in the way of that.


  1. You know, it's OK to say you don't understand something. It's very OK in fact as it shows you have been paying attention and want to share an interest. I wouldn't call what you have inside ugly, it's just hard to show it in the way others expect. I think of it this way - I don't speak Japanese, or have any understanding of their culture, but this does not make me a bad person and Japanese people don't hate me. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong - you'll be doing me a big favour!

  2. I agree with Amanda. The Japanese analogy is good.

    If you are thinking of yourself as ugly or as having ugliness in your soul then you are doing damage to yourself.

    I also think you need to understand that what you feel about yourself is really rather typical for a person of your age. You have a huge amount of self awareness (which you blogged about recently) but your awareness is about how you seem to others, not about how you need to nurture yourself. Every-one needs to do this and you are no exception. Being able to modify your behaviour so that you can have a few good friends is great. Being able to relax and accept yourself as you are would also be great. You are not ugly.

  3. "Before you say, "Just be yourself!" it's so not that easy. I want to just be myself, so badly, but if I did that, I'm fairly certain that anyone would go running the other way. Even around my very closest friends, those who really know me, I have to work extremely hard."

    I SO get this part - so much so that it felt like for a moment, that I had written it, and I had to do a double take.

    People sometimes say to me, "You shouldn't be afraid to be yourself," and no, you *shouldn't* - but that's in a perfect world, a world in which we do not live.

    I wonder if, when you do manage to go to the autism group, you will be able to culture those friendships which don't take so much hard work? Maybe be yourself (which is NOT ugly, I do agree with the other two commentors) a tiny bit more? I have been contemplating going to the Asperger's group at the university, and that's what I'm worried about too.

    By the way, I like cats too. I even have a cardigan with nine cat buttons to fasten it (cats have nine lives!) :)

  4. I know what you mean... I have severe ADHD and a lot of aspergers-like tendencies, although I've beent old that you can't have both ADHD and aspergers. I have one extremely close friend (who happens to be pissed at me right now) and I've become very close to her family members too... but that is all I have. I am around other people but I find it hard to make connections with them, even when I want to, partly because I cannot just relax and be myself without people looking at me funny!