Autism & Friendship

I have been mulling over what to say in this blog for a few weeks now. If ever there was an emotionally difficult subject for me to write about, friendship is it.

I will start off by saying that my childhood was very painful, but things did get better in the end. There is a happy ending, I promise!

From a very early age, it was very obvious that I couldn’t fit in with any friendship groups. This didn’t stop me wanting desperately to fit in though. It is only now, following my diagnosis at the age of 50, that I am able to look back and understand why I was struggling and what I was doing. I had no idea, and still don’t really, of how to act in that kind of social situation. It was all a great mystery to me so I started observing and copying behaviours, phrases, speech, remembering jokes that made people laugh. Of course, a joke is only funny if the situation is right and the right inflection is put on the right words. Not good if you have a monotonic voice and can’t read social situations. In retrospect, I was trying too hard and through all that social masking my own identity was lost, to the point I didn’t even know who I was. Consequently, the reactions to me ranged from strange looks, raised eyebrows to social exclusion. This led to me being more desperate to fit in. And when I couldn’t read the body language and verbal brush offs it would often lead to violence.

I lost count of the times I was beaten up or chased home from school by some mob or other. Of course my knack for saying the wrong thing, sometimes deep and hurtful, without realising, didn’t help matters. This social exclusion and bullying still remains to this day. What has changed though is the way I deal with it.

Because people don’t always understand me, my problems with understanding verbal instructions and that I am not good at explaining things, they also seem to get the impression that I am not very bright.

I catch myself social masking sometimes and trying to be too nice to people who aren’t nice to me. They seem to take this as a sign of weakness or subservience. I try my best not to let it bother me.

Of course with co-morbid anxiety issues despite my best efforts it does hurt. I wish I could dismiss it as what it is, a reflection of who they are and their issues rather than mine. However, I promised you a happy ending. Here it is;

Being so open and honest about my Autism diagnosis led to a shift in my friendships. Some people I thought were good friends turned out not to be so. They couldn’t handle what I was saying, although being fair I did obsess over it for a year while I sorted it all out in my head. Some said some really hurtful things and I also learned that quite a few friends only wanted to be around me for what they gained.

I started investing my time in people who accept me exactly as I am and who are willing to allow me to be Autistic in their company.

I now have some wonderful and loyal friends. We don’t see each other for months, but pick up like we haven’t been apart immediately. I don’t invest time in people who don’t get me anymore. Life is too short to do so. They soon fade away. Those who stick with you are the ones who deserve your time.

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