Why is it so difficult to initiate a social interaction for those of us on the spectrum? I know that a huge part of it is because people are so unpredictable. It gives me so much anxiety not knowing how the conversation is going to go exactly. I feel like I’m going to be put on the spot. I feel like I won’t be able to get my words out properly. I need to know how I’m going to respond. I also need to know what the other person is going to say word for word. There is no way to know for sure how any given social interaction is going to go. You just have to do it. You try to build the confidence up to do it. You’ll spend so much time going over how you’re going to approach the situation and that just ends up causing you even more anxiety because you waited so long to approach the person. You’ve had too much time to think about it now so you just end up giving up on it altogether.
It doesn’t seem to matter how important it’s for me to talk to someone. It could be a life or death situation and I would still chicken out. I remember when we were homeless we couldn’t even ask for food. We were too afraid to tell people when we were hungry. So we would starve until we’d just pass out from the exhaustion of not eating. It amazes me how the anxiety can be so bad that you’ll even ignore your trying to meet you basic needs just to avoid an uncomfortable situation. There’s a lot of people out there that just don’t understand this. They will think you’re just being silly and it should be as simple as just sucking it up. But it’s not. It’s humiliating. It’s horrible. It’s devastatingly impossible. I normally embrace being autistic but it’s times like these I wish there were an off switch to the anxiety that comes from trying to communicate with others.
I was able to cover it up for so long by pretending to be like other people. I would get drunk all the time to ease the anxiety so I could actually stand to talk to people. I was a total wreck. I just wanted to be able to relate but I just couldn’t. I was always looked at as some sort of outcast no matter how much I tried to fit in. I appeared to be just this ditzy girl who would always say the wrong thing at the wrong time. People didn’t understand my jokes and I didn’t understand theirs. I couldn’t process what people said quick enough so they thought I was slow, and I believed it too. I realize now that I just processed conversation longer because I needed to analyze every little detail. I’ve done this for so long I just can’t help myself. It’s not that I’m lacking in intelligence. I just have trouble moving from one topic to the next. I also have trouble going from one task to another. I feel so much anxiety doing just about everything in my life that I need to take as much time as possible to get myself together.
People would confuse me as being a cluster-B personality disordered individual. They thought I was narcissistic and borderline. I thought so too for a very long time. I just couldn’t understand what the hell was going on with me. What happened was I was surrounded by people who were in the cluster B category and I ended up copying their behavior. I had no clue this was what I was doing because it became so natural to me. I thought that I was supposed to be sexually promiscuous. I thought they I was supposed to be mean and selfish. I thought I was supposed to play dumb and just look pretty. I thought so many things and it caused me a lot of heartache.
All I know is that I’m glad that I finally have some sort of an explanation for all the trouble I’ve had relating to others in my life. Before I found out about being autistic, I was like a lost little puppy, and now I feel like I’m actually home. That I’ve found a community of people that are like me, at least in a lot of ways they are. Of course I’m an individual and have had different life experiences so I’m going to present myself differently on the spectrum. I am highly dissociative and traumatized. But it’s still nice to know what the hell is going on with me, and having other people who can relate is a huge blessing. I’m so grateful. I wouldn’t change knowing for the world. But now that I know it also makes me feel alienated at times because I don’t know any other autistic people in real life, only online. Everyone around me seems to not have a clue about what being on the spectrum is really like. If I tell them I’m autistic, they’re usually shocked and say that I appear so “normal” which definitely isn’t a compliment. I expelled so much energy trying to be like everyone else that I just wish people could accept the real me so I could stop putting on an act. But to this day I still feel like I have to because if I don’t then it’s just going to cause me even more anxiety. I can only hope that with time the world will learn more about autistic women, and stop looking at us as burdens on society so we can be free to be ourselves around people without worrying so much. That will be the day I will finally feel accepted.
Written by : Ashley