Endings

Since my diagnosis a lot of my relationships have ended. In fact pretty much all of them. Apart from my husband and my work colleagues, all of the people I am in regular contact with have stepped back from me in one way or another. There weren’t many of them in the first place, I have autism after all, but they were longstanding and it hurts.

It’s funny with these people. It’s not the autism that’s the problem. They have unknowingly dealt with it for years. They have accepted that I don’t participate in group conversations, that I don’t always get the joke, that I’m always bumping into things, that I forget to take presents to birthday parties and that sometimes I need a bit of alone time in the middle of the day, but putting a name to this seems too much to bear.

At the moment my current thinking on the cause of this isolation are my attempts now to practice extreme self-care. I am learning to say ‘NO’. ‘NO’ to events that will be over-strenuous. These are mainly events that involve a lot of people, particularly those I don’t know well, or new types of events where I don’t know the social etiquette or the schedule beforehand.

I never used to say ‘NO’. I was looking round trying to act like everyone else. Trying to do what was expected of me. I would grin and bear it through situations that I found draining and would push myself way beyond my limits in order to appear normal and to not offend anyone. I knew that I couldn’t make judgements based on my own wants and needs but that I had to keep up an appearance of ‘normal’. I knew that my wants and needs would lead me to being alone. And alone, I was told, was BAD.

However I am not neurologically typical (‘NT’ in Aspie circles) and playing ‘normal’ is utterly exhausting. Days at school would result in the need to sit the evening in my room in silent recovery, now workdays leave me in need of a sleep. I quickly gave up clubbing at Uni after the uninvited physical touch gave me panic attacks. I get a rising feeling of panic when attending social events where I don’t know anyone; I miss jokes, can’t think of questions quick enough and can’t follow the train of a conversation especially if there is background noise. Anger (whether or not directed at me) leaves me physically shaken and in needing to cry. These and many other everyday situations can lead to meltdowns if I am in a period of extra stress or not sleeping well. I am now trying to reduce the frequency of the subsequent meltdowns for the sake of mine and my husband’s sanity.

Which leads to me saying ‘NO’.

Which leads to rejection.

It seems that the people who deal with undiagnosed autism unquestioningly are a certain sort of martyr. They get their sense of self-worth from being generous to those of us who appear particularly naive and helpless. When we start taking responsibility for our own life and setting boundaries that protect our happiness their self-worth is called into question. They are no longer needed. They can also no longer rely on me to be there for them, to say ‘yes’ to everything.

It’s funny with these people. It’s not the autism that’s the problem. They have unknowingly dealt with it for years. They have accepted that I don’t participate in group conversations, that I don’t always get the joke, that I’m always bumping into things, that I forget to take presents to birthday parties and that sometimes I need a bit of alone time in the middle of the day, but putting a name to this seems too much to bear.

Or maybe it’s just guilt over the fact that they have laughed about these traits in me. To have the diagnoses as something more than just ‘being a bit scatty’ but a neurological condition.

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