This post is for you, L! <3
(My previous posts about problems autistic people face and how you could support your neurodivergent friends you find here and here and here and here (but they are quite old, so my opinions might have changed a little bit) in case you interested.)
Also I wanted to make sure that I do not intend to represent all autistic people and do not talk for anyone else. This post mostly reflects my own personality and experience, but at the same time I feel kind of happy to know that there are other people who feel the same way I do and we can connect to some extent.
Communicating with people is difficult. Forming connections is even more difficult. So it does not come as a surprise that making and having friends is complicated too. It does not matter how many times I told myself that's it, I'm not going to have any friends and will be emotionally de-attached from humans (less feelings, less pain), it never works.
Bellow you'll find some of the things that make having and maintaining relationships difficult for some autistic people.
The need of confirmation.
I'm desperately looking for any signs that my friends are actually hating me and are just too polite to say that. I know it's irrational and makes no sense, but it does not stop me from living in a constant fear that very soon my friends will leave me. For example if someone promises to write me an email the next day and they don't, I start panicking and thinking that they do not care about me at all, because if they did, they would keep their promises, right? I know people forget things, there are way more important things than me in their lives, personal things happen and so on... Still this is SO triggering and also sometimes makes me to do stupid things I probably regret later.
I used to ask my friends almost all the time if they were still friends with me, if they were angry at me, if they still liked me and why. I still do that, just trying to keep it to the minimum. Apparently I shouldn't ask those questions as that upset others. I should just see how things go and feel where we stand on our relationship. Well, I'm not able to read people's mind and can't really see how things are going, so I desperately need the confirmation from my friends that they still want to be my friends and nothing has changed...
World keeps telling me that I should know my place. Also I should be more than happy that I managed to meet someone who likes me even a little bit and formed some sort of relationship because that is way more than most autistic people manage to do (according to neurotipicals of course). Basically what they are saying is that I'm so useless that no one ever will be my friend for real. Even if in theory I know that this is not true (it's only those horrible people who want to control everyone giving their opinions), it still hurts. But world keeps telling me this again and again, so I almost believe. All this adds up to the feeling that no one really cares about me and my friends hang out with me out of pity or something like that. I try to prove myself and be useful really hard. It's actually quite dangerous as people might take advantage (and they often do). To partly prevent that I created my own friendship rules, and built other possible protections... But actually I feel that puts nice people off, as I come across as too complicated and arrogant or making friends with me seems too difficult.
Nothing in between.
I desperately keep looking for this mysterious "in between", as all I do seems to be too much or not enough. I'm extremely emotional and emotionally unstable (just it's not really visible to others most of the time). You know that thing when you are not very expressive and keep everything inside you, so no one actually knows how deep you feel everything. And I mean everything. Lack of knowledge what other people might want and expect pushes me to extremes. I come across or as too attached or as too distant from others (more likely distinct especially in the beginning). Obviously both are seen as not good enough (remember, there is only one way of being and if your actions don't particularly fit - you are a freak). I never know how much attention is just right, I'm not sure how much communication people want to, should I write to them first (and what if they do not want me to)? or should I wait till my friends will write to me? And when I do write first, most likely I've spent a few hours before getting the message just right, not too emotional and not too cold. And those rare times I actually send emotional emails to my friends I regret doing so the very same moment and just wish I could turn time back and press the delete button instead...
All this confuses others as one day I might be giving lots of attention and the next day (after hours of thinking and reflecting, deciding that no, it probably was too much) keeping the distance and needing space from them.
This one is very tricky. I do have lots of sensory issues, so almost any unexpected physical contact causes me an actual physical pain. But I like holding hands with people I really care about (especially if there are lots of other people around) as it lets me to concentrate on one particular action. I also feel scared and lonely in this world most of the time (let's start with not being able to connect to other people the same way they do), so holding hands seems to be one of the safest ways to confirm that at this very moment there is someone who cares a little bit about me and if something will happen I won't be on my own. Or at least that's meaning I gave to this gesture. I search for meanings everywhere, and I'm more than aware that for most people close physical contact have very deep sensual meanings. Unfortunately it makes me very emotional, so I'm struggling to decide if my friends are trusted enough to be emotional with. There is also this fear that if I'll get close to people they will use it against me later.
Not being able to express myself properly.
This is so hard, especially as I want to say so much to my friends, but when it comes to putting everything into words, I fail. Sometimes (often) people get upset and angry as they think I kept things away from them, but the truth is I just don't think about bringing those topics unless specifically asked. Even when specifically asked I might not really be able to discuss them in full due to the lack of preparation to make a proper script. Many times I do not really know what I want before someone else voices it loudly. It's already complicated to pass (gosh, how much I hate this word actually) in every day situations, but when it comes to deep and long conversations with close people it becomes even more complicated. I also mentally rehearse future conversations with my friends. It's probably not fair on them as part of my every friendship s based on things and talks that have never happened real life...
Analysing everything all the time. Sometimes I create problems in my head that never existed, but it actually helps me to see the point in relationships and how much they mean to me. For some reason over-thinking and analysing things annoys others. It has this attached negativity how analysing everything will make one miserable. It actually partly makes me happy. I go again and again through different moments and conversations in my head trying to connect things and put meanings to different actions (or just thinking about moments I like). Sometimes it's relaxing. Sometimes it helps me go back to reality and see that I idealise my friends way too much. But also I keep reminding all mistakes I did and how I could do much better! I am more than aware of every time I said something wrong, hurt others or was not able to give them support I intended to. And I keep reminding that to myself again and again...
I'm more than aware that sometimes it takes more effort for NTs to form friendships with neurodivergent people, but I tend to blame society for that. Society that gives only neurotypical-neurotipical desired relationship models. All relationships that involves neuroatypical person portrays NTs as some sort of heroes (because who else would want to have a friend considered less human by society's standards?). And that is so wrong!
Photos were made somewhere in South West London and they perfectly reflect the way I feel.
Broken. Destroyed. Abandoned. Forgotten.