Saturday, August 15, 2009

On friendship and autism

I occasionally write about living with my disability, Asperger's Syndrome. Today, I'd like you to go to Rachel's Blog and read about a bad day. This is how we feel, when the hope of having family and friends try to understand who we are, how it feels and accept us anyway, fails. Many of you will not bother to go read it, and some of those who do, will end up angry at me for putting this issue into your lives. The anger will be directed at me and whatever relationship I had with you will be gone. If I'm lucky, it'll all happen without a direct confrontation. I'll just quit hearing from you. (Don't worry, I won't keep IMing, I'm used to it.) When I'm not lucky, it'll happen with a great display of fireworks and ravaging words of anger.

There is a certain percentage of the population that hone in on those of us that are different and treat us in the most horrendous ways (understand, as I do, that my description of horrendous is how it makes me feel inside, not something most of the world would define as horrendous. Most people would say I'm overreacting. But trust me, that's how it feels...horrendous). They don't have to even know us. We are often the ones that are referred to as people that have "victim" tattooed on our foreheads, we emit some energy that triggers a violent (verbal to physical) response in others. When these people are confronted and really think about why they reacted that way, they can't give a reason. But the anger is there, the agitation, the drive to remove our genes from the gene pool.

We have these people, whom I call Genetic Bullies (they, having a gene for cleansing the species of weaklings), are in our families, (which are the hardest for us to deal with because we have this silly dream that family members love you no matter what), they are in our acquaintances, in our working world, and in our social environments. They "know" they shouldn't or can't act upon this rage inside them in a civilized world, but it doesn't diminish their reactions to us. The smart ones begin subtle campaigns to have us removed from their familial contacts, work environment, and social area. It makes it near impossible to keep a job. Getting the jobs are not too hard, keeping them is a whole 'nother story.

When it's happened so many times in one's life, one can safely say it's not a paranoid delusion. It's a reality. And it affects how we interact with our world. I've met a knitter, new to our knitting group and we seem to fit together like a handshake. Yet, I'm so tempted to change my name, phone number and disappear because it's the first time in 6 or 7 years I've extended myself past my immediate living environment. My past attempts have not survived and didn't end well.

You see, we don't have casual friends. Generally the people groups, as far as emotional commitment, are slight acquaintances or BFF. Nothing in between. And when you are a BFF, it's a total commitment on our part. Sort of a "love at first sight" thing. When those fall apart it's unbelievably painful. And the next time a person appears in our world we run, because the pain of it ending badly is too much to bear.

Unlike the popular hype, people on the autistic spectrum crave human company. We may not want to be right in the conversation, but we love being around people. There is a term for children, generally preschoolers, who like to play near others but not with them. It's called parallel play. Two kids will both be playing house, but it's like they are next door neighbors, each doing their own thing without interacting with each other, perfectly content to be near but not interacting. Lots of autistics feel this way. "In the world but not of it." Sometimes, however, we do find someone we'd like to be with. Kids rush into the relationship and bounce back from the rebuffs many times before they begin to be wary. By the time one reaches 50 it's easier just not to attempt the relationship. Lonely, but much safer.


  1. As we are in the middle of chasing an official diagnosis of Aspergers for my son I can certainly understand where you are coming from. Life is not very easy when you are "different." So often as I watch my loving, affectionate, smart and compassionate son my heart bleeds for him.

  2. Lizzie, I am so sorry that you carry this burden. Thank you for enlightening us. A cyber hug to you!!!

  3. I've read your blog a long time, but not commented much, if any. But I am here, and listening, and respect you, especially for sharing how you feel. I also read your friend's blog, and felt a lot of sympathy for her.

    I have no diagnosis, other than being "weird" and "different," but I've found that there are enough people in the world who CAN accept others as they are, that we can all find some community. Knitting groups are wonderful for this, and I am glad we have them.

    Some folks just are able to enjoy their friends' differences, even celebrate them. I've been enriched by my sons' friends with Aspergers, as well as my own. And I don't know what I'd do without my close friend with a strong case of OCD, or the one with the mood disorder. You learn their issues and love them for all the things their issues help them learn, and you enjoy all their other facets! Everyone had so much they can give to others--and is lovable and likable.

    You are a lot more than a diagnosis, and I have learned a lot from you, and enjoyed reading about your life! Keep it up!

  4. Lizzie, I just started reading your blog, mostly because my 12yo DD has an ASD/Asperger's type diagnosis, and I wanted to see an adult Aspie's point of view on knitting, and life as an adult. I feel as Darcie does.
    Life is not very easy when you are "different" and sharing how you feel, even on a blog, must be a real challenge. I respect your ability to write about your struggle and your feelings. As a recently diagnosed Bipolar Depressive, I'm learning about my "cognitive distortions" and I know that it feels like it never will get better, but it does. Really. You have lots of cyber support and I look forward to reading more about your feelings, your knitting and yourself. Hugs, prayers and peace to you and feel free to backchat at macylewars at roadrunner dot com.


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