I recently had a phone conversation with a new acquaintance, who pulled the “You think you’re autistic? I don’t see it” line. I laughed and said, “You don’t know me well enough yet,” instead of saying, “Wow, I’ve spent nearly 30 years pretending and practicing to be normal – glad I was able to fool you – on the phone – for a single hour! How dare you – you who say you haven’t even talked with an autistic person before – try to tell me who and what I am, as though you – who don’t know me AT ALL – know me better than I know myself?” It was the first time I’ve had to deal with that kind of dismissive attitude, but then again it was also the first time I have explained my self-diagnosis to someone who hasn’t actually known me for a while.
(here are “20 Things Not to Say to a Person with Aspergers“)
Then the drama struck when we were later texting instead of talking, and I was confused by something he said, and responded in a way that he found hurtful. I couldn’t even tell which of my comments could be taken as hurtful, so I had to ask what it was I said. After the conversation, I was feeling really upset over yet again failing at human interaction, but at the same time I was pleased to see growth in my self-awareness and ability to express it. I think reading other Aspies’ writings and working on my own has helped with that.
Here were some of my shared thoughts:
- I don’t know how to take things when I don’t know someone well. It can be especially hard when texting.
- When I don’t know what to say, I don’t say anything. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out my thoughts and put them into words, too. Especially when I don’t know what the person I’m talking to is thinking, so I don’t know what I should even be responding to.
- Like you, I pull away from pain. And that includes pain unintentionally inflicted on others. It reminds me how often I misunderstand and am misunderstood. And if I’m gonna hurt people, I’d rather just sit alone with my cat.
- And it takes me time to get to know someone and know how to interpret all they say and do. Until then, interactions can be confusing and frustrating for me.
- I’m not saying I’m never understood, I’m just saying that understanding others and being understood is a frequent struggle for me.
Today I stumbled upon this post by Cynthia Kim at Musings of an Aspie, “The Seductive Illusion of Normal.” This passage really fit how I’m feeling today:
I don’t live in a vacuum. I say and do stuff. People around me are affected by it. Even though they know I struggle with certain things–they know this logically. That doesn’t prevent them from being affected by my words or actions or lack of words or actions.
This is when the wish to be normal sneaks up and grabs me.
I’m using normal and not neurotypical here for a reason. Normal is an illusion and I know it’s the illusion that I’m wishing for at these times. I’m not wishing for a different neurology so much as a fantasy version of life.
It’s easy to be seduced by the idea that being normal would solve everything, that it would make the lives of the people around me easier. But, of course it wouldn’t. We’d have some other problems instead, because life is like that.
And still it’s there, born out of frustration and insecurity, of a sense of never quite being good enough or right enough or just plain enough.
Maybe it’s a self-esteem issue. Mine has never been especially good. I seesaw between overconfidence and underconfidence, with no idea where the sweet spot in-between lies. Does anyone truly know this? I’m not sure.
Recently I also read “The Isolation of Aspergers.” Even though I don’t fully identify with most of her words, I do share many of those feelings. There’s a lot of loneliness.
It seems to me your shared thoughts bullets are applicable to everyone who tries to care about others. I’m not sure as many of us are comfortable with new interactions as seem like we are– Aspie or not.
Thanks for your perspective, Jess- to my eyes it always seems so effortless for others. It’s nice to know that’s not always the case!
So then I started wondering, “If other people feel that way, why do people react differently to them and to me?” I guess because we act differently despite the same internal state. Hmm.