“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
There are many words that still haunt me. Taunts about my weight that started in late elementary school. Words of social exclusion from the mean girls. Dismissive remarks from relatives. A girl I considered my best friend suggesting I just kill myself. (I pretty much remember the exact phrasing of that one.)
I remember talking to a new friend in high school and explaining that my group of girl friends didn’t care what I had to say. “Oh, I’m sure you’re just imagining things,” he said. “No, I had the feeling that they didn’t want to hear me, but then they actually said, ‘Schenley, shut up; we don’t care.'” I thought that was pretty convincing proof that my intuition had been correct. I don’t remember him having a good response to that.
I recall a period there in high school where I felt like I just couldn’t win. If I was in a good mood and talkative, they would yell at me for being annoying. If I kept quiet, they would yell at me for being depressed. It was only in the past few days that I started to realize the direction of the correlation – sure, sometimes I was quiet because I was depressed, but I think more often I was depressed because I was quiet.
On a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon is telling Amy about his “Which new game system to buy?” dilemma in a very animated and agitated fashion. Poor, patient Amy just wants him to shut up and pass the butter, and in exasperation feigns interest. Despite her doing this extremely obviously, Sheldon is oblivious and just gets more enthusiastic. Sometimes I wish I could be as oblivious as Sheldon. Instead, I have learned to pick up those social cues of disinterest and annoyance. And when people aren’t interested, I can generally shut up. But this comes at a cost.
I’ve started to notice that this constant tongue-biting is truly damaging to my mood.
I’m suppressing my own thoughts and feelings. I’m telling myself they aren’t worth sharing. When these are feelings of excitement or joy, that is pretty effective at squelching the happiness.
As an Aspie, I have special interests that bring me joy. I love to spend time on/with these things, I love to think about them, I love to talk about them. The problem is, other people generally don’t find them as interesting.
It hurts when others aren’t interested in something I’m passionate about. I mean, if the person is someone you care about, shouldn’t you at least listen out of care for the person, if not the topic? Whenever someone shows a genuine interest in what I’m talking about I can feel myself light up. Like when a friend’s husband asked follow-up questions about how paper-pieced quilting works instead of just nodding and smiling.
It’s great when I have someone to share an interest with, when I’m allowed to be excited and they’re excited in return. My dad and I can rhapsodize about music and movies (and script lines at each other – yay acceptable echolalia), my sister and I can ramble on about our Sims or gush about Glee, a friend and I can quote The Office to each other and even went to The Office Convention in Scranton years ago, etc. I treasure those relationships and moments when we can be ourselves and share each others’ joy. There’s even research to back up the idea that sharing joy with others is a good thing.
Other times I keep my mouth shut because I’m feeling down and don’t want to dampen the other person’s mood, or what I have to say is nothing new and I feel like a broken record and feel bad for the other person who’d have to hear it. I suck at lying, so I just don’t talk. But that doesn’t help me feel any better. And in those moments I long for someone to reach out to me and be honestly willing to listen.