How Someone on the Autism Spectrum Finds Friendship
I used to look around and see people in groups, congregating, laughing, and looking happy.
They seemed confident, as though they knew what they were talking about…were having fun.
I didn’t know them as close friends, but I had seen them before. So I would tell myself, “I think I’ll go and join them.” I wanted to have fun too.
I would wonder, though, “How do I get into this group? How do I start talking? How do I know when to talk?” None of them really invited me. So I would just walk up to them. That’s what I saw others do. And if I didn’t just join a group, I would be standing alone, and that hurts more than standing in a group and not being addressed.
So out of two evils I would pick the less painful one.
I’d smile and say “Hi.” I would get “the look”.
God, how I hated that look.
I never knew what to do with it. It cut through my body like an ice-cold sword, and I would start sinking…down the vortex of shame.
What was it about me that deserved that look of disapproval and distaste?
Did they all know something about me that I didn’t?
And with the look came the shoulder. That little turn of the upper body, just enough to tell me I wasn’t welcome.
After the look and the shoulder, it would take everything out of me to stay there, to stay connected with ME, and most of all, to stay conscious.
So I would stay…and keep on trying to belong.
It was so tempting just to float away, leave my body, hide in my imaginative brain, go somewhere safe…the buffet table, the rest room, or even the bar.
For quite some time it was the bar, full of people I called my “friends”…as long as I bought them drinks.
For almost 20 years my “true friend”, the bottle, protected me and stood up for me when I needed help. After a couple of drinks, life didn’t hurt that much.
I didn’t get any prettier, any funnier, or more popular. I just stopped caring. “it” stopped hurting.
If I miss anything about my drinking years, it’s that wonderful feeling of “I don’t care.”
It’s been 27 years without that feeling. Life has been real, confusing and often painful; life’s been raw!
Now, I endure the shunning without a buffer. It can feel like a heavy wet blanket weighing me down, a wet lukewarm sense of “I’m not worthy of belonging.”
I would ask myself, “What is it about me that acts like a repellent?”
And, then, after my diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, I wondered – is it my autism? Do I wear a halo of “I have autism; run away.”? But just like everyone else, I am sensitive. However, I have had to develop thick skin just to survive.
The shunning is just so painful. I’d rather get physically hit. At least I have your attention.
Attention, that’s what it is! I want attention. I need someone to look at me, so I know “I’m here.” It would be nice if the person also smiled, but looking at me can be enough.
Attention can sometimes feel like oxygen, and it is a connection with the world.
I have heard it said, “I was just like the moon. Without the sun, I didn’t shine. Without other people looking at me, I didn’t exist.” That was me!
In the past, I would settle for the crumbs, just to receive a little sunshine. I’d settle for anything…just to be part of something.
NOT ANY MORE!
It took a long time for me, too long, with many detours, before I figured it out. It doesn’t need to take that long for you!
We don’t have to beg for belonging. We don’t have to be subservient to be welcomed.
We have the same right to belong as any other human being, and we can practice exercising that right by first taking care of our Self, by recognizing our own worth.
Do you have a clear picture of what you want your life to look like? How can you find the confidence to do what you want? How can you develop the courage to BE…You?
Support, support, support. Find people like you – your tribe. Start or join a group on Facebook, Meetup, or other places that advertise their own struggles with friendships and belonging.
Find a place where you can feel gentle attention from someone who cares about you.
For me, it has been amazing to “wake up” to a feeling of belonging.
And, I know in my heart that there is someone out there who cares about you!
Don’t stop trying; reach out, stick your hand out, say “Hello,” say something, start somewhere! It works.
We must be willing to own our own struggles and do what it takes to get out of our bubble of isolation.
We all have a reason to be on this earth. We all have a gift to give. Don’t hide your gift.
Show it to the world. It’s beautiful. You are beautiful.
Because…you’re human, and because we humans belong…together! We can do this…together!
If you want to know more about the BEAM LiFE process and how it can help you discover your own sense of belonging, visit www.EvaAngvert.com.
Or, call her directly at 510.825.7574
Also, our on-line course Social Ease In The World of Autism that has help many adults on the Autism spectrum to find ease and comfort guides you through a process that will help you to become more at ease with your Self and the world.