I've mentioned in here before that I tend not to discuss my autism with people I know in real life (at least not straight away). For a start, it's easier to talk about it online where I can edit and re-edit my thoughts, spend as long as I wish getting them in order, and can point people over to useful websites etc... In real life I can get a little flustered, and this makes me forget things, which in turn makes me sound unsure of myself and probably a little pathetic. The other main reason is that I want people to get to know me for myself, rather than judging everything I do in the light of my Aspergers. This way I find that when I do tell them I'm autistic, they're quite surprised (and this is gratifying because it proves to me that my so-called "quirky behaviour" isn't so alarming to NTs).
I have been told that I'm the kind of person who takes a while to get to know properly. I would say this is true, I rarely open myself up to people unless I feel comfortable with them, and that I can trust them. I would say it takes me at least a year of being acquianted with someone before I feel perfectly comfortable with them (obviously there are exceptions - sometimes I meet someone I "click" with quite quickly, other times I can know someone for many years and still feel uneasy in their prescence.)
Anyway I'm getting far too caught up in the explanation and not getting to the point of this post quickly enough... (I do that a lot, I know...)
So the other day I was having lunch with a friend (let's call her... Hmmm... Jenny.) I have known this girl for over 2 years now, I like her a lot and I find her easy to talk to. I have never told her I'm autistic. I've considered it, but didn't really know how to bring it up, and it also seemed ultimately pointless... But during the course of the conversation I mentioned my brothers were autistic and she claimed I had never said that before (I'm sure I have, it probably didn't sink in). I said to her "My mum has five children and Charlie [my sister] is the only one without any autistic traits."
She looked at me. "What?"
And so on... She told me she had no idea, and I said that was the reaction I usually got. I explained some of my over-sensitivity and social interaction problems to her. ("So that's why I may sometimes look like I'm not, or that I'm not listening when I really am...")
When reflecting on this conversation afterwards I thought "I don't have many friends who know I'm autistic" before adding "I don't have many friends full stop..."
Which is something that I never really notice until I actually sit down and think about it. There are people I enjoy socialising with, people I have good conversations with when I meet them, but how many of them would say I was a "good friend" of theirs?
Some days I find social interaction easier than others. Sometimes I just force myself to talk to people.
Outgoing NT's can just walk up to people they don't know and strike up a conversation. How do they do that?! It's incredible.
Yesterday at Uni I was sharing a lift with 3 people who were going to the same seminar as me. I've never spoken to them before, I've seen them around every so often for the past 2 years though! So I could have taken that lift ride in silence. But no! They were discussing the upcoming seminar. I could contribute to this discussion! So I leapt in (with a self-deprecating remark). Well, the girl looked at me in surprise. One of the guys looked at me as though listening, and the other guy actually talked to me. So, yes!
Some days, it isn't so scary ^_^
I told Greg (my boyfriend) about this in the evening. He asked if it had made me happy and I said yes, so he hugged me and told me he was proud of me ^_^
Over the summer I visited my dad. His wife (my stepmum, Trish) has just had a baby so I had to come and visit. I warned my dad beforehand that I might not show an extreme level of enthusiasm towards the baby, but that he shouldn't be offended if this was the case. I just don't get excited over the same things as everyone else. He lovingly assured me that he and Trish would be offended if I didn't appear interested enough.
Anyway, meeting the baby was fine. He was quiet and un-pukey, and I like babies well enough. I just don't coo over them so much. The problem was being at my dad's house for a few days. I've never felt particularly comfortable there, but I can't really bring it up because it's exactly the kind of thing he'll get upset about. I just tried to stay out of their way as much as possible, and help out sometimes.
I have a problem with helping my dad because I always feel intensely criticised. I'm very thin-skinned when it comes to criticism, I admit it. I feel a lot of pressure from my dad, really. If he asks me a trivia question and I don't know the answer, a big deal gets made about it "Oh my god - something Peff doesn't know!!" and that upsets me.
At one point my dad said he was going to start making dinner, and asked me to check on the boiling potatoes. At this point I assumed he hadn't yet started, and would tell me when he'd put the potatoes onto boil. Time passed and I heard no word from him, so I went into the kitchen and found my sister taking care of everything. He'd put the potatoes on and left without a word. Later that evening my stepmum made a point of telling my dad that my sister had done all the work and that I hadn't checked on the kitchen until there was an advert break on TV. She did it with a laugh so I wasn't supposed to upset, but it actually really got to me. It made it sound like I was being lazy. I didn't even realise there was an advert break. I didn't leave earlier because A) I didn't realise the potatoes were even on and B) I thought my stepmum would think I was rude if I left her alone in the front room.
The worst event came, however, the day before I left. I was quietly keeping out of the way when my dad called me for dinner. I didn't even realise he'd been making anything. I got my food and sat down, then my dad offered to make me a drink and left for the kitchen. When he was out of the room my stepmum said to me, in the iciest voice you can imagine, "Did it ever occur to you to offer to make dinner?"
I was really shocked. It was a very evil tone of voice and it really really got to me. So much in fact that as I'm writing this up, a month later, I have tears in my eyes. She was basically accusing me of being lazy and rude, and that really hurt. I had helped out when I was there. I even went down the shops for them, I did hoovering, I checked on the baby. And, yes, I had considerd offering to make dinner but I was too scared to because every time I've cooked for my dad in the past I've done something wrong, something he's criticised. I don't know my way around his kitchen and I would feel weird in that environment. I feel that anything I made wouldn't be good enough for him. But I would have been happy to help him with anything he wanted. I did help with cooking when I was there.
I went upstairs and cried my eyes out. My dad came to see me and we had a talk. Trish told me that she thought I wasn't offering to help because I "didn't care" and that made me cry even more. She said to me "you're very sensitive but you need to be more aware of others." Well I do my fucking best, but it isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world for me, obviously. I've tried to talk to my dad about autism before but I guess he's forgotten all about that.
When talking to my sister on the train the next day I summed it up as "So basically he said that he doesn't actually mind if I help out around the house, he just wants me to offer to help sometimes so he can say no." And she said " Well, that makes sense, doesn't it?"
"Makes sense to some people."
I hate situations like that, cos it makes me feel that no matter how hard I try I'll never be good enough. It can be exhausting trying to work out what's expected of me and I can't keep it up constantly. But then when I pull back to recuperate, something like this happens and it really, really gets to me. Usually I'm fine, my autism doesn't cause me too many problems. I have a boyfriend, I have friends, I can cope with most social situations quite well. But then something like that happens, something that wouldn't have happened if I wasn't autistic. And it makes me feel like I'll always be an outsider.
At the moment I'm staying at my boyfriend's mum's house. The place is always full of people (Greg has 4 younger siblings) and they have a lot of family close by so there are frequent visits from aunts, uncles, cousins and their grandmother. The first night I arrived I not only had to meet my boyfriend's mum for the first time, and all the siblings, but my boyfriend's grandmother and his mum's second cousin! Textbook "rabbit in headlights" time for an Aspie, but I think I did Ok... I just tried to stay relaxed and I trusted Greg to look after me and make sure I didn't get too overwhelmed.
Greg and I were good friends before we eventually got together, and in that time I educated him about autism. He's actually one of the few people I feel I can talk to about autism in real life - a lot of my friends/acquaintances don't know I'm an Aspie. Greg has even said that he finds my autistic traits "cute" - he likes the way my mind works in such a logical way compared to other people, and he's constantly impressed by my memory for small details and my extensive knowledge of trivia!
We're going to be living together soon so we'll see whether he still finds it "cute" after being exposed to it 24 hours a day! (Actually, I think he'll be fine ^_^)
When I was little, my dad would always say to me...
because sometimes he would talk to me and I would give him no sign that I had heard him. I've mentioned this in here before - it's a very common Aspie trait. Again I stress that it's not rudeness, and it's not intended to offend at all. Sometimes I don't respond because my mind is concentrating on something else (maybe I'm reading something, maybe I'm trying to listen to something on TV or radio, maybe there's something visually interesting in my line of sight that I find quite absorbing...) Sometimes I don't respond because I think it's obvious to the other person that I heard what they said, so there's no need to react. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by the information they've given me and my expression stays blank while I try and assimilate what thye've said. And sometimes I think I have acknowledged them, but not realised that my actions were inadequate to their needs.
Sometimes I've been in a conversation and a remark has been directed at me, and I have made a slight gesture to show acknowledgment (like a smile for example), only to discover that everyone's attention has become fixed on me because they think I haven't properly responded...
I was talking about this to Greg, my new boyfriend. He said that out of all my autistic traits, the lack of acknowledgement was the only one that had troubled him. Like most NTs he would mistake my silence for disinterest, but now he knows the reasons behind it. He also knows that if he really wants a verbal response from me, he just has to tag a question on the end of the phrase... eg "Don't you think so, Peff?"
The first time I noticed myself rocking was in my late teens. This was way before I even suspected I was an autismo. I don't do it consciously, and I only seem to do it when I'm sitting on the floor cross-legged. It's not like the stereotypical image of a hunched up autistic, clutching their knees to their chest, rocking and mumbling. It's just a very, very slight bobbing back and forth... I often don't even realise I'm doing it at first. And then I realise and I wonder if anyone has noticed. But I've never had anyone make any comments about it.
If you know anything about Aspergers, you probably know that we have trouble with interpreting statements in a too-literal way.
The number of time someone has said to me something along the lines of "Peff, would you like to pass me that pile of newspapers...?"
and I will say "...No" because I don't want to do it.
And they look at me and think I'm trying to be funny.
If I'm quick enough I will say "Oh you mean 'Peff, please pass me that pile of newspapers'" and if I'm unlucky the NT will be annoyed with what they see as me being cheeky... If I'm lucky they will be "patient" with me...