So lately, as I process a lot of stuff about myself, I’m starting to see signs that I am, in fact, autistic. (Self-diagnosis is valid. Actual diagnosis at this stage in the game is costly and could potentially do more harm than good. But that’s a topic for another day.)
Here is a story (or two) about me that should have clued in *someone* that my brain is wired differently.
I wasn’t too into church or youth group until I went to a youth conference called Acquire the Fire and, oh buddy, did I acquire it. I thought Jesus was awesome and everyone needed to think so too, preferably at 7pm on Tuesday nights. I became the youth group’s biggest PR rep and cheerleader. If I knew you *might* be interested in coming to group, I was definitely, DEFINITELY going to invite you.
This one particular girl, let’s call her “Kay”, came to church with her family every Sunday and to the morning prayer circle at school every day. The morning prayer circle at school consisted of myself and about 3-4 other kids who were “unashamed” of the gospel. In my mind, anyone brave enough to join the morning prayer circle at school must be a hardcore believer like me. In reality, we met at a time and place where no one really saw us holding hands and praying together. So, honestly, not much chance for “persecution”.
I thought if Kay was as devoted to God as she seemed to be, she really ~needed~ to come to youth group. I started inviting her almost every chance I got. At least a few times a week, I’d ask if she was coming to youth group. She always gave noncommittal answers such as, “maybe” “we’ll see” “what time is it again”, etc. I took this to mean there was a chance she would come. I’d even wait expectantly for her to walk through the door each week. I never got upset or hurt if she didn’t show. I just figured she was busy or forgot and I needed to keep asking. That is until…
She told on me to her mom.
Yep. You read that right. My stepmom sat me down one day because Kay’s mom had called her asking her to get me to stop bothering her daughter and asking her to come to youth group. Apparently, I was making her uncomfortable. Of course, I was surprised, embarrassed, and upset. I was a junior in high school at this point. No one had tattled on me to their mom for quite some time. I left Kay alone after that. I didn’t really talk to her much even when a few months later she started coming to youth group all on her own.
That’s just one story. I have so many more.
How about the time when I was a married, adult lady, not a kid in high school anymore, and it took me months to realize my (now ex) husband’s friends didn’t like me.
The band we’d been in for 2 years had broken up. The next one we’d started ended suddenly when the drummer ditched us right before a big show and I was 5 months pregnant with my first kid. We became friends with 2 single guys and started hanging with them regularly. We even made stupid homemade movies together. One of them asked me for advice about a girl he liked. We decided to form a band together. I thought we were all friends. I treated them the way I’d always treated my guy friends. I shared personal stuff with them because that’s what I’d always done. We would all be hanging together in a group and things would get deep and I’d share my deep stuff too. Apparently, that made them uncomfortable.
After a while I finally took the hint and wrote a resignation letter to the band because to me it seemed like the guys didn’t like me. AND THEY WERE SO RELIEVED THAT I QUIT BECAUSE *THEY DIDN’T LIKE ME*! I made them uncomfortable.
You want more stories? I could tell you more.
I could tell you the brief tale of the multiple times when I was pregnant with my first kiddo and my (now ex) husband was constantly working overnight so I never saw him and got very lonely. I guess I sort of invited myself over to watch tv with some friends. It took me hours, *HOURS* to realize they wanted me to leave.
The point of all these stories and others will be the same. I don’t pick up on social cues from people that I am making them uncomfortable. It is “normal” to make others aware of your discomfort by your tone of voice, your facial expressions, your body language, even the subtle choices you make in the language you use. But, clearly, all of that is over my head. I miss the memo. If you don’t explicitly tell me I’m making you uncomfortable, I won’t know.
And the knowledge and terror of that is so real for me. When you KNOW you make people uncomfortable but you also don’t know when you’re doing it OR what exactly you’re doing that makes them uncomfortable, you spend way too much time in your head trying to construct the model that will finally tell you how to behave. When you don’t know why people you thought were friends are just done with you, you become an anxious little bunny afraid of her own shadow.
The grey world of subtlety that others seem to thrive in and understand, the world of subtext and pretext, of undertone and gradation, of ambiguity and nuance is ~uncomfortable~ for ME! I might make them uncomfortable by not picking up on their social cues but their social cues are uncomfortable for me. I LOVE direct, honest communication, not that I’m always good at it, nevertheless, I LOVE IT. I’ve outstayed my welcome and you’re ready for me to head home? Tell me! I’m texting too much (bc the bees inside my head never shut up)? I want to know! Something in my mannerisms or language makes you uncomfortable? Ok, I’ll adjust accordingly. I’m not difficult to work with here, folks. You just have to communicate with me directly.
But people aren’t direct. Even many fellow neurodivergents who value direct communication are, themselves, indirect. This is probably for the same reason I’m not always direct: we were conditioned not to be because it makes others (say it with me now, folks) ~uncomfortable~! That coupled with the crippling need to people please because our RSD is rampaging in the Tokyo of our mindscapes like miniature Godzillas means that, we too, go for subtlety instead of just saying what’s on our minds.
And, oh, my dear fluffy Lord in heaven, I’m so exhausted by all of it.
Like all humans I desire love, friendship, and acceptance but my pursuit of such things hasn’t always turned out the way I’d hoped. And I’ve always accepted the blame for that. In another recent post, I said that I mythologize other humans. They are Greek god, I am mere mortal. When you’re told often enough early in life all the things you’re doing wrong and not nearly enough what you’re doing right, you begin to believe you can’t do anything right. You start to only see your negative traits and not your positive ones. Something about you is alien, wrong. Because if you were human, right, you wouldn’t push away so many people, would you?
I’ve lived in the fear that I will make my most loved ones uncomfortable, that I’ll annoy them, that I’ll finally push too much and they will leave for good. And I’ve come to see that fear manifest before my eyes into reality. And it was more painful than I’d expected it to be. But I survived it. Somehow and by the grace of God.
I’m in a computer class in school. Principles of Computing. It’s a beginner’s beginner’s course to writing code. And guess what? I mother flurping love it. I love it so much. Computer code is my new favorite thing. Why?? Because there is no subtle grey area to navigate. You input something and it does the thing. Is there skill and knowledge involved in figuring out what things to input so what you’re trying to create will perform correctly? Uh duh. But I know if I use “x” input, it will perform “x” function. I don’t have to coax it into doing what it’s supposed to or try reading between some imaginary lines. It is what it is and that’s all it is. No grey. All black and white. Ones and zeros. It’s amazingly beautiful. It’s my friend now. We’re having soft tacos later.
Of all the things I’m discovering about myself, this one might be the most helpful. I don’t like ambiguity in my relationships. I want to know where we fall on the friendship rainbow. Are we closer to the cloud side or the pot of gold? I don’t like the idea that someone is not cool with me and expecting me to figure it out by the helpful hints they’ve left for me. Gross. Tell me we’re not cool. I’d rather you call me a massive douche to my face and tell me why I’m a douche than to just fade me out of your reality.
I’ve spent a long time assuming I was annoying people and preemptively trying to put out fires that didn’t even exist. I’m not doing that anymore. If I’m annoying you, grow a pair of tits, balls, or vocal cords and TELL ME. Or if you’re too much of a coward, tell on me to your mom and have her do it. But unless I’m explicitly told I’m annoying you, I’m gonna go ahead and assume I’m not.
Input “x” results in “x” function performed. It’s that simple. Tell me I’m annoying you and then I will know. I am not a mind reader. And I’m done playing Scooby Doo only to unmask the villain and find out it was ME all along.
I’m finally getting to the place in my life where I like myself. All the self doubt, worry, and guessing games have to go. I’d rather spend the rest of my life alone than continue to gaslight myself this way and play these harmful mind games.
I started this post by saying “here’s a sign I might be autistic – I don’t read social cues”. Neat. Now what am I gonna do about it? Nothing. Love myself exactly how I am and work on reconditioning myself so I’m not so worried about putting out imaginary fires or alienating people just by being me. All my fears about losing people and being alone, fueled by my mini RSD Godzilla, have just held me back for so long and kept me from truly finding the love, friendship, and acceptance I seek. Time to work on abandoning those fears. Time to work on finding the love, friendship, and acceptance I seek in myself. (#corny)