Note: don’t assume the same outcomes for everyone who is autistic. This is my experience. I hope it’s not the case for others. Furthermore, there is no way I can perfectly predict my future, but this represents my present feelings, ones I’ve had for some time. Maybe I’ll have a later post to counter this one, but that would be a big surprise. I’ll keep doing something in the meantime.
In what seems to be a somewhat common scenario for autistic people, based on what I’ve read, losing friends is one of the worst parts of having an autistic brain. This is especially true when your friend (or friends) understands autism better than the people closest to you, and it leaves you wondering that if you can’t be friends with that person, who can you be friends with.
This is the friend my wife would say it was nice for me to have around, someone who understood me. It’s the friend my therapist kept telling me I needed, even as I doubted if my friend even liked me because of how she was acting towards me. Perhaps, I should have listened to my intuition. But, both my intuition and the admonitions of others could not sway me from defending my friend and guarding my friendship. Ultimately, I apparently became too defensive, and it irritated everyone who didn’t understand why we were friends. Maybe I was the one who didn’t understand, but that feels impossible, even now.
The more I came to rely on her for what others probably should have been helping with — namely my family and other friends —, the more I became annoying and boring. I think she realized I wasn’t worth the effort required to be my friend. To that end, she was right. I’m not. Nobody is worth that much effort. Somehow, my wife manages, but that’s largely by ignoring me when I ask for her help with something she doesn’t understand or care about. That’s how you survive life with an obnoxiously-confused and traumatized autistic person. You keep distant emotionally, so you can do as you want with your life without being slowed down by someone who is slowed down with, as my former boss said, “flaws.” My flaws are apparently so bad that no matter how much therapy and openness about my circumstances I relate to people, I’m not going to qualify to be around anyone who is not a complete idiot or immune to annoyances.
My friend once told me there was nothing wrong with me. Well, I guess she later concluded that she had made a mistake. In fact, I recall her literally telling me she had made a mistake — somewhat confusingly to me — shortly before dispatching me to the realm of no friends, the one for which I’m best suited.
It’s OK. I mean, it’s not, but it’s at least now clear that I’m not really friendship material. If I upset this friend so badly, then I could do it again to someone else, and why take that risk? I’m really not interested in hurting others, as that is more devastating than when I get hurt directly. Guilt on top of pain is not good for my mental health. I have enough wounds from the past as it is. I’m not being a martyr or defeatist; I’m being realistic. Furthermore, I’ve spent too many days crying alone because I don’t know exactly what I’ve done to upset someone when there is an easy, albeit imperfect, fix in a life of maximized isolation.
I’ll just do my best not to annoy my wife, and she is good at ignoring my annoyances anyway. My children tolerate me to various degrees, and I can always fall back on my canine companions, especially if I have treats. I have some decent acquaintances, but they are not the kind of friends I really want or need. They tend to be somewhat monolithic in their lack of interest in who I am as a person, instead of what I can do for them. They don’t energize me at all. My wife is the one most people adore. Above all, I often hear that she “acts like a man,” and that’s apparently the epitome of praise for a woman, though I find that offensive to everyone. (That’s for a different post.)
This does make my wife especially well-suited to “put up” with me, and her lack of emotions does have its benefits in that sense, at least for her. But, I always thought it would be nice to have someone to share emotions with, and I’m now realizing that’s highly unlikely to happen, no matter how much therapists tell me it would be good for me. It can’t be good if it’s always going to be, as my friend warned me, temporary. That’s not how my brain can process emotions, to know that a friendship is doomed to fail. That must be a neurotypical concept, for I’d rather work out problems and not give up on a friendship. What do I know? I know I have no friends, so there is that fact staring me in the face every morning when I wake up.
Losing a friend you thought understood you is not easy. It’s especially difficult when you conclude you lost the friend because she actually did understand you, and you became that annoying, uncaring person you have been trying for your entire life not to be. In that sense, I was correct. But, it’s a sad thing to be correct about. I’m determined not to make that mistake again, as much for everyone else as for myself. Apparently, all the negativity and hurtful actions aimed at me by my parents and many other people, was, at least in part, a way of telling me I had the problem all along. Just because I now have an official name for it, and just because I’ve been trying for decades, that doesn’t mean anyone is going to desire or have any obligation to be my friend. My friend was nice enough to give me a better chance than most, but that doesn’t matter if you don’t understand how to be a good friend.
I don’t understand how people get rid of friends, especially so casually. Maybe that’s one of those flaws my boss was trying to explain to me. However, I never quite stop thinking of someone as a friend, no matter how much they might hurt or confuse me, or how much I’ve upset them. I like to think there is a solution to problems if people are willing to fix them, though I don’t think many people would find me worth the effort. If this friend who understood me didn’t, then I don’t know who would. Plenty of people this past year have pretended to care, but when it really mattered, they scattered more quickly than my friend discarded me. That tells me all I need to know about my friendship skills, and I need to accept that until someone can prove me wrong. But, I’m not expecting a miracle, only a pragmatic withdrawal from situations where someone might mistakenly think I’d make a good friend.
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