>There are things about autism that are positive. I have a fantastic memory. I can read at the spread of light. When I can focus, I can really focus. I have a connection with cats like nobody I know, and I’d like to hang onto that, thanks. Then there are things that are neutral. Sometimes, I need to type instead of talk. My hands don’t like to my still. I like to watch the same movie 50 times in a row. There are things about it that make life more difficult. At 21, I’m not ready to move out on my own. I can’t work full time. My organizational skills… don’t exist. But what I want to talk about now is possibly the most frustrating, the most isolating, the most debilitating aspect of autism: friendships.
Growing up, I had one best friend. I’d known her since I was 6 years old. I had this friend all the way through until we got to high school, when the pull from making other friends got to me too much, I think. Her other friends thought I was weird, and they made no secret of it. They blatantly wanted nothing to do with me. They forced her to make the choice between me and a normal high school social life, and I can’t say that I blame her for the choice she made, but it certainly hurt. Aside from that one person, I’ve always tried to hold back, tried to contain what makes me different. It results in having acquaintences that are hard to maintain, because it’s hard for me to act that way, and that are hardly worth having because I don’t act like myself.
Before you say, “Just be yourself!” it’s so not that easy. I want to just be myself, so badly, but if I did that, I’m fairly certain that anyone would go running the other way. Even around my very closest friends, those who really know me, I have to work extremely hard. I have to get the right words out. I have to remember to say “I’m frustrated” and not just yell at them, which would scare them off. I have to remember to use words, not tears. I have to talk about things that they want to talk about, even when I don’t understand them. I have to figure out how to respond, and show I’m listening, because I’m almost always listening. I have to limit how much I talk about my cat. I can’t help but think that anyone, anyone, even my own mom, would be run off by what and who I would be if I didn’t work so hard to control myself. It’s not easy work, either; it takes a lot of effort.
In general, I can do it. I wear a filter, all the time. Well, it falls off when I’m by myself, but as long as someone else is around, that filter is there. It’s basically a filter of impulse control, that makes it so I can do everything I just listed above. But sometimes, that filter comes loose. I know that people can tell when it does. When my emotions are intense, it tends to happen. And every time it does, I’m afraid that I’m going to run off whoever it is I was around.
Friendships are really, really hard. I wish I didn’t have so much ugliness in me that needed to be filtered. But, I do, and so I’ll keep that filter on. The few close friendships I have are worth the hard work it takes. Autism, or anything else, isn’t going to get in the way of that.