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Hanging Out with...?

Hanging out with friends seems to be something that most of my Facebook "friends" do on a weekly basis. Some seem to be hanging out nightly. They are the social butterflies I sometimes envy, because social skills matter personally and professionally.

I don't get random emails, messages, or phone calls from people asking, "What are you doing tonight?" I can't recall the last personal, non-work message, that was not initiated by me. People don't reach out to me without a reason.

Several people have said I make others uncomfortable one-on-one. Lecturing? Public speaking? Those are not a problem. But there is something "off" with my interpersonal skills.

Even if I had great social skills, I would I spend time alone so I could write and be creative. I know socially adept introverts. Wanting space doesn't mean you are socially awkward. Of course, I am so socially inept and an introvert. So, on the rare occasions when I do want to hang out, the options are my wife and the cats.

This is on my mind tonight because someone asked if my wife had any friends. "Since you don't have real friends, I wondered if she did."

The successful people I know are socially adept. We are not.

I like to get out of the house, and I crave intellectual stimulation, but I am not comfortable in social situations. My wife is my social connection. That might not be best for her.

Knowing I make others uneasy, with my intensity or whatever it is, I'd rather be alone most of the time. Being alone isn't the same as being lonely. But what if my wife is lonely? That is a reasonable concern.

Comments

  1. I am, from everything I've been told, extroverted, engaging, and fun to be around. Being female, and a fighter working much of her young life to prove I wasn't a r-word has given me skills - or differences perhaps others don't. In the 70's while the word Autism existed, it was even harder then to get a diagnosis, let alone come across anyone who really knew what it was. Nevertheless, at 8 years old, "mental retardation" was handed to my parents, and from that point on, my life would never be the same.

    Mom, who I can now see in retrospect was also on the spectrum, was patient, kind, loving and worked with me, tirelessly, to help me grow and thrive. My father on the other hand, not so much. Pacing, spinning, walking in circles flapping was met with extreme violence and a primitive form of ABA. He would sit me on my bed, on my hands and not allow me to move. Because if I did, the beatings would be worse. Out in public around relatives and such, the rule was to sit on my hands. Eye contact, same thing. Violence. 8 years old I couldn't read or write at all, beatings and violence from dad. Mom worked with me and in a few short months I went from "mental retardation" as far as the school was concerned to Master's level reading, comprehension and vocabulary. So then I'd stay out of trouble by staying in my room with books. I'd get so lost in books I wouldn't, couldn't hear anything else. My father when he finally found me sitting quietly on my bed with a book rocking, what was his reaction? Yup, beatings and violence.

    So I'm an odd mix of an introvert and extrovert for a whole lot of reasons. In controlled doses I can be the "life of the party" funny, engaging, social, and very, very much the extrovert. But after a while my head gets crunchy and I start the slow fall toward meltdown. If I get out, go home, and hide away with my books in the dark and quiet with some tea, in a few days I'll recover.

    I for years, decades even, never really had any real friends, let alone folks that actively sought out my company.

    Continued ...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Part two ...

    Now as I'm about to turn 50, and I'm a widow and survivor of domestic violence, stalking, and all kinds of hell, those are things I've been through, but not who I am. I have a girlfriend, a woman I love more than I ever thought I could. The woman who within days of meeting me suggested I might be on the spectrum, because she raised a daughter to adulthood who is also on the spectrum, so she knew what she was seeing in me. She'd never been able to get an official diagnosis for her daughter, and me, after a brief period of mourning for the life I could have had, made it my complete focus to get this done, to find and marshal the resources to get myself, and my girlfriend's 27 year old daughter an official diagnosis. Especially since E--- had invested in herself to get a GED and had gone back to college. Her first semester was hard, and the school's office of disability services wouldn't talk to her without an official diagnosis. By the time she started her second semester, she had it. It was as important to me to get her what she needed as it was to her Mom, because if she could change the course of her life now, at 27, she might miss lots of the crap I went through, and because she's awesome, smart, funny, and cool. She grew up knowing she was on the spectrum even if not officially diagnosed.

    So we're doing good.

    Marriage - not that I'm an expert, I won my divorce simply because I outlived him - is team work. Relationships of any kind are teamwork, communications, compromise, understanding and love. A decade ago my husband walked out on me, cleaned out all the accounts, started - escalated violence to a level you only see in movies. And of course I filed for divorce, and swore that was it, I was done. Never, ever, ever, ever again. Six years ago I move here after a few moves in between to make it harder for my now long dead husband and his family to stalk me.

    Four years ago I was a shutin. I left the house for doctors appointments, and at three in the morning to get groceries in a store devoid of people, and checkout in the self checkout lanes. I talked to a few close family members now and then on the phone, and a couple of friends.

    Continued ...

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  3. Part three...

    One of those friends, not knowing then that I was on the spectrum, thought she's a career educator and figured it out herself really quickly, insisted that being a hermit wasn't good for my health. She asserted that I needed to get out of the house, make some friends, go for walks, what have you. Because I care deeply about her, and didn't want to give her reasons to worry, I started trying to do that kind of stuff. I bought a bike, because my physical health sucked and I couldn't walk the 1.76 miles around the lake in the only park I felt I could safely goto.

    Cycling, which had been such liberation for me as a child, was something I could do, and was good at, didn't require anyone or anything else, cycling let me spread my wings. I fell in love all over again and I fell hard.

    Enter my girlfriend, who found me online talking about cycling locally, and was interested in doing it herself. She reached out to me about it, but one think lead to another and it took two years for us to finally meet in person. When we did, something clicked, a friendship grew, and she's the one who suggested I was on the spectrum. Somehow along with all this, we fell in love. Then we started dating. But her knowing full well I was different. Having a daughter on the spectrum, she helped me in ways too numerous to mention without driving you crazy.

    She's neurotypical, I'm autistic. We work together, and she's gently introduced me to people, both on and off the spectrum that I've built friendships with. And I get out of the house now more than I ever have in my life before now, and interact with, and care about more people than I ever have before in my life. My girlfriends friends and family call her the social network, and have since long before the movie (that I've not seen) came out. She knows thousands of people all over. And while before she came into my life I wasn't at all lonely, I'm not nearly as alone as I once was or wanted to be. And I do things now like pick up the phone and talk to people. I go to places and get together with people. I get invited to things, hang out with people, and to be honest, my girlfriend is sorta to blame. But it's a whole new life for me, and now, with 50 right around the corner instead of looking like a destroyed old widow, I'm more like a 20 year old.

    I do my best to keep this relationship that I never expected and couldn't imagine alive and well, and she works with me, even helps me when and where she can. And it's little things, like we'll be out to eat, and she'll steer me to a different place to sit because she'll catch the things that I might not, that can throw me off. Having raised her daughter, she's used to "herding cats" as she puts it, and it works well for us. We have this kind of grown up, healthy, flowing, living relationship that I never could have dreamed of having.

    Continued...

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  4. Part four... (sorry this is so long, you struck a nerve, and I wanted to let you know that there is hope)

    You and your wife can do the same. And the journey from being socially (and in all other ways) inept for me, to this life now that I still cannot quite imagine are accomplished one step at a time. Socially that really started for me when I was 22 and my then girlfriend sat me down and explained that I was neither an alien or an android, and that things like facial expressions, eye contact, body language were all important skills to have. I was in love enough, that I put all available free time into studying people. Teaching myself what we as Autistics don't come from the factory able to do. And I put the same kind of Aspie/Autie focus into my work study project many people put into Ph.D's and it paid off for me. But it was work.

    The friend of mine who is a career teacher? When after my girlfriend told me I was autistic and set me down the journey of self discovery and explanations for so much of me life I told Gilly that I was Autistic she said: "Of course you are. Wait, you didn't know?!" She just kinda assumed I knew, she said it was as clear to her from early on in our relationship.



    My girlfriend's Daughter, has sat down with the letter from our NeuroPsych and disability services and her second semester is being different from her first, she;s getting help to succeed, and that's such a gift for all three of us. This summer, I'm going to teach her to drive and help her get her drivers license. I got mine late too, and I still periodically do things that used to have my husband holler at me, like stopping at green lights - well really all of the different pretty colors. I think it puts my girlfriend's daughter, who has wanted to learn to drive but was afraid, at ease knowing I've been driving for years and I didn't even know I was Autistic. Over the years I've taught plenty of other people to drive, so I'm not worried there.

    So yeah, my girlfriend in so many ways was - is - my social connection, but it's grown from there. Admittedly, I imagine things will/can be different for you for two reasons. One, every Autistic is different, just like every NT person is different. Two, there is a pretty decent amount of anecdotal evidence that men and women are different in some pretty significant ways, and everything I've read says this is no different for Autistic folks. It is currently an informal given that women, well we have natural mimic circuits that help us blend a bit better, but also help us fall through the cracks better too. But I know, from having lived it, that I can, and often do, find ways around my deficits through hard work, understanding, love, and help from people who love me.

    Continued...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Part five... (finally done, sorry it was so long)

    Share my comments with your wife, be open and honest with your concerns, communicate, collaborate and put a little work into things, and you might find all kinds of doors opening for you. I'm living proof. I too like to get out of the house, my kindle, a cooler, portable gas grill, and I can (and do) go to parks, walk for a while, read for a while, draw, take pictures, make up some food, watch the world go by at a MSD (Minimum Safe Distance) and it has always worked out so well for me.

    My girlfriend, she's not just beautiful, she's brilliant too. And so we're never at a lose for things to talk about or do. We work together. You and your wife can do the same. I get the whole not comfortable in social situations, I'm Autistic and deal with sensory issues too. But knowing, and understanding now, I can, as you said in one of your other posts about schools, be my own advocate. I can, and do explain some of the challenges I deal with and ask people to be patient with me when my brain switches off because of overload and i lose the ability to speak, hear, or even move.

    Sadly not everyone gets it, or is even willing to try. So we do what we can, and we find people we can relate to and even love. Don't be afraid to talk with your wife, we love that. NT and Autistic women alike, we still like the connecting, the sharing with someone we love. You've come this far, you're doing good.

    If there is one thing I learned more than anything, Passion, desire, and drive to get where you're going can accomplish so much. Even when life throws you curves.

    Thank you for reading, and thank you for writing!

    ReplyDelete

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