Friendship is Complicated

Friendship is complicated. There is so much more to relationships than what is on the surface. I have never had a close, lasting relationship with zero conflict. I think that surviving conflict is what builds relationships, but I do love the ease of my friendships that do not have conflict. They are simple, easy to understand, and take little work on my part, but these relationships are mostly superficial. You can spend time with a friend and have fun, but it is staying after the fun is over, when you are not feeling well or are going through difficulties, that friendship really starts to mean more.

I did not have many friends growing up. My first friendships as a young child did not survive their first conflict. I look back now and think of how I could have handled the situation better, how I could have salvaged my friendships, but at the time I had no real experience in handling conflict. I did not know how to talk through feelings and emotions. So, at age 8, I decided to try to make my first friends on my own. I knew every trouble maker and loner at the school. These were my friends because they seemed to have just as many troubles as I did. When we weren’t sitting on the benches, we were the outcasts that no one else would talk to. Looking back now, I wonder if I failed to do my homework on purpose because it was too hard to brave the large playground full of children on my own. Making friends is easier now than it was then, but it can be easy to feel like a little girl again on a playground that is far too large for me.

The other thing that can be difficult is learning to manage conflict with the friends I do have. Indecisiveness makes me anxious, which can be a problem when my best friends do not like to make decisions. They tend to be people pleasers that want to make sure everyone is comfortable with whatever is decided. I would rather go along with a less favorable choice than spend half an hour trying to decide on something that everyone agrees on. Sometimes my anxiety gets the better of me, and I become frustrated and push people away. This causes a whole new level of conflict because my friends don’t understand why I am responding in this way.

Friendship is complicated, and we don’t always know what to do to solve conflicts. As I grow to trust others more, I have learned to simply ask about things I do not understand. I have learned to ask for reassurance when I do not know how a recent conflict has affected a relationship. I have learned to ask what I can do better and how I can make things right with someone. They say it takes courage to apologize to someone, but not apologizing is so much harder for me. I need to know my status with someone, even if it is negative, I just need to know what to expect from them. I think that it must get tiring for my friends to constantly deal with my questions and insecurities, but I am so grateful that they are patient with my shortcomings because friendship really is complicated for me.

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Keep Going

The other day, I did something that was impossible for me a year ago- I said hello to a friend in the grocery store. I know that probably sounds pretty trivial to most people, but I have never been able to greet someone if they were not looking directly at me. I have a hard time controlling my voice volume so I was always worried that I would be too loud and scare the person or that I would be too quiet and they wouldn’t hear me.

I also had a major fear of touching someone, like on the back or shoulder to let them know I was there, which is another thing that has changed recently. I have gotten “pins and needles” before when a friend rubbed my back. I was not used to being touched and my body reacted in negative ways to it. But the other day, a friend rubbed my back and there was such an incredible warmth that went through me. It felt like love radiated through me from the touch of their hand. It was such a beautiful and calming feeling.

Anyway, I said hello to this person in the store, and we had a conversation like we would at church or any other place I might see them. It was simple, natural, completely normal to any onlookers and something that person probably didn’t think twice about, but I was ecstatic. I texted another friend to celebrate my accomplishment. I had wanted to do this my entire life. I even asked for help on this blog at one point to get ideas about how I could learn to say hello to someone. It seemed like a daunting task at the time, but has become less terrifying as I have learned how to communicate and express myself better. In this moment, I celebrated how far I have come in the last few years.

I have come so far and made such amazing progress that I just want to encourage everyone to keep going, keep trying, keep working on getting better. Looking at all of my progress is almost unbelievable. Things that were impossible are now normal. Things that used to make me feel uncomfortable can now help me feel the incredible love others have for me. These changes have truly been a miracle. One of the biggest miracles is that most people don’t know how hard these things used to be for me. They see who I am now and think nothing of these major milestones because it fits me now. I have become the type of person that talks to people and loves and feels love, and that is probably my biggest miracle of all.

Grateful for Talking

I have never felt like I was very good at talking to people. I couldn’t say the letter “R” growing up, which made things even more awkward. I also didn’t have many friends so I didn’t get to practice talking as much as most children. I have a hard time translating my thoughts into words, or more accurately, translating my feelings into thoughts that can become words.

I have been grateful over the years for alternative forms of communication. I have used letters and notes often to tell people what I think and how I feel and to communicate information. I love alternative communication methods because it gives me a voice when I can’t express things any other way. However, I also really love talking.

I am so grateful for people that have allowed me to talk with them in the past few years. I don’t get the privilege of talking to people very often because most people end the conversation before I get a chance to process my thoughts. I have a few friends, though, that let me practice talking with them. They call me and let me figure out how to take turns on the phone without getting frustrated with me or ending the conversation prematurely. These conversations mean a great deal to me and I treasure them for weeks after.

It is still not easy for me to speak out loud. I struggle with conversations at times and can have long periods of awkward silence. But I am grateful for the ability to talk. I am grateful for the opportunities I get to talk to people. I am grateful that some people take the time to listen to me and be patient with me. It has helped me so much.

Finding Your Voice

I have a hard time talking. I mean, I can speak. I just have a hard time finding the words and putting them in sentences when I am speaking. I have heard a lot about assistive technology for communication. I don’t need a device to communicate my needs, but I can relate to the feeling of helplessness with communication. I have needed to find my voice many times over my lifetime.

I found that voice in writing. Most of my good friends have been made through letters or texts. I need to write like I need to breathe. I am a very social person, but I struggle with spending time with people because I don’t know how to talk to them. But when I write, I can say everything I need.

I used to get embarrassed by my need to write things down to communicate. I know it is a different way of communicating than most people use these days, and I felt awkward and alone. People just don’t write letters very often anymore. People don’t write messages to put on the wall for people to see. And if they do, it’s usually something cute or important. My messages were just about telling someone how I felt or what I needed. It was the only way I knew how to tell people what was going on with me.

I have become more comfortable with how I communicate now. I know it is different, but I am different, and surprisingly, people understand that. So I encourage you to find your voice if you have trouble communicating your needs to others. Find a way to tell people about you and what you need. And remember that it’s okay to be different. The ones that matter most will understand and love you for it.

 

Struggling

“I’ve been struggling.”

This is not a common phrase you hear in most conversations. In general, people keep the fact that they’ve been struggling to themselves or maybe one or two close friends or family members. We just don’t like to admit that we’re having a hard time because we’re supposed to have it all together.

However, this phrase has become more common to hear in my conversations. I have reached a point in my life where I need to admit that I’ve been struggling. I need to tell someone because I realize that I can’t do this alone.

At work I have needed to admit I’ve been struggling quite a few times over the last year or so. In my previous job, I discussed with my boss how I had been struggling. I explained to him how I felt so that he could understand when I didn’t do everything 100% like I used to do and so that if a situation arose at work, he would know how to handle it. In my new job, I have needed to admit that I’m struggling to keep up because I don’t know how to do everything quite yet and I’m not as fast as someone else might be.

With my friends, I talk about my struggles fairly openly because I need them to know when I’m not okay. I need someone to be there when the struggling becomes too much to bear. I have been pleasantly surprised that some of my friends have also been open with me when they are struggling.

This life can be hard. It can be so difficult that I wonder what I’m doing here or if it’s even worth it. But I think these conversations are necessary. I think they are good steps towards an environment of open communication and trust. So I hope that we can all say we’ve been struggling to someone when we have a hard day or just don’t know what to do, because we all struggle at some point. We just have to decide if we want to do it alone or if we’re willing to let someone help us in the journey.

Friends and Talking

I love the movie, Mozart and the Whale. The movie itself isn’t necessarily that great, but it is the most accurate depiction I have ever seen about how I feel. There is this part towards the beginning of the movie where the main character says, “I just never know what to say.” I feel like that a lot. I am not very good at talking. I don’t know what to say or how to say it, which makes conversations very difficult.

Sometimes I have a lot I want to say, but I don’t know how to bring it up. So I try to think about how I can shift the conversation to talk about what I need to work out, but by the time I’m done thinking about how I can bring it up, the other person is done with the conversation. A lot of times I think that’s why I don’t have much luck making friends. By the time I know how to talk to someone, they have already made a decision about who I am, and most people don’t change their first perceptions without a lot of work.

I hate it. I hate that I don’t know how to talk to people. Even with my best friend, I can’t bring up what I need to say. I feel like people get frustrated with me because I get quiet so often. It’s just that my mind is trying to figure out how to say something, while trying to process what is still going on, and by the time I’m ready to share what I have been thinking about, it is usually no longer a good time to say it.

There’s something else in the movie that really strikes a chord with me. The main character says, “People with Asperger’s want contact with other people very much; we’re just pathetically clueless at it, that’s all.” I am so clueless at talking to others. I want to talk to people, especially my friends, but I don’t know how.

I’m not really used to having friends. It’s only been in the last few years that I really felt like I had friends I could talk to on a regular basis. Growing up, the only friends I had were my sister’s friends and friends I had at activities I attended. Outside of those activities, I didn’t know how to interact with people.

So I always get anxious about talking to friends or doing things for friends or trying to make friends. It feels like unknown territory, which is scary because I can get hurt. I remember the first time I tried to make friends. I was 8 years old and in third grade. I was teased relentlessly. I didn’t quite know what I did wrong, but I knew I wasn’t wanted. That feeling has always stayed with me. Every time I try to make a new friend or talk to one of my current friends, that feeling comes back. I try to ignore it. I try not to let it stop me. Sometimes though, I just fall back into those feelings of being unwanted, of being hurt and vulnerable. I wonder if I’m a bad person, if there’s something wrong with me that makes me unlovable.

I have pretty amazing friends that make me feel wanted and loved, but the feelings haven’t gone away. I still need lots of reassurance that I’m doing alright and I haven’t messed things up yet. I hate that I need that much reassurance. I hate that I fall into thoughts of loneliness and anxiety and depression so easily. I hate that I have recurring feelings of abuse and teasing and the feeling of not being enough. I wish I could just trust my friends like I know I should. I wish I could tell my mind to stop thinking these thoughts. I wish I could just keep the feelings of being loved and wanted and feeling like a good person. I know that the things I have faced in my life have brought me to this point, and I’m in a good place in my life right now. Sometimes though, I wish I didn’t face quite so much because maybe then I could get these thoughts out of my head that cause so much heartache and anxiety.

They Know

It is always a little scary to add a new friend on Facebook because it means that they can know. They can know that I have autism and depression and anxiety. They can know that I have attempted suicide and that I have recurring thoughts of suicide. I don’t usually add people to my Facebook because of this. Every once in a while though, someone adds me and I accept because it would be rude not to.

I used to hide everything from my friends, but it got to the point where I decided that I needed to be open with people because I couldn’t afford to not tell people how I feel. The problem is letting new people in. I always have this thought when someone likes or comments on one of my posts that they now know. They know I have autism or depression or anxiety. They know about my struggles.

I am a very intimidating person. I come across as strong and smart and confident. In a way, I am all of those things. But I do struggle. I have things that I can’t do or that are more difficult for me than the average person. Sometimes we don’t want people to know those things about us. Actually, most of the time we don’t want people to know those things about us. We trust very few with our struggles. At some point though, we have to decide to trust. We have to decide to let people in.

I can’t say that it is easy to let people in. I panic every time a new person adds me on Facebook. I get nervous when I know that someone is likely to read my blog posts or to know my story. But in the end, we all just want to be accepted. We want to be loved for who we are. We want to be able to trust others. It is hard, but this is my way of trusting. This is my way of letting people in because I don’t have the words to say the hard things in any other way.