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.

Socializing

Apparently, I have become a master socializer… Me… The girl with autism… The girl that couldn’t make friends for 20 years because I was socially awkward and had terrible anxiety. To go from friendless to more amazing friends than I ever thought possible has been an interesting journey. It is interesting to look back on my life, to see the little girl that was teased at recess, that cried every night for just a single friend, that prayed and pleaded and hoped for someone to just talk to… To go from that to this… Is the most amazing feeling ever.

Last night, I went to an activity and talked to people and made friends, like it was a totally normal thing to do, like I was a natural. And I laughed and had fun and socialized and people looked to me like I knew what I was doing, like I was good at it. It was so wonderful and strange.

This world is hard. It’s loud and crazy and too rough and too much to handle and I struggle to breathe it all in. But I keep going. I keep trying. I keep pushing on and pushing through the hard things over and over again. And eventually, I get a day like yesterday when everything goes right, and I think, it all paid off, it was all worth it for this moment, this moment I have conquered.

SensoryBlogHopNew

Welcome to the Sensory Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from sensory bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about what it’s like to have Sensory Processing Disorder and to raise a sensory kiddo!

Want to join in on next month’s Sensory Blog Hop? Click here!

Trusting Someone

I made a new friend. Well, actually… She kind of made me…

It’s different though. It’s different from my normal friendships. She wants to know about me, and not just the surface stuff… But the scary stuff… She wants to know who I am, how I became who I am… She wants to know about the parts of me that aren’t okay. And she says I can trust her with the things about me that are broken.

I want to open up to her. I want to trust her. It’s really scary though. It’s scary to have someone you can tell things to. I’m scared that I will tell her things. I’m scared that I’ll tell her too much, that I’ll tell her too fast, that I’ll mess it all up.

And I can’t help feeling like this may be my only chance, but I’m not sure I can do it. I can trust. I can take the chance of getting hurt. But I’m going to say things wrong. I’m going to mess up. And I’m just not sure that I can keep from messing up horribly and ruining this, not just for me, but for her too.

Will I ever be whole? Will I ever be able to tell someone the hard things? I don’t know. I just know I’m scared, and I don’t know how not to be. But at least it’s a good scared, the kind of scared that you feel when life is about to change. I just hope this goes well.

A Plea

This weekend I was supposed to go with a friend to visit someone from church, but I was caught in traffic and didn’t make it. I was supposed to take a midterm that luckily was rescheduled. I was supposed to do laundry and go to the temple and finish a programming project and read talks and write in my journal. This weekend, I was supposed to pick up my dad from the airport and spend time with family and help with the kids.

I didn’t really do any of those things. Of the things that I attempted to do, I was either too overwhelmed to accomplish or circumstances prevented me from being able to finish.

So what did I do this weekend? I cried a lot. I slept a lot. I curled up in my bed or in a corner of my room and just tried to forget about the world. I broke down and just caved in to the exhaustion.

Sometimes you just have days like that, weeks like that. Sometimes you just have times when you can’t even pretend to be okay. And it’s okay. It is okay to feel like you just can’t do it anymore. It’s okay to feel like life is too hard or too much or simply that you need a break.

I hope that when those times come, you try to be kind anyway. I hope you don’t give up on the world or yourself. I always just tell myself that it will get better. I tell myself that it’s okay to know the darkness, but to not stop recognizing the light.

As much as it gets better, I have realized that there will always be days when I’m not okay. There will be nights when I will desperately long for a friend to be there for me, but will be far too afraid to ever try to reach out to someone. There will be hard times, but I am grateful that I don’t have to face them quite as alone as I once was.

This week, I went to a funeral, found out my friend was starting inpatient treatment, heard stories of heartache and pain, and as I said before, broke down multiple times. Each of these circumstances reaffirmed to me what I posted about a few days ago… That loneliness is a far greater trial than any other hard thing you can go through.

Please, if you can do anything to help someone be less lonely, please do it. I know it’s hard. I understand that you’re busy. I know we all have different priorities. But loneliness is real. It’s a feeling I understand well. If you can do anything to help someone who may be experiencing loneliness, I plead with you to act. Life is too short to struggle alone. Maybe we can’t cure loneliness, but I can make it better for you, and you can make it better for me, and we can make it better for others.

Remembering Autism

Sometimes, I forget I have autism. Sometimes, I forget for so long that remembering is a painful experience.

Tonight, I remembered why things are so hard sometimes. I don’t know how other people see me. That is possibly one of the hardest parts of having autism. I never know if I just think I’m being awkward or if I really am awkward. But I feel lost sometimes. I feel like I’m looking around unsure of what to do or where to go.

I remember when I was in therapy that my therapist said that you should try to stay if a situation makes you feel anxious because leaving will reinforce that feeling of anxiety and the relief of escaping. So I try to stay. But it seems that staying makes things worse so many times. Staying just seems to re-tramatize me. I don’t want to remember that I have autism. I don’t want to remember that I have a hard time socializing in groups. I don’t want to remember that I don’t fit in.

Tonight, I remembered. But tomorrow will be better. I just have to hold on to hope. Tonight, I may break down and dislike myself or my autism. But tomorrow, tomorrow will be better.

Social Signs

Most of the time I don’t think about the fact that I have Aspergers. It just is, like being a woman just is. You don’t think about it unless there is a reason to, such as walking into a bathroom. You remember your gender when you see the signs indicating a separation, and you go into the bathroom that corresponds to your gender.

There are signs of separation for socializing too. They may not be as obvious as other signs, but they tell us where to go in social situations. They tell us how to respond to jokes and sarcasm. Sometimes though, for someone with autism, these signs of separation are misunderstood. It’s like accidentally going into the wrong bathroom. You don’t realize you don’t belong until you see the looks on people’s faces or the indications that you made a mistake.

Navigating the social world is hard. I carefully analyzed social norms to determine what is acceptable, only to realize that acceptable is a matter of perspective. Acceptable is defined by situation, individual personalities, and relationship status. While I viewed acceptable behavior through the level of relationships of acquaintances, that is about as far as I ever got with it. It wasn’t until I stepped out of that box that I was able to discover a new level of friendship with its own acceptability and behaviors.

Sometimes I remember that I have autism- maybe because I made a mistake and find myself in an awkward situation or maybe because it is brought to my attention that I lack an understanding that others possess. It can be difficult and anxiety provoking to realize this. I break down sometimes under the pressure and realization that I do not seem to belong. I wonder if I will ever understand the signs or be able to fit in.

I have hope though. Things such as making friends like I have never had before give me hope. I still fall apart when I make a mistake sometimes. I am still working on not beating myself up for saying the wrong thing or misunderstanding someone. Overall though, autism is just part of my journey. I may not understand it and it may make some things more difficult, but it doesn’t keep me from being happy.

Phone Calls

My mom called me last night after reading my post about how nervous I was for the tests I’m going in for. We talked for a few minutes and just connected about our health issues. She helped me feel a little better about going in to the doctors and a little less nervous about everything.

After we got off the phone, I found myself tearing up. It was just so incredible to be able to talk to someone on the phone.

I hardly ever talk on the phone. I’m not good on the phone and I get nervous that I’ll make a mistake. But whenever someone calls me just to see if I’m okay or just to talk, it’s one of the best experiences ever.

I have this one friend that has called me a few times. Every time she does, it makes me so happy. It is honestly the best gift anyone could ever give me at that time.

As hard as it is to talk on the phone, I am so grateful when I do. It lifts my soul in a way few other things do. I am so grateful to those few people that do call me sometimes. It means more than they will ever know.

The Obvious Friend

Every once in a while, I realize how clueless I am when it comes to social situations.

I have been taking a communication class, and one of our readings was about relational messages. Basically relational messages are the clues people give that tell what type of relationship they are forming. It includes things like body language and showing interest. It was pretty eye opening for me because I am terrible at communicating like that. I am not very good at giving people clues about how I feel about them. That is one of the reasons why I write letters so often. I don’t understand how to let people know how I feel about them without explicitly stating or describing those feelings.

Up until I learned about this, I also did not know how to tell how people felt about me without them explicitly stating their feelings, which hardly anyone ever does. I realized that some people in my life have consistently shown me their willingness to be friends or their level of commitment through relational communication, but I completely missed the cues because I had no idea what they meant. Looking back at my interactions now, I can see quite obviously the clues I was given by certain friends. It seems almost ridiculous that I did not think certain people were my friends when they obviously showed me through their actions that they were indeed my friends.

No one ever taught me what to look for in a friendship though. No one ever explicitly told me cues people give when they want to be your friend. For most people, no one ever has to tell them, but as someone with autism, I was not able to learn this on my own. I needed someone to tell me that when someone talks to me consistently, that means they enjoy talking to me. I needed someone to tell me that when someone hugs me, that means they care. I needed someone to tell me that when someone listens to what I say, that means they value my opinion. I needed someone to tell me that when someone is excited to see or talk to me, that means they feel happy about our relationship. I know these may seem obvious, but to me they were a foreign language that I did not understand until I learned what they meant.

I can’t explain how much of a difference it makes to be able to notice signs of friendship. All of the years that I spent feeling lonely and isolated don’t seem so dark now that I can look back and see the many friends that were there. I wish I knew then how to tell that someone was trying to be my friend. It would have made me a much better friend in return. I would not have degraded myself for being unable to make friends. I would not have hated myself as much as I did.

It is still hard. I can see the actions of others that show friendship, but I am still working on learning how to show those actions myself. I am still working on learning how to show interest and how to communicate with body language. In the meantime though, I hope my friends understand how I feel about them. I hope they know that I care about them. I hope that my communication is enough to let them know I want to be their friend. And I hope one day I can learn to communicate how I feel about others in more ways than explicitly stating my feelings.

Autism Thoughts

Imagine not being able to talk to your friends when you wanted to or needed to.

Imagine not being able to recognize if someone is friendly or bored or rude or hostile.

Imagine not being able to cry out if you were hurt or ask for help when you needed it.

Imagine not being able to say anything, not because you had nothing to say, but because you physically could not move your lips.

Most of these things are fairly common feelings, but as someone with autism, these are daily realities. I’m sure that at some point, most people have felt like they couldn’t talk to their friends for whatever reason. I’m sure most people have probably droned on about a topic that others in the room find relatively boring. I’m sure most people have resisted asking for help because they don’t want to seem needy or they want to be independent. And I’m sure most people have been unable to find the words to express themselves in times of grief or intense emotion.

Some people say that everyone has autism to an extent. This statement is true in the sense that everyone has a little bit of experience with almost anything. For example, you may experience some pain or discomfort in your back from lifting a heavy box, but that discomfort is on a small scale compared to someone who fractured a vertebrae. I guess my point is that if you don’t have autism, you can understand to some degree what it feels like, but the extent of it is not something I can adequately explain to someone without autism.

How could I possibly explain the paralytic feeling that creates a wall between my need to communicate and my ability to do so? How could I help you understand the tangible density of thought that prevents the formation of vocal expression? How could I express the reality of emotions cascading through my body without physically reacting to them?

I don’t know if there is a good way to explain autism. I don’t know if I could paint a picture of it or draw a diagram or even make a video of how it feels. And my autism may or may not be the same as someone else’s autism. My experiences may or may not be applicable to how someone else feels in the exact same situation. I do know that when you look normal, everyone expects you to act normal- to act like they do. When you have depression or autism or dyslexia or some other unseeable condition, everyone questions when you cannot do what they feel you should be able to do.

I call this blog autism thoughts, not because all of my thoughts are autistic, but because autism is real. It’s not something that goes away because I have learned how to cope or blend in or appear to be “cured”. I talk about autism and depression and suicide and gender identity and anxiety because I need people to understand that it is real. I need someone to understand that it doesn’t just go away with positive thinking or effective therapy or religious convictions.

Yes, it gets better. You learn and you grow and you cope and you live, but it doesn’t go away. I still have and will always have autism thoughts and suicide thoughts and depression thoughts and gender identity thoughts. That doesn’t mean it is hopeless or I shouldn’t keep trying to live better with these thoughts. It just means that it is okay to not be okay sometimes. It is okay to struggle. It’s okay to be autistic and depressed and anything else. And most of all, it’s okay to be me.

SensoryBlogHopNew

Welcome to the Sensory Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from sensory bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about what it’s like to have Sensory Processing Disorder and to raise a sensory kiddo!

Want to join in on next month’s Sensory Blog Hop? Click here!

 

Okay

I have wondered over the last few weeks if saying I am okay is a lie. Can I really justify myself in saying I am okay or good when I was thinking about suicide less than 24 hours before? In these circumstances, is it a lie to say I am okay when someone asks how I am?

As I have contemplated this, I have realized that being okay is relative. When I am at church, surrounded by friends and positive energy, I really am okay. So when people at church ask me how I am and I respond with good or okay, it is not a lie. In that moment, I am more okay than ever, and I answer with complete and total honesty.

Last week though, I did lie about being okay. My manager asked me if I was okay when it was fairly obvious that I was not. I said, “yeah”. Then brushed past him to get back to work. We both knew I was lying, but I knew that neither of us could handle the conversation that would ensue if we addressed it at that moment. So, we talked about it briefly the next day, and again in more depth the day after.

I was not okay. I was drowning, and I knew something had to change. After talking to my manager, we were able to work out an agreement and I recognized some changes that needed to be made. I know I would have talked to my manager about things even if he hadn’t asked if I was okay. But I don’t know if he would have known the extent of the problem if he wasn’t the type of person to ask.

Be the type of person that asks if someone is okay. Be the type of person that really looks into someone’s eyes and says, “are you okay?” Be the type of person that someone can say no to that question and trust you enough to talk about it.

I am okay now. But I sometimes wish that it wasn’t my manager asking that question. I sometimes wish that one of my friends asked that question, because even though I’m usually okay around them, I think they know that I’m not always okay at other times. And sometimes you just want someone to understand that you’re not okay and maybe, if they can, talk you through it.