Friends Forever

Having friends scares me. I love people so much, but it seems that friendships hardly ever last as long as you would like. I have had so many people who said they would always be there for me, that they would never leave, but they have been gone a long time. I still think about them and wonder if they ever think about me. Sometimes when someone says they will always be friends with me or they will never leave, the thoughts return of everyone who has ever said that to me.

Friends forever

Having friends scares me because I don’t know what I am doing right or if I am doing something wrong. I try to understand what other people need, and I try to be respectful of their needs. I try to be a good friend. I try to be myself, but not overwhelm them.

I used to wonder what was wrong with me, why I could never seem to keep a friend. I came to the conclusion that maybe people just don’t need me as much as I need them. Why be friends with me when they have other friends… better friends?

Having friends scares me because losing a friend is the hardest thing I have ever done. People think that autism or depression or anxiety or so many other things are incredibly difficult (and they are), but the most difficult thing for me is feeling like I am loved and wanted, then having that feeling taken away. You cannot miss what you have never had, but once you have something that makes you feel better than ever, taking it away leaves a gaping hole in your heart.

I wonder if forever friends are possible. I wonder if I am worth being friends with forever. My views of myself have greatly improved over the last couple years. I no longer hate myself. I see good in me. But when it comes to friends, I still feel hopelessly lost. I still don’t know what I am doing. Maybe I never will. But even though I have lost many friends over the years, I still hope that you mean it when you say forever.

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Extrovert with Social Anxiety

I have come to a point in my life where I can start trying to understand my thoughts and why I have some of those thoughts. I am starting to come to terms with different mental models and philosophies that I hold. I know that a lot of my thoughts come from past experiences, and I know that a lot of those thoughts are not really true. The problem is that though I understand these things on an intellectual level, they have not been fully processed mentally and emotionally yet.

One of the most eye opening realizations that I have had in this process has been that I am an extrovert with social anxiety. I absolutely love people. I need people. I need to be around people, lots of people, tons of people. If I am not around someone or talking to someone or messaging someone, the majority of the time I go crazy. I just really need people. On the other hand, I hate people. I hate crowds. I hate noise. I hate people being everywhere all the time and not being able to breathe because there are so many people. I love spending time with people and being invited to hang out or go to an event or have dinner with someone, but I also totally freak out. Sometimes I don’t go, or I go and sit outside and then leave without going in, or I go and stay for a couple minutes and then sneak out, or I go and stay for longer than I am comfortable until I get to the point where I can’t hold in all of the anxiety and I rush out as fast as I can before I can’t hold it together anymore.

My best friend is getting married tomorrow. I have been excited to go to her wedding for months. I have been ecstatic to see her, but I knew it would be hard for me. I know that crowds and noise and people are hard, but I forget about that sometimes. I forget just how hard it is to stay sane with all of my anxiety in social situations. Tonight was hard. The last week has been hard. The last few months have been hard. But tonight, I didn’t want to go anymore. I don’t want to go to my best friend’s wedding reception because the anxiety has gotten to the point where I feel like I’m going to break all the time. She gets it because she’s my best friend, but other people don’t understand or even try to understand sometimes. Of course, I’ll go. I just don’t know when or for how long or how I’ll react or what I will do.

But having social anxiety means that there’s always a tension when you are around people. It’s like having a spring inside of you that gets squeezed the longer you are with people until it finally pops out. And being an extrovert means that once you finally are alone and don’t have to worry about everyone around you, you fall into a bitter loneliness that you just can’t get rid of. So you do this over and over again. You get squeezed until you’re about to snap because you desperately want to be around people and then you retreat until the loneliness is so thick that you can’t bear to be alone. So you go back to the anxiety and then back to the loneliness and back to the anxiety and back to the loneliness.

And you wonder if you’re just killing yourself slowly or if you should just consign yourself to loneliness because trying to be around people is so ridiculously hard. And maybe it is, and maybe you should just stop trying, but… there’s that other voice that says, “maybe this time will be different. Maybe this time it won’t be so bad. Maybe this time you’ll be okay.” And maybe you will be okay; maybe this will all end. And if not, maybe it will be worth it anyway.

Forgive Yourself

I think the hardest thing for me is to forgive myself for the things that are not my fault- to forgive myself for being different, to forgive myself for not being able to make friends easily, to forgive myself for everything I want in life that I just can’t do right now.

We have to learn to forgive ourselves for the bad things that happened to us, for the things we wish we had control over or we wish we were stronger to be able to stop from happening. I have to forgive myself for being so lonely, for not making the friends I wanted, or for not reaching out or knowing how to talk to the friends I did have. I have to forgive myself for the times people took advantage of me or made fun of me or hurt me. I have to forgive myself for being me.

I have hated myself for my disabilities, for my mental illness, for my speech impediment. I hate myself the most for the things I have no control over.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we tear ourselves down for the things we cannot do?

If you were raped, you couldn’t have stopped it. If you were abused or bullied, you couldn’t have ended it sooner. If you have been lonely and friendless, you couldn’t have made friends any faster. Because if you could have done any of these things, you would have. No one likes to be hurt. No one wants to be lonely. No one wants to be an outcast or to feel like others don’t understand.

Forgive yourself for the things that are not your fault. Forgive yourself for the things you hate about yourself. Forgive yourself for everything that hurt you. Maybe then we can find the healing we need to love ourselves.

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The Disconnect

You can be in a room by yourself and not feel lonely. You can be in a room full of people, sitting by yourself and not feel lonely. What makes you feel lonely is not being alone, it’s feeling disconnected from the people around you.

I don’t know what I have in common with people. I don’t think like other people. I have been through things that a lot of people my age don’t understand. I’m not super involved with my appearance like most girls my age. I don’t obsess about boys. I haven’t even really been on many dates.

Sometimes I just don’t see what I have in common with the people around me. And it makes me feel like an outsider. I wonder how I’m going to find a way to be part of the world around me when I don’t seem to be like anyone else. Where do I fit? Where am I meant to be? How do I find my place? And will I always feel as lonely and separated as I do now?

I don’t know. I know I don’t want to be like everyone else. I know I’m not really meant to be. But I want to feel more like everyone around me. I want to feel like I belong. I want to feel connected.

Why I Quit My Job

I commute an hour to work and an hour back home five days a week. I got in a car accident about a month ago. After the accident, this commute has become incredibly stressful and anxiety provoking. But… That is not why I quit my job.

No, I could have moved closer to work. I could take public transportation or try to carpool with someone, even though either of those would likely mean I’d leave home an hour earlier and get back an hour later. The real reason I’m quitting my job is that I can’t handle it emotionally and mentally.

I can’t trust myself to be alone. I had to come back from my vacation early because I don’t have any more time off. The rest of my family won’t be back for a week and a half. But I can’t go that long by myself. So I’m planning on visiting my friend and my sister and trying to keep busy as much as I can.

It is hard being scared of yourself. I have things somewhat figured out with medications. I’m no longer as anxious as I used to be. I got off a medication that made me super depressed. I just don’t do well with being alone though. The last time I was alone for a week or so, I attempted suicide. The darkness just closes in so fast when you’re alone. There’s no one to stop it from eating you.

So… In the simplest terms, I quit my job so that I can live, and more importantly, so that I can live without so much fear. If I could be a hermit and live without any connection to anyone or anything, I would. But as long as I am connected to someone else, it’s like I can’t live by myself.

Faith to Not Be Healed

Depression takes everything from you. It takes away your friends because they can’t handle it all. It distances you from your family because you become too sick to know how to reach out. It affects you physically, emotionally, and mentally. You lose yourself and you lose your support. And all you know is the pain and loneliness. When this happens, what do you cling to? What is left when depression strips you down to your core?

For me, it is faith. A few years ago, I heard a story about a man with cancer seeking a cure. He talked to everyone from doctors to religious leaders, but the cure did not come. Finally, one of his leaders asked, “do you have the faith to not be healed?”

This story has always stuck with me. I know that for me, depression will not go away soon. My journey with it is not over yet. I still have a long way to go. But as I have watched depression strip me down to my core, I have found that faith to not be healed. I have found the faith to hold on even when things don’t get better.

Maybe one day this will be better. Maybe one day I won’t struggle with depression. Maybe one day I will be healed. Until then, I cling to faith. I cling to hope because when all else fails, that’s what I choose to hold on to.

 

How Autism Contributes to Depression

I have been lonely for as long as I can remember. I didn’t know how to communicate with people that I wanted to spend time with them, and I didn’t know how to just go and talk to someone. Most of my conversations with my parents were on car rides because that was the only way I knew how to initiate a conversation, when I knew I would be with someone for a designated amount of time and they wouldn’t have anywhere else to go or anything else to do. One of my best friends was probably made because of that exact situation. I would give her rides from work and we would talk on the car ride. We would also talk at my desk when we finished our work and didn’t have anything else to do.

Thinking about it, I still don’t know how to initiate conversations with people outside of those parameters- a defined period of time, a setting where we are required to be in the same general area during that time, and a specific task or event that requires our focus on the moment. People are often surprised by how naturally I start and continue conversations in these situations, but they are just about the only situations where this is possible.

Here is where depression comes in. I used to think that my depression was a direct result of my loneliness. I felt that if I could make friends and be able to spend time with them, I would no longer be depressed. I have now realized that my depression is not just from loneliness. I am prone to thoughts of depression. I am vulnerable to thoughts of suicide and self hatred even when I am not lonely. However, my lack of communication skills always contributes to the severity of my depression.

I have two best friends. They are both completely amazing and I would do anything in the world for them. They help me through my depression on a daily basis. However, my need for their love and approval, and my lack of the adequate skills I need to interpret their actions and communicate my needs, often contributes to thoughts of suicide, depression, and self harm. One of my best friends has been my friend for about 7 years. I don’t worry about losing her because I know that she will always need me at least as much as I need her. I have a problem communicating my needs with her though. I do not know how to tell her that situations are too overwhelming for me and that I need an escape. The biggest issue I have with my other friend is that I do not know how to read her signals. I do not know how to tell if she enjoys being friends with me, or if she wants to talk or wants some space, or if I am too much for her at a particular moment or not enough at another moment.

This is where depression and autism entwine and run away with each other. Depression tells me that since I can’t read someone’s signals, that must mean that they think the worst of me. Autism tells me that I lack communication skills to remedy the situation so I might as well consign myself to a state of depression because this will never get better. Depression tells me that since I cannot adequately communicate, I am a worthless human being and no one would ever really want to be my friend unless I do amazing things for them all the time. And since I suffer with major depression, there are times when I cannot do anything for other people because I am struggling so much myself. And these thoughts all cycle in my head. Depression feeds off of lack of communication skills, which I don’t feel I can improve because autism makes communicating harder, and then depression feeds off of my hopelessness, which leads to increases thoughts of worthlessness, which leads to greater isolation and self doubt, which increases my desires to die, which deepens my depression.

I know that the only way to reconcile these thoughts is to untangle depression from autism, to look at each one separately and see how they contribute to each other. The only way to sort out my thoughts is by communicating them with people to find what is true and what is only a reality in my head because I’m looking at things through the lens of depression. It really is okay that I can’t be in crowds for very long without needing to have a break at some point. It is okay that I carry ear plugs around with me everywhere I go. It is okay that I’m not sure how to communicate my feelings and I stumble on my words when I try to speak without taking the time to construct the conversation in my head first. Depression wants me to see these things as unforgivable faults that can never be understood by others.

The truth is, that my friends already see it. They know that when I walk quickly through a crowd, it is not because I don’t want to walk with them. It is because I need a break from the sensory input that has been too much for me for longer than I was able to express. They know that I try to do more than I’m capable of because I care too much to let autism stop me from trying. They know that when I lash out at them, it is because I have been trying to stay calm on my own for too long and I finally reached my breaking point. But most of all, they know I love them more than I am capable of expressing. And that is the one thing that depression can’t touch. That love, that amazing, wonderful love that I have for them and they have for me, will always get me past the thoughts of depression and inadequacy. And I know that despite the autism, despite the depression, despite how hard things get, I will always have a reason to keep on trying and keep on living and keep on keeping on.