Grateful for Honest Voices

I’ll continue with my letters tomorrow, but today I wanted to talk about something else for a minute.

I have felt very alone for much of my life- alone in my struggles, alone in my journey, alone in my loneliness. And when I started this blog, I felt alone in my openness. I stopped blogging for about a year because it felt too scary to stand alone in my honesty, in my vulnerability, in my humanity. I was scared to tell people that I was different. It’s not like it was a secret, but saying it or writing about it seemed like social suicide. And let’s face it, my social life didn’t need anything else to help it plummet faster.

But I am so grateful that I’m not alone. I am so grateful for all the other honest voices out there. I am so grateful for all the people who have shared their stories, who are sharing their stories, and who will share their stories. I am so grateful that this isn’t a one way conversation. I’m grateful that I’m not just a voice lost in the vast world of the internet. I still am just one voice, and a relatively small voice at that, but I can unite my voice to the many voices. I am so grateful for that.

So, thank you. Thank you to all of you who put yourself out there. Thank you to all of you who are honest voices. Thank you for being voices I can unite with. Together, we might just make a difference.

Using Love Words

To some people loving others just seems to come naturally. They use words like I love you and honey and sweetie all the time and with just about anybody. For me, it’s hard to use these words unless I feel them strongly within my heart. I’ve gotten better at saying I love you, but that’s the only phrase I use. I have never said honey or sweetie and I’ve only ever thought those words toward someone once.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never had a significant other, but I just don’t use or think of pet names or nicknames for people. I just don’t feel the desire to call people anything other than their name or title. My best friend and I play around with nicknames every once in a while, but we don’t call each other by those names on a regular basis. I call her fireball when she gets upset and she calls me by a family nickname which is so familiar that it’s practically my name.

There was one time though that I felt love toward someone so strongly that I used the word honey. It was someone that I had never met before and was talking to online for the first time. I met them through an online support group where I helped people going through depression and other psychological disorders. Anyway, she asked me if I would keep talking to her so she wouldn’t have to die alone. And I just felt an overwhelming love for this person I had never met. She didn’t end up dying that night, but I talked to her until she went to sleep and just let her know that I loved her even though that conversation was the only thing I knew about her.

So even though I may not use the love words very often, I feel love. I feel it so deeply sometimes that it feels like it will spill out of me like a waterfall. And even if love doesn’t always feel like that, I know that I love and I am loved. And I just think, maybe the words will come eventually, but right now it is enough.

Me

Although this blog is mostly about my experiences with autism, I decided to take a break from autism this week and talk about something else. The death of one of my favorite people to ever live has prompted me to make myself seem a little more human. There’s so much more to us than what the world sees and I think it’s important to share as much of myself as possible. This blog is to help people understand me and those that may share similar traits and behavior so here’s a little different side of me.

On this blog, my life is all about autism. I have two other blogs though that show a little bit more about my life. I have a poetry blog where I write poems about everything from autism to depression to religion to the world. I also have a religious blog where I post some of my insights into different spiritual topics. I’m also thinking about creating another blog soon to post a photography series and some observations about the world.

So, who am I when I’m not blogging? I am an aunt, a missionary, a sister, a daughter, a lifelong learner, a swimmer and soccer player, a Veggietales fanatic, and in general a pretty simple person who loves being alive despite my struggles with depression and suicidal tendencies.

This little guy is probably my favorite person in the world right now. Plus a few other little ones that own pieces of my heart.

This little guy is probably my favorite person in the world right now. Plus a few other little ones that own pieces of my heart.

What’s blogging like for me? Well, writing is pretty easy. I just write what comes to me as it comes. Sometimes the hardest part is choosing what I want to post and when. I have about 10 posts right now that I’m just waiting for the right time and situation to post. I have been posting on a schedule, but I’ve realized that this isn’t really necessary or beneficial so I will be moving away from that with the coming posts.

If I have followed your blog, you may wonder how I choose blogs to follow.

This is how I choose which blogs to check out:

Picture, Picture, Picture= Like/ Follow

Food, Food, Food= Like, Like, Follow, Follow

Story… Hmm… that seems interesting… wait… so does that one… and that one and that one… ok… well… that one only has 300 words, let’s look at that one… 1000 words… umm… maybe not so much…

Poetry… (I may write poetry, but the truth is that I really don’t like poetry)… is it happy or interesting? Do I have to think to read it? If I don’t have to think, then I’ll probably like or follow it.

Beauty, Politics, News, and pretty much anything serious I generally just skip over.

I mostly just try to stay away from anything negative because if not I have to work really hard to get happy again.

Other than that, I have many interests and follow a variety of blogs about different things. I’ll be honest here and say that I haven’t read a complete post on some of the blogs I’ve followed. It’s not that I don’t want to. I just don’t have time so I follow them in hopes that they’ll post something that catches my eye and I can read it then, if not I can always unfollow the boring blogs later. (If you haven’t noticed, food and nice looking things are the way to my heart.)

 

Anyway, that’s pretty much who I am and how I run things around here. Any questions, feel free to leave a comment! 🙂

(There are links in the post to anything that seems like it should have a link. I’ve decided this makes it more like a scavenger hunt. Sorry they aren’t more noticeable.)

I need people

Since I didn’t do a normal post on Saturday, I decided to do an extra post this week.

I have been reading some posts lately from autistic introverts and I have been reflecting on whether I am an introvert or an extrovert. According to a questionnaire I took recently, I am an ambivert. However, I wonder if this is really the case or if I am an extrovert that needs to be introverted at times because of my autism. I wonder if I would be more of an extrovert if I didn’t have autism.

For much of my life, I considered myself to be shy. I had a hard time starting conversations and attributed that difficulty to shyness. When people would ask why I didn’t talk, I would say that I was shy. People understood that and didn’t really ask any further so it worked. It wasn’t until I started this blog and started thinking about autism and how it affects me that I realized that I am really not shy. In fact, I am quite the opposite of shy.

I love people. I love being around people. I love hearing people’s stories. I love talking with people and I love talking too. Sometimes I probably talk too much once I get going.

On the other hand, I can’t stand people sometimes. I don’t understand them and they frustrate me. I don’t like certain things about people and sometimes avoid them because of these things. I can’t handle the loudness of a crowd and I don’t know how to start conversations without someone looking directly at me and I don’t know how to get someone’s attention when they don’t notice me.

Most of these things though stem from my autism. Most of the reasons why I dislike people or dislike being around people are explained by autism. Without autism I would probably be a very sociable person.

When I see someone sitting alone, my first impulse is to start talking to them. Then I start thinking, how can I talk to them? How can I start a conversation with them and what would I say? I generally come up with an entire conversation that we would have and how it would turn out.

By the time I’m done with this process the opportunity to talk to someone has usually passed already. If it hasn’t passed, sometimes I just give up on trying to have the conversation because I can’t figure out what to say or the conversation I have had in my head doesn’t seem important or significant enough to interrupt the person.

I often wonder though how many people I would have talked to or how many friends I would have made if I was able to just have the conversations I want to have with people. I wonder how many opportunities have passed me by because I didn’t know how to say hi to someone or how to start a conversation with someone. And ultimately I wonder how much different of a person I would be if I didn’t have autism.

Would I be kind and understanding or would I be aloof and self-righteous? Would I be a friend to the friendless or would I have a circle of people I was comfortable with and not feel uncomfortable with excluding others? Would I try to see people in the best light or would I condemn anyone that was not like me? Would I be introspective and strive to understand myself and the world or would I be content to accept things as they are and not seek for greater knowledge? Would I be overly friendly and make some people uncomfortable? Who would I be without autism and would it be worth giving up who I am and who I have become?

The hardest part about being an autistic extrovert is not being able to fulfill my need to be around people. Although most people think of introverts as being shy and extroverts as being outgoing and friendly, the true definition of these terms comes from where you get your energy. Introverts gain energy from being alone. They need alone time to recuperate from being with people  and they are content to spend time with friends every once in a while. Extroverts, however, gain energy from being around others. Extroverts need to be around other people and lose energy when they are alone too often.

That is the predicament I often find myself in. I do not have the social skills I need to be around people as often as I need or would like to be around them. I wish I could call people up and ask them what they are doing and spend time with them. Unfortunately, I often don’t know how or I don’t want to bother someone because I don’t understand social cues and can’t tell whether someone actually enjoys being around me or not. I find myself losing energy from being alone and not having the social environment I need to thrive.

When this happens I generally resort to going online. Although the internet isn’t an ideal replacement for real life interaction, it keeps me going sometimes. My online interactions sometimes give me just enough energy to get through my more solitary days.

So, what’s it like being an autistic extrovert? In general, very lonely. But like everything with autism, you do the best you can because it’s all you have.

Online Personas

Have you ever wanted to be seen as a certain type of person, but known that no one sees you like that? For me, and I’m sure other people with autism, that is something we constantly struggle with.  The online world can give us an opportunity to be seen how we want to be seen.

In my case, I feel that most people see me as the awkward girl who is really nice and sometimes a goody two shoes. I don’t mind being seen as somewhat of a goody two shoes because I know that I do come across like that and it is a part of me that I can’t really control. I also try to be really nice. But… the part that pretty much always keeps me from getting past a surface friendship is the awkwardness. Although I try to be as natural with people as possible, I feel like there is always this wall I hit that keeps me from being with the “in crowd.”

The internet is a completely different world though.

Online I can be whoever I want to be. I start out at the same point as everyone else instead of in person where I have things counting against me from the start. Online I can be seen as who I want to be without a wall between me and everyone else. It’s a very tempting and attractive world. I can make friends relatively easily and people can see me as a person instead of as a charity case. I’m not saying that everyone sees me this way; I’m just saying that it’s the general vibe I get from people.

It’s easy to get sucked into an online persona because of these things. Although it’s not bad to have an online personality and to have friends that are only online, I think it is also important to remember that we shouldn’t live our lives online. At one point in my life I was sucked into the online world. My friendships and potential friendships in person deteriorated because my online life was more important to me than anything else. I was consumed with this world because for the first time in my life I felt like I was someone important and irreplaceable to people. I know that my family and even some friends would consider me important and irreplaceable, but it was hard not to see myself as a burden or accessory to them. At this point in my life it was hard to see myself as a person in the eyes of others- meaning that I didn’t think people considered me equal to themselves, but instead saw me as less of a human being. So it’s easy to see how someone who feels that way could be sucked into an online world where they could be as important as they wanted to be.

Although I regret losing the potential friendships I could have gained during this time, having an online life wasn’t all bad in the long run. I learned a lot about communication and was better able to realize my self-worth through my online interactions. I grew a lot from those experiences and now I only wish that I could go back and share the person I am now with the people I knew back then.

To summarize, I want people to understand the alluring nature of the internet for someone who isn’t understood the way they want to be in person. I also believe that the internet can help teach certain communication skills in a relatively safe environment and give people the confidence they need to use these skills in person as well. The internet is a useful tool, but should not become your life. Having friendships and interactions in person are just as important or even more important than relationships online, for both people with autism and people without autism.