As you’ve already guessed, being discovered to be on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum has been a huge relief for me, in multiple ways.
Being an Aspie confirms what I’ve felt all along: that the way in which I might come across and be perceived is frequently not at all how I intended to be.
I remember being elated to form my first few friendships. Suddenly, I had a precious few of what I had yearned for: friends. Real, live friends. Other people who thought I was cool enough to justify their spending time with me. I almost couldn’t believe it; it seemed to amazing to be reality, as though I was in the middle of a long and utopian dream.
I was shocked at myself, then, when I grew weary of the phone ringing. I shouldn’t be exasperated! After all, these were people who wanted to “play”, in the early years, and in the later years, “hang out”. I was the last person who should curse the phone when it rang and my mom would call up the stairs “it’s for you! It’s (so-and-so)!”
Why on earth would I respond with a grumble? I wasn’t mad at them. But it was still an intrusion, and I couldn’t decode it. I had no legitimate reason, and so I admonished myself. Bad me. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all, and just a year or two earlier, I had certainly been a beggar in the Friends Department.
For years, I chastised myself for being a sucky friend. I certainly didn’t feel like a good one. Good friends don’t ignore the phone when they’re pretty sure that the call is for them. Good friends don’t hide in their bedrooms and pretend to be busy. Good friends don’t avoid the people who care about them. Especially if they were starved for friendship before. Who does that?? I scolded myself.
What made the situation even more confusing and challenging was that I couldn’t pin down the reason I felt this way.
Discovering my spectrum status was like flipping on a light switch and illuminating a whole house. One of the side-thorny aspects that suddenly emerged from the shadows was my extreme introversion, which compelled me to hunker down and plead with my mom to “tell her I’m busy”; I now understood. It became so clear to me.
I didn’t suck at friendship after all.
Realizing that I’m on the spectrum meant that I was not a bad friend. I was not a cold person. I was not an inadequate chum. I was attending to a need that I didn’t consciously realize I had: my alone time.
In a way, I want to apologize to those friends. I know I did nothing wrong, but neither did they, and I’m sure they felt a little put off by how I acted. Following my instincts or not, I’m sure I jilted a few people. Probably not more than a few, but a few nonetheless.
Here’s what my message to them would be…
I might not reach out and say hi for weeks, maybe months, and occasionally, even years. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care. It doesn’t even mean that I don’t think about you every day.
I may be blunt, or blundering, or offensive, or occasionally, even hurtful. But that doesn’t mean I’m trying to shock you. It doesn’t mean I’m trying to put you down. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you, or even love you.
I might be tough to decode. I may be confusing, perplexing, or downright strange. But that doesn’t mean I’m playing mind games with you. It doesn’t mean I’m being coy. It doesn’t mean I’m not trying to communicate.
I might be home bound on weekends. I may appear to be antisocial. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hang out with you. It doesn’t mean I’m ignoring or avoiding you. It doesn’t mean I’m cold.
I might talk a lot, sometimes about the same thing. But that doesn’t mean I’m trying to show you up. It doesn’t mean I think I’m better than you. I’m not consciously trying to prove myself. I’m not trying to rope you into a contest. I’m not trying to imply that I’m better than you or that you’re lesser than I. In fact, I’m probably only trying to share, to help.
And if I take my thoughts a leap further, I come to realize that I’m actually…a good friend.
I’ve never backstabbed anyone.
I’ve never broken anyone’s confidence.
I don’t fight dirty during a conflict with a friend; I don’t make it personal.
I don’t hog the center of attention.
I genuinely care, even if I can’t find the appropriate words or form the right facial expressions in time.
I can discuss different viewpoints without devolving into disrespect when faced with an opinion I might not share.
I’m not clingy.
I’ve never stolen–or attempted to steal–a significant other from anyone.
In fact, I’ve never stolen anything. Friends can trust me during a sleepover.
I would still totally do a sleepover. Who says there’s an age limit on that?
I’ve never judged a friend for anything they’ve confided in me, nor have I ever used it against them.
I don’t lie, as a general rule.
I don’t abandon friends; in fact, I’ll–eeek!–phone my closest ones.
I’m pretty easygoing.
I like to help.
I’ll even help you move.
I don’t bombard friends with forwarded emails or any other type of communication.
I try to respond, though, when friends communicate with me (returning messages, etc).
I’ve never put peer pressure on a friend to experiment with something (hell, I’ve barely experimented myself).
I encourage and support friends to pursue their dreams. I give them ideas if I think they could use–and want–them.
I might be a different kind of friend, but I know I don’t suck. I might not be extremely social, and I might not always have enough consecutive time (or energy) to get into a longer conversation, but I do everything I can. I’m choosy and selective about who gets in to my inner circle, but once I establish a friendship, I’m in it for the long haul. 🙂
(Image Credit: Joe Reimer)
What Your Asperger’s/Autistic Friend Probably Wants You To Know ~ November 1, 2016
The Fondness Spectrum ~ March 17, 2017
Making Friends ~ December 15, 2016
Friends on the Asperger’s/Autism Spectrum ~ February 28, 2017
‘Coming Out’ To Friends and Family As Asperger’s/Autistic ~ November 13, 2016
When Asperger’s/Autistic People Appear Soulless ~ October 28, 2016
Invisible Division ~ School Life as an Aspie/Autistic Girl (The Condensed Version) ~ September 21, 2016
Please ~ Don’t Make Me Use The Phone ~ February 1, 2017