How it feels to find my island 

Roughly a year ago, I wrote about how it felt to find a personal circle of fellow Asperger’s/autistic peeps, a post that was largely fueled by connecting with people on Twitter.  Today, I’m writing a follow-up to that post.

Year One of my Asperger’s/autism spectrum discovery was about finding my identity, which mostly involved finding other people like me and comparing notes.  It was peppered with choruses of “me too”s.  It was about attempting to be part of–or even create–a thriving community.  Finding the “we” that I had longed for throughout my life.

Up until that point, there had never been a “we” in my world.  It was this mythical unicorn that other people around me seemed to enjoy, without effort.  All my life I’d been informed of how “bright” I was, but despite this, I never could figure out how to navigate the choppy waters of social situations.

This had resulted in unbudging loneliness.  Everyone else seemed to be included, whereas, despite my best efforts, I felt an invisible canyon.

Year Two, so far, has also been more about finding my place in this world, but this time through my own voice and the ownership thereof.  Being comfortable with my aloneness.  As the lovely Rhi put it, becoming “indifferent to the differences”.  In short, reclaiming the “I” despite the desire for “we”.

Just as finding my tribe (yes, I’m using that word, dammit) brought a sense of liberation, validity, vindication, peace, and comfort, so, too, has rediscovering my separateness.  Since I had never experienced the concept of “we”, I was unprepared for the sense of pressure that can often come with it.

There is indeed a certain amount of pressure in “we”, for no two people are alike, and there can be disappointment and emotional pain in that realization.  Just when you think you’ve found a near carbon-copy of yourself, you realize it’s not so carbon after all.

And that’s OK.  That’s human nature.  It’s just not an aspect I saw coming.  Boundaries have never exactly been my strong suit; determining them is harder, and enacting them is harder yet.  I got too caught up in the jubilation of finding my “we”.

And so it goes.  I still consider myself a part of the Asperger’s/autism spectrum community, of course.  It’s not like I’ve backed out completely.  I totally still love everybody!  But I have taken a large enough step back to realize that there is still a “me” in “me too”.

The first year of my newly-realized place in the community was probably spent putting too much emphasis on the “too” part, at the expense of the “me” part.  The second year, unintentionally but beneficially, has been spent rectifying that oversight.

Part of me is liberated by this concept.  In a way, I had allowed myself to succumb to the (probably jointly-)applied pressure to fit in, to be accepted, to agree, to go with the flow, to adapt like the chameleon I always had been, and to follow the (new set of) unwritten rules.

And now, I’ve let myself off the hook for all that.  I’ve written about this before, and now I’m writing about it again, which indicates to me that this isn’t an event so much as it is a longer-term process.

Another part of me, however, is scared to death.  Do I dare reassert myself and insist on more of the “me” in “me too”, just when I’m beginning to feel like I’m solidifying my place among others?

And then I realize that once again, I’m probably not alone.  No matter how unusual my story or unconventional my situation, there’s probably someone else saying to themselves, “oh thank goodness!  And here I thought I was weird; I thought I was the only one.”

Nope.  No matter how atypical (let’s reclaim that word, shall we?) my thoughts, there’s always a sense of relief that I feel when my story is further validated by its reflection back to me by someone else.

There’s still a “too” in that “me too”, of course!  I might have sunk a claiming stake on my own island, but there are always bridges connecting mine to those of others.

And I always cherish that.  🙂

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This is one of my more popular posts!

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(Image Credit: Roger Dean)

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55 Comments

  1. As always, we should accept our authentic selves whether we stand alone or stand with the world. I’ll be a part of your social circle as long as you want me to be, though. I’ll be here on your island so long as you want me here.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hell yeah! 😊💟👍🏼. All Y’all are all welcome on my island anytime of course 😁. Yep, I probably should have titled this post with something referring to self-acceptance because, I realize now that you’ve beautifully nailed it, that’s really what this post is all about 👏🏼👏🏼💚💙

      Liked by 2 people

  2. What a heart-warming post and very honest, and those pressure to fit in and to struggle with accepting and asserting yourself are ones I can understand, just from a different perspective from my own experiences. A lovely way of looking at it with your island and bridges to connect to others. You rock, so don’t forget that! Thank you for sharing 🙂
    Caz x

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Isn’t it beautiful to go through a process like this? To be able to mirror yourself in so extreme ways? To look for an answer on the question: “who am I”? And to find so many answers which finally fade away behind one statement: “I am me”. Excellent analyses 🙂💕🌺

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t know why but I could really feel how it is to go through this process, for me it feels like finding a group of soul mates and then discovering that even they are not the same as “me”. Maybe we all have a longing to belong and to merge with something but in the end we need to learn that we all are unique and different and it’s ok like this?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m approaching the second anniversary of my Aspergers diagnosis. Like you I was so pleased to find the online autistic community on Twitter earlier this year. Unfortunately my experience of them has been so negative that I now have an anonymous account & do not mention to anyone that I am autistic. I have suffered more abuse from the supposed autistic “community” than I’ve ever had from any neurotypicals. My hope was to get involved & maybe help people like myself who are diagnosed late but it’s just not worth all the arguments & hatred. The worst thing about this is that the worst offenders are people who actually class themselves as autism advocates. The whole thing has been a massive disappointment & quite an eye opener.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh gosh, you’re singing my song, friend 💞💞. To be truthful, most of the contact I’ve had has been very very positive. But there have been a few instances that have been extremely traumatic. I’m so, so sorry that you’ve endured that abuse. No one should ever have to go through something like that, especially not people on the spectrum, and certainly not from people who are (or at least claim to be) on the spectrum too! I have found most social media outlets to be way too intense and hostile and illogical. People like that simply cannot call themselves advocates if they treat our own brethren that way!! But that’s just my rant, my experience, my view. You summed up my own experience quite well! Thank you so much for adding your voice 💞💞. I think we’re less alone than we might think–I think many others are afraid to speak up, for fear of drawing ire 💚💙. I’ve reached the point where I don’t care anymore, or at least that’s what I tell myself 😉💗💟

      Liked by 1 person

      1. SO sorry to have to agree, Laina. I have found it to be much less common in the WordPress blogging community – generally a bunch of supportive souls, so that’s where I prefer to spend my time now.

        I’ve stopped reading the comments (or engaging with the formats at all) in quite a few other venues – and on ANY blog that doesn’t moderate and refuse to approve (or spam) the hateful comments.

        I’ve even been MORE surprised and dismayed that others in those troll-infested communities ALLOW the bullying (and yes, I mean both of those terms literally). Folks who post comments that shame and “should” are clearly bullies, and those who stand by and “watch” are part of the problem, IMHO!

        For anyone who’d like to say something without bullying back, I suggest something like the following:
        “@bully name: Different strokes for different folks. You can disagree without being disagreeable – and that WAS. Sorry [target] — don’t take it to heart. Most of us here don’t do that and don’t like it.”
        THEN don’t engage further with the bully. EVER.

        I’m guessing that if everyone who dislikes or is offended by the bullies would speak up, it wouldn’t take more than 5 or so similar responses to clear out more than a few idiots. In ANY case, it will salve the feelings of the target to know that the negative comment is not one held by the community as a whole.

        Great post, Laina – and thanks to Christy’s recent feature for bringing it to my attention.

        Those of us who come to any mental health dx later in life have to backfill some skills learned by the neurotypical in adolescence — including the boundaries between “me” “thee” and “we.”

        The diversity of the entire human race is a miraculous thing – albeit painful when we are trying to find folks who are most like us after a great deal of time wondering if we are totally alone and more different than we actually are.
        xx,
        mgh
        (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
        ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
        “It takes a village to transform a world!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I always love your posts because of how relatable they are. At first when I found out about being autistic I was so excited to find people like me in the community but then there seemed to be a lot of drama and I sort of moved away from all that. But I do love reading people’s blogs. It’s hard to be social even with autistic people. I tend to be a hermit 99% of the time and I’m OK with that. It’s OK to be observing from a distance and still thinking “me too” whenever I read something that I relate to. Yes, it went from finding the “we” to now focusing more on “me”…. It’s all apart of the process I think. (Violet)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for this!

    Your voice speaks louder than any movies I see.
    & yes you can use the word Tribe, in our postmodern
    world finding Neurotribes has been a godsend. Just
    as you outline in your post, finding others like yourself
    is what cuts through the loneliness, meeting like-minded
    people to bounce ideas & experiences off of irl or online. Your
    words come through with such sincerity, clarity & resonance
    that other communication just comes across as noise.

    Your writing & insights are like fresh air.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Awww thank you bunches, my dear sibling! 😘❤️💓. Your beautiful words are so powerful and encouraging to me that it’s amazing 💚💙. Your comments are like fresh air as well–a beautiful, calming breeze 💗🌬✨🌴🏝🏜💝

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I adore every word of this post. Me, too. I experienced a startlingly similar process. Only, I was less mature about it. (By quite a bit, but who’s counting? 😂) I’m just now reflecting on it, now that I have the words, (thanks!) Even when you’re talking about not (always) having the exact same experience as others, I’m squeeing because of ‘me too!’ Love you! 💜💜💜

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Laina, I call what you’re describing here as acceptance. Acceptance of oneself as a unit and independent of those around us, as well as partnof something bigger.

    I remember when I first realized that I was not alone when it came to Narcissistic Personality Disorder abuse that I bought books, read blogs and web sites like crazy, signed up for groups, Etc. I just couldn’t get enough. And I needed to feel yhat sense of “I am not alone and I am not crazy after all.” I needed validation and acceptance.

    But then, I had to put my foot down. It had become too much. I was getting lost in then “we” and I needed to rediscover the “I.” More importantly, I needed to build my new “I” because I will never be the same after what happened to me, or with my newfound knowledge.

    It gets to a point where you need to reclaim yourself and pull yourself out. It gets to be too much. You’re dealing with your own feelings. Yiu can’t carry those of others until you have processed your own. That’s how it felt for me.

    I stopped lookong at the survivors fora. I took a break from reading. I went deeper in my soul. I know I will need to go back in there at some point. But the soul needs a break and the mind does, too. And it needs to be alone, but not lonely.

    I think that’s the difference. One thing is to be alone and another one to feel lonely. I was feeling lonely. Once I had found other people who could relate to me and I to them, I didn’t feel lonely anymore. You internalize those people and they are with you, in your heart and soul, making you stronger wherever you may go. And you feel it’s okay to be by yourself because you will never be alone or lonely again.

    I hope it makes sense. I love my friends, but I need to be by myself sometimes. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for adding your voice! 😊. I really really appreciate your perspective, and the time it must have taken to write this all out – it’s beautiful 🌟🌟. Despite our different situations, what you said range home and true to me; I can relate to so much of it. Particularly the parts about reclaiming oneself and the surrounding spaces becoming too much to take in. And the feeling of being non-lonely by oneself and not being crazy after all, having to put one’s foot down and build a new “I”. You’re totally right 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼. Thank you again 💜💗💜

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Someone, who was disturbed by my life of solitude, told me a few years ago that I needed to find my tribe. I thought he was nuts because surely there’s no one like me out there. Wrong. Happily wrong! 🙂

    I started out with reddit and now have my blog. Maybe I’ll get Twitter if I can figure out what to say there. Ha

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m so glad you’re happily wrong 😘💗. There’s a whole bunch of us who share unusual common traits, which I think is awesome! Hell of a game-changer, and a very positive one for me; I hope it’s positive for you, too! I never did get on Reddit yet. I’m on Twitter, although very rarely right now; I found it to be a very intense mixed bag of incredible support and also immense stress (and even some pain) at times. But, I let myself get sucked in a bit too far. It was just so exhilarating for the first several months 😁. Now I reach my saturation point pretty quickly but I do try to stay in touch with many. I hope that if you find yourself on Twitter that 1) your experience is a wonderful one, and 2) please look me up or let me know so that we can connect over there, too! 😁💚💙💜

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think I may have to stick with reddit and wordpress because I start losing track with too many places to look at. Either way, I’ll wait until I’ve settled into a routine with my blog. 🙂 hehe It’s like that in the beginning with so many social websites: so exciting and then you start seeing the downsides too. If I do go there, I’ll let you know. 😀

        Like

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