Imagining a World with Friends: My Introverted Aspie Dilemma

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I’ve always wanted a best friend. The kind I see on my favorite Disney Channel shows. Someone I am completely comfortable around and who accepts my need for alone time. A lot of alone time. Fortunately, I found a husband who, more or less, grants me a fair amount of solitude, and for a time I thought it was romantic to consider him my best friend. But a husband-friend isn’t quite what I had in mind.

Growing up, there were a few girls whom I called best friends, but it was in title only. They were really no more than playmates with a status slightly above acquaintance. For me, however, anything more than acquaintanceship was a big deal. Frequent moves and loss of contact (pre-internet days, you know) prevented any potential best friendship from developing further than that. I’m not entirely sure that frequent moving was the real problem though. I don’t know how to make friends. It would have required the efforts of the other party to force me into a friendship despite lack of effort on my part. I like the idea of having friends, I just don’t like the work it takes to make and keep them. The social obligations are a source of terrible anxiety.

After high school, and especially after my first four years of college, potential friends no longer fell into easy reach. Without group projects and forced encounters with people my age on a daily basis, even my acquaintances began to dwindle in number. I am in graduate school now, but I don’t have much in common with my cohorts, mostly because they are so much younger than me. People my own age are becoming mothers, I am not. That too makes things awkward. There is little common ground on which to mingle.

Recently, I have been making a fair effort to get out more. I am usually happy being alone, being left alone, tending to my own hobbies by myself, but sometimes I get to feeling the lack of people in my life. It’s a strange feeling – wanting to have people in my life but feeling crazy drained and stressed when I go looking for them. I had a good thing going on as a kid, living with my siblings and parents. There was activity around me, people to hang out with (despite the bickering and inevitable family drama) and I miss that. I miss knowing that there are people around should I need them, but being able to keep to myself most of the time. I don’t want kids of my own. I don’t want to be responsible for people. I just want to know that there are people around.

I went to a local Witches meet-up yesterday night. The conversation was lively and the people were friendly. But I don’t know them. I don’t know how to get to know them. I am terrible at keeping a conversation going and even worse at small talk. There wasn’t much room for individual socialization during the meet-up itself since it was a focused-topic conversation, but people gathered to converse post-meet-up and I don’t know how to do that. It is discouraging for me to consider how much small talk I would have to suffer in order to come across one of “my people.” Sure, a group of Witches is a start. We have at least one thing in common. But that isn’t enough. Just one night out for me takes a huge toll on my mental well-being. It would take an eternity to form a bond of substance by this method, considering how much down time I need in between events.

Going out for me isn’t like it is (or seems to be) for the average neurotypical extrovert. I don’t just think, “hey I’m bored, I think I’ll go out tonight.” No, it’s not like that at all. Going out is a painstakingly planned event. I need at least a few days notice. I need to prepare myself mentally, to consider all the possible sources of stress at the particular location to which I am going and to prepare accordingly.

Once I’m at my destination, I have fun. It’s not like the entire process is a chore. It’s the before and after that cause issue. When I get home from any social event (ranging from a small few-person event to a crowded dance club), I get the same sense of relief that I do taking off high heels or a corset. I get home and feel like I can breath again.

I’ve heard rumor that Aspies are not necessarily introverts. I wonder what it’s like for an extroverted Aspie. Is their situation more or less stressful than mine? I imagine they are the sort who socialize without abandon, not caring if the other person is interested. Or maybe that’s not how it is. I don’t really know. I just know that I am introverted and autistic, which makes a poor combination for making friends.

Although the odds are against me, I’m trying my best to be a part of the world. Even if I never form any real friendships, at least I won’t look back on my life with regret for not trying.

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Posted on July 11, 2015, in Autism/Aspergers and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I knew a high-functioning extroverted Aspie once. He was friendly, but came across as unwordably odd. Then one day he announced that he had Aspergers, and it sort of just clicked. I suspect it’s easier to be an introvert.

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  2. I have an extroverted (yet oddly introverted at times) Aspie. She’s fairly open with her Aspie-ness….but I definitely can understand your “pain”, as I have seen her try to interact within the same confines you feel. She is super good at navigating the Aspie highway now. Wish I could hook the two of you up via WordPress. The two of you could hash a lot of things out (even though she’s younger than you, she has had amazing benefits of structured social therapy which has been a godsend and door-opener for her).

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    • I’m jealous, I probably could have used that kind of help myself – but a late diagnosis didn’t leave much room for that sort of thing. I do have Facebook, but I’m kind of reserved about friending people I don’t know. I think instant message communication is possible outside of the friend list though. You should be able to find me by my fb username “Ashenlight” if you want. Does your daughter have a blog too?

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      • ABA Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapies are relatively new in the grander scheme of things, so they may not have had that “miraculous breakthrough” when you were younger. My Wee One (age 15) is also very cautious about who she adds (she’s a young monkey after all!) but when she returns in a week and a half and have her PM you through FB. She will have some insight for you. We’re blessed in the fact that she high functioning and learns fast. She should be able to give you hints. Last August a friend of mine (who now teaches university) did a Skype Interview between my monkey child and her class of would-be educators. Wee One’s lecture Q&A was in regard to dealing with high functioning Aspies in the classroom.

        No blog for her yet! I should look into doing that for her. I don’t think she has the ability to keep up with it. Too much “HEY! LOOK! SQUIRREL!” in her creative brain. LOL

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  3. I’m not an Aspie but I sometimes have the feelings you described. I get nervous at larger parties and bigger events sometimes, but I also have no problem getting on stage with whatever instrument I am performing with. I am not shy with my talents, but when it comes to interacting with new people, I’m mostly shy. I used to attend a drum circle in which I felt as you did at the Pagan meeting, that these people were friendly but I didn’t really know them. I’m not really sure when exactly it clicked, but it seemed to take awhile, like years. Many times I wanted to crawl back in my shell and go home, be in my bubble. But I stuck with it and went to those drum circles even though they made me uncomfortable at times. My issue, not theirs. The people were nice, but it was just how I was feeling about it. I get uncomfortable in large groups of people I don’t know. I’m not sure that’s just as Aspie thing, although having that diagnosis helps to amplify the shyness. Oh and I have very few best friends. I can count them on one hand. As I’ve grown older, I’ve embraced who I am more, and I think that has helped. (It also helps that I have a great partner who buoys me in ways I wouldn’t if I was on my own – I would be happy but it’s more fun with him) I don’t know how old you are, but I know for me that I’ve become more comfortable with myself and thus more open and accepting of these types of overwhelming experiences. I finally said, enough, I’m going to just be me and everything will fall into place. And it has. Give yourself time and go easy on yourself. Being an Aspie may be something that holds you back sometimes, but you can overcome it and be accepted. Peace. 🙂

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    • Thank you for your comment. I agree that it’s not just an Aspie thing – a lot of it is simply being an introvert. But I consider it an extra burden to be socially incompetent (Aspie) **and** socially anxious/shy (introvert). I’m trying to do as you with the drum circles and forcing myself to stick with my social endeavors – hopefully it will pay off

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  4. My wife is an Aspie and I guess as with a lot of other Aspie it is missing the point to just say that she is introverted. Us NT’S perhaps see that because we do love giving people labels… :/ But whatever else she is she is also a Goth…and when she is protected by her Gothic armour in the form of dark makeup, nose-bleed-inducingly high platformed boots etc then she certainly can become a lot more…oh sod it, I’m labelling it, Extroverted. 🙂

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  5. One of the few times I suffer anxiety is when I know I’m going to be around a lot of people. If I’m performing, I am able to cope best because I melt into my instrument (my true best friend) and the world kind of disappears. If I’m actually mingling with the crowd I do much better than I used to, but usually can’t wait to get out of there, LOL. I don’t have many close friends, but many acquaintances, the majority of them being people who come for private music lessons. I like teaching at home because I usually only see one person at a time, and the only thing better than spending quality time with one person is spending quality time alone (in my opinion). I’m a terrible friend, simply because I make very little effort, and I don’t really think of other people much when they aren’t around. I don’t miss them. Out of sight is out of mind. However when I do see them, I enjoy their company. There are a few ‘best friends’ from my past, who I rarely see, but when I do see or talk to them, it’s like just like we’ve been hanging out all along. I like that.

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