Off I Go

This is the continuation of excerpts from my first journal entry after beginning to learn about autism. I wrote responses from my current self to clarify or expand on what I wrote all those years ago:

Apparently it’s somehow normal to be able to tell how people are feeling without them telling you. That doesn’t make any sense to me. I have no way of knowing whether someone is fine or not. If they tell me that they’re fine, then how would I know for sure that they really aren’t? I can ask, “Are you sure?” if they seem unsure, but that’s about as far as I can tell and if they tell me again, “Yes, I’m sure – I’m fine!” then I can’t imagine pursuing the issue any further.

It seems to me to be the height of rudeness to insist that someone is lying about or doesn’t know how they feel. It seems presumptuous to me to think that I would know better than someone else how they feel. If they don’t want to tell me how they feel then who am I to go prying into their private lives and feelings?

The above still makes a lot of sense to me. Once I was in college and living in a dorm with other young adult females, I got asked very frequently whether I was angry. The very question would, ironically enough, anger me. “Why would you assume I was angry? If I was angry then you would know!”

Looking back, it seems clear that I was somehow coming across to these other people as angry. Since I didn’t know that I was coming across as angry, I saw their question as them making unfounded assumptions about me. It also was a bit unsettling on the few occasions when I searched within myself and realized that, yes, I was a bit irritated, but how had these other people known I was irritated before I knew that I was? I should know myself better than they did!

In retrospect, those were more things that fed into my self doubt.

Going on and on about topics that interest me is apparently not a good thing to do. People don’t like it. I’m better about not doing that than I used to be, but it’s still something that I really need to work on. What are the subtle cues people give when they’re bored or tired of listening to me? I need to learn those and memorize them or something.

I’m reading a Wrong Planet thread about social rules that people have learned or know. I’ve figured out some of them already on my own (woohoo!). Probably reading all the Miss Manners books cover to cover when I was growing up didn’t hurt either!

Even something as small as reading all the Miss Manners books from front to back when I was in middle school made much more sense now after looking at it through the clarifying lens of autism.

Side note: I burnt out rather quickly, just a few months after writing the excerpts above. Trying to learn all the things about social interaction that I had previously not realized I hadn’t known was just too much. My several year break between when I first looked into the possibility of being Autistic and then when I picked the research back up earlier this year was primarily due to me getting completely overwhelmed and burnt out and not having the financial resources to seek professional help with my overwhelmed-ness.

At that time it didn’t even occur to me to seek support from the online autistic community by contacting people directly. That’s something I greatly wish I’d done. I encourage anyone reading this and feeling overwhelmed at a newfound autistic perspective of their lives to reach out in some way. Not reaching out to the online autistic community years ago is one of my biggest autism-related regrets.

Learning all the usual social cues is no longer a priority for me. I was quite overambitious all those years ago. I do my best, of course, but my priority has to be to take care of myself and protect against getting that overwhelmed ever again. The people closest to me have been fairly willing to work alongside me as we discover how to best interact with each other and maximize our understanding so that the burden isn’t just on me.

I’m also more interested now in accepting myself as I am and respecting my social limitations than I was then.

Off I go. At least I have a starting place. I know how to find the information I need now. So far nobody I’ve told has been surprised and I don’t think that getting an official diagnosis would be beneficial at this point. Maybe someday I will seek a diagnosis, but if I can figure out how to be more socially aware on my own with help from my friends, then I prefer to do that.

So, off I went.

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