Why is social interaction is hard for me?

I do like people and interacting with people; that isn’t the problem. Unlike allistic (non-autistic) people I use energy when interacting with others. I still stress that I like interacting with people but eventually I run out of energy and have to stop.

I will use the analogy of tennis here. Say you really like playing tennis and your friends all like tennis as well. However they have a lot more stamina than you do, so you have to stop playing a long time before they do otherwise you’ll collapse from exhaustion.

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Ahh Djokovic you understand me

That’s how social interaction is for me; I have to limit the amount before I get exhausted or very stressed. It’s also worse with groups of people, I’ll stick with the tennis analogy to explain this. Playing tennis with one ball is easy and you could keep going for hours. Add another ball and it becomes trickier, but still manageable. Add another and you start to struggle.  Here the balls represent people, it’s quite difficult to keep track of multiple balls at once. For me, it’s difficult to keep track of multiple people/conversations at once. Each one requires analysis and effort and if there are too many I feel overwhelmed. There is fortunately a simple solution. Take breaks. Like you would if you were getting too tired playing a sport. Or I’ll end up collapsed on the court covered in tennis balls.

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Jesus loves you (capitalism sucks)

I am quite happy to co-exist with the Religious so long as neither of us try to push our beliefs or non-beliefs on the other. Which works quite well in the UK as we don’t have that many fundamentalists compared to, say, the US. However, unlike the US the UK is a ‘Christian Nation’ unfortunately and though the UK would seem to be a secularist country there are still remnants of a state Religion for example in school assemblies, or as my school likes to call them ‘gatherings’ (yes I know it makes us sound like witches). Every few months we have a Christian based gathering delivered by a Reverend for the local schools. This week we had the compulsory Christmas one which contains the traditional Christmas guilt trip. The intended message of the gathering was basically ‘capitalism is bad and we should think about less fortunate people at Christmas because… God’. Now I’m all for giving to charity at Christmas (if I had any money) but it didn’t seem like that was the underlying message. It was more ‘you should be thinking about Jesus and the poor unfortunate people’ and ‘God wants you to chill out’. Aside from the fact that Christmas was formed as a culmination of Religious festivals and was hijacked by Christianity to appease the Celts as it was the same time as the Winter Solstice, if ‘God’ wanted us to chill out maybe he’d solve the problems of these poor unfortunate people, or at least stop buildings falling on people’s heads. But he doesn’t, because he doesn’t exist. I was tempted to stand up and talk about Typhoon Haiyan and how if God was more concerned about capitalism being bad than thousands of people dying in the Philippines then there was something wrong with that god, but I didn’t, mainly due to the fact that I would get in trouble. It just irritates me that in this day and age children and adolescents still  get preached at in school when a lot are from different religions or have no religion at all.

Why is a diagnosis important?

I think I have always known that I was different. I often felt as if I was acting, pretending to be like everyone else and, some of the time, failing. This combined with several years of bullying led to the destruction of my self-esteem. I felt as if I was broken or damaged for not understanding friendship groups or how to do my hair. The truth was that I have Asperger’s syndrome. It took me a long time to accept even that, but after I did the effect was immediate. I stopped hating myself. I no longer minimised the difficulties I have with social situations and stopped beating myself up over making social mistakes. I finally understood that what was affecting my mood was not negative thinking but a reaction to my senses being overwhelmed. Basically I accepted that I was different and that it was okay. I could still be independent, I just needed a little bit of help sometimes. And that was okay too.

Diagnosis is important. At least in the U.K. it is. You can get extra time in exams, grants for Uni and be able to use a computer instead of handwriting things. People will understand and make reasonable changes for you. In short a diagnosis allows you to access help that you otherwise may not get.

Being diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is not the end of the world. You are still the same person you were before the diagnosis, you just understand yourself a bit better. There is no shame in being different and consequently there is no shame in having an ASD. Be proud of who you are 🙂