Oh, What It Would Be To Have A Heart Made Of Armor

Taking off the mask

I feel like a ghost most days.

This feeling intensifies when I am in a very social situation with people in loud, chaotic, multiple-conversations-happening-at-once setting. I have a very difficult time functioning in this type of setting, no matter if the mood is happy or not, so I don’t really engage and end up usually shutting down.

This, naturally, confuses most people and I usually end up getting asked if I’m okay or will be mistaken for being aloof, shy, upset, detached, moody, etc.

Then I become a ghost.

This happened recently. I was struggling to be “on” after having a really exhausting day in terms of too much “people-ing” and sensory overload in a busy city with huge crowds, etc. I couldn’t engage enough. I probably should have spoken up about the problems I was having but didn’t. The company knew about my diagnosis so maybe they should’ve spoken up, too.

Regardless, this kind of stuff triggers the fight-or-flight response, making me want to disappear from everyone and everything.

I found a really good article from the National Autistic Society regarding autism and loneliness. It is spot on and perfectly depicts my own feeling on this subject.

I’m learning that these down-to-the-bone-marrow feelings of isolation are probably linked, in a way I suppose, to the shutdowns.

While I feel my particular autism has many strengths, communication is one of the areas where I do find it to be a disability.

Casual conversation.

Making and keeping friendships.

Social interaction.

I am going to be 35 on Monday and I suffer just as much as I did when I was a child when it comes to integrating into a social “norm” setting and maintaining friendships.

I am very good at “camouflaging” this, when I have the energy to, so anyone who has met me in the last few years won’t really notice or will be mega surprised to find out about my autism.

But those who knew me before then–before I mastered my masking techniques–won’t be surprised at all.

And masking is utterly exhausting.

I have written before how I don’t want to wear these masks all of the time. I want to be who I am and have people understand that I am different and that I need some guidance on how to effectively “fit in.”

I have not been wearing these masks lately but few people around me are changing and, in some cases, the “friendships” are getting worse because some people refuse to talk to me about my autism diagnosis and refuse to adopt a social situation that will help me communicate without shutting down (i.e., something a little more quiet or with less people).

Not masking is making me feel more isolated than when I am masking. But when I mask, I feel like I am inauthentic and why hide who I actually am? I don’t think it’s inappropriate for me to address when I am having troubles due to ASD and kindly request if we can move somewhere more quiet, for example. Usually, people are okay to do this, but some aren’t. And the ones that aren’t, I guess, aren’t really worth my time in the first place.

Is it unhealthy for me to think that, because I am trying to compromise by improving scripting (or “chitchat”) skills by asking, what to me, are useless questions with no meaning to help “neurotypical” people feel comfortable, people should compromise on helping me in social situations by being a little more sensitive to my disability with communication?

Am I asking too much? I genuinely don’t know if I am or not. It would be helpful for someone to tell me so I can appropriately address the situation(s) in the future.

It’s unfortunate that a lot of my sensitivities are very socially focused (overly-sensitive sensory sensitivity and sensory avoidance) but that doesn’t mean I don’t like people or lack a need for human interaction.

I do need it.

And I’ve tried.

Am trying.

And will keep trying.

Even though it hurts sometimes.

But, I guess, those who are actually interested in my good qualities and the friendship I can offer will talk about this with me. People who show complete apathy, avoidance or other negative responses aren’t really worth the energy I have to expend to keep trying.

Or may they do care but aren’t sure how to talk about it with me.

To  communicate in a world where most people, “neurotypical” or not, are already pretty poor at communicating is hard. I mean, we are all just children with hurt feelings inside adult bodies, right? We should probably be more mindful about addressing those hurt feelings, talk it out and move on.

A quote by Nita taken from that article by NAS I linked to earlier, who is also autistic, goes like this:

“I am autistic, but I am no less worthy of friendship than anyone else.”

Those. Words. Exactly.

Spiritual Loneliness

Assessment

I feel lonely a lot.

It isn’t a loneliness that comes from lack of people around me.

It’s deeper than that.

Like a spiritual loneliness.

I’ve never really felt like I belonged anywhere.

The older I get, the more accustom to this feeling I become.

But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t bother me sometimes.

I know I have people around me who love me but I sometimes wonder if they really do love me.

I think it’s because I don’t process feelings like those around me do.

I feel things.

Deeply.

But I struggle to verbally express those feelings well.

Or even really process what I’m feeling to a certain extent.

That’s why I write.

Why I have this blog.

Why I prefer text messages to phone calls.

Why I go silent for a period of time when someone opens up to me.

I have oceans of empathy but struggle to articulate said empathy appropriately.

I don’t speak to anyone from my past.

I like it that way.

But I do sometimes miss having USA-relevant comradery among cultural references in jokes and experiences that people in this country don’t necessarily understand (as referenced in a previous post).

Those references aren’t on the same level of spiritual loneliness though.

And they’re fleeting.

I thought my assessment would somehow fill this spiritual loneliness somewhat, which it has, but I think I was naive or expecting too much from the outside world.

Right now, I’m battling being open about my autism or pretending like it’s not there.

I don’t want to hide who I am.

I don’t want to camoflauge.

I don’t want to be exhausted from camoflauging.

I want to be who I am. All of me. Always.

But I’m having a hard time with ignorant comments and/or apathy about high-functioning autism I’ve been receiving in my daily life.

It is making me feel even more lonely, to be honest.

Forever wayward, it seems.

I know it will improve.