Lonely in a crowd

Parties. Love them or hate them? If I know people who will be there, I’m happy to go. Once I’m there, I can expect one of the following outcomes. It’ll be a great bonding time with friends, and social energy well spent…or I could be watching everyone having fun together, wondering how they click so easily, and not knowing how to join in.

To start with, I have more friends now than I ever had growing up, and I’m so grateful for what they’ve done for me. But I’ve been to a few social occasions lately, and during one where I was watching the others talk, laugh, and have fun, it kind of hit me how lonely Asperger’s Syndrome can be. I can, and usually do, get on well with people individually, but it’s so frustrating still not knowing how to really get noticed in a group.

I mean, tripping over a step in front of over 10 people this summer got me noticed. But possibly not for the right reasons.

I’ve blogged about Asperger’s and groups. I’ve also, in a fit of uncharacteristic optimism, covered what’s good about the condition. What makes it so lonely at times?

Most of the time, I don’t even know what I’m not picking up on from other people. Experts would say non-verbal communication. Or lack of eye contact. Or needing alone time when it gets too draining. I know. I’ve heard it all before. Whatever it is, it can make people think I’m not interested. And that’s really hard.

You know the saying “three’s a crowd?” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Threes always make me anxious. No two members of the group will have the same relationship dynamics, and you can bet two people are closer to each other than the remaining one. Fair or not, it’s only natural, and I don’t know how not to be that awkward third person. At least if you feel invisible in a big group, it’s understandable when there are so many others to talk to. When you’re one of only two people for someone to bond with and they still prefer the other person? Dispiriting, to say the least.

One of my biggest insecurities – no matter how kind people are – is the thought of being the one who always needs help, but has nothing to contribute. You need help understanding what’s happening. You get confused by too much going on, or too many instructions. Occasionally you’ll say something inappropriate that seems logical to you. It’ll always take longer for you to learn to read people. I’ve heard these things over and over, and trust me, it would be an easier burden to bear if they weren’t true.

I know it all sounds a bit negative. But hey, we all get lonely, and sometimes the best way to reach out to others is to share your struggles. I don’t sugarcoat these things. Or exaggerate. Nor am I asking for special treatment. I’m just being real. And if you have similar worries, I hope this helps.

 

 

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Birthdays

It has been a good nine days since my first and last blog post. First of all I would like to apologise for the extreme suspense I may or may not have caused those who have waited avidly for my next post. In my defense, the apparent success of my last post did not fill me to the brim with confidence in the next one – if anything, I had the internet equivalent of stage fright.

Last week I wasted hours of my life staring at the blank textbox on WordPress, convinced that after one vaguely entertaining post, all the rest would be a complete disappointment to whichever facebook friends/bloggers had enjoyed the first and were eagerly anticipating the next. I had also bypassed my not-very-short topic list and was waiting impatiently for something to happen that would be interesting enough to blog about. Which is why I am beginning to realise what a convenient time I chose to be only a few hours away from turning twenty.

In my limited experience, birthdays often mean social occasions. I have a love-hate relationship with social occasions, and continually like to think I am not the only person who believes that a successful one does not require alcohol. If there are others of you out there who share this belief, then I sincerely take my hat off to you. If not, then hey, it’s good to be different. As a small child with no social inhibitions whatsoever, I was quite a fan of birthday parties. The first one I can remember is my fourth. Whilst I still remember the food, music and general party atmosphere, I was unaware until today that it was that day that my mum learnt of my dad’s commitment issues.* But I digress.

Years later, I quickly grew tired of always being pushed to the back of the line when queueing for food or assembling for team games at other children’s parties. So to me it seemed perfectly logical, one year, to stick a sign on the living room door saying “me first because it’s my party”. In my weird autistic brain, it would be immediately obvious to every one of my guests what I was on about, and when queueing or assembling, they would defer to me without a doubt. Whether they actually did or not, I can’t remember. Probably no bad thing.

My eleventh birthday, as previously mentioned, saw me in Auckland, New Zealand, thanks to a work-related trip of my stepdad’s. You know you’re suffering from jetlag of the worst kind when not even the most chocolatey birthday cake is enough to keep you awake. New Zealand, by the way, is an amazing country. If you like peace and quiet, mountains and whalewatching-induced seasickness, then you should definitely go. However, if you have a birthday while there, do try and time it so that you are not falling asleep in your chair before 5:00pm. Trust me.

My last two birthday parties were basically social gatherings for the Christian youth group I was a member of at the time, CYFA.** This was my mum’s idea, and with the help of pizza, pancakes, cats and Just Dance, nothing could, or did, go wrong. The only downside to inviting so many people over was my inability to deal with being in the limelight without being forcibly dragged, the stress of not knowing who to invite and generally feeling a tad claustrophobic. On thinking about my twentieth, I decided that big parties aren’t really my cup of tea, and so have settled for chilling out with a couple of close friends. In fact, this birthday has already promised to be interesting, as amazon are apparently taking their time, meaning that many of my presents will probably arrive next week. C’est la vie.

Happy nearly-St Patrick’s Day!

*she gave me permission to mention this
**Christian Youth Fellowship Association