I really didn’t even realize it was Tuesday until about five minutes ago. In my defense, it is the summer, and this tends to happen to me. I kind of alluded to the idea of it during last week’s long ramble about executive dysfunction. What happens is, I lose track of the general concept of time, to the point of not really knowing what day of the week it is, and because writing a blog post is pretty much the only thing that makes Tuesday different than any other weekday… well, anyway, at least I actually did remember. I can’t even post this until the electricity in my house comes back, so you might be getting this post a little later than I actually finish writing it.
But anyway. Today, we turn our attention back to a social topic. I know, what joy. Haven’t you missed the eternal untapped well of content that is the way I deal with the social world? As is often the case with social topics, I get to put myself on blast a little bit today. I want to talk about ‘clashing’ with friends and acquaintances, and how I’ve gradually come to accept the fact that I can be a slightly difficult person to get along with.
If you know me in real life and/or are my friend currently, you might deny that I’m hard to get along with. The thing about having friends is that usually, those people choose to be your friends because they enjoy your company. I think most of my friends at present would deny that I’m a difficult person to get along with, or maybe even that I have social issues at all. Masking helps a lot with that, and although it can be socially draining, I’ve found that masking is worth it in the grand scheme of things, because it helps me actually maintain friendships. As I’ve recently realized, having friendships and a social life that exists outside of my college dorm room is a really good and beneficial thing for life.
But the thing is: getting along with people is not always a hundred percent easy. And it’s because I’m a difficult person.
The best way for me to explain this is by backing up, because the most prime examples I can think of where I’ve ‘clashed’ with another person happened in high school. I don’t know what it was, exactly, about High School Me, but I had a lot of situations where I’d get into a social conflict that wasn’t exactly an argument but still felt like drama. This makes me sound like I was a popular person who was stirring the pot everywhere I went, but that was far from the case. The truth? In high school, I didn’t understand myself socially, nor was I socially confident enough, to figure out how to handle some of my friendships.
For example: I had this friend in high school. She was a genuinely kind person, who was always enthusiastic, and who loved uplifting her friends. (I use ‘was’ only because we don’t talk anymore.) We’d known each other for a long time through other schools and extracurriculars, so by the time we got to high school together, I felt like we were what you would consider ‘close friends.’
The problem with our friendship was this: she was a huge extrovert, and I didn’t know how to handle her socially. This was nothing at all against her, because like I said, she was always nice, and she never did anything at all to deserve the way I treated her. This is once again a case of me making myself look like a bad person on my blog, but the truth is that I was mean to this girl. Not deliberately, like with insults or anything like that, but more that I got overwhelmed by her social energy way too easily, and I’d shut down and/or get noticeably grouchy for absolutely no reason at all. I’m not proud to say it, but this resulted in me ‘snapping’ at her one too many times. She did nothing to me, but because I couldn’t ‘handle’ her, so to speak, I was mean.
This isn’t something I’m proud of at all. Like I said, we don’t talk anymore. This isn’t because we had any big fight; we just drifted apart after I graduated. I know that that happens with plenty of high school friendships, but I still feel bad when I think about how I let my lack of ability to ‘cope’ with neurotypical social situations turn me into someone who would randomly be mean to her friends. It’s true that our personalities were totally different, but that was no reason for me to be a jerk. This particular friend from high school was not the first, and probably will not be the last, person with whom I’ve ‘clashed’ socially simply because they’re very different from me and I don’t know how to handle it. I even do this with less close friends. There’s a reference in this blog post, albeit a very brief reference, to someone who I was struggling to get along with at the time I wrote the post, and looking back on that, I have literally no idea why I was so stubborn about that person. She became a friend of mine after I got over myself; she was always extremely kindhearted and sweet. I was the problem. I usually am.
I think it works like this: if one thing happens that my brain clocks as difficult to process, a friendship can get kind of complicated for me. I wish there was an easier way to explain this, but if you’ve ever had me frustrated with you, I think you might know what I’m talking about. There’s a small but notable handful of people I’ve encountered throughout my life with whom I’ve become frustrated for no apparent reason, and once I get myself into that mindset with a person, it’s hard for me to get myself out. I’m extremely glad to say that this has not happened to me with a friend in quite awhile; with the exception of the situation referenced in the above-linked post, I haven’t had a real problem with this since high school.
I honestly think that a lot of it is and has been a maturity thing. I’m not completely unhappy with the person I was in high school, but there are a lot of social decisions I made in high school that I regret, especially all the deliberate self-isolation I took part in because I thought it would be easier. College has helped me open up to the idea that it is, in fact, beneficial to have friendships in your life. I can’t pretend that I’m a fantastic friend, because I’m not. I am atrocious at texting, and I go off the map during school breaks. Given my poor communication skills, I wonder why some friends bother with me at all.
But this isn’t my pity party; we do enough of that on this blog. I think the point I’m trying to make today is that autistic social mannerisms have led me down paths I regret with regard to some of my past friendships. Once my brain decides that I’m ‘annoyed with’ or ‘overwhelmed by’ a friend, I have, historically, been grouchy with people for what seems to them like no reason at all. As I said above, with my example of my high school friend, it’s the case 99% of the time that that person did absolutely nothing to me, or even if they did ‘do something,’ it wasn’t nearly significant enough to create a whole social grudge against them. This is simply an immature and stubborn habit I’ve had in the past, and it’s something I’m very much working on.
The fact remains that this is something I’ve done. It was so bad in middle and high school that I can almost name a steady succession of different people who I ‘clashed’ with, for a good five or six consistent years. I think there was a part of me, especially before my diagnosis, that was so fixated on feeling socially isolated that I pushed people away to reinforce my own ideas about feeling different. Because I got diagnosed at the very start of high school, I think there’s a possibility that I maybe even latched onto my autism as an explanation for why it had been difficult to get along with some people in the past, and then used it as an excuse when I would get socially overwhelmed by other friends.
Although I said I didn’t have a big fight with the girl I used as an example, I have ruined or seriously damaged friendships over this. Like I said, I don’t do this anymore, thankfully, but there was a huge stink in my small circle of friends during the spring of my senior year of high school, and it was all thanks to me starting unnecessary, petty drama. It’s the reason I wrote that whiny Friendsgiving post my freshman fall semester of college. You should know that, several years removed from the whole situation, I’ve realized that I pushed myself away from those people on my own accord. They didn’t do anything to me. There was a period of my life where I was so fixated on the idea that my social life would always be doomed to be hopeless because I was autistic that I decided I shouldn’t bother with social things at all. I even decided, albeit subconsciously, that I would actively work against having social harmony in my life, because if social situations were always going to be hard for me anyway, then what was the point?
You can see the issue with this line of thinking. I’m grateful that I’ve grown enough to move past it. But I still regret being mean and/or grouchy to people for no reason in the past, and I don’t expect anyone to forgive me for it. Being disabled and having social difficulties isn’t an excuse to be mean. This is what I’ve learned, but I haven’t always known it.
This has been a slightly vulnerable post, since you never really enjoy writing about yourself being a jerk, but honesty has always been my policy on this blog, so that’s what you’re getting today. I think I’m done for now, but I’ll see you next week. Here’s where else you can find me.
Next Time: What are sensory issues like around the house?