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Autistic Confessions – I Just Want to Be Alone – The Stigma of Solitude

I love being alone. In fact, like most introverts, I need to be alone in order to recharge my batteries.

The difference between me and most introverts is that they still “need” or “crave” social activities and being around other people. I simply don’t and never have.

Always alone, when I was young and through my teen years (and even part of my adult-hood) people made me feel like my tendency towards solitude was pathological. I remember my parents and grandparents trying to force me to go out with friends / leave the house.

They forced e so hard, insisting that I make friends or be lonely, but I had almost no friends.

I’ve always had a pattern of only having one friend at a time and hanging out in groups has never been fun for me. Having more than one or two friends is still very difficult for me.

Your whole life people tell you you will be lonely if you don’t have friends but I feel most alone when I am around the wrong people or even worse too many people. I never feel alone when I am on my own working on something I am passionate about.

To be perfectly honest sometimes I feel more affection towards my projects than for most people. I am very task driven and calculated. People often take my seriousness for coldness. The few who know me well know me as funny and warm.

One on one interactions are great if they are with the right person.  I can even do groups of up to three people if I keep the interactions short. More people needs to equal a shorter interaction for me.

Also, I am not opposed to meaningful conversations. The minute people start talking about pop culture and other mindless garbage my mind wanders. I am off in my own head until something brings me back to reality.

Neurotypicals or “normal people” take for granted things that are a LOT of work for me. Simple things, like figuring out when it’s your turn to talk. Despite focusing almost ALL my brain power on timing in conversations STILL I manage to mess this up every time.

Even when I am having a great time being social, my brain wears down fast when I have to focus on conversations. It is real work for me. The more conversations and the more people at a gathering the faster I drain out.

I’ve heard the clever term social hangover. For me this is a very accurate description.

By the time I am done with a 2 hour hangout with 4 people I am feeling dead and drained. It takes me a full day to recover from most social interactions. Add more people or more hours and I need even more time to recharge.

I can only handle one or two of these a month or I start to have an increased frequency of indigestion and meltdowns.

When my job started having one or two social things a month I stopped hanging out with the few friends I had. The truth is now all my social energy is spent on coworkers who I don’t relate to – because I am trying my hardest to “play the game.”

I turn down as many office happy hours as I can, but still feel like I don’t attend as many as they want me to.

Social politics in the work place are hard on us Aspies but we can’t escape them. If we want to succeed in an office we have to learn the patterns and unspoken rules (I hate unspoken rules – I like CLEAR rules).

If we can’t figure out the mysteries of the office we have to make our own way somehow or risk being stuck in a career that doesn’t fulfill. We are often under paid and under appreciated in the work place because we don’t kiss ass and “play the games” that our neurotypical peers do.

Without these skills we are at a disadvantage. There is pressure to fit in.

My hyper-social coworkers who like to go out several nights a week think being out and social is normal but for me a night at home is more acceptable. I am “antisocial” a “recluse” “book worm” and “introvert”. So many titles.

Why does wanting to stay in even need a title? Why does society shun the loner? There is nothing wrong with me wanting to spend most of my time alone. If I am truly happy what is the problem?

Its time we break the stigma on solitude.

 

#ActuallyAutistic #SheCantBeAutistic #AnonymouslyAutistic #InvisibleAutism

Working Full Time (Is Killing Me) – Autism at Work

Now that I know the reason for my social impairments and shortcomings, I am more accepting of my own failures.

Before I knew I was Autistic, I remember crying alone wondering why I could not just figure out the nuances of conversation. Why even when I thought I was doing everything right to have a polite conversation, people told me I still spoke out of turn and repeated myself .

The way I relate to others is somehow of-putting. I tend to ramble and turn conversations back onto myself. People think I don’t care about what they have to say but really, I’m just trying to say – “I understand.”

In fact I am also much more aware of my own failures now – this was hard on my self esteem when I was first diagnosed. Suddenly all of my flaws were illuminated, in my face, and so official.

I realized that I could not read faces, realized how much I was struggling just for timing in conversations, realized that auditory processing delays make face to face interactions stressful and overstimulating.

I was pushing myself to the point of sickness trying to keep up with the social demands of my busy work place. The things that most people find rewarding, busy events and parties, are not fun to me. I don’t want to go out and drink and I don’t feel relaxed around my coworkers.

All that fun was not in the job description and it was taking a toll on me.

Happy hours, networking events, international travel, restaurant openings, celebrities, private screenings of movies that the public can’t see yet – my job is pretty amazing.

The truth is, I rather not have all the extra perks that my job “offers”. I’ve learned that the politics are complex and if you don’t attend certain things your boss feels like you are ungrateful. I try to attend the very minimum, but even that is pushing it for me.

I am surviving in energy conservation mode. I have no social life other than the one my office creates.

I’ve stopped hanging out with my real friends because at the end of the work week I am dead. I have no energy or desire to socialize, burnt up and spent, nothing left for the people who matter most to me.

But I am living the dream right? I have my dream job and it seems to be killing me.

I need more down time than most people, and the more social I am the more down time I need. It is hard for someone running on spoons to have a full time job, but quitting is never my option.

I have gratitude for my job, because TOO many Aspies are unemployed. I am thankful every day for my very difficult and exciting job – even on the worst days.