Someone asked this question on a website for asking/answering any number of questions on any number of topics. I responded by first saying, “In my case, a social life.”
To put it simply, I have a social disability. Unlike those around me, family and friends, I don’t like to be around people much. If I am with one person discussing a topic that’s right up my alley, I am talking that other person’s poor leg off. But add another person or more to the conversation and I go into silent mode.
It is well-documented those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (my nickname for it is “Billy”) are not likely to be the social bufferflies in their community. I could manage better than those I know of going days in solitary confinement without going mad. Torture for me would be in the midst of people, strangers or not, around the clock with no break of lone time.
I shutter at the word “group”. It can be followed by the words “meeting” or “social” or “gathering” and I will have the same reaction of a frown. It is similar to the reaction I have at the smell of turnips cooking, or the bass sound of a loud stereo, or the glare of the bright lights. I’d rather be far away on another galaxy than sitting inside at a group session pretending to listen while hoping someone will volunteer to be the first to announce their departure.
Now if I am at the podium doing the speaking, it’s a whole different story. Even better, if I am talking about one of my passions. Now why I hate being in the audience but thrilled to be the speaker, well, I haven’t figured that one out yet.
The British writer, Alis Rowe, frequently writes about autism. One of her quotes that hit close to my heart: “I can be talkative and expressive when with a single person, but the more people there are around me, the less interactive and more introverted I become. Inside a group of people, I can’t contribute/function, and tend to ‘shut down’ because I find it all too overwhelming.”
My ASD is a constant companion and there are times when it slaps me right in the face. At family gatherings or other group settings, I can’t be like the others. I can’t join in on their chatter and laughter and enjoy it as they do. For me, such gatherings are draining and that isn’t going to change. The mute button will always come on. I can ask why I have to struggle with this but everybody has something to deal with. It isn’t so much what it is but how we cope with it. The Lord is the One whom I turn to. He knows all about my Billy.
I take heart in the bright side of living on the Spectrum. My passion for writing helps me to communicate with people in my own special way. It isn’t all dark on the Spectrum. Not at all. No one has it all after all. I try to remember that and appreciate what I do have going for me with Billy around.