I’m Not Crazy (But You’re Insane): Autistics Can’t Have Nice Things…Like Friends

As you may know or, for my auties, experience, autistics have a hard time socializing. Communicating with Neurotypicals (NTs) is hard since some of us have facial blindness, are not able to pick up tones in voices, or speak honestly and bluntly. But in all fairness, NTs communicating with ATypicals (ATs) is difficult, too. Society stipulates that the minority must submit to the majority. If there are any miscommunications between the NT and AT then it is the ATs fault for not making the effort to be clear. It doesn’t matter if the AT is speaking as clearly as they can or in the only way they can. They are at fault and they will suffer for it.

This can lead to a life of loneliness. In many cases, autistics are content being alone to pursue our obsessions or to stabilize after wading in a world not made for us (sensory overload). A majority of us often have no close friends or family. We have no intimate relationships to the sex we’re attracted to in life. This often leads to alienation, deep loneliness, and often suicide.

For the record, suicide is the leading cause of death for autistics. On average, it happens in our late thirties. Why, I am not sure. Maybe it’s a time in a person’s life where we should be fulfilling all of society’s high points. We should have a perfect job and an escalating career, the perfect marriage, the perfect toddlers, and the perfect home. And, it can be said that many NTs are not there as well, the world slams a lot of pressure on the disabled to be in those positions. While everyone is six feet tall, we are expected to be too even though we are five feet tall. It is a form of ableism. But how can you fulfill those benchmarks when ATs cannot, or shall I say, when NTs cannot succeed in communicating with you.

I have been fortunate enough to be with my wife for eighteen years (twenty-five consecutive years since we met). She is Neurotypical. And we do have communication issues which can be difficult when you’re trying to conquer what life throws at you but, somehow, through our love and devotion to each other, through listening and finding ways to communicate, we are still here and still going strong. I wish the world was more like my wife.

Many friends and neighbors fail to make an effort to communicate with me. I have lost a friend, the respect of a condo board, and my daughter’s Godfather all because of miscommunication.

**

Back when I was on the condo board for my building, the other members complained about the management company and how they performed their responsibilities. Being on the board for many years and even a President for a few years, I was accustomed to the petty complaints. They always seemed the same but no one had a solution for them. They were all convinced that another management company would not act the same way. I doubted that.

Anyway. While I was not President, I was still someone with the most experience and knew how to handle the management company. I had been a manager and trainer most of my life. I knew how to talk to people without making them feel bad or inefficient even though they might have been less than par. I knew how to make them feel appreciated and that always got people to try hard for me when I wanted them to do a job. I asked them instead of ordered them to do a job. I spoke clearly and directly the way I wanted to be talked to when giving directions.

One board member not only trashed the management company but specific members. She called them stupid and other negative adjectives. She compared them to the way her boss, a lawyer, worked his employees. No way a management company could get away with these mild shenanigans if her boss was running the show. To me, it sounded like her boss was a real son of a bitch that made people miserable and she had low self-esteem working there.

By this point, I had enough. This was moving into a ‘shit or get off the pot’ situation. If you don’t like the company then hire someone else. Why complain? Also, I don’t like to be pushed around. I don’t like seeing people pushed around. People that I had worked with closely in the past and knew about their lives. This has to do with my neurology. I see people as my equal and I don’t see class or economic levels. I don’t see authority.

I responded to the board member with my autie honesty. I told her that just because her boss treats her like crap doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do with others.  I said this in front of the management company, which I think upset them the most.

This response did not go well. I was called crazy. What the hell was I doing? How could I say such a thing? Was I not on the board’s side? Were they worried that the management company would think they’re assholes? The management companies always think the board members are assholes. I thought we were assholes. All the board did was complain and offer no solutions. How could we not be perceived as assholes? It goes with the job when you are running a client-based company.

I left the board that day.

The management company continued to be in place long after the board fell apart. Because of my absence and words? I doubt it. I don’t hold such power. But about a year later, after a major change in board members through election (an election I was asked to run in, people still want me on the board), a new management company was voted in. And new problems and clashes with expectations continued.

**

I used to be part of a writers’ group. We gathered once a month, shared our fiction, and received feedback. It was useless for me except to feel part of a tribe. That was important to me at the time. Being a writer can be lonely. Being a writer who makes sales on their fiction while everyone else is struggling to put a paragraph together can be a conundrum.

I made friends with the members as best as I could. I was the quiet one and the one whose work received little feedback. Connections were made on social media. I was becoming part of a tribe that existed before I joined. It felt nice and I looked forward to it every month.

But like all good and bad things, nothing lasts forever. The organizer of the group moved out of state. The remaining core members carried on but little by little it dissolved. A few, including me, continued in various locations.

One day, a writer friend who was living a tumultuous singles life asked my advice on relationships. This writer friend, who I felt close to and knew for a few years, used dating sites/apps and had just gotten over a long-term relationship, coincidentally with an autistic. It seemed important to this writer that they end such struggles since they were growing older and they were tired of it. My advice:

“Just let things be. Don’t force things. The person you’re meant to be with will cross your path one day and, hopefully, the both of you will realize it.”

The writer friend seemed okay with what I had to say. I was being truthful. That was how I met my wife. I wasn’t looking for her. It was all an accident. Our paths crossed twenty-five years ago and we’re still crazy together. Maybe I shouldn’t expect that to happen to other people. Some people feel fine being alone. There is no law stating you have to be married or a couple to be happy. Happiness comes from yourself.  But I truly believed that control was the meaning of life. Control is suffering. When we try to control people and situations, we suffer. Both the controller and the person or situation trying to be controlled. But when we don’t try to control a person or situation, we allow them/it to unfold on their own. We allow our true selves to be seen as well as the true selves of the person or situation we are trying to control.

I didn’t feel any kind of special pride giving the advice. I felt it was common knowledge and logical. I’m surprised a lot of people don’t realize it. So I went on with my life as usual.

The next morning on social media, I see a post from the writer friend stating, and I paraphrase here: Married people should not give singles advice. They especially shouldn’t tell us to wait around to find love and to mind their own business.

I felt hurt and confused reading it. The comments from their supporting friends trashing me didn’t help my feelings either. I was asked my opinion and I gave my autie honesty. I wasn’t mean or blunt, that I recall. I only shared my experience which is something I expect from others as the best kind of advice. The writer’s response felt abusive. Long ago, I made a promise that I would never tolerate abuse in any form again.

Without responding to the attack, I unfriended that writer and never saw or heard from them again. I have since never joined another writers’ group, too. Unfortunately, it would not be the last time I had to cut off relations with an abusive friend.

**

My wife has suffered from sleep issues since I met her twenty-five years ago. After years of contemplating and me urging her to do something about it, she finally went for a sleep study, received a diagnosis, and now uses a machine to help her sleep. It’s hard for her to adjust but she’s moving along smoothly and adapting to it.

She’s progressing so well she gained a token medal from the service that monitors her machine. She received a Silver Badge and posted about it on social media to our friends and family. My daughter’s Godfather’s wife made a comment about how great it was for her to achieve the badge. I stated it was great too since I suffered a lot the last twenty years from her condition. I have trouble sleeping as it is but when someone is kicking, talking, and snoring in their sleep it makes it harder to achieve slumber.

My wife and mom thought I was kidding around with my response. I wasn’t. I was just sharing my side because I think people are interested and my wife and I are a team. I’m truly grateful for my wife’s accomplishment. Godfather Wife said I was making fun of my wife’s condition and accomplishment and therefore reprimanded me on how to be a good husband.

My head spun. Aren’t I already a good husband? My wife says I am. My mother says I am.

My wife and I are partners. We struggled through so many things together. There is no I with us. Could she really think I am so cruel? Has she always thought I was evil all these years? What an abusive and low-brow thing to say. I take my marriage seriously and take pride that so many people we know divorced while we are still together. I couldn’t even imagine anyone saying such a delusional thing to me in public let alone in private.

So, to keep with my promise of not viewing and tolerating abuse, I unfriended her on all social media so I wouldn’t have to see that stuff again. In a way, I have been thinking about doing it for the last few months. Anything I post, she seemed to have some kind of contradictory stance. I felt like she was fishing for triggers. She certainly was with her comment about me being a horrible husband.

But this was for the best. If two people don’t get along they should distance themselves. Especially in the case of Godfather who I wanted to keep a relationship for the sake of my daughter and wife. We had been friends a few years longer than I had been with my wife.

Later that night Godfather Wife texts my wife saying that I blocked her. I didn’t block her. She confused my deleting comments from the post as blocking. I like to leave a scene without a trace. I only unfriended.

Godfather sent a message telling me to take a breath, apologize to his wife, I am crazy because Wife was defending my wife, and I was acting like an eleven-year-old. Godfather Wife also sends me a private message about how she’s disappointed in my behavior. That my defensiveness makes my guilt apparent.

So now my depression is bombarded by their superior shaming.

I tried to explain my position, how I felt like she was giving the right advice to the wrong person. Godfather said, Nah. I got it wrong. Now what I experienced was not how it happened. I was the bad guy. Godfather Wife is the hero and my wife was the victim.

Mind you, my wife has no idea where they come up with this. Why are they doing this? What is the big deal? Friends and family believe they are jumping the gun, nitpicking, and being plain old weird.

The next day was my wife’s birthday and Godfather Wife leaves a nice long happy birthday that positions my wife as the savior of my family and the inspiration to all women and that anyone who doesn’t know that is garbage. One could interpret that she was signaling that I was the garbage.

Again, my wife was confused. How do they come up with this? She already knows that she’s an important part of our family. We’re a team. We do everything together. We appreciate each other.

My wife doesn’t respond to the birthday post. That day, Godfather Wife posts about a friend who she’s trying to help who is stuck with a husband who yells at their little daughter. A few friends chime in about the patriarchy of marriage and that the husband is scum.

You get the idea of who they were talking about?

It seems that there was something I was not privy to in the past that cleared some of the confusion. My wife talked to Godfather Wife last year about my hard transition during the Covid shut down. It was an abrupt change in my pattern and my daughter’s. All of a sudden, everyone was home and teachers were in our home via computers and I had to make sure my daughter was going along with the online learning. She wasn’t. My daughter hates online learning unless she can do it her way. She loves school. She loves going to school.

My daughter and I, both autistic, clash sometimes but, during the shutdown, it seemed to be often. We yelled at each other. I had meltdowns. My brain snapped from the intense sensory overload. When I have a meltdown, I do a lot of screaming. It hurts. I scream at everyone and at no one. I also hit my head, hard, and bang it against doors and concrete walls. When it passes, there is nothing left of me but a useless, shameful puddle of mud. It took a while for my wife and me to come up with a plan to help me avoid meltdowns. Lately, I’m doing okay. Again, we work as a team.

I had no problem with my wife confiding in Godfather Wife. We were all friends. They should be close. But then Godfather Wife dumped that confidence on social media and used it to shame my wife.

Again, my wife doesn’t respond to it.

And the next day she pays.

Godfather Wife blasts on social media that she cannot be there for this friend anymore. This friend needs to seek therapy and stop bothering her with problems that she is not able to face. Godfather Wife needs to focus on her health. I totally agree with that last statement.

My wife felt so disturbed. Who is this person? What was wrong with them?

I told her that she didn’t need to experience that kind of abuse. If Godfather Wife was depressing her and harassing her then she should unfriend her. She did.

As of now we have not talked to Godfather. I unfriended him to avoid further gaslighting but did not block him. He also has our email and cell numbers if he wants to reach out. I have nothing more to say about the matter. I forgive them. I understand that Godfather has to take his wife’s side. I take my wife’s side. I mostly feel sad about the situation, but I don’t feel threatened and depressed.

I think there’s something going on over there in the relationship. Not one person I know understands what happened. The situation is so confusing. I feel I know Godfather. I know that he’s a good person. He may just be a victim of Godfather Wife gaslighting me. One of the traits is to turn your friends against you. It could be the case here. Or so I hope.

But was it my fault for speaking honestly and without a filter? Did autism ruin this relationship as it does a lot of others?

**

Of course, there are many ways to look at it. I can see that I was at fault in social etiquette. But I also see a fault in the others for not accepting another way of thinking and communicating.

I get along with many autistics and undiagnosed weirdos, the outliers of society. I have also disagreed with some autistics, but that was only in political conflicts. Lately, I learned to walk away and pick my battles. It leaves fewer burnt bridges.

It’s expected of people to go along with societal norms (to lie, hide our true selves, talk in vague sentences, and understand/submit to class status) there may be someone in there that doesn’t. They intellectually speak directly to their truth and see everyone in the room as equal. There may be someone autistic. That autistic may have no friends and are content being alone with their obsessions and their home, sometimes, they could use a friend with open ears, eyes, and heart. Someone accepting of their neurology. You never know, that autistic could be accepting of their neurotypicality.

© 2021 M.E. Purfield

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