• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”
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An Aspie’s Lonesome Reflection: Keeping Others at Arm’s Reach


Why can’t I let anyone in?

Autism Asperger's Syndrome and Loneliness
I keep so much of myself guarded. I do not share my life with people, not anything that is personal to me anyway. And when I say personal, I mean I don’t tell anyone I am working on a Bachelor’s Degree in English. No-one except my immediate family knows that I attend school. I did not even tell my brothers, my father, or any of my childhood “friends.”
I don’t have any “adulthood” friends. I have not made, cultivated or kept any friends during my entire adult life. Oh I’ve made “friends” but only for a time, and they were not really more than distant acquaintances. I never really shared anything of myself with them. I never did understand people who felt the need to share way too much information with complete strangers. Actually it drives me crazy and makes me incredibly uncomfortable. (Maybe that is why interaction with my “virtual” friends is easier.)

People make me uncomfortable

If I meet someone who is trying to become “friends” with me, I am immediately turned off when they feel the need to tell me every intimate detail of their lives, their friends’ lives, and the whole neighborhood’s gossip. That is a sure-fire way to get me to completely avoid you. Do they not realize I hadn’t shared anything with them? I didn’t tell them I had Autism, or that I am a college student (in my late 30’s), or that I home school my oldest Aspie son, or that I am a writer. Essentially, they know nothing about me.
I wonder what expressions I wear on my face. I may need someone to follow me around with a camera or something because it seems no matter where I go perfect strangers feel the need to tell me their life stories (and much of the details they really should have kept to themselves–dear God–a little modesty please). I find it hilarious because I am probably the last person on earth that gives a rat’s ass!
This stuff doesn’t happen to my husband. Strangers never tell them their deep dark secrets and intimate escapes while standing in the supermarket line! Do I have a sign on my head that says “Tell me everything; I have no friends to repeat it to anyway”? There must be something.

Why do I guard my own “secrets” so fiercely?

The answer: I really do not know. I am still trying to understand myself. Maybe it is the life filled of ridicule, guilt and scorn that comes with growing up with undiagnosed Autism.
Why do I almost feel embarrassed of what most would call accomplishments? I watch friends on Facebook brag about completing degrees and furthering their education–I hide mine.
Others do not consider livelihood or aspirations too personal to share–why do I?
I never tell family or friends that I write children’s articles, short stories, have completed a novel, am in the middle of writing a memoir, or that I publish a blog. I keep everything tucked in tightly. I’ve actually considered publishing my work using a pseudo-name so no-one would know it was me.
Have I spent so much of my life hiding my deficits, my inadequacies, and my failures, that I now also hide my successes?
Although I have come a long way, I still have a long road to travel on my way to self-discovery, understanding and acceptance.
To date I have only shared my blog with one other person (besides hubby) that I know in “real life.” For me that was progress because sharing with others gives me panic attacks. I have been thinking about being brave and letting a few others “in” here and there, which is what spurred this reflection and unfocused rambling post.
I feel alone most of the time and I don’t want to feel that way, and always feel like I have no-one to talk to…so maybe it’s time for a change. Baby steps–I’ll invite one person I know and test the waters, and maybe just maybe if it goes well, I’ll be brave enough to share more of me–maybe.

A note to all my newly found “virtual” friends—you have all helped me in more ways than I can say. You’ve let me know I am not alone in this world; you share my struggles and share of yourselves. This has helped me to open up more and feel less isolated, and I just wanted to say Thank You.


Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.