In writing this series I’ve challenged myself to have each chapter link to the previous. This was the novelty I needed to motivate myself into getting back into the writing mode and there was a key thing in the previous chapter that the student told me and that was that he felt, “totally alone.”
There’s two sides to feeling alone as I, myself, do a good percentage of the time enjoy being alone. Most of everything I’ve written was written between the hours of midnight and 5AM because that increased my chance of having no outside interference to my work or thoughts. However, there would be other times that I yearned for interaction. No, not just interaction but a connection on the personal level and without understanding we can quickly become cut off from those around us and the harder we try to make connections the more cut off we become.
Before I got my diagnosis I did see psychologists or counselors and it was hard for me to ever buy-in to the whole process but the #1 thing that would set me off, or rather turn me away from exposing anything remotely resembling an actual emotion, was the line of, “I know how you feel.” Really, you know how I feel? You know what it feels like to know that no one has the same thoughts as you? You know what it is like to be mocked for missing the most obvious of social cues? You know what it is like to be in room full of people and feel as if you’re on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? You know what it is like to have been misunderstood forever and now, all of a sudden, someone understands? Ha!
The problem with saying you know how I feel is that, and others on the spectrum can be like this, we’ve come to learn that no one thinks like us. Maybe this is decreasing with the increased awareness, but when I didn’t have a diagnosis what else was I to think? And on top of all that, since talking about emotions was difficult, I wouldn’t have been able to get out how I actually felt although I would be able to tell the psychologist that they were wrong but I would not be able to describe as to what was the actual feeling thus furthering my lack of buying-in to the process.
Another aspect of feeling alone, and this is on the negative side which I hope to remember to write in more detail later on the bliss that can be experienced being alone, is that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The “fail set” can set in which is this, “if I’ve failed once, and failed again, this means I will always fail” which means that getting the person to even try may be difficult and if a situation arises where someone is trying to, say, be a friend we may be very guarded or closed off because we know the outcome of loneliness is always the same.
The nights I felt most alone I can describe like this. And mind you, I’m not writing this to be depressing, or to make you, if you’re a parent, depressed about your child, but rather I feel if you know how a person may feel it’ll give you a better understanding. Anyway, after my diagnosis and the hopelessness I felt I felt as if I lived in this small bubble where life was frozen. I could look out of my bubble and witness people conversing. I saw it all the time at the bowling alley, or at stores, and what I saw was what I wanted at almost any cost except the cost of me trying because I knew I’d fail if I tired. Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy, or a vicious cycle, call it what you will but the longer it went on the more bitter I became. When I would talk to my dad on how I felt I’d rarely bring up this point of feeling isolated because it was the deepest of feelings and one I didn’t want to recognize. I tried to subdue my yearnings of acceptance and friendship, but even thought I would deny it (many times) they were there.
Time went on and as each month passed me by I felt the chasm between myself and the world growing. This eventually was my motivation to write which I know not everyone is going to become a writer and not everyone is going to find a way to express what they are feeling, but do know we may have this deep yearning for contact, or kinship, or just a simple moment of understanding. We often times feel alone in a crowded room which, despite even if you have felt this before, we may become agitated if you tell us, “I know how you feel” because, to feel alone the way we do, we are watching the world from this bubble and as we watch it appears so easy. Other people make the art of conversation so darn easy and for us it isn’t. I think I can compare it to this; look up a video on the Internet of a concerto master performing a great work of music; they make it look easy, right? For that master it probably is and for us on the spectrum, witnessing normal encounters that others have, be it a common greeting or two strangers talking about the weather, that’s what witnessing normal conversations are like. And from that despair in watching others make the impossible, like having an open ended conversation with a stranger about random, irrelevant topics, seem like second nature it creates the deep and wide chasm that creates this feeling of being alone.