Isolation, Loneliness, and the Angry Aspie? An Open Letter to the World and My Readers

While I have always tried to be truthful and revelatory when writing posts for this blog, in this post I am probably speaking with the most candor, bluntness, and with the rawest language I have used in a long time. I don’t see the need for a trigger warning, except that I am speaking about negative events and feelings I have been keeping private for a long time. Also, I will be using more profanity that my readers are used to seeing here on WWA. If that doesn’t scare you, read on. I should warn you that some of this may not read very cohesively and might seem like a very long rant, but I have had a need for a long time to say some of these things.

Isolation and Loneliness
When I was a little girl, I was a veritable chatterbox. Some of my earliest memories from around age five or six involve inundating other children, people my family knew, and my own parents with an explosion of words – what I was thinking or feeling, what I had been reading, things I’d seen earlier in the day that I thought were really marvelous, spectacular, or even beautiful, and so forth. I’m even guessing that some of these were lengthy descriptions of something related to my Aspie “special interests”. I remember Dad having to tell me to stop chatting and eat my food at dinner, as I would stop eating at some points and just start talking.

You probably wouldn’t think that the above description fits me if you were to meet me today. Yes, it is true that I can be very opinionated and expressive. In the past, I’ve not hesitated to “put myself out there” in terms of my poetry, my experiences with being an Aspie, or other things that interest me (anyone that’s chatted with me online about The Doors can attest to this). However, within the last few years I have been finding myself feeling more isolated and lonely than I have since I was a teenager in the small town in which I grew up, trying to negotiate the social landscape.

Believing that it was not wise to allow too much personal information about myself on the Internet, I chose not to speak of my experiences and feelings in this regard until now. In and of itself, this would not be a big deal. However, events were going on in mine and my fiancé’s lives that only worked to add distrust and paranoia to our already growing sense isolation. Our family was certainly of no help and in many cases, caused the very problems we were experiencing. Other events upon which I do not care to elaborate began to make us feel even less secure and more fearful. Although it may not seem obvious to those who know me from the autism and poetry communities, I was beginning to feel the need to close myself off and withdraw. And that, my friends, was where I began to lose the idea that I understood or had a true grasp on reality.

What does this have to do with autism or Asperger’s? Plenty. I’m sure there are many autistics or Aspies reading this right now who can identify with the feelings of isolation and loneliness of which I speak. While I fight for the emphasis of the positive things that autism can bring to our lives – our unique talents and gifts that enrich ourselves, our families, and our societies – I also believe in authenticity and honesty in revealing my personal and unique autistic experience. We need to be honest about the loneliness and isolation we may feel plus the difficulties we experience while navigating a neurotypical world. I figure it’s been long overdue for me to talk about this in my own life.

Asperger’s, Amplified
There are several Star Trek characters with which I identify and in which I find little bits of myself: Odo of Deep Space 9 and Spock of the Original Series, as both of them are outsiders from the dominant culture in which they exist. Much to the possible consternation of some of my readers, I also mention Cmdr. Data, and here’s the reason why: I have been trying to understand human behavior since I was five or six years old. Human behavior, human motivations, human reasons – they all fascinate me and are for me the key to not only understanding others and myself. Perhaps that is why I enjoy exploring systematic approaches of explaining and defining different kinds of human personalities – the Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs typology system are among my favorites. But there are still some things I don’t understand and probably never will. Some human — dare I say it, some NT behavior — downright mystifies me to this day, and some of it I find just plain illogical and stupid. Researching current theories behind some human social behaviors has been enlightening some of the time, but it doesn’t erase the pain from being gossiped about, excluded or rejected.

My Asperger diagnosis three years ago was a blessing. I love discovering about and understanding myself – that has been my quest my entire life. I have always known that I was different, and I insist that knowing what made me different was a good thing and a step in the right direction. In fact, when others (mostly in the poetry community and on my job) still treated me the same as they did before my diagnosis, it began to reaffirm my faith in people. Had this state of affairs simply continued, I would probably not be writing this post right now – but unfortunately, family issues began to assert themselves with a real, raw ugliness that I can only describe as being like living with a vat of flaming camel shit which puts forth its stench daily in one’s living room. Our mental and emotional stability began to disappear and I found myself at times more sensitive to everything – florescent lighting, scratchy clothes, hot weather to name a few. In addition, we began to lose a great deal of sleep and as most autistics and Aspies reading this will know, lack of sleep only adds to the physical pain and discomfort one feels due to neurological overstimulation – not to mention the lack of sleep made it harder for me to think clearly and reasonably. I began to hate my Asperger’s: the concessions I felt I had to make for my neurological sensitivity, my meltdowns (which have become more frequent in the last two years), and one very large coping mechanism I had hidden from the world until I was diagnosed – the social “scripts” and the persona I had created in my quest as a teenager and young adult to, as Liane Holliday Willey put it, “pretending to be normal”.

The physical and emotional sensitivity I was experiencing, my internal emotional upheaval, and the slowly growing anger and rage I was feeling within myself were beginning to really scare me. I began resorting back to old tactics and returning to some of the early maladaptive schemas I’d adopted when I was younger, namely those in the over-vigilance and inhibition domain – for me this manifested as, “keep yourself under tight control or you will lose your shit and fuck things up for yourself and everyone else around you”. It also didn’t help that one of my family members was being irresponsible and causing emotional and financial problems for everyone in the house. I was so goddamned determined not to be like this woman that I began to shut my normal self down – a bad idea for anyone and an absolutely destructive idea for an autistic or Aspie. I also began to be more painfully aware of my difference – and my self-confidence began to fade. All of this made me go right back to doing the very negative tendency of “pretending to be normal” that I have been aware of and have been fighting ever since I knew I was an Aspie. And it began sending me down the road of isolation, loneliness, and paranoia.

“Clearly I Remember Picking on the Boy…”
Early next year, my fiancé and I will be making a video for “High School Jungle”, a poem about my own experiences of being bullied in school. While making plans to film this video, memories of what happened to me in school have been coming back in loud, full spectrum color (no pun intended) – memories that I have tried to put away but cannot. I have tried to “forgive and forget” and move on, but I realized this weekend that I am not ready to do this yet, despite the fact that it has been 19 years since I graduated high school. The major reason that I am not ready is that in my drive to “forgive and forget” I shoved all of the pain from those experiences onto the back burner within myself because I thought that it was ridiculous in my twenties and even my thirties to still be in pain over what happened to me at ages twelve, fourteen, sixteen, or even seventeen – I kept trying to deny that I even felt this pain or was even affected by those experiences. I realize now that I did a major disservice to myself and others by not speaking more openly about not only those experiences, but my own pain.

Some of these experiences from elementary school, junior high, and high school caused me to become a very angry young woman: picking fights, starting arguments for pure enjoyment, being obstinate and dogmatic, being uncooperative, and sometimes being just plain bitchy. If you had met me throughout my twenties and even my early thirties, you would have seen this as the worst side of me. I didn’t realize it until yesterday, but all of this was my way to lash back in retaliation for what had happened to me and sometimes I took out my rage on innocent people. For those of you reading this that I have hurt unjustly, please know that I am very sorry for causing you pain and ask for your forgiveness.

I mention all of this, too, because some of us Aspies and autistics are carrying pain from these experiences from our school days even now. How many of you tried to make friends in school and found that the person with whom you thought you might find friendship rejected you later – without any explanation of why (Lynn Soraya speaks of this very kind of experience in her life in this post on her Psychology Today blog)? How many of you never were able to make many – if any – good friends in the first place? How many of you tried to join into group activities with your classmates and were rejected or refused? How many of you were considered the “odd” or the “weird” one by your own families? Is it any wonder that as adults some of us have a hard time trusting people, find good and true friends, or even getting along socially to our own satisfaction as an adult, considering the kinds of experiences we had as children and teenagers?

So…Why Even Bother?
So with all of these negative kinds of experiences plus what one may encounter as an adult, it’s easy to find oneself asking the question, “Why even bother trying to connect with people?” I have found myself asking this question many times in my life, both as a teenager/young adult and even now as I near middle age. While there are a variety of autistic responses to the need for social interaction, communication, and human interpersonal connection, I am speaking purely from my own point of view of an Aspie who loves people and loves being around them – as I illustrated in my opening paragraph of my behavior as a child. So if I rephrase the above question in a more positive light, it transmutes into a clearly picture of the risk and reward of connecting with others: “Why is it worth risking personal pain to achieve human interpersonal connection?” Those of us who desire human interpersonal connection and who choose to ask ourselves this question must find our own individual answers to it. It has taken a great deal of internal prodding from my own heart plus encouragement from my fiancé to begin to even break out of thoughts of giving up and resisting tendencies towards self-destruction.

My fiancé has a saying: “Face your problems, take God with you, and you will win”. Curling myself up into an emotional and spiritual ball, or allowing myself to spiral downward towards further isolation and loneliness leading to self-destruction, will not solve my problems. While writing this, I thought of a quote from an interview with Pearl Jam’s frontman Eddie Vedder when he was asked about their song, “Jeremy”:

“…you kill yourself and you make a big old sacrifice and try to get your revenge. That all you’re gonna end up with is a paragraph in a newspaper. Sixty-three degrees and cloudy in a suburban neighborhood. That’s the beginning of the video and that’s the same thing is that in the end, it does nothing … nothing changes. The world goes on and you’re gone. The best revenge is to live on and prove yourself. Be stronger than those people. And then you can come back.”

I realized yesterday that I have a lot more to give to not only this world, but to those who love me and even to myself as well. I have been blessed by God and even despite the difficulties I have encountered would not trade these blessings or gifts for anything else in the world. I believe that I am stronger than those who bullied me; stronger than those members of my family who abused and hurt me; and stronger than coworkers, acquaintances, and former friends who tried to destroy me by gossip, lies, and “third party syndrome”. I said I was going to be honest and raw when I started writing this, so I’ll admit that there is a part of me that would love to say “fuck off” to those who have tried to hurt me or destroy me, but in the end, there is no point to struggling with them. My very existence is a victory. And I believe this is the same for anyone who is still here, despite the struggles and the pain, and who has not given up.

It’s a rather fitting irony that right now the words of one of my favorite poets and songwriters – Jim Morrison – are coming to mind: WAKE UP! And perhaps that is what I needed to do. I thought that hiding my pain would be a worthwhile action in order to help others see more positivity, but my lack of openness has only served to make me feel more isolated – as if I were the only one feeling this way. But I am not, judging from the conversations I have had with other Aspies and the personal experiences I have read of other Aspies and autistic folk. Being an Aspie is not all wonderful and sparkly – there are some darker aspects to my and other’s existences as autistic/Aspie people. Since I write and share my experiences as an Aspie woman of color because I need to understand, and be understood, I believe I need to be authentic in what I share – including the loneliness, the isolation, the paranoia, the anger and hurt that I feel because of bullying from my past, the fear of trusting people, the whole nine yards.

So this post has been a long time in coming – warts, profanity, and all. I am a human being, and it is MY choice, MY FUCKING CHOICE, as to whether I reach out, and to whom, and what I share – whether those things are the good, the bad, or the ugly. It does not matter how I am wired, how fucking strange I might seem, what color my skin is, whether or not I conform to a set of illogical, silly, and seemingly arbitrary sociocultural norms (you Black Aspies can probably relate to this statement most of all). I am not going to put myself into some fucking box to please people and/or make them feel more comfortable. What I will do is treat others as I would like to be treated and show others the same respect I would like to be given. I will be honest about my experiences not only as a human being, but as an Aspie as well –and sometimes, I am an angry Aspie with dark visions and messy emotions. And I do not need the validation of others to be that. But I reach out my hands to you readers and invite you in for discussion, sharing, and possibly human interpersonal connection…if you want it, within my capabilities and what time that my life and my personal boundaries allow me, I am here.

Thanks for reading.

-Nicole

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22 thoughts on “Isolation, Loneliness, and the Angry Aspie? An Open Letter to the World and My Readers

  1. Thank you so much for this. i am just coming out of a meltdown. I am a 66 year old Aspie, and I have learned to contain them fairly well. They manifest now in an internal meltdown, accompanied by severe inflammation all over my body that leaves me eating Ibuprofen like candy. I anguish over canceling all my social appointments, then do it, not caring more about preserving the relationships than my dire need to be alone and escape the extreme pressure of interacting “positively.” I retreat into my computer, staying up all night watching movies, reading, and doing meditation. I have a new friendship growing and I sat this person down yesterday and told him I have periods of time when I cannot be a friend, and must get in my submarine and drop from the surface world. and if he wants this friendship, that is how it will be with me, and if I am to much to cope with, then so be it. He seems to be interested in hanging around. Not a potential romance…I am so done with that! But a nice friend who knows me would be good. My meltdowns begin from the extreme exhaustion that builds up during a period of being out in the world. I am a conversational English teacher. It is mental and physical, from the constant pressure of performing. Being alone lets the performing stop. I love my solitude more than anything else. It’s my safe place where I can rest.

    • Hi there

      It is so true, but I’m also struggling with a terrible memory whilst also being a teacher. Thanks for sharing.

      • Can you describe your memory problem? Could it be from feeling stressed? When I am overwhelmed, everything slows down, including my memory, and my motor skills…spilling, dropping, breaking glasses, cutting myself preparing food, burning dinner, tripping over rugs…totally clumsy and brain fogged.

  2. Thanks for writing such an honest post. It helps just knowing there are others that can relate to our own experiences. There are so many things I want to say, I don’t know where to start. I might have to write my own post in response 8^).

    “…some of us Aspies and autistics are carrying pain from these experiences from our school days even now.” Approaching 50 and still carrying that pain, only now learning to deal with some of it, to really forgive and let go of it.

    “How many of you never were able to make many – if any – good friends in the first place?” I’m one. I grew up with no friends. I only survived it because of my close relationship with my younger brother.

    “How many of you tried to join into group activities with your classmates and were rejected or refused?” Didn’t take long before I learned to simply avoid all group activities.

    “How many of you were considered the “odd” or the “weird” one by your own families?” Definitely me. My younger sister said I was a computer, not really a human (but she didn’t mean it in a hurtful way, and it was a good way to describe me).

    “Is it any wonder that as adults some of us have a hard time trusting people, find good and true friends, or even getting along socially to our own satisfaction as an adult, considering the kinds of experiences we had as children and teenagers?” No wonder at all. It’s a wonder that more of us don’t descend into self-destructive behaviours, or even suicide.

  3. GREAT POST!

    I am a woman, mother and friend to my daughter, Aspie son, and Aspie ex-husband.

    My ex did not find out he was an Aspie until two years into our marriage.

    Those of us with difficult childhoods often get misdiagnosed and find it hard to connect with any professional help that makes any real positive difference to us.

    Add Asperger to that and we have found more misunderstanding of Asperger than help finding ways to cope as a family.

    Our entire family is singled out and made fun of. We have moved across the country on the advice of a wonderful therapist. At the time, it seemed so logical. You are simply a bit odd and too smart for where you are living. If you move, maybe you can find some friends and have more opportunity.

    The job opportunities were worthwhile. But we are an entire family with no real friends.

    So, we know how you feel. Every one of us in my family!!!!!

    Don’t give up. I want to give up all the time.

    And I”ll tell you a secret. For fun, we all took tests to see if we were on the spectrum.

    And if the tests are to be believed, then it turns out we are all Aspie.

    I am fascinated with how Aspie women seem to be very different in some ways to men with Asperger.

    I wondered if it was just living with him the past 15 years that has influenced me or if this was something that was always there for me.

    If I’m honest and not blaming him I have no friends, then I must realize that I have always had trouble connecting with others and deciphering exactly what to do . Sometimes it feels like I get it right and I can flow and have fun.

    But, I can read facial expressions and body language and often find the mismatch between what people are trying to show you and what is really there very upsetting.

    Again, is this an Aspie thing? or is this something else?

    I skipped grades in school.. I was always younger.. I had ways of trying to force myself to fit in.

    But as I have grown older, I find I simply need the retreat.. I was a teacher for many years.. I could do the whole acting routine and feel happy about it and make my students happy, but I needed to be able to go home and be alone afterward.

    There was a time when I would go out with a group of friends that knew my boyfriend at the time.. and we had fun.. but I cannot help but always feel a bit outside of everyone.

    My son was bullied so badly last year in middle school, he was covered in a rash all over his body.. The school only made things worse.. I started losing it .. letting myself go in every way and feeling so angry at the world.. just like you describe.. taking it out on people who did nothing.. who probably just think I”m crazy.. and I do not understand why they have no compassion.. I really don’t..

    I also can’t make sense of the fact that my daughter and I do not have too little empathy like the boys. but instead we are overloaded with it.. too much.. we feel and see everything and it makes it hard for us to settle into that surface level of communication that others seem to find so pleasing..

    We crave REAL connection, but we only have each other.

    The kids are still young and we do find great happiness in work.. and I feel bad to teach my children life is all about school now and work later.. with no real energy to try to show them how to overcome social situations.. I feel like I forgot.. like I had ways before.. but their father’s Aspie is more military than mine.. and so he wins.. and I try to do it “his way”..

    We never go out.. We have had such a hard time with the community that we don’t even really enjoy the grocery store.. we look for the park, the restaurant with no one there.

    We all need love. I send love to all of the Aspie men and women all over the world.

    I wish we could all come together and just smile at one another and remember we are not truly alone. That is an illusion. We are not like everyone else, but that doesn’t mean we are broken or wrong. We are just different.

    We have created an amazing innovation and are making great strides with it recently with a wonderful group that is very supportive and filled with engineering types.. LOL.

    I hope we can all find that one person or group that gives us a chance and forgives us our sometimes mystifying differences and blunt opinions.

    How can it be that you can be 40 years old and not know something like this about yourself? LOL..

    I feel hopeless and sad for us sometimes and wonder if we will ever live in a place where we see smiles and feel others accept us as we are, warts and all!

    XO to everyone who feels the same. We are stronger than we think.

    I take great solace in nature and animals. It’s a much more honest relationship than trying to bond with humans.. : )

  4. I am very late coming to this post but still feel I must comment. I am 46 and one of those people with a difficult past which has clouded my true nature – I am Aspie. Since realising this a little over a year ago I have been going through the slow and painful process of rewinding my life and seeing it in technicolour for the very first time. Things that I thought were one way were actually another and much of the pain that I have suffered, which I carried as a burden of my own responsibility, might actually have been avoided if only there hadn’t been this unknown traveller with me.

    Perhaps inevitably, the person I chose to spend my life with is also Aspie. Except we didn’t know that either. Years of loneliness inside my safe haven have compounded my problems and it is only now that I can see that I was not being maliciously ignored – he was simply lost in his efforts to understand his own very difficult journey. Anxiety, depression, self-loathing, confusion and misunderstanding: all these have built up in a crescendo to a point where we are now drowning in the tsunami that is the realisation that, despite our love for each other, we may not be able to continue together. And we have a beautiful, miraculous 12yr old who, of course, has just been diagnosed himself.

    We live in the UK where awareness and social/health provision for adults with Aspergers is non-existent (at least where we are) and therefore hope is hard to find. There is little understanding and much stigma and false assumptions abound so isolation is the prevailing wind in which we try to stand. Moving forward seems an impossible dream. To hear of someone else’s struggle is, ironically, comforting. There is nothing worse than feeling you are completely alone – sometimes even a connection of sadness is better than no connection at all.

    We are trying always to remember that we have had times that were not this bad in the past and that we must, therefore, be able to have them again. I don’t know if I believe that but knowing that I am not the only one fighting makes me feel like there is more to fight for than just myself.

    Perhaps that’s what we all should remember – we do not stand alone and whatever we fight for we make easier for those that come behind us. Perhaps this is our purpose?

  5. […] I have to admit from the start, that developing friendships and building a sense of community are two things that I have found difficult throughout my life. What comes easily to others has been a repeat source of heartbreak for me. Even as an adult, I still often feel like the little girl who no one would pick for their kickball team. In a post a few days ago, I went into detail about how agonizing it was for me just to get another adult to carry on a casual conversation with me at my Son’s bus stop, here.  I know I am not alone in this sentiment- here’s a post from another blogger who expresses the frustration and anger that can coincide with it all:  ISOLATION, LONELINESS, AND THE ANGRY ASPIE? AN OPEN LETTER TO THE WORLD AND MY READERS […]

  6. Nice job on this stream of consciousness article. I am a 67 year old aspie with a ton of other complicating factors which is probably why the medical and support people never showed up for me. now, at the end of my life, I am focused on supporting my Self. I have found very much synergy in what is often called the Buddhist Perspective. Jesus also made a contribution to the idea which is saving me…know thyself. The healthiest skill to cultivate in oneself is that of feeling what you feel. So simple, so hard to do. The last century has squeezed it out of us with so many distractions and moralistic suppressions. If we wish to know ourselves – the prerequisite for intimacy with Another, we have to first and always, be with what is. That means letting and accepting every feeling, no matter how politically incorrect, no matter how undesireable. We cannot be free of what we do not first own and this especially includes our hardest feelings – self-healing through a focus on self is enlightened self-interest because we are literally paving the path to letting others love us. No way around the hard feelings…..no way of thinking them away, projecting them onto others will make us crazy. The hardest thing in life is to marry ourselves. Ultimately it is the clearest act of love toward others because if we love our Self first, we open ourselves up to developing the co-capacity for loving Another.

  7. I am going through this right now. This is my life story, including Mr Mojorisin & Pearl Jam lyrics.
    I came online looking for an answer to my seemingly unending quest for understanding of myself & how to relate to others. I’m at a point of giving up, returning to isolation, finding it all just too hard.
    You said it all so well.
    Thank you for honesty, it encourages me.

  8. Amen and Thank YOu you have done what needed to be said and done for Many of us and particular on this day for me Right on time as I was debating this issue myself today, this moment here. in midlife, wondering how did I lose my cool? True talk Real talk Simply beautiful

  9. So glad I found this blog, meltdowns in one form or another have tripped me up daily since getting my official diagnosis 3 weeks ago (a diagnosis that incidentally is followed up with no support in any form due to lack of funding/resources). But I just really wanted to give VIVIANE a “cyberhug” – your comments made me cry, I relate to everything you said.
    (PS If anyone could swap brains with us for one day and feel what we feel, it’d scare them half to death!)

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