I found myself rather sad last night. Not that the feeling has gone away.
If there’s any truth to the saw of ‘the lesson replays itself until you learn it’, I can definitively say I’ve learnt my lesson.
It’s a human need to interact with others, to socialize, to be an integral part of a group. To belong, to have acceptance. https://www.universalclass.com/articles/self-help/a-brief-history-of-our-need-to-be-social.htm
But when you’re autistic or ADHD or often another form of neurodivergent, you may easily live your life without something allistics and other types of neurotypical people take for granted. Simple social acceptance. A group to belong in.
I highly doubt I’m the only autistic/ADHDer who’s lived a life like mine.
I’m late diagnosed, so in elementary school, I didn’t understand why people didn’t like me. In high-school, the bullying in school and the abuse at home just made me want to crawl into a hole and never come out again. I ended up in an abusive relationship where I was pressured into sex far too young because being in the back seat of my boyfriend’s car (whether I actually wanted to be or not, I didn’t) was safer than anywhere else I could go. It’s one of the reasons it’s imperative to talk frankly with ND kids about our differences, we’re heavily at risk of every kind of abuse.
NT = Neurotypical ND = Neurodivergent
Because we’re sadly still human. We desperately just want to feel like we belong somewhere. That some people on this cursed planet actually want us around.
The things we’re capable of doing to ourselves in the mistaken hope that we’ll eventually find acceptance is pretty awful, to be honest. Humans are social creatures and when you’re prevented from being social… it hurts and harms in so many ways.
I had a brief period of acceptance in university for around 2 years. I joined the SCA and found a lot of other weirdos like me. I had a ttrpg group. I had a coven to practice with. I had people who acted (and were) pleased to see me. I’m no longer in the SCA because of what it’s become, so that time period didn’t last long.
I lost my coven and ttrpg groups when we all graduated over the course of a few years, moved away, and I’ve never found a group to practice my faith or my enjoyment of ttrpg with again. Solitary is lonely. Several of us are still in touch, in a haphazard fashion… but me loathing Facebook makes it harder for me to stay in touch with uni friends.
2 years out of 46. That’s a pretty terrible ratio no matter how you slice it.
It’s common these days in publishing to need to be good at social media to get anywhere. Or so that’s what everyone says. After my experience being harassed off social media, excluded from groups both professional and social repeatedly, I can say I don’t think they mean the advice for people like me.
Social media gave me a voice I’d never had before. It was nice. But it’s always my ‘voice’, my ‘me’, that people end up getting sick of, complaining about, and eventually excluding me over. It’s not like I misrepresent myself. I’m out as autistic/ADHD/mentally ill everywhere online. I’m too… worn out… I guess, to try to hide everything from everyone anymore. There are things I choose not to talk about, due to stigma, but everything I share online is authentic.
I can say with complete honesty that I’ve tried so many times to make friends, to find a group of people who would give a shit if I died. I’ve finally reached the point where I accept that I can’t have that. I can’t have a thing humans need to thrive because of ableism.
Because the intense, lifelong experience and pain of loneliness is better than the painful exclusions, the bullying, the ableism… it gets to the point where we just don’t have it in us to keep trying. I don’t have it in me anymore. I’m scraped clean. This latest exclusion has been not only horrifically painful for me, but it’s also rock-bottom. I can’t do it anymore. Excluding people and freezing them out is a form of bullying, y’know. In this case, it’s a form of cyberbullying.
So many autistic and ADHD folks have similar experiences. We try, and try, and give it far too many ‘last tries’ before we just… realize, I guess, that it’s just a grossly repetitive pattern and we stop trying.
I trusted a friend that the groups they were in were largely made of decent people who were accepting of differences. I don’t blame my friend, they’re a wonderful person and perhaps those groups were accepting of them (friend is ND too). So I tried again. I thought I was accepted too. But in hindsight, I can see I was barely tolerated. Y’know, it would be super helpful to be able to read social context in the moment. But that’s one of the reasons autistic and ADHD people are disabled. Many of us can’t pick up on social clues and we often completely miss social context.
It’s not that we’re trying to be the sand in the oyster. I actually tried to be as unobtrusive as possible in that group while still having a presence there. It didn’t change the fact that people complained about the way I ‘talk’. That is so, so ableist.
I didn’t complain about the many, many times I was hurt, harmed, or insulted in that group. I just did the professional thing and quietly blocked anyone I didn’t want to see.
But people didn’t have the decency to extend to me the same courtesy. Being ND is hard enough without gleeking ill-nurtured ableist coxcombs being utterly nasty. And trust me, if you’ve complained about the way any non-allistic talks/types, or if you’ve penalized one of us for it, (as long as it’s not obviously harmful IE racist, misogynistic etc.) that’s exactly what you are.
Years of supporting others, and of being as professional as I know how to be (I’ve worked fortune 500 corporate, I know how to act professionally even with people I don’t like). I extended them the same professional courtesy I’d hope people would extend to me… all of it gone in a flash with no warning. The reason given was the way I talk (communicate via text). The words used were both inaccurate (I’m an editor and that word was used incorrectly) and deeply insulting. Please understand that judging how a disabled person communicates, and complaining about it, is deeply, wretchedly ableist. I lost people I thought of as friendly acquaintances, professional contacts, and just… other weirdos who do this writing thing. I lost a place I mistakenly thought was a place where I was welcome. People I’d spoken to or read almost every day for years gone. I also lost any opportunities that being part of that group would’ve offered. And no, I can’t reach out to people in the group because I don’t know who or how many were complaining about me. I have a few guesses. Probably pretty accurate ones given my training in psychological forensics (it’s not all dead bodies, y’know). But I don’t have facts.
Those who I term ‘baby NDs’ or ‘unhatched autistics/ADHDers’ are people who may or may not know they’re ND, but who still cling to neurotypical social expectations and behaviors like some sort of ropy, gooey Turner and Hooch-esque slime trail.
I can’t blame them really, I clung to the same concepts for far too long myself. We’re raised, whether we’re NT or ND, to feel that following the social ‘norms’ will work for us.
Except it doesn’t work for autistics and ADHDers. The unhatched often (and full disclosure, I’ve been guilty of it myself… in my 20s when I didn’t know better) harm other ND people (including their own children) in their mistaken belief that if they just try hard enough, if they mask enough, if they entertain enough, if they get rid of the disabled person who talks funny… if they… if they… if they…
Trying to change the unchangeable and masking (autistic masking) has never done me an ounce of long-term good. All its done is break my heart, over and over again. I developed the habit of masking to survive. I used to be so good at masking that people didn’t believe me when I told them I’m autistic/ADHD/mentally ill.
I probably missed a good career as an actor. It’s what I did every second of every day and I paid the cost for it.
I’m not sure if it’s the fact I’ve been a SAHM for 15 years, the pandemic and the required quarantine my immunocompromised family still lives under so we don’t die, or whatever having covid did to my brain, but I can’t mask hardly at all anymore. I can manage it for brief interactions like buying groceries, but even that is just… utterly exhausting.
It’s nigh impossible for me to mask online. I have a social media persona, everyone does. I’m a little more outspoken online than I am in real life. I’ve always communicated better in writing so you’d really think it wouldn’t be an issue for me to find spaces where people like me are accepted, would you?
Except, online groups and social media have turned out to be just as cruel to me as people tend to be IRL.
Any sort of change, but especially unexpected change, is incredibly difficult for autistics. That’s got to be one of the world’s most understated facts.
I don’t know if I can even describe it. It’s similar to the feeling of overwhelm, it has some similarities to how someone feels when everything they’re comfortable with is suddenly gone.
It wrecks our routine, our reality, (routine is so, so, so necessary for many autists). That feels like your world shakes like an 8.0 earthquake and has its resulting destruction.
It’s a bit like how it feels to be gaslit, the questioning of everything you’ve done, said, experienced because obviously, you hadn’t picked up on some social thing that someone else felt was important enough to hurt someone (badly) over.
I’m not entirely sure if this thing autistics/ADHDers do when something goes wrong is innate or a trauma response from a world that makes it very clear we aren’t wanted.
But we tend to replay memories, which are often crystal clear for many of us due to how autistic memory works, trying to figure out what exactly we did wrong and when, so that we don’t do it again.
It’s an exhausting morass of circling, intrusive thoughts and please trust me when I say you don’t want to experience it. It’s certainly not a voluntary process. Things others can brush off as no big deal will often scar an autistic person for life.
I’m still involuntarily replaying memories of when I was 4 years old, for fuck’s sake, so can you imagine what it must be like in our brains?
That “professional” group was the last group I had. Apparently, it’s a time of endings. Because I can’t make myself find new groups to repeat the process with. I’m done. Social media will take a much lower rung on my personal ladder going forward. I’ll be in my own discord group, on Twitter until the wheels come off, and one other platform I haven’t figured out yet. At least I won’t be kicked out of my own group. If you’re interested in writing, reading, editing, art, stories, mental health, autism, ADHD, or are simply another lonely ND person, my group is safe space for NDs, feel free to check it out. As I write, it’s small and not very active because it’s new, but I hope it will become more over time. https://discord.gg/cqF4zKSCwK
Over the past 2 years I’ve thought I’d found welcome… or at least mildly concussed acceptance in 3 groups. They’re all gone now. I left one voluntarily when the mods proved to be disgustingly ableist. One imploded thanks to the behavior of one of those mods and someone who acted about as unprofessional as you can get. And this last one where I was unceremoniously ejected because an ableist twatwaffle complained about the way I talk/type. Or more than one, who knows. I certainly don’t.
Please be kind to people different from you.
If you ever have a problem with someone you know is ND, put on your grownup pants and communicate the problem. I guarantee most of us are appalled when we miss a social cue. And we will miss them. Usually, our brains are literally not wired to pick up on social context well. It’s the most affected portion for me on my diagnosis papers. Social skills/awareness ranked pretty close to zero for me.
No wonder I’ve always preferred dead people to live ones. (Forensic bioanthropologist, not serial killer.) Dead people haven’t ever hurt me. I can’t say the same about living ones.
Allistics love to accuse autistics of ‘not using our words’. But from where I sit… it’s incredibly obvious that the autistics/ADHDers/mentally ill aren’t the problem here. Allistics need to communicate better.
It’s also ableism. Pure and simple. And ableism kills people. How? Most autistic people die around age 36. The leading causes of death are heart attack from the stress of living in an ableist world, and suicide, because we never fit in. No matter how hard we try.
If you enjoy my writing, we’re a family of 4 immunocompromised/autistic/ADHD folks, two are kids, any tips/help is deeply appreciated. We live far under the poverty line.
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Kids’ wishlist: https://www.amazon.ca/hz/wishlist/ls/C3LS40BFVFPO/
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