Little makes me happier than a coming together of minds: a shared joke, a joint appreciation or an understanding. Despite occasional appearances to the contrary, I am acutely curious and passionate about others and actually thrive on human interaction, so other people’s responses are crucial to me.
This is why not much can upset me more than feeling I’ve been misunderstood.
It leaves me feeling wounded and shaky like a frightened animal.
It’s partly an almighty disappointment with other human beings: that no one – even the best people – will ever completely understand another person, combined with a sense that yet again I’ve failed at human connection. I spend some time wondering whether it’s my fault or someone else’s. I pick myself up again and again and wonder why I’m getting it so wrong and why I care so much.
Sometimes I think it’s because the words tumble out too fast. There were too many on my lips and they’ve come all at once. People see those words and make their own sense of them and suddenly I’ve said something I haven’t said. Or I haven’t managed to say something I wanted too. I’m upset that someone doesn’t know me enough to know that I can’t possibly have meant what they thought I meant, but also upset that I’ve failed to make myself clear.
This kind of human error is a big heartbreaker. It causes a kind of distress and a tension on already frayed threads and loose connections with what should be ordinary, straightforward social behaviour.
Some days I fail repeatedly and probably should just give up, stop digging and stop expecting. But the message that today was not a good day to communicate is delayed, and all too often and all too late I wish I’d stayed hidden.
There’s a misconception that people with Asperger’s don’t care overly about others’ feelings but it’s far from the truth. We care so much, that to think we’ve got it wrong is often almost too much to bear. And so, of course, that means it’s easier and safer to give it all a miss now and again and save the pain of fluffing it all up yet again. I would bet a large sum of money that people with autism are far more aware of and affected by other people’s feelings than anyone gives them credit for.
Constantly trying to figure out who wants what from you and how best to avoid failure is exhausting and distressing, and we often get it wrong. That’s why I think people like me find it easier to be alone. Not because we don’t care but because we care beyond anything we are capable of dealing with.