This post is sort of connected with my Autism Tech Support post about muting notifications, but I felt I needed to explain it better. If you felt it was difficult to understand why I mute notifications, or perhaps if you just want to know more, then this is the right post for you. I know that some people need social interaction and feel happier and better because of it, but for me it is slightly different. It’s not that I can’t enjoy social interaction, it’s just that I get really, really tired from social interaction. A few hours at a party, for example, can make me far more exhausted than working all day in the garden or hiking all day. In fact, hiking or working in the garden all day may make me physically tired, but at the same time I feel re-charged and happier at the same time. Social interaction just makes me tired.
Just like I can experience an overload of my senses because I am hypersensitive (I don’t have a filter that stops things like unnecessary sounds, smells and such and I often feel bombarded by my impressions from my surroundings. If you want to know more, I wrote a few posts on the topic a while back. You can find links here), I can also experience a sort of social overload.
It’s not easy to explain, because I don’t notice these things myself before it’s too late. As you may know, I also don’t notice changes in my body or in my feelings at first – I need a lot of time to process and understand if I feel different no matter if it is a physical change or an emotional change.
Recently, I met a lot of new people. I started attending classes again, but this time was so very different from just a year ago when I was at culinary school and it made me think a lot about how I interact with those around me. Most importantly, it made me realise that sometimes it’s okay to not find new friends, but simply to practice being around people.
Even before the pandemic I wasn’t a very social person, but an introverted loner. Not necessarily a loner by choice, probably more by chance. I am not sure what I did wrong, but I was never able to stay friends with people very long.
When I was in university, I was very social and always tried to be a part of everything even if I didn’t want to be a part of it. I used to drink and smoke a lot to dull my senses so that I could survive it, but when I decided to stop drinking and smoking because my body was suffering because of it, I also lost the ability to handle going to parties or being in big crowds. I could hardly eat out at a restaurant or go to a coffee shop without suffering, because I wasn’t yet used to my hypersensitivity.
You see, I stopped drinking and smoking around the time I had my burnout and with my burnout came an increase in the symptoms of my autism spectrum disorder. My hypersensitivity became more intense, my ability to hide behind masks (masking, as it is called) started to disappear and I had no idea how to handle it.
At the time I broke of most of the contact I had to other people. Even my closest friends didn’t see me for perhaps more than a year. During all this time I was starting to realise just how far I had forced myself beyond my own limitations and how I had almost destroyed myself in the process.
As I started to heal myself, I started opening up to the idea of having other people in my life.
One day I met someone, a person who I thought was also trying to heal himself from hurt, and I thought we could help each other heal and grow stronger together. I was with him almost a year even though I should never have stayed that long, because he didn’t treat me well. In fact, it was through our interactions that I saw clearly for the first time how important it is to never allow others to mistreat us or abuse our love. All the work I had done to try and heal myself was lost once more and I found myself even more broken than I ever thought possible. That was the reason I left. I wanted to heal, and I wanted to live.
I ended up isolating myself again, and this time I worked even harder to figure myself out, and I grew stronger and happier than I have ever been. I thought, when I left my ex, that I would never want to be in any kind of relationship with any kind of person ever again. Not friendship nor love, I would only want to be alone, and I would stand strong and live a long and happy life of solitude and peace.
Of course, it was the broken pieces of my soul talking, not my honest feelings. Of course, I want friends in my life. I think, I might even want to date again one day, but I am definitely not ready to trust someone with my heart again any time soon. One day, perhaps, but not now.
In culinary school I didn’t respect my own limitations yet again and I struggled with being social and talking to people. It was horrible, people were rude and mean and they lied. Maybe I was unlucky, maybe they were just being human, or maybe I was too sensitive. I don’t know, I don’t care. What is important is what I learned from that period in my life.
I learned that sometimes I can’t handle people. I learned that sometimes I need to shut out all interaction with other people and I learned that those who stay in spite of that are those I should pay attention and appreciate. It’s like a filter that allows me to more easily see those who can accept me as I am. I don’t talk to anyone from culinary school, because no one could accept that part of me and you know what? That’s perfectly fine.
This time, maybe things will be different.
Respecting our boundaries is what is really important if we want a happy life, but to do that we also need to be honest with ourselves. This is not always easy, because so often I find myself blinded by how I wish I could be for others instead of just seeing myself as I truly am.
Social interaction simply makes me tired and I think, as you may have guessed from this post, that a part of the reason I get so tired is because I still don’t know my own boundaries very well. I am not very good at saying “No.” when I need to for my own sake, I often don’t realise until it’s too late.
Muting notifications, choosing my social interactions more carefully is helping me figure that out.
I go back to school a couple of months next year, because it’s a part of my apprenticeship training, but I am not afraid like I would have been in the past. Yes, I am nervous because new things and people always make me nervous, but it feels different this time. It feels different because I know myself better than I did last year and I know that I will figure things out. I might not get any new friends when I go back to school, but that’s okay too. I will practice being social and when I am too tired, I will take a break because I deserve it – and honestly, any potential friends deserve it too. Maybe people will like me better because I am just being honest about who I am and not trying to be polite or something. You never know.