I’m not just Socially Awkward

When I tell people I’m autistic it usually goes one of two ways; either they can’t make me fit into their idea of what autism is and completely reject it, or they mark me down as “socially awkward” and leave it there.

It explains my lack of constant contact, it explains my monologuing about things that interest me, it explains why on social occasions I move around a room like a loose cog in a machine – catching on things, getting stuck in places, jarring against this and that before being knocked into a corner and staying there.

Those are the things about me that you can see. What you can’t see are the other bits; my problems with Executive Function, my never-ending battle with literalness, my lip-reading over auditory-processing, my sensory issues, my affinity with numbers and disassociation with names, and on and on and on.

When people classify me as “socially awkward” they expect too much from me. They’re surprised when I find some things hard. I’m not telling you that I can’t make a shopping list because it’s boring and takes time, I’m telling you that it’s incredibly hard. There are too many variables, I have to hold them all in my head, I can’t, it gets too big. I falter and have to start again, but then the same thing happens. I cannot juggle the thoughts needed like that. I cannot think in a linear way, I have to include all the forks going off in different directions.

You may think in straight lines, but my thoughts are like lightning bolts. They flash brightly, sparking off in every direction, and by the time the thunder rumbles, I have lost the central bolt and am caught in how my hairs all stand on end.

I am not socially awkward, I am socially different. Autism isn’t about not making connections, it’s about making different ones.

I am built to logicise and problem-solve, and this means I am brilliant at certain aspects of thinking, but terrible at things that other people take for granted as ‘easy’.

When I say I find something hard, please don’t tell me how easy it is. Please don’t tell me I just have to do it like this or like that. It will never be easy for me. It will always take time and energy that could be spent elsewhere. If you found quadratic equations hard, I wouldn’t tell you how easy they are. I wouldn’t tell you to just do this or just do that. I accept that although I can explain and help you get to the answer, this may be something you will always need support with.

I am not socially awkward and lazy or incompetent. I did not get this diagnosis for shyness. I am autistic, with all the joys and pains being human brings. I am creative and imaginative, I am loving and thoughtful, I am good at things and bad at things. The things you find easy may not be the same as the things I find easy, and that is just fine too.

45 thoughts on “I’m not just Socially Awkward

  1. This is amazing. I never wanted to stop reading it! Everyone is so different but it’s hard for us to understand how some people find things easier and others find things harder. When things are easy for us we think of those as “common sense” but it isn’t. Everything we do is learned and everyone in the entire world has a different brain and learns different.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Rhi ,
    another Brilliant post as I was reading your post I kept thinking of my daughter Hazel who is autistic and has most of the features you mention but has other Mental health problems like Anorexia and Personality Disorder but it is her autism that defines her personality , her anxiety her wanting to be able to predict outcomes and of course her Rigid Behaviour which some people fail to understand but she has a fantastic personality and everyone who meets her likes her. thanks for sharing your thoughts it has brightened up my day. Laurence xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for yet another great post, Rhi. Sometimes I just want to send your posts to all my NT friends who find it difficult (if not impossible) to believe that there are many ways to “see” the world.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Yesterday I told my cousin about my diagnostic and he said “isn’t it like a personality thing?”
    Or, “I know, I know, I’m like that sometimes too”, but no, it’s not, and you’re not.
    People just wont believe me. They’ll never know what it means to grow up as an autist. How good it is, and how painful it can be.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It can be hard to get people to understand that what they see on the surface isn’t what is happening inside.

      I believe you. You have a whole community of people like us who understand. Who have those same misunderstandings and frustrations πŸ’

      Like

  5. This is a brilliant post. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, I really love how you word and express things. I particularly liked this:
    “You may think in straight lines, but my thoughts are like lightning bolts. They flash brightly, sparking off in every direction, and by the time the thunder rumbles, I have lost the central bolt and am caught in how my hairs all stand on end. ”
    This is a very good description of what is going on in my head as well.
    Shopping lists are actually not a problem for me, but I find to-do lists impossible. I thought having a schedule would help me not to forget things – but I can’t even draw up the schedule in the first place!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yup! There are so many types of functions I tend to avoid. And there are certain kinds I can participate in. If I know the people, place, and pattern, then there’s a good chance I’ll even enjoy it. When I go to our community potlucks, I’m often involved in clean up, so I don’t have to continue the conversations I’m over and no longer know what to say. If I do clean up, then I’m working with other dedicated people to achieve a measurable, concrete task that is useful. If there are too many people, then I may need to spend time outside to let the energies dissipate, so I am not so cooked. Hanging around the fire afterwards, I can joke, dramatically share my poetry, and deeply converse, all so long as there’s not too many people and not too much order. This is why I learned to dance, so when I go to parties I have something to do (and of course I don’t really care if anyone is watching). It’s why I play with kids. Yes, I enjoy kids (it’s why I became a teacher), and they have simpler operating systems I can roll with.
    But really it’s why I stay home more often nowadays. Less stressful and easier to pick back up again in the morning. Great topic! Thanks Rhi!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi! I am a parent of a wonderful child with autism. I just started a blog about it (https://ablogonautism.wordpress.com) and I found your blog by chance. Thanks so much for writing so eloquently about your perspective on things. Many times, people only hear from specialists, parents, and so forth, but not from the people most concerned. For my part, whenever I hear an adult with autism explain things, it clarifies some stuff that my small child tries to explain to me sometimes.

    I don’t understand why people are reluctant to open their minds. It’s not that complicated : we have a different way of analyzing things, no need to make a big fuss over it.
    Cheers from MontrΓ©al!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well that’s a lovely message to wake up to in a grey and cloudy morning in Wales. Thank you so much.

      Traditionally so much research has focused on autistic “behaviours” rather than what is actually driving those behaviours. I often don’t share the same behaviours as other people with autism, but I’ll always find that I do share the drive behind it.

      Autistic people and non-autistic people make a great team when everyone is listening to each other.

      Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are right! And indeed, people focus way too much on behaviours. Focusing on behaviours instead of drivers can make us miss the point, and creates a useless sense of distance between us. For example : would watching wheels or a washing machine turn be considered an “obsession” or a “limited interest” if we knew that for this particular autistic person it is meant to appease, like reading a book would be for another particular neurotypical person? I’ve never heard anyone say that someone who read books all the time to relax is obsessed with books! πŸ™‚ What do you think?
        I’m inspired now, I’ll think I’ll post about that!
        Hope we can chat again

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Sounds like an excellent post! Write it!

          Everyone stims. Stroking a cat is fine, stroking fabric, autistic. Watching a beautiful sunset is fine, watching shadows and lights, autistic. Listening to music, fine, listening to the same song over and over, autistic.

          We all stim, some people just do it for additional pleasure, others do it because they need the positive sensory information.

          Same with all the special interest stuff. Someone neurotypical gets to be fascinated by a hobby, someone autistic is obsessed by their special interest. We aren’t allowed to just “enjoy” the really positive aspects of autism, they have to be belittled somehow and made strange and alien instead.

          Like

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