Wednesday, 10 September 2008

This man's an island

Human beings are social animals, herd animals. We're meant to live in packs and societies. What is life like when this genetic link, ingrained in millions of year's evolution, isn't functioning? If you don't have Asperger Syndrome (AS) there is a whole world of things that you probably can't see yourself living without. Friends, human contact, chit chat to name a few.

Well when you do have AS, the big bad social world is such a chore that you begin to welcome time spent by yourself. Now I'm sure everyone appreciates a little "me" time, but with AS it's not so much that you like the "me" time, it's that you hate the "non-me" time. I don't enjoy being social, I don't enjoy social situations. I get no pleasure from the company of others. I don't enjoy conversing with people, I don't enjoy small talk. So when I'm done for the day and back home I can finally kick my shoes off and truly relax.

Do people with AS get "lonely"? I don't think so. To someone with AS being alone is the equivalent of someone without AS being at a party. If you don't have AS and you can't understand what this is like, imagine talking to someone is like ironing a shirt. Sometimes it is a necessary task but that's all. I don't get anything from being social, it gives me no pleasure or enjoyment. Not only do I get no direct enjoyment from it, I get no indirect enjoyment from it…it doesn't make me feel "closer" to you, it doesn't make me "bond" with you, I don't feel I'm building bridges or friendships toward you. I get nothing from dealing with people. It's often quite the opposite; a confusing chore so when I get a chance to be by my own I enjoy it.

And it doesn't just stop at sitting at home watching TV…I enjoy doing everything alone. Going shopping, going to the cinema, going to the gym - everything. If I can do something with someone or on my own I always get more pleasure doing it on my own cos if I'm doing it with someone else I have a relationship to "manage". Rather than concentrating on the activity at hand I have to think about them and if they are enjoying it, what they might want to do next, or I worry if I'm just ruining the experience for them with my AS weirdness. I have to decipher if there are non-verbal cues I'm supposed to be getting but am of course missing. When I am on my own I don't have any of that to worry about, I can just enjoy the activity.

I appreciate that when someone without AS is engaged in a group activity they have to ensure that their companions are enjoying themselves…but for people with AS it's different. I don't know if you're enjoying yourself or hating every second, and that makes me worried, paranoid and anxious. I'm constantly scanning for hints and ideas as to my companion's current state of mind.

Am I lonely? No, I don't think so. Do I enjoy being on my own? Yes I do. It's hard for us to be vocal about this as it is seen as taboo. No-one wants to be Johnny Nomates. No-one wants to be the sad guy with no friends, so of course you tell the odd white lie. Someone whose post on an internet forum you responded to becomes "This guy I know", or "This mate of mine". I don't feel particularly ashamed that I have no friends, but it's still something I tend to hide from other people because, AS or not, I still want to fit in and not unduly draw negative attention to myself.

So please don't pity our solitary existence, it's what we want.

1 comment:

Beastinblack said...

I do agree to a point, deep down I do have a desire for company and friendship, BUT in reality to get any real long term fulfillment it would have to be another 'ME' does that make sense?

Obviously that just isnt going to happen so it is the choice between the positive aspects of a friendship plus the burden it brings, (which one is greater?) or solitude without that extra burden. Like a risk and value assessment. Aspergers is a spectrum disorder so other people are affected differently, but you are correct in everything you say.