Welcome to the second installment of our Story Time Series! We post these twice a month sharing situations that happen in our lives and tips on navigating difficult or awkward situations. We want to provide updated information, so what we share will be fresh news!
TRIGGER WARNING: Mention of trauma, isolations, complications with social interactions, medical diagnosis
If you would like to skip this blog check out this one on why we use trigger warnings in our work: Trigger Warnings Yes they Matter
Recently, we decided to create a chart of what elements in life drain us emotionally or physically. We wanted to create a realistic view of ourselves and how we operate in daily life. We drafted a circle and in the middle put everything that is important to us and vital to living. Then as we move outward, the items farthest away CAN be changed or in some cases avoided.
The chart came out like this….
Our number one priority is our partner, our education, continuing to improve our life through therapy, and the usual adulting tasks. As we move further out, we have our work and projects, volunteering, and the work we do blogging. Now, you will notice that social interaction is the farthest away from our center.
We are introverts by nature. Also, a life of trauma has left us wary of others and slow to trust. Being autistic adds another layer of complication. Throughout years of therapy, we were taught to mask. This means to act “normally” in the eyes of society and suppress traits that come with our autism.
This is exhausting!
During social interaction, we have to constantly analyze the other person. Not only to know if they are a safe person but to learn the meaning behind every word and facial expression. At the same time, we are not naturally social. We do not seek the company of others and prefer solitude. We struggle to understand others' emotional responses to certain topics. For example, we are 100% willing to learn new things but do not respond to emotional pleas. We want to know the logic behind the idea and see supportive academically-credible evidence that it is accurate.
Our cognitive delay makes it even more exhausting to interact with others. If you are speaking with us, we can’t understand right away. You can repeat it 100 times and we will still need to sit back later to process the information. We avoid interactions where people barrage us with details and aren’t patient. It is emotionally draining and truly impacts our self-esteem. It is a result of years of emotional conditioning that if you cannot understand in that second, you are stupid or “not trying hard enough.”
It is amusing to think that we took an Empathy Quotient Test by the Autism Research Center. The highest score is 80 and the results will determine how you innately empathetic. We scored 14 out of 80 which is common when you are on the spectrum. This is not the case for everyone on the spectrum, everyone is different.
We are logical over emotional and this complicates having any sort of interpersonal communication.
At a previous place of employment, we had a great coworker that operated on logic. Every morning she would come into our office and we would debate controversial topics. Sometimes we agreed and sometimes we didn’t. However, those conversations were some of the easiest for us to navigate. We respected that each of us had a different viewpoint, we never took anything personally, and we both learned the other person’s perspective.
After creating this chart, we realized that social interactions are more important for some than others. That is okay! We don’t have to be a social butterfly that is always in groups or seeking friendships. For our mental wellness, we can’t have close personal interactions.
If mental wellness means limiting interpersonal communication, it is worth the sacrifice.
(Disclaimer: we are not medical professionals. The conclusion in this article is based on our personal experiences, diagnosis, and knowledge of mental health.)