Springingtiger's Blog

Autism Awareness: Friendship

After Mr Kohli’s funeral last Wednesday, a young woman introduced herself to me. I am glad she recognised me as I didn’t immediately recognise her, as I have been known not to recognise my own daughter that’s hardly a surprise. She is the daughter of a friend, and when she told me her age I realised I hadn’t visited them for about fourteen years. They moved house and I’m not comfortable going on my own to places with which I am unfamiliar unless I have prepared in great detail. Another friend’s daughter is my friend on Facebook, again it took a little time to work out who she was as last time I’d seen her she was a child.

I lose touch with people because I have a very poor sense of the passage of time, my wife says I have the biggest “now” of anyone she knows.

Sometimes I lose friends from a combination of circumstances. I had a couple of friends, Lynn and Robert, whom I used to visit regularly, well about once a year, which is unusual as I generally don’t visit people. A couple of years ago I was going to visit them, and emailed to set up a visit, I got no response. When I phoned what I had as their number, a complete stranger answered. I had lost their house number and couldn’t recognise their house, I didn’t want to knock on doors in case a stranger answered. I emailed several times with no reply. I am sad because I do actually miss them. I’m also sad because, even if they ever make contact with me again, I’ll never be able to tell them how I feel, I can never tell people how I feel about them.

I do miss people who leave my life, but I don’t seem to have any mechanism for holding onto them. I presume I had friends at school, university, and previous employments, but I’m not in contact with any, and, to be perfectly honest, am not really aware of who my friends were. I only really assume I had friends because the converse is implausible.

I certainly miss some people when they die, especially if I’m used to them being around. I have an almost paralysing fear that my wife may die before me. I don’t know how I’d live without her, literally I’m not sure I could manage. I do know that the sadness I feel when I lose a friend is nothing compared to that sadness. Personally I’m indifferent to death, its no big deal, but I’m not good with loss.

All of which is a very long preamble to an earlier piece about relationships.

People Who Need People

I recently received a nice message from a friend on Twitter telling me that I make a difference to her son. At the end of last year when I was considering suicide in a logical sort of a way I received several messages, again telling me I make a contribution. As the song says, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” I needed people and I was lucky they were there.

My problem is that I forget I need people, or more accurately other people do not really occur for me. I know they are there but they do not really impinge upon my my consciousness except – I suppose – as an extension of myself or as an object of my attention like a tree or a painting. I do not feel connected to people and that they have thoughts and feelings of their own only occurs by logical process. To a great extent it is only when someones’ intervention directly impacts me that there is any connection and then it is because of the effect on me. Does this sound callous? It is not supposed to. I don’t particularly want to be so disconnected, but it’s the way I am. The support I have received really has helped me again and again and sometimes I am aware of that.

While writing I keep an eye on my social networks and have just found a moving post “This is how my son shows compassion in an Autistic way “ . I find this truly impressive, most of the time I am unaware of others’ difficulties and when I am aware I am frequently unable to work out of what I am aware. I am aware something is wrong but it can take me a long time before I can calculate what it is. I have written before about the sense of looking at the world from within a glass box, I don’t know if I conveyed how agonisingly frustrating it is to have so much information without being able to organise it into coherent meaning. It is like the sensation of having a name on the “tip of your tongue”, but rather than one piece of information what is missing is the key that will make sense of all the information I’m receiving. It is the sense of almost having the answer but it only just being out of reach. The frustration is agonising to the point of being physically painful, invariably it precipitates a physical reaction.

Perhaps I’m feeling sorry for myself because I have been having one of those weeks where nothing makes much sense, the words I hear have difficulty carrying meaning to my brain, I see things occurring but I’m not sure what is happening or why. I just described it to someone as, “one of those weeks where the symbol of a jigsaw makes sense even if little else does” and it is very much like having all the pieces of a puzzle, realising its different from the picture on the box, but being unable to see the difference.

Now awareness of others suddenly kicks in. Some of the interchanges we have with parents of ASD kids on the world wide web can be quite acrimonious, but I realise that perhaps it is because our world is terrifying to “normal” people – it would scare the shit out of me if I had the sense to be scared! Most people need a world that makes sense – I think we’d all like a world that makes sense – but they are aware that their kids live in a world that much of the time makes no sense and it terrifies them because they cannot understand how anyone can live in that world. Logically I suppose they are also saddened that they cannot share the world in which their child is living. – But what do I know, I’m making this up as I go along? – My world is not really a world you can understand, I don’t think I understand it, I don’t think I understand me. This is why my mind has so many routines and sub-routines, it means I continue to function even when I am unable to understand. During one period of savage depression when a student, I started to go to High Mass frequently not because of any spiritual comfort, but because the incense and music and colour provided a place of stability that engaged all my senses. The Mass was one of the few things that stopped the chaos in my head. The rituals and routines in which I engage daily provide a foundation and structure which continues to make living possible. Do I need them on a good day? Perhaps not, but they remain in place because they have a deep logic which overrides the logic of reason and continues when reason cannot.

I use people, they are essential to my functioning environment, I do need people. I don’t always appreciate them as I should and I am sorry for that. The song may say “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”, but what it should say is, “People who have the people they need there for them when they need them are the luckiest people in the world.” I think I am incredibly lucky and – at the moment – aware enough to be grateful.


2 Comments so far
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Your thoughtful posts about how you perceive the world and interact with it are always helpful to me in trying to understand how my son sees the world–he lives almost entirely in the present, shows the same lack of awareness when it comes to the passage of time.

Thank you for taking the time to share your internal world.

Comment by Kim Wombles

Unfortunately it played havoc with my ability to get work done on time especially when I was a student. Even now my wife has learned not to ask me to do something else when I’m already engaged in something, as I’ll switch immediately to the new task and forget to finish the first one.

Comment by springingtiger

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