Autism and the Inevitable Negative Thought Process

I was really frustrated with myself yesterday, so I wrote to myself. But I thought I would share what I wrote so that at least something good will come out of it. I will give an explanation after the notes I have written:

I really hate myself right now.


At 5:15pm I was in Manchester City Centre walking to the bus stop to go home, and I saw a boy with his arm round a slightly smaller boy, who I will call Bob, with 4 others walking behind them. They all looked 15/16.


They were walking on the other side of the road to me, but everyone was glancing in their direction. There were lots of people about. I turned my music down to hear what was happening and I heard “Get the fuck off me!” come from Bob, who had tears in his eyes, but he continued to walk with the boys.


I stood there and watched as people looked, walked off and completely ignored what was happening.


always intervene when I see a situation like this, but this time I didn’t.


My laptop is in my bag and I don’t want it to get taken 


I was kicked in the head while I was volunteering today and my head is spinning 


My bus is due soon 


I’m super skinny and I have never even had a fight before, what use am I?


They all look tougher than me and look quite scary 


I’m hardly intimidating, I’ll probably just get myself beaten up to


I froze.


I looked around at the other people, to see if there was anyone who might back me up, but I didn’t see anyone who looked like they could. I didn’t do anything.


I walked off and went to the bus stop.


How could I be so selfish? What if today was the last straw, and he has gone home after being beaten up and killed himself? All it could have taken was one person to reach out and save his life, but they didn’t. If he kills himself after this, it’s all my fault.


But there were others round, someone who is bigger and stronger than you will have helped him.


No Andy, you know about the bystander effect. You know better than that. 


But you’re skinny and weak Andy, they would have just laughed, beaten you up, and stolen all of your stuff.


That’s a risk, but if I caused enough commotion, they would have ran off and people would have got involved. Why didn’t I take a picture of them and send it to schools in the local area? Why didn’t I call the police? 


One person being beaten up is better than two.


No, it’s not. Sometimes all someone needs to transform their life is to know that at least one person is there for them. It would have been worth it. 


Maybe they aren’t even going to beat him up, maybe they have planned something worse, and I could have stopped them. 


I have spent the past 6 hours doing nothing but going through that one minute in my head over and over again. Thinking about everything that could have happened and everything I could have done to make the situation better, and I am ashamed of myself.


Surely I should be the person who does reach out, after having times when I have felt lonely and isolated myself and being grateful for the few people who have been there for me. This was my opportunity to return the favour.


I vow to never get so anxious or scared that I do not intervene again. No one deserves to feel so alone when there are so many people around, and no one should have to go through suffering at the hands of others when people are able to help.


This is going to be on my mind for a long time. If I am short tempered, ignorant or I am not focusing on much, I don’t have anything against you. It’s because I am angry with myself.

This moment is still heavily on my mind, but despite hating what I have done, I have decided to share it as a way to explain the reasons for the negative thought process of  a lot of (but not all) autistic people.

Two things play a key role in the thought processes of autistic people:

  1. The need for perfection
  2. The hate of uncertainty

Everything I do needs to be perfect. If it isn’t, I get frustrated and anxious about how others might view it. If I don’t get full marks on a test, I get frustrated. If I don’t win a game, I go crazy. I will do the same thing and rewrite and reword it over and over again until it feels satisfactory. I hate being in charge and having lots of responsibilities, because then it’s up to me to make things perfect, and I’m a failure when they aren’t. If I do something that isn’t perfect, I get really anxious about the response I get. I have to force myself to submit blog posts because my heart wants to keep them true but my brain wants to make sure I word them perfectly by editing them over and over and over again, which will take too much time and energy. Also, every little mistake I make, I can’t stop thinking about. Why can’t I just do things right?

Uncertainty is also a massive burden for autistic people. If there is uncertainty, my brain feels the need to get rid of it. If you say my work is ‘good’, this gets me stressed and anxious, as I need to know exactly what it means in order to move on. ‘Good doesn’t give any information and people often say it just so that they don’t hurt your feelings. I need to know the positives and negatives, as well as how to improve or this will get stuck on my mind and stop me from focusing on what I would like to. This need for certainty applies to almost everything. If I meet someone new, I often struggle to understand what their view is of me and need to spent quite a lot of time with them to see where I stand with them, or I spent a lot more time trying to work it out to no avail due to lack of information to analyse. It is much easier if people are blunt and honest, but a lot of neurotypical people aren’t and it is infuriating. The problem is it’s usually very difficult or impossible to know unless I ask directly, which I have started to do more to save energy even though it isn’t socially acceptable.

I can’t underestimate how much time is spent doing this. I can conform and fit in when I am out and about, but when I am at home or I am alone, it takes over my mind and stops me from doing what I want to do. I often go on walks alone so I can focus on processing this information and nothing else. Occasionally I have days avoiding everyone and staying on my own. Not because I want to avoid people, but because I want to avoid the aftermath.

Often, I look like I’m  relaxing when I lie down and I listen to music, or I sit playing a game. But I’m not, I’m recovering. There is a big difference. I very rarely feel able to actually relax because my brain is constantly on the go. We need time to process things, to self regulate, to calm down, to recover and to prepare for tomorrow’s onslaught.


What happened here is a big example of one of the negative thought process. My stupid mistake makes me feel like a complete and utter idiot. Why didn’t I do the right thing? The uncertainty is that I don’t know if that boy is going to be ok after my imperfect decision. I don’t feel sorry for myself because I deserve a punishment for not helping, but it takes a toll on me and now I can barely function. How I feel right now, is how a lot of autistic people feel about a lot of things, even if they seem very minor to you or if it isn’t as important an issue of what I have just written about. This effect is very common for me, but this is one of the few times where I feel it is actually deserved.

The constant uncertainty and need for perfection in most contexts and scenarios is debilitating for autistic people. It makes life a hell of a lot tougher. This is why I have started to tackle uncertainty at its root cause, otherwise I don’t have enough energy to do important things, like eat or get a good nights sleep. When I have known someone for a while and we know where we stand with each other, I don’t need to strive for certainty as much and I feel comfortable and happy.

If your child is angry, aggressive or violent, it may not be your fault, and they may not be acting ‘naughty’ or being ‘selfish’ either. If I didn’t write this, people would have no idea why I have avoided everyone and had a short temper today. It’s important to be calm, patient and positive even if you are unsure why your child is acting the way they are. There is always a good reason.

I truly hope that someone spoke out and helped Bob, and I really hope that everything works out well for him.


When I got off the bus last night, I saw what looked like a man and a little girl fighting.

I wasn’t going to back off this time. Especially since I was angry with myself and felt like I needed to redeem myself after what I had done. I walked slowly behind them to get a better understanding and turned my music down and heard the girl screaming. I went over and asked what was happening. It turns out this time it was nothing serious. It was just a teenage boy and his little sister playing…

Or was it?


If only it was this simple…














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