Autism and Loneliness (#TakeTheMaskOff)

You never realise how lonely you are until it is just you, your thoughts, and time. 

I spend most of my time escaping from reality so that I can avoid my thoughts and feelings. Whether it is gaming, reading, watching films, listening to music or getting immersed in the world of imagination.

But every once in a while, I just sit here, thinking about how alone I am. I tend to have a lot on my mind, but no one to talk to about any of it. In everyone else’s eyes I am happy, carefree and confident. In reality, I feel lonely and empty. Most people in my life don’t know the real me.

Today, I sat in a café that was completely empty. And I thought to myself, as I do every now and then, “What would happen if I just disappear right now? No one knows where I am, and no one really cares”.

Lonely is not being alone, it’s the feeling that no one cares.

There’s only one place where I truly feel at home, and ironically, that is at work.

I currently have few jobs. I work in a school, at a children’s home and in the community.

In each of these jobs I work directly with autistic children, and I love it. At work I feel appreciated, and the kids are actually happy to see me. I talk to the kids about what autism is and what it means, we play games, learn together, grow together and most of all, we have lots of fun. The kids actually want to spend time with me, rather than me feeling like a burden that doesn’t deserve anyone’s time or energy. I can also be myself at work.

Some people say I work too much. Others say I’m over-enthusiastic and need to chill out. But my work is all I have. As soon as I get home, I’m plunged back into reality, unless I use one of my escape tactics to delay thinking about how rubbish life is. I think I’m the only person I know who goes to sleep excited that I am working the next day, because I don’t have much else to look forward to.

It’s so lonely when you don’t even know yourself

After 20 years of masking, I’m not really sure who I am at times. This is reflected in my social life.

I have lots of ‘friends’.

But of course, they aren’t friends with me, they are friends with the masked version of me. The guy who is really funny when he is drunk, or the sarcastic overconfident pleb who talks rubbish all day.

Let me introduce you to the mask:

Hey Andy, tell me some of your interests

Playing Nintendo games, collecting Pokémon cards, going to random Cafés where I can sit and think about life, working, reading books, learning about autism

Getting drunk and playing games, what else? 🙄

What are some of the turning points in your life?

Some of the turns on Rainbow Road on Mario Kart are DEADLY

Realising I need to stop masking

Meeting you is the main one obvs lol jk xoxox

If you had to live without one of the 5 senses, which one would it be?

THERE ARE 8 SENSES!!!

Sight because I’m fed up of looking at you lol I’m so funny please like me

Real loneliness isn’t being alone, it’s being surrounded by the wrong people

I wonder how different and how much happier I could be if I didn’t mask and I was myself from the beginning. If I had friends who actually shared my interests and if I didn’t have to put on an act whenever I was with them.

Now I don’t put on my mask as much, and as a result most of my ‘friends’ don’t want to know me as much, and why would they? I’m not who they think I am, and they aren’t the right people for me. And being autistic doesn’t make finding new friends particularly easy.

Nobody ever tells you that emptiness weighs the most

Humans are social beings. We need to build relationships with others and have a sense of belonging to be happy. Without these, what’s the point in life?

We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.’ – dunno who

I believe this quote explains why autistic people mask. We want to trick our brains into thinking we are loved and cared about. But loneliness isn’t just a physical entity, but an emotional one. If you aren’t true to yourself, you can have a life full of other people who may appreciate the act, but emotionally, you are just as lonely as you have always been. You can have happy moments when you are with others, but then when you get home feel just as lost and empty.

There is only one way to stop being alone emotionally, which is the type of loneliness that matters. That is by being yourself, and making connections with people as your true self. The way to do this is to #TakeTheMaskOff – search this hashtag on social media to learn about what it means according to other autistic people.

This has its problems too of course. How do you know people will love the real you? What if you’re not good enough for anyone? I’ve felt like this, and I’m sure you do sometimes too. I have a couple of close friends I am open with, but even with them, I won’t talk to them about my deeper feelings because I fear it will make me lose them.

I guess it’s just a case of hoping that there is at least one person out there who likes you for who you are. Considering there are over 7 billion people in the world. I think the chances that that person is out there is incredibly high. They just need to be found.

Don’t forget, everyone in the whole world is on the path to self acceptance and has their good days and bad days. So next time you are feeling lonely and isolated, please remember this:

‘Loneliness is the unloneliest feeling in the world, as everyone has experienced it.’ –another person I don’t know

Anyway, back to playing Pokémon

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13 thoughts

  1. This is a really good post! I get the lonely bit. I’m introverted. I can’t mask like you – well I can, but only when drunk and then I’m an accident waiting to happen lol. However, I find that I don’t feel ‘quite’ as lonely as I did before I realised I am autistic and found people who think like me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes I think things are much better now that I actually know and speak to other autistic people!

      I remember when I was at uni and everyone in my flat was thinking about houses for the next year.
      No one had asked me because I didn’t go out with the others much, as much as I wanted to be friends with them.

      Then one night we had a flat party so I decided to come along, drunk of course. The next day I woke up and some of my flat mates asked me move in with them because ‘I can actually be fun’. It’s so much easier when you have alcohol 😂 but then of course I had to put the mask up for the next year that I lived with them

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally understand being lonely. Even after being married for 19 years I was still lonely, then last year she divorced me. Earlier this year I meet someone who has worked with autistic children or many years. She understands me better then I do myself most of the time. Although I am still lonely at times those times are not a frequent or long lasting now.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This post is so good. I’ve finally met a few autistic adults local to me, and it was such a relief that we could spend ages talking about Pokémon together with no judgements. And now we’re friends on Pokémon Go. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I work within the autistic community, I understand the stressful feelings, I just wish as a community we could be more tolerant and flexible to accept people with disabilities without being too judgemental. Thx for sharing

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Then there are those of us who literally have NO ONE – I’ve no family, no friends, I’ve no job which means no coworkers – social isolation is so ridiculously dangerous for anyone, it really messes with your head and leaves you struggling to find yourself, but for Autistics it also means you start to lose your social skills and ability to mask. It’s very easy to get trapped in loneliness.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Aspie here.
    I guess people connect with whom you show them. They can’t connect with the real you if you keep it tucked in. 🙂
    You are a beautiful person just the way you are. You don’t have to be funny or sarcastic for people to enjoy your company, of the real you is not like that. You don’t have to be in various ways, other than kind and loving towards yourself. 🙂
    People don’t have to love the real you. You need to love the real you. ^^
    Sending you hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

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