Can I make friends and be myself?

This is another attempt at the sort of post I have a lot of trouble writing, an update about how I’m doing. It occurs to me that one of the traits of Asperger’s is speaking like a professor, and most of my posts are in the form of lectures rather than casual conversations. I’ve been really gratified that people have been reading my posts about autism and Asperger’s, and I hope that they are helpful and informative (and I hope to write more).

But my overall idea for this blog is for it to be just like anyone else’s personal blog, where I can write about things that I’m doing or that are on my mind– so that might result in some abrupt changes in topic (like when a Star Trek review shows up in the middle of a series of posts about autism!)

This week I’ve been preoccupied with a lot of thoughts about friendship– trying to figure out what it means to have a friend and to be a friend. I said in one of my earlier posts that I felt like it was easy to make friends when I was a kid, but it got harder as I got older and felt gradually more socially disconnected from my peers. Now that I’m an adult, I feel like it’s harder yet again, because I am no longer in a similar situation to many people my age. A lot of my contemporaries are starting or growing families, which totally reshapes a person’s life. Others are pursuing various goals in school or work. And some, like myself, are not quite sure what they are doing, but are hoping to figure it out soon! So it’s not as simple as when I was in school and the people around me were in the same classes.

I think it’s also a challenge to make friends because it naturally requires time and energy, and most people’s lives are quite busy. Mine isn’t quite as busy right now, but I often struggle with a shortage of energy– it can be draining physically, mentally, and emotionally to venture outside, so it’s not exactly as if it’s easy to make friends with me.

Some of that goes along with being an introvert– that means that I expend energy when I’m with people and need time by myself to “recharge”– from what I understand, for most people it works in reverse?

But at times I still have a longing to share with others the things that interest me, concern me, or occupy my thoughts. Whether I think about lofty or trivial things, I spend a huge amount of time turning thoughts over and over in my head without a lot of chances to let them out.

I was realizing that sometimes I feel like I need to be a fake person in order to interact with other people, because I know that most conversations are not intended to be occasions to unload every thing that’s on my mind! Usually, “Hi! How are you doing?” along with a general question about someone’s work, hobby, or family is all that’s needed.

But I tend to have trouble with seeing the extremes as the only possibilities available to me, so I don’t quite know how to “be myself” around others and maybe share a little more about myself without opening up the fire hydrant on them and boring (or scaring) them by delivering a treatise like this post is becoming!

So, what’s the answer? When I feel lonely and depressed, I long for someone that I can truly be myself around, and laugh at silly shows or movies with, or sing along to the radio with, or talk/argue at great length about things as deep as the purpose of God in salvation or as shallow as which superhero is the most ridiculous– or sit and be quiet for a long time if that’s what’s needed.

Of course, now I’m probably describing someone who is more than just a friend, so once again I am taking things to the extreme– and even then, I am being terribly one-sided by thinking about what another person can do for me rather than what I can do for them, which is a pretty awful basis for any relationship.

And I know that a major obstacle for me is that it’s not just that sometimes I feel like I can’t be myself around others; it’s that often I’m afraid to be myself, or perhaps I don’t really know how.  It’s hard to be yourself when you’re so self-conscious!  It is likely to take a lot of work to open up enough to have a really close friend (or more than a friend), and I wonder how old I’ll be by then!

I’m really thankful that God isn’t sweating over any of this stuff in the slightest.  I’m trying to tell myself that I need to trust him with this area of my life; even the smallest interactions I have with others can be meaningful, so I need to honor him in the situations he gives me and try not to worry.  Some days I do better at that than others, though.  I want to be able to open up more to others more with the passage of time, not withdraw from them.

Anyway, that’s what’s been on my mind lately.  I hope things are going well for you.  : )

One comment

  1. How interesting that I’m having sort of the same crisis but I’m on the other end of the scale. I’m rather an extrovert and I do tend to scare people I know because I’m not so much in-your-face but I tend to pose lots of questions to anyone I’m trying to make friends with, I’m rather boisterous and abrupt, maybe even a little over-animated and yes, I scare people too…particularly a guy that I have been trying to make friends with at work..he is the shy introvert though, except for those unguarded moments when I can make him smile or laugh, it’s almost as if he finds moments of levity too unrestrained, like it shows too much loss of composure to let himself go and really open up.
    I tried suppressing my personality this week and only ended up sick, not to mention that he said he thought I was acting cold to him..then when I let go and show my own personality again, he retreats as swiftly as possible..anything bordering on affection or emotions seems verboten to him..it really confuses me.

    See, like you, I too tend to put too much information forth for people to digest immediately but it’s what I am. When I make a friend, I jump in with both feet, It’s nice to know I’m not the only person who acts like this..I used to be introverted too, when I was young, of course I mostly outgrew it and now moments of shyness pain me most greatly, in fact, it’s more of an energy drain to me not to be myself. I also wish I could always be the way I am and not have one of my friends ask me why I’m always such a freak ( i know, some friend huh?) unfortunately with myself, by the time I’m conscious of the first impression I’ve made on a new friend, it’s too late, i’m already branded.

    An interesting dilemma..to be yourself, which is the most obvious choice for me, or conform to what society calls the norm and become detached, make polite conversation, no sudden moves and all that..What is the answer….

    My cousin also has Asperger’s, he was diagnosed finally at age 14. He needs a much more nurturing environment than the one he’s in but that is out of my hands, unfortunately. I’ve often wondered how he thinks seeing that he’s a straight A student with staggering behavior problems which i’m positive is due to the environment he’s in. I should read more about it.

    Hope you can find yor way out of this tangled web called relationships, I have yet to figure it all out myself.

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