ArtfullyAutistic
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ArtfullyAutistic

“Feeling like you’re part of a group, but you’re not in reality” — the ND/Autistic experience of loneliness

Photo by Geoffroy Hauwen on Unsplash

Deriving from the Greek word “autos” [self], the namesake for the Autistic neurotype was originally chosen as a reflection of how Autistic folks will find themselves on their own, and it’s no lacking concept of self-ism {supposedly defining how members of Autistic and Neurodivergent communities are drawn to isolation}.

(Ward-Sinclair, 2020)

Neurodiversity is a concept referring to the ways that people experience and interact with the world around them in different ways because of natural variances in both brain cognition and the brain.

(Robins, 2022)

Don’t you sometimes feel like the world will always be against you whenever you try to fit in to survive its bullshit against you? Doesn’t it ever feel like your efforts to “blend in” become more in vain when you try to fit into a social group you have no attachment to or you’re not a part of? Have you ever felt like no NT person will ever fully understand the mental and/or emotional agony you’re going through while also expecting you to follow pointless social rules that only benefit them? Was there ever a point in your life you’re learning that no one will ever truly understand the emptying, numbing, and silent loneliness you ever feel when you’re with a social group you have no relation to?

How Loneliness can affect ND and Autistic people in different ways

For many ND and Autistic folks experiencing loneliness from their perspectives, it affects them in many ways mentally and emotionally, such as mental health concerns consisting of anxiety, sleep issues, depression, stress, and suicidal ideation (or thoughts about ending one’s own life by suicide).

Well, god-fucking-dammit, that’s what happens when neurotypicals let their neurotypical fragility and privilege get to their heads while having an invisible stick so far up their asses that they refuse to even check themselves for their ableist bullshit.

Masking to ‘fit in’, can cause a huge toll onto us, which leads to eventual burnout if we continue bottling up the drainage and the boulders that are the feelings of being overwhelmed, getting internally sick and tired of bullshit from the Neurotypicals™ who claim to give a fuck about us, but only care about their precious public images and only fucking care about how they or their family image looks to everyone (and they wonder why we’re so fucking angry and pissed off at their bullshit).

You wouldn’t feel free to be your actual self in this hypothetical neurotypical-dominated environment, because you would be feeling isolated from the rest of NT society and people, because they are fucking up very badly when it comes to not being ableist pieces of shit. Those same people would continue to have their fun while having zero fucks in this world, while you are already feeling like a ghost doomed to invisibility from the perspective of a dead human being’s soul.

Per contra, not every Autistic and/or ND person who is alone experiences loneliness in debilitating ways that affect their sense of self and existence, but in ways that provide a safety/sanctuary net for them and genuine freedom (to some extent, because us humans will never be truly free, as long as we have a limited amount of freedom and something that ties us down, such as personal/social obligations) to explore oneself and to build up oneself. Loneliness may also be an advantage for some of us Autistics because we can also do a lot of good things too. For example, we can do our own personal maintenance and participate in strategies without getting criticised, humiliated, villainised, and shit on by NTs around us. By that, I mean that we can take care of ourselves without having to feel like complete shit about affirming ourselves without a random NT person telling us to do that as well.

That leads you in feeling more left out, isolated and secluded, and caged. Those feelings can make you feel like you’re someone prepping/preparing for a potential apocalypse while everyone else seems more carefree without a single fuck about this shitshow of a world.

Loneliness as a Coping Mechanism &/or Survival Mechanism & what Loneliness can feel like

Humans are social beings in general, and NT society sees Autistic and ND folks picking their own company over the company of others as “weird”, “unnatural”, “strange”, and/or not “normal”. Plenty of caregivers and families will go above and beyond to try and create environments for some Autistic and ND folks to adjust to established social settings for them to socialise in. However, forcing both ND and Autistic individuals into those established and controlled settings only confirms the often fucked up truth that we have no say, nor any control when it comes to the actions of others, leading us to sticking our heads back inside a crustacean shell as a result.

“For some Autistic people, the feeling of loneliness can be really strong, and it can feel incredibly isolating. I want you to know that you’re not alone if you’re feeling this way.” — Emily Katy, 2022

You always feel like you’re outside of the predominantly neurotypical world, looking into it, and trying (but also struggling) to understand how the NT world continues to glorify and normalise NT norms of socialisation considered by ableist NTs as “healthy”. Sometimes it feels like you’re already in the world of NTs, but you just cannot completely interact with it because you’re already a ghost in that world. This is due to the fact that the majority of available supports for Autistic and ND persons being only aimed to children and young folks under 17, never for all ages nor for adults… which is because of another ableist and ageist stereotype running amok: that Autism “can be outgrown” past the age of 17 (is debunked by real life itself, because Autism is a lifelong neurotype).

Contributing factors

Differences in day-to-day communication: For them, trying to figure out which tone can be used (in real life and in online spaces), which facial expressions are expected to be able to communicate with, and making direct eye-to-eye contact can often be uncomfortable for ND and Autistic folks, since eye contact is already too painful for us to begin with. There are plenty of ways in showing that you’re listening without having to use eye contact.

Think of situations like this as if you’re playing the role of an ant seeing the large world of humans around them, or like a small pebble trying to surf the ocean’s waves, but becoming more toppled over every time the pebble fails to surf the ocean’s waves.

ND and Autistic persons with “invisible” symptoms are sometimes told that they’re “exaggerating” their pain, including the exhaustion they’re dealing with from masking to hide themselves (typically out of survival and safety reasons) in a society that often fails to accommodate them in return. This depletes their battery or fuel while they also continue dealing with being told that they’re “lazy”, that they aren’t “applying” themselves enough, and that they’re “faking” their pain. Those statements (often ignorant on the part of NT medical professionals and sometimes from family and people who claim to be ‘friends’) already makes an ND and/or Autistic person feel like shit about themselves and their own sense of self-esteem. Sometimes, those invalidating statements can make them get to a point in their lives where they’re sick and tired of everyone’s shit.

Connections and Loneliness

To add more onto what loneliness can feel like, building connections aren’t only a one-way street, but can be a two-way or multiple-way street varying from individual to individual. Creating connections shouldn’t also be put on only an ND/Autistic person or an NT person, but it also shouldn’t be put on both persons either. Building safe and mutual connections have to be done from all sides, not only a specific side. It’s crucial to create connections with people who truly get you and see you for you, because not everyone will be on the same level as you when it comes to being understanding, kind, caring, and/or supportive (rephrased from what an in-real-life friend told me).

Loneliness and Isolation

For ND and Autistic people, isolation is a double-edged sword (Ward-Sinclair, 2020), because there are plenty of Autistic and ND folks who will already decide on spending time within the company of themselves over large social groups, because social groups can and will sometimes be isolating. This isn’t to say that preferring a person’s own company over the company of people is one direct trait of being ND/Autistic, since it’s more of a response to sensory disruption and unpredictable movements that can be experienced in social gatherings.

Conclusion

I’ll end this off with some words that are most likely going to be needed:

You’re not a burden, but a human being. Your life can be nourishing, meaningful, and full of contentment on this basis (Brown, 2015). You also have the same human right to life and to equity, access and opportunity as any other individual as well… and anyone who says otherwise is full of shit and an ableist jackass. There will be struggles you may have to face that NT people will never understand while you share some of them with NT folks. But… this will NOT bring you down since you’re already doing the best you can to come out stronger and more resilient due to your struggles. You can also do the best you can to ensure that no one is alone in facing struggles because those who are facing their struggles may be in your current position or in past positions you used to be in.

You’re incredible beyond vision (Brown, 2015), kind-hearted, strong, talented and intelligent enough. You are surging with a capability to live life to the fullest you have and to share experiences with people you encounter in real life. Your neurology is ALWAYS enough, and it’s completely fine if it diverges from the so-called ‘socially accepted’ neurotypical neurology because you are, and will always be, good enough as you are. You have the strength for deep compassion and you may be moved to action and to protest, riot, and fight hard against corrupt injustices. It’s okay if you learn differently than others and need support, accommodations or services to have equal access. It’s also more than okay to think and communicate differently, and/or experiences sensations in a different way.

It’s also completely fine if you find comfort with people who will impact you or others around you in supportive and beneficial ways in your lifetime, or if you have comfort with only a couple of people, and it’s fine if you feel fine with solitude or with any potential to participate in exploitations of unlimited creativity as well.

Your efforts in life is changing the world for the better with regards to the talent(s) or traits you have, even if this means an encounter with someone that makes your life a little better or that your worries become less overwhelming, more manageable to deal with, and less overloading. You don’t owe society shit. At all.

Society’s burden and responsibility is to compensate for the history-long chain of abuses, disenfranchisement, marginalisation (Brown, 2015), discrimination, dehumanisation, and bigoted bullshit perpetrated against you and every marginalised community who’ve been denied power, equity and social justice, and the inalienable right to self-autonomy/determination.

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This Publication is for all who are Autistic and for those of our kind. It is for the Neurodivergent, for those on the Spectrum of all Gender Identities, the LGBTQ*, and all others who are justifiably non-conformant to Society’s harmful marginalization and Ableist views of us.

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[They/He/Xe]|Autistic| This is a safe space for you to read in the comfort of your home! You can find my ko-fi at: https://ko-fi.com/ravenfridmar43791