Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The importance of social rules to an Asper

Over Christmas, someone I'd not seen for a while reminded me about this blog. To be truthful, I didn't feel that there was that much to update the blog with - no new musings on autism, very few Aspie-attacks, if anything I was thinking less about being Asper than before I'd come to Spain. That said, maybe that's because here my thoughts were more to do with my struggles as a foreigner.

Then there's this nagging thought: I've been here for more than a year, and still don't really have friends as such here outside of work companions. This particularly strikes me when I realise that there's not really anyone here to talk to about my problems (or indeed my experiences and day-to-day things) who'll take the time to just listen to me, which I came to take for granted with my university friends. Things came to a head on my 25th birthday: when relating my birthday to one of my good friends from the UK, it had some painful truth when she said that my best friends here are all aged under 12 (the joys of working in a primary school).

Part of the issue I feel is the culture. Over here there's a culture of going out in groups to a bar: I regularly do this with an improv theatre group I've joined, and have tried going out with games groups, but I feel extremely uncomfortable in bars due to noise and feeling crowded and having to filter out lots of conversations to focus on just one (this is more difficult in a second language!). Another issue is, unsurprisingly, the language when I'm with Spanish speakers: I'm mostly confident in my Spanish, but when people are relaxed and speak very quickly using colloquialisms, it's hard to follow conversations. For that reason most of the groups I've attended have been in English, and even then I've sometimes Aspied-out or not been able to continue a conversation that naturally. Another issue as I see it, as I was musing with another UK friend the other day, is that in uni most students are actively looking to make friends since we're all in a new environment, whereas trying to break into existing friendship groups or to make friends with someone who's not actively seeking to expand their social network is harder. I don't know if being Asper has that much of an impact, or if this is common to many people who move abroad.

When I first arrived here, there were people who did make an effort to reach out to me, but those friendships didn't go as I'd hoped. Maybe my expectations of a friendship are different due to culture, but I wonder if I was more affected by things because of being Asper. Someone in the summer assumed that due to being Asper I don't empathise with people and don't have deep emotions - I wish that this misconception would disappear. I've certainly felt very upset over friendship issues, if anything more so because as an Asper, social rules are 'unbreakable' to me.

For example:
- Please don't say "I'll be there for you whenever you need me" if you can't take time to support me when I tell you that I'm struggling.
- Please don't make empty offers to help with something.
- Please don't treat me as a friend in one setting and treat me poorly in another.
- Please don't repeatedly say we'll meet up, and then not make the time. Especially if you then meet up with other people - hearing "I can't meet up with you because I already took the time to meet with X" is pretty hurtful, be honest if you won't take the time for a specific person.
- If I ask you how you're doing, and support you when you vent about your issues and encourage you when you have difficult things going on, I expect you to ask me how I am and do the same for me.

One of the hardest things about working in a school, to be honest, is that I have to put on a happy face for the kids. Sometimes when I'm emotionally exhausted from supporting others and don't seem to have anyone nearby who'll listen to me, without interruptions or assumptions, or who'll genuinely ask how I am and be interested in the response, I'm tempted to just give up on trying to form or build on connections anymore. I really don't want to be a reclusive Asper - quite the opposite - but it seems that I'm only keeping going right now by 'putting on a stiff upper lip,' and I don't think I can keep going like this for much longer.


  1. Best wishes Catherine. Hope you manage to find some people. Sadly it's a really common problem when people move away from Uni it seems.

    In our new village, Wolston, we've been lucky to make goods friends through the church, which is really friendly, and set up to integrate people with small groups, etc.

    I can't really help with Spain but always let us know when you're back here, it's always good to see you.