Saturday, 10 September 2016

The opposite of attention-seeking

Sometimes it's easy to remember the bad events, and to forget the length of the periods of time in between.

Last night I went to a board games meet-up in Spanish - I travelled there with a friend I'm staying with, and knew that there'd be three or four others who I knew there.Just before leaving the flat, I learned that there'd be twenty of us in total, larger than most groups I go to - I regularly go to a different games' group with smaller numbers, in English, and after the first few awkward meetings I feel very relaxed there. In comparison, I'd only been to the house where the Spanish board games were to be played once before, and that was with a group of people I knew fairly well so I didn't feel tense then.

Things were good until we got to the road where the host's house was, and were joined by someone who my friend knew. From that point my brain went into Asper-mode - I could barely give responses to conversation (this has happened in English as well as in Spanish, so I doubt it's just a language thing), felt very lost in conversations despite understanding what was being said, had trouble filtering out other conversations going on elsewhere, and just sat awkwardly and a bit tense in silence for a lot of the evening. A few times people drew attention to this - my brain helpfully didn't come up with a response - and I'd just smile awkwardly or say a few words. Once the board games themselves started, I was mostly okay since that gave me something other than social conversation to focus on.

By the end of the evening I was feeling pretty rotten, despite having enjoyed the games we played. On the train home, due to lack of seats I sat opposite my friend, who was talking to a person we'd met that same evening. When people are sitting opposite me in a loud environment I find it really hard to attend to what they're saying, since it blurs in with the other noises that are going on at the same time. I found it really hard to join in the conversation too, even though we were just three people, and only felt my 'talking ability' switch back on when it was just me and my friend sitting next to each other, and even then I needed to 'warm up' into the conversation. We ended up talking about how quiet I was, I told her I was Asper ("Really? But you look me in the eye..."), and we talked about social skills in general. See, when I talk about this sort of thing with non-tistics, it feels like I'm not making enough of an effort. Even non-tistics who have difficulty in social situations can learn tricks to make them seem more personable, so why am I not as good despite having tried different strategies to manage well in a group setting?

Then my friend hit the nail on the head: I hate having the attention focused on me. And that's what happens when I talk and people turn to listen. Or if someone asks me a question, the attention goes to me as people listen to me answer it. Despite having spent a year and a half getting in front of classrooms of kids, I really hate the attention. I dropped out of my improv theatre group because I dreaded the thought of having the room's attention on me, even though they were a supportive group, and actively avoided being in scenes whenever possible. We talked about how I need to be okay with getting attention, otherwise how will people know me or want to get to know me? This is something I'm struggling with at the moment, having only just started to get a social network in my board games group a few months ago, and feeling down about not knowing how to attract a romantic partner (the social skills books that I read as a child and teenager, and later forum posts and advice webpages, couldn't cover that effectively).

It's perhaps not surprising that after this, I had a bad night when we did get home. I still felt a bit sad about it the next day when I spoke to a good friend from home. She pointed out that when she first met me, and for quite a while after, I was almost always like that. It's true, looking back - I'd always clam up in groups, even with my friends from my church group who I trusted. I thought back to the indoor picnic I went to where all I could do was stand in a corner for an hour despite wanting to join in - back then I often expected myself to react that badly in social gatherings since that was common. Last night I didn't go with the expectation that I'd screw up socially, and while it hurts that I did, it's better that this isn't my norm anymore. Even looking back over this blog, I hadn't felt Asper in a while despite having attended different events, and even this wasn't a full-blown Aspie-attack.

I do want to be more social though, and while I've come on a long way in the last couple of years, last night reminded me that there is still quite a way to go. Now I just need to learn to feel okay with attention sometimes being on me.

No comments:

Post a Comment