By Alex Abbott
Even though it’s rarely apparent to most people I meet, my journey as a person on the autism spectrum can be isolating and full of frustration. Finding ways to cope with my feelings of uncertainty and disorientation has been a challenge, but I am learning how to be a saner person and live my life in a way that flows with, not against, the grain of who I am.
Part of how I have learned to flourish in this struggle is through the experience of self-acceptance. Now that I think about it, there have been so many times when fiction has saved my life. When reality baffles, fiction provides a convenient, tidy alternative.
Lately, I have spent a lot of time watching Netflix. I watched the first two seasons of House of Cards and Arrested Development. I’m most of the way through the first three seasons of Breaking Bad (please, no spoilers!). Before I had Netflix, I watched almost all of A Bit of Fry & Laurie on YouTube.
When I see my roommates holding down full-time jobs and succeeding in grad school, I feel lazy. Sure, I’m working, but the rest of my time belongs to me. And this is how I spend so much of it?
So often, I feel exhausted from a day of social interaction. I just want to hole up and avoid any obligations to anybody.
So often, I’m speaking to someone, and I don’t know what to do next. In the past, I didn’t know what to say. I can’t say that things haven’t changed at all. I’m better at small talk now. I’m better at asking people to talk about themselves. I’m better at saying what I expect people want me to say. But it’s all incredibly draining and a lot of this still doesn’t come naturally to me. Being better prepared is great, but I still feel sorely out of place.
I’ll make some minor flub and there’s a voice of doubt in my head, relentlessly dinging my efforts. I never feel secure enough, never perfect enough.
The miracle of fiction is that we believe it’s real. How long, how difficult, it is to penetrate the bubble of unreality. We talk about Walter White and Sansa Stark as if they are real people, as if they are inhabitants of a real place. Isn’t that incredible?
When I create something, that’s one of the few times that I feel unquenchably real. I feel like I have blown through the fog of my own anxiety – look at the elaborate tableau I have made, how eloquently I have spoken, how passionately I have expressed my feelings, how vivid and unmistakably raw it must be for you, the reader, as you feel what I have felt. In that moment, I am fulfilled unlike so many other times when I feel empty instead.
When I had completed a year of college, I felt miserable and lonesome because I had so little close human contact, and almost no reliable friendships. Joining a theatre troupe made me feel like I belonged, like I could participate in something meaningful, like I could be someone else…not just on the stage, but everywhere else that I go.
While it’s been a struggle for me to adjust to a lot of parts of my life, the miracle is that I believe it’s real.
You can read more of Alex’s posts at: http://atheistwhilehuman.com/