One of the common stereotypes of being autistic is the fact that we do not want a friend or have difficulty in maintaining friendships as we struggle socially. While that may be a factor with some autistics, that is not always the case, there is importance of having and being a friend to those both on the spectrum or neurotypicals, whether or not they have challenges or not, all friendships are valid.
For years, I was and can still at times be considered a loner or a loser because for an extended period of time, I lacked the social ability to connect with others. It has taken lots of therapy, role play, etc. to get to the point of where I connect socially with others. Many times, being autistic puts one at a disadvantage of the normal opportunities to connect with others because of our inability to do the things in the ways that neurotypicals do like drive, work full time or have sound relationships. Likewise, there are many autistics that can do those things, so it is not impossible to happen. Everyone does things in their own way. If you would tell me ten or twelve years ago that I would be connecting to others when I began this journey of social media, I would laugh in your face.
In fact, years ago, I couldn’t call a family friend for my father to relay a message. Over time, I evolved socially. It has come with some setbacks that’s for sure, but I bounced back and overcome the barriers of being socially connective. I have blossomed so much in adulthood to be quite the social butterfly that I am today, although I won’t lie and tell you that it still at times has its struggles. I have lived and learned my way through the unwritten rules of social construct and am much happier because of it.
Recently, in a sermon I watched on YouTube entitled “You’ve Got a Friend, or Do You?” made me realize the importance of having a friendship and the need of making it a reciprocal one and being there for others. My mother and others as early as adolescence sort of enforced friendships on me and always told me that I have to be a friend to get a friend. In my mid-thirties, I believed that sentiment because it takes all parties to make a friendship effective. Many times in the past I have been in very toxic and one-sided friendships and relationships where I was the primary giver, yet I wasn’t getting anything likewise in return for my contributions to the friendship, as if I was being used for something and not given anything to benefit from it.
One of the known struggles of being autistic and living independently is the fact of loneliness and boredom. It can put you down so much if you lack the social connection that we as human beings need, even as autistic individuals can deny the need to do so as I did in the past. It may be because of it being forced on me too soon, but as I evolved as an adult, I learned how to properly connect with others safely and effectively and not open myself up to being victimized as is a common denominator among the autism community. I learned social pragmatics, learned about others, fought my fears and have been a friend to others when I knew I needed to. It makes life so worth living and not continually being in the gloom and doom that I lived in for a very long time. I am finally at peace with my life, living it the way that I want to and at a pace that I can manage while maintaining optimum wellness.
It cannot go without saying how much I have accepted the knowledge and help of learning social pragmatics from the services I have received over the years and the fact that I was improving in being socially connective without even realizing it despite the struggles that I have faced through my life. To imagine the fact that I am able to do the things I am doing now socially has helped me maintain my job for as long as I have and be able to do so many other things that make me be seen as a very valuable person in the community and region. Being socially communicative and learning the proper knowledge to be a friend has been a life saver that is for sure.