Covid for me has highlighted a problem I’ve been reluctant to admit to. Over the last few months I’ve been able to stick my head in the sand and ignore it because of lockdown, but now restrictions are lifting I can’t ignore it for any longer.
I don’t have any friends where I live.
There I’ve said it.
When we moved here 20 months ago, I hoped to get involved in a few groups, maybe find a church I would finally feel at home in, take a course or two, but between I’ll health ndcovidthats not happened and now I’m not sure if I can bring myself to get out and start all over gain. Part of me wants to, but part of me doesn’t have the physical or mental energy to do it. I nearly burst into tears walking the dog yesterday. I actually met another dog walker who lives just around the corner and we started to chat. I can’t tell you how that felt, however, having listened to all she shared and getting to that point of being able to feel I could share back (judging this point is always a social nightmare), only for another couple to appear with their dog, and as friends they started chatting, and I was thrown back to childhood and being on the outside, literally. Eventually I gave up and headed home despondent. This whole making friends thing is a nightmare.
My self confidence is at an all time low. It feels as if nothing that I do or say is ever good enough, and that when I try to talk it just leads to misunderstandings all round, and yes, I know I sound self pitying. I make no apology for that, and anyone who feels its their task in life to call me to order for that, you can forget it!
I have been thinking a lot these last few weeks about what it means to be a friend. Join a social media site and you become inundated with friend requests. If you look at my fb profile I seem to have lots of friends, but here’s the kicker, most of them I’ve never met in person, and probably never will. As a child we used the expression, friends and acquaintances, to differentiate between those we knew well, and those who we knew to wave to or say hello in passing.
As a society our language changes over time, words come into and out of fashion, and that is as it should be. I’m old enough to remember people praying out loud and using thee’s and thou’s in their language. As children we found this funny, a walking talking king James Bible. I’ve not heard anyone speak like this for a number of years now, except in a period drama.
Equally the term acquaintance has fallen out of use in recent years, in part I feel personally, due to the advent of social media, and its somewhat false use of friends lists. I say false, because it pushes this idea that you can become friends with someone you’ve never met, purely through your interaction on each others posts.
As a child I was taught friendship was a two way process. I’ve always struggled with this and only recently after my own diagnosis of autism did I have a light bulb moment. Yet still I try and relate to people. I try to message friends to see how they are doing. If I notice they are struggling or have suffered bereavement, I try and message them. Is this reciprocated? More often than not, no. Does this mean we are not really friends? I honestly don’t know. I’m grateful to the few people who do message me, I consider them true friends. As for the rest, should I still consider them friends or acquaintances? I don’t know, and that makes me heartbroken.
Living in a city is hard. I found that out in London. I struggle with the idea of travelling miles to find a group, preferring them to be on my doorstep. My head cannot grasp the concept of living in a place that is miles apart, and where villages and towns have been swallowed up into one umbrella metropolis. My head longs for the single street surrounded by fields of my childhood, where everything and everyone is both familiar and known to me.
I have moved around a lot in my life. Each time I’ve moved I’ve been anchored by work, schools and churches. Whether because of covid I don’t know, but this time has been different and I feel rootless, blown around by the wind and without direction.
All the things that occupied my time and space have ended, and I don’t know who I am anymore. I am struggling to put past experiences into the context of my own autism while at the same time coming to terms with my own struggles to communicate. I always thought I was quite good at that, and when people misunderstood I would spend hours, days and even weeks, frustrated and angry at “their” lack of understanding, only now realising slowly tht perhaps I’m not such a great communicator after all. That makes me reluctant to go out and try to meet new people.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m lonely, but I don’t know how to make friends because I don’t know how to communicate with people. What should I say, or ask, or talk about? When is it OK to talk about myself, and why as soon as I do, do people change the subject? Am I that boring?