LJ Swanepoel Art | Outside, looking in
What it's like for me to be standing on the outside, and looking in at the people who exclude me from their social life.
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Outside, Looking In

Outside Looking In FI

Outside, Looking In

I realized today what it meant to be on the outside, looking in. I realized that I’m the one standing outside, and I’m the one looking in. It means that I’m excluded from the areas I want to be a part of, and from the people I wish to accept me. People seem to look around me, they seem to avoid me.

I’m right here, but you don’t see me. You see the person next to me. You invite him to join the game, while I’m near desperation to play the same game with you.

I know I’m different, odd, and weird. Being different doesn’t mean that I can’t fit in. It’s not enough of a reason to look past me. I’m not invisible, you know?

The pain cannot be explained. Rejection. Ever been rejected? Then you’ll know what it feels like. It’s much worse for people with severe rejection issues that started from childhood. I’m  one of them.

My parents divorced when I was two years old. I was first taken away from my mother to live with my father. Obviously we bonded. Then by the time I was six years old, I was taken away from my father to live with my mother. They lived hours away from each other, so traveling was far. Since then, my father never really made contact with me. From age six, I always made the first effort to ask if I can visit him. He never invited me – at least, not that I can remember. At age fourteen, I had enough. I never again asked him if I can go and visit. He still didn’t invite me, to this day. So we saw each other no more. By the time of this post, I haven’t seen him in sixteen years; haven’t heard from him for ten years. So, I have rejection from both my biological parents.

Now, add to that the years of rejection from kids who never saw me as part of the group. Whenever I wanted to be part of a group, I was abandoned; I was ridiculed and repelled by peers. I was seen as the lower-valued kid, the annoyance, the liability. I never really fit in anywhere. Only on rare occasions did I find one kid who was interested in me, which also didn’t last long. The rest of the kids who did play with me, were just doing so to kill time at school while they waited for their parents to come pick them up. I never really had friends growing up. Things became better when I changed schools and made a best friend for two years. Then another best friend for six. Then I never had another guy best friend. I have a close guy friend, but we don’t see each other that often. I had best girl friends, but the problem was that I always, always fell in love with them. I wanted to be their boyfriend, but they never wanted to be more than friends. I didn’t understand it then, but I now know why. I have a long history of rejection that started from family, to peers, to friends, to girls and to best friends.

Being diagnosed late in life – at age thirty in 2017 – I now know it has to do with having Asperger’s Syndrome. I can’t help having it – I was born with it. People around me don’t know it. They just think I’m weird and don’t want anything to do with me. Only those I told know I have it, yet it doesn’t make a huge difference… Okay, just a little bit.
I can’t get rid of Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s part of me, it’s who I am. My brain is different; I think different; and I behave different. At first, I was joyful about the diagnosis, because I finally had an answer to my entire history. I understood why I frustrated my parents and why I always had such few friends. About two weeks ago, I began to hate the diagnosis. I was disappointed and wished that I never had Asperger’s Syndrome. Just last night I pondered about how amazing it would be to not have this disability – to be normal; to understand social cues and behaviours; to have an automatic understanding of society and its rules; knowing that if I do A, then B will happen – without false expectations and confusion. I mulled over a life without anxiety; without fear of the unknown; without rules and routines; a life without rejection and misunderstanding; a mind that just automatically reacts correctly in every situation and that understands the darn meanings between the lines; that knows how to behave; knows what to do, and that is accepted and appreciated.

But people don’t seem to understand. They don’t see. They only know what they see and misinterpret my behaviours, because of a lack of understanding. I have a disability. I didn’t want to believe it in the beginning, but it became clearer over time. I thought I was just wired differently, but the truth is that I am disabled. I admit it. I am disabled. The thing is, my disability is invisible. My appearance is normal (whatever that looks like. I guess my appearance isn’t normal either, because then I would’ve been accepted and been on the inside, looking out). I don’t have physical disabilities like no arms or no legs. I lack something in my mind that most people have – Theory of Mind. Yeah, I don’t have it, and if I do, I have little of it. One example is black-and-white thinking. Unlike normal people, I can’t see and live a situation in “shades.” It’s either black, or white. It’s either yes or no; right or wrong. It’s either highest or lowest; or nearest and farthest. There’s no in between. I’m rarely able to accept the middle ground.
Have you seen someone in a wheelchair? Well, I’m basically in a wheelchair inside my mind. I don’t have the legs to walk or run to where I want to go. I have to be equipped and trained to do so. It takes much more effort to get to my destination. When people see someone with a physical disability, they immediately show compassion and empathy. Heck, I do! Sometimes. Unfortunately they lack that same compassion and empathy with me and others like me, because our disability isn’t physical. It’s mental. And so, they judge me by my behaviours which I’m not always able to control. They judge me by the way I do things, because of my lack of understanding on how society does things. I do things my way, and to them, that is unacceptable.

The truth is, it hurts. I was recently told by the very person on the inside looking outside at me, not to be so hard on myself; but how can I not be when however hard I try, I keep failing? How can I not be when I do things wrong, not knowing the consequences? Only afterwards I realize that I probably shouldn’t have done that, and I feel like an idiot… a fool! How am I supposed to be not so hard on myself when I feel like a fool? I expected a different result, something beautiful, instead it backfired. That comes from making false assumptions, which is dreadfully difficult for me to avoid.

False assumptions include “false hopes,” which lead to fantasies and strong illusions; and dangerous imaginations. I would live a situation inside my mind, convinced that it’s true. It’s not hallucinations or being high – it’s the belief of something that doesn’t exist, while being aware that it’s not true. I admit, this mostly happens with girls I’m interested in and I begin to pursue them. I admit again, this false assumption begins the moment they are just being polite with me, throwing in a nice gesture my way and being friendly with me. And because of my black and white thinking (which I can’t really control… yet – if that’s possible), I think they are interested in me. Then the trouble starts, and I mess up. And then, because they don’t know me and don’t understand my disability, I’m rejected and pushed outside.

This may lead to another form of false assumption. They would be friends with other guys, but not me – rejection. I’ll get jealous and I start to assume the worst. I would think that she likes the guy more than me, under the impression that she’s in love with him. Then I’ll jump to the conclusion that they would go out. This leads to anger. I’ll be angry at them for not giving me a chance. I’ll be upset that she didn’t make an effort just to get to know me. I’ll be filled with jealousy, rage, rejection and bitterness; even before anything happened. I’ll avoid both the girl and the guy. They don’t know why I’m so quiet and rude. I can’t tell them, because I know I don’t have the facts, but I believe it. I’ll feel like I want to confront them. In my silence, I just want to scream and run away. “I’m rejected, just like before.” Meanwhile, they’re just colleagues; they’re just friends or acquaintances, they’re siblings (LOL, just kidding). They’re innocent. I overthink everything. I eventually cool down when I’m proven wrong by observation. Sad thing is that I always think I’m right, always. In the end I feel guilty and ashamed. Then I realize it’s too late, I messed up and I’m already on the outside, looking in.

Believe it or not – and maybe you know me – I don’t want to hurt people; it’s not my intention. I sometimes do want to take revenge for them hurting me – either by rejecting me or ’cause of my false assumptions – or if they annoy me by giving me too much attention (I don’t like a lot of attention). The worst I’ll do is to avoid them completely, withdraw into isolation, become real quiet, or be rude… like a real pain in the gut (which I know is wrong and I apologise if I ever hurt you in that way). This is unfortunately another common trait of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome.
There are some good traits too which I share with other people on the spectrum. Those who know me will tell that I’m honest, loyal and kind. I’m really happy with the people I love, although they too see my downsides and I salute them for putting up with it.

Yesterday my decision was that I’m done with the rules of society. I’m different, accept it. I’m not going to do things your way just because society expects me to, unless I agree with it. I’ll do things out of kindness, not because I’m expected to do them. When I give you gifts, it’s my way of saying that I like you. Yes, I might hope for more, but don’t ignore me. Don’t push me away. Understand that I have this disability and at least try to find a way to deal with it. Girls, as much as I would like to stop it, the chances that I’ll stop liking you, finding you attractive or hope for more, is rare. My truth is, I’ll probably always like you and hope for more, until you or I get married. I’m sure there’s a coping mechanism to learn for this kind of thing, so I’ll make sure to find out about it and seek therapy of some kind. I know that my romance is out there somewhere, and we’re destined to find each other. I believe that God the Father is in control of everything. I am blessed even with this disability.

1Comment
  • Benjamin Swallowe
    Posted at 20:26h, 12 April Reply

    Wow. Beautiful.

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