Blaming oneself in relationships and finding people who notice your strengths

change is like stepping off a curb...

It’s realizing you’ve stepped off a sidewalk curb, without even realizing it was there.

Let’s read through this scene together (by now, dear readers, you’ve noticed my love of emotional mirrors via popular culture) and then begin our discussion:

Scene from In Treatment – Sophie, week 8

Aspergirls seem to get so used to looking for environmental cues that they blame themselves when they miss them, especially when social scenarios end badly in the process. I  have a fellow Aspergirl friend who says that “change is like stepping off a curb without realizing it’s there.” Such changes, especially when we miss the cues leading up to them, are difficult to process emotionally. Many of us also have a history of trauma or social frustrations (e.g., bullying or fucked-up relationships) that make us feel powerless enough as it is, so we look for ways to enlarge our responsibility over a set of circumstances beyond our control, if only to feel a sense of power over them.

This reminds me of the passage, “While it’s true that some Aspergirls just don’t want friends and are happy being alone, the thing I have found in my research is not so much an innate lack of desire for friends, but an acceptance of the fact they will never have them” (Simone, 2010, p. 100). Simone also reminds us that “Doctors and diagnostic manuals are telling us that we are not cultivating appropriate peer relationships, but in light of all these things it makes sense” (p. 100). When I was younger, I remember feeling more comfortable around older people than my same-aged peers. They seemed more accepting of my all-encompassing interests and idiosyncratic language. I was the girl experimenting with big words, while wearing sweater vests.

I suppose the good news is that as we grow older, we can surround ourselves with people who tolerate, and even enjoy our quirky ways of being. I’m always on the lookout for people who love film or other kinds of media as much as I do. There’s a kind of love that comes in talking with someone who shares your passions (be it comic books, black-and-white films, or feminist zines, and everything in between).  Supportive people don’t make you feel like it’s completely your fault when you monologue for a while or say something completely out of context.

As I was reading Aspergirls, I also noted this: “Because of Asperger/fluid intelligence, I was able to make some unique connections that were beyond what I was being taught, and I was misunderstood” (p. 112). I definitely have had times when I’ve been on the receiving end of the side-glance of people mildly confused about how I pieced things together. My closest friends and colleagues take the time to understand how my Aspie brain processes information in seemingly strange ways. But I’ve also noticed that this sort of  meaning-making allows me to examine problems in novel ways. Those who notice my strengths have helped me to empower myself.

I remember one conversation in particular in which a friend asked me, “What would you think of a girl who’d been through all of that and was thriving in a Ph.D. program?” “She’d be pretty amazing,” I said. What stuck with me was her reminder, “You can tesser — you see things in ways that others can’t.” My friend knows I love A Wrinkle in Time, but her statement resonated with me in a way I hadn’t expected. Oftentimes, my friends help me to see past myself, when I have trouble doing so on my own.