Ruffle tickets and social reciprocity

Ruffle tickets folded into a zigzag (on my living room table)

It’s 22.27 and I just came back from a fundraising event organised by the radio. It was an Indian restaurant with a buffet, curries were really nice but I managed not to overeat, so that was good. However, I came across a certain problem. I’m not quite sure how to say it without offending anybody and without sounding silly, because yes, I am aware that what I’m about to say can be seen as something insignificant by neurotypical people and possibly even by some autistic people too. However, the purpose of my blog is to provide insight into an autistic mind, so here you are.

As you may be aware I started volunteering in a community radio recently and I feel very supported there. The radio station have some other autistic volunteers and I feel the manager is really making an effort to make that work for me. I can’t say much about other employees and volunteers as I didn’t spend much time with them but they are all nice and it is the first place where I talk openly about being autistic.

However, it’s surprising how a small detail in social situation can ruin this impression.

I sat at the table with a radio employee who I know briefly, her husband who I only just met today and another volunteer who also started recently but who does different days than me so we only just met. I presume the employee told her husband that I’m autistic, I’m not sure if the other volunteer knew but somehow I feel that he did (people talk, remember).

Anyway… I was making an effort to follow the conversation at the table and it wasn’t going very well. At some point for example we were talking about being on a live radio show and next moment the other people were exchanging experience from their children education. I had no idea how the conversation moved from one subject to another, even though I was really listening.

However, I managed to say a few things here and there and to ask a couple of questions. I was also very pleased with the fact that I’m managing not to play a comedian, which is what I used to do in social situations sometimes and then felt really bad about the fact that it still wasn’t helping me to make friends and on top of that I was always left with that uncomfortable thought that I won’t be able to keep up this persona for longer and that people will find out who I really am.

Obviously giving up on playing a comedian meant I became a rather boring person – and that’s why I believe autism is a disability, you can’t win with it; there’s always something that is wrong in social situations.

Anyway, I was sat at the table for 2.5h with those people and, although I was coping emotionally both with the feeling of not being the person who others may want to talk to and with noise, I was also getting rather bored myself. I was thinking I’d rather be at home browsing patterns online, but as it was a fundraising event I wanted to be there and show my support. And part of that included being social, so I thought, ok, I’m playing this neurotypical game here to show that I care and that I want to make an effort. And then…

At the end of the event we had a ruffle with a few prizes and everyone from our table got a strip of 5 tickets but we didn’t win anything. I then folded my strip into a zigzag and started playing with it and I realised that if I tap it slightly in the middle it jumps! I found it really exciting and as the conversation at our table went quiet I showed that to others saying that I’m actually quite glad that I didn’t win anything because I can now play with my strip.

As I was doing it I really thought that they’ll join me in this game but they didn’t, they just looked away and started chatting. That made me feel really rejected. Not only like if I was different than everybody else but also like if people who knew about my diagnosis didn’t want to make any effort to make me happy, even for 30 seconds, not even after having a few drinks, while I was playing their game for 2.5h completely sober.

And the thing is that if that was in my previous work or anywhere else, I’d know not to do that and that people will see this behaviour as silly, but so far I felt I was really receiving support in the radio and that people there wanted to know who I really am, and now it all feels fake.

I don’t know what to do about that now. I kind of hope that they don’t read my blog, but then I’d like them to know how they made me feel, you know? The blog was a way for me to give myself a voice, yet it does feel very often that describing how neurotypicals make me feel is a minefield. Every time I am in a situation like this one I get frightened that I upset somebody and make things even worse. It feels to me that how I see the situation does not matter, that what matters is what other people think of me and that they think I’m being silly and maybe even petty.

I now wonder what to do about that. It does feel to me that to be myself I need to entirely give up on human contract, that it will never work for me. And because I know this is not possible, I am starting to have suicidal thoughts. Again, I don’t really want to die, I’m pretty sure of that, it’s only that I know that whatever I choose to do will always cause me problems. I feel like if I’m walking through a labyrinth where every exit is blocked.

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