Hello everyone. It’s been quite a while since I’ve made a blog post.
I’ve been trying to make a blog post for a while, but then I’d burnout, or something would flare up in my life. But, then there’d also be moments where everything was fine, but like a muscle, I had just gotten so used to not writing that I’d just locked up, I kinda forgot how to do it. So I just didn’t write.
And so time built up, it’s been a few months, and I’ve still been trying to write something. But I realized the biggest problem I was having with writing is I wasn’t pouring myself into it, I wasn’t just doing it, I was overthinking it. I was thinking “well I haven’t posted in a while so I can’t just jump back into it again, I have to explain myself.” But why? I’ve made countless posts on social media updating on my life, and the issues in it that are completely out of my control, so why can’t I let that be enough? Why do I always feel the need to explain myself?
I’m not very good at keeping friends. Allistic friends, mostly. I work differently than them, I am wired differently than them, so to someone who is not familiar with differences like mine, I can be offputting. People are afraid of change, that rings very true for myself, but I think it holds true to everyone in a way. Like birds, we flock towards our own kind. We go towards people that are like us before anything else. That doesn’t mean that a friendship between completely different people cannot happen— it can and it does— but it’s natural to mostly surround yourself towards people who are like you. We all just want to relate to someone. So I’m not offended when allistic people don’t know how to be my friend and I don’t know how to be theirs, it’s neither of our faults. But I’ve lost a lot of friends, and when a friendship ends I put a lot of blame on myself. I blame myself for being too different, too talkative, too blunt, too bad with boundaries, too annoying, too one sided, too weird, too autistic. I’ve spent my life mimicking, and while it’s not as bad now, I still find myself monitoring myself; trying to filter myself even though my brain was wired to work otherwise. I’ve hurt enough feelings and I’ve felt bad countless times that now I’m hesitant to be blunt, I’m hesitant to give my opinion, I try my darnedest to be appropriate and keep my words gentle. I have trouble saying no, I have trouble setting boundaries. I’m so terrified of losing people— of hurting people, of pushing people away—that I lose myself in the process. I maintain a life motto of and preach to people about being yourself, that it’s better to be liked for being yourself than to be liked for someone you’re not, and all that. And I still believe these things, these things matter very much to me and I hold them very true, but I feel like I can’t take my own advice.
When it’s been drilled into your head all your life that you are wrong, that you are broken, that being different is bad, and that it is always *you* and no one else that is the reason for every problem—no matter how untrue—it’s hard to shake that. When you’ve had enough rejection your brain stops seeing it as just a natural and faultless part of life but rather something to do with you. When you’ve learned conflicting messages, each equally efficient in its affect on you, it’s hard to stick with just one.
When you’ve had your flaws pointed out to you your whole life— even if they’re not even flaws at all— you begin to point them out to yourself. And you obsess over them. You monitor them. You fear them. You berate yourself for them. And in the process, you isolate yourself.
I’ve lost friends so many times that now I obsess over every possible way I could lose the ones I currently have. I’ve said the wrong thing so many times I obsess over every possible way I could mess up what I’m going to say next and I obsess over what I’ve just said until I can find a mistake. I’ve been second guessed so many times, so now I do it myself. I’ve had to apologize for things my whole life—even when it’s unnecessary; especially when it’s unnecessary— and now I just do it before I have to. I’ve had to explain myself so much that now I do it before I’m asked to. I’ve failed at social interaction so many times that I avoid it altogether so that way I can’t fail. I’ve been bullied, so I’ve become my biggest bully.
I’ve had enough bad experiences to develop severe, crippling anxiety over it.
I have social anxiety disorder, and a very severe case of it.
Its disheartening how common SAD is amongst autistic people. It’s disheartening that so many autistic people have been through the same things as me, especially the fact bad, mean people may be able to walk free of consequence and remorse, we still relive it. We relive it every day.
Some of you may know this already, but I am a huge musical theatre nerd. I love doing it, I love listening to it, I love the scripts and the routine of it, I love getting to be a different character— everything about it, I just love it. I have loved it for as long as I can remember. But anyways, my favorite musical for the past few months has been Dear Evan Hansen. I started listening to it because Ben Platt originated the titular character— he’s so amazing, okay. I’ve loved and admired him all the way back to Pitch Perfect— but I had no idea what it was really about. But the first song I listened to was “Waving through a window” and I didn’t like, full blown cry, but I did cry a little, and I certainly wanted to cry more because I was just, so overcome with emotion. It is, first of all, incredibly beautiful, and I could listen to it... for forever (badum tsss, if you know Dear Evan Hansen you will get the reference), which I probably will. But, second of all, the lyrics explain social anxiety near perfectly, and just so beautifully.
“I’ve learned to slam on the break, before I even turn the key. Before I make the mistake. Before I leave with the worst of me.”
That’s it. That’s exactly it. That’s exactly how it is, what I do.
I’m so petrified of crashing that I don’t even get in the car. I’m so afraid of failure that I just don’t try. And when I do, I have to fight every urge to give up; I have to fight every overwhelming urge to just run away, to shut myself off and shut everything away. I’m so afraid of being isolated by people that I isolate myself so they can’t. My body prepares me for the worst before it’s even happened, before I can even experience it, or the good, or anything for that matter. I’m already slamming on the break before the key has even been turned.
“Give them no reason to stare. No slipping up if you slip away. So I’ve got nothing to share, no I’ve got nothing to say.”
How can you mess up a social situation if you just don’t go? That’s what my brain tells me every day. “No slipping up if you slip away” is exactly how I think. That’s my internal monologue.
People can’t stare at me if I don’t interact with them at all. I can’t mess things up if I just shut myself away. Nothing can go wrong if I do nothing.
But it’s isolating. You can’t have a bad experience if you experience nothing, but...you’ve also experienced nothing.
“Step out, step out of the sun if you keep getting burned. Step out, step out of the sun because you’ve learned.”
Once again, so perfectly explained. If I step out of the sun I cannot be burned by it. If I push people away they cannot reject me. If I don’t leave the house I can’t make any mistakes outside of it.
But one also needs at least a bit of sun now and then to grow and survive.
“On the outside always looking in. Will I ever be more than I’ve always been? ‘Cause I’m tap-tap-tapping on the glass, and waving through a window.
Try to speak but nobody can hear, so I wait around for an answer to appear. While I'm watch-watch-watching people pass. I'm waving through a window. Can anybody see? Is anybody waving back at me?”
Just because you’re afraid of something doesn’t mean you don’t crave it. Some people like horror movies because they like the feeling of being scared. I like interaction, in reasonable doses; I also crave it. I crave experiencing the world. But what I want so badly is also the thing I fear. This chorus perfectly outlines how isolating and frustrating social anxiety is. You’re always on the other side of the glass, and though you’ve put yourself there, you don’t really want to be there. You’ve isolated yourself but you want to be surrounded, even though it’s the very thing you were avoiding. It’s confusing and it’s frustrating and it’s utterly painful. It is a constant fight between fear and desire, and it is exhausting. I wouldn’t wish this on even my worst enemy.
“We start with stars in our eyes; we start believing that we belong. But every sun doesn't rise, and no one tells you where you went wrong.”
The first perspective we have is our own; we all begin innocent. We all begin believing everyone thinks, looks, acts, talks (etc. etc.) like us, but that is not the case. We believe the best in everyone and every situation, some people more intense than others. And it’s the highest towers that come crashing down the hardest.
Some people fit in a mold, others don’t, and others wildly don’t. I am someone who wildly doesn’t. I’ve always stood out, even amongst desperate attempts to stand in, I’ve always been so utterly transparent to everyone around me. I was a very naive child, probably more than other children. I believed everyone was kind, because I didn’t know how to be mean, so I assumed that it just wasn’t an option.
I believed everyone was like me because I didn’t know any better, and that is what a lot of people maintain still to this day, but not everyone is like me and not everyone is kind.
“No one tells you where you went wrong” they just let you know you’ve made a mistake. I’ve been made aware of my (sometimes spectacular) failures in social interaction, but I’ve never known what it is I get wrong. What makes someone bad at socializing? Is it subjective? Who gets to decide?
This line also rings very true to just being autistic (Evan isn’t canonically autistic, but he’s close to it. It’s quite implied and he’s also left ambiguous enough that anyone can read him however they want) allistic people see in between the lines, and so they expect you to also, but they forget not everyone sees what they see. I don’t see anything there!
Often I misunderstand an allistic person and they let me know I’ve misunderstood them, but they don’t tell me why nearly as often. It’s like we speak completely different languages; there’s a gap between us.
“When you're falling in a forest and there's nobody around, do you ever really crash, or even make a sound?”
This bridge is heartbreaking and powerful. These lyrics reference a plot of the musical, which is that Evan fell out of a tree and broke his arm, but it also speaks to the part of social anxiety that is so debilitating (even though it all is, of course), which is the insecurity; the doubt, the constantly questioning yourself, the feeling of insignificance.
These lyrics, to me, are a significant-to-the-musical way of asking “do I matter?” And that’s a question I’ve asked myself an infinite amount of times.
I love this song so dearly, it’s become like my personal theme song. Also Owl City (one of my favorite musicians since childhood and fellow autistic person) covered this song so that’s one more reason it’s awesome.
After I listened to this song a billion times, I started listening to the other songs a billion times (I still do, constantly) and reading all about this musical and watching whatever I could of it online, and it’s just...so good. It’s just so good. That is an understatement but I cannot quite put it into words how beautiful and close to heart it is. Everything is so good, the music, the writing, the acting, the cast— all of it, it’s all just so, so good. It is some of the best representation I’ve ever seen, because it’s accurate, but also more importantly, it doesn’t demonize nor overcoddle neurodivergent people. Every one of the main teenagers in the story can be read as neurodiverse (I read them all as autistic), and none of them are without flaws. They’re all very morally grey characters, and that is just that. I’ve rarely seen neurodivergent characters and storylines handled so well.
To avoid this post turning into a 10 hour infodump, I’m gonna cut this short, but if you are interested in this musical, look it up and become obsessed with it for yourself. The storyline is simple yet complicated, and ultimately I just wanted to talk about that one song, but the whole musical has such important messages, both relatable and empowering ones, and it’s just so real and raw and beautiful. All the hype about it is, in my opinion, one hundred percent deserved.
The most important message for me about this musical is that everyone is important in their own right, and that no one is alone. And no matter how a situation goes, no matter how bumpy the road of life gets, just being you is enough. Everyday has good in it just by having the courage to be yourself.
Anxiety is an illness I will battle for the rest of my life. It isn’t fun, it will never go away, and some days it completely swallows me whole, but it doesn’t define me. It doesn’t dictate if my life is good or bad, only I can decide that. It may fight me tooth and nail, it may try to break me, but it hasn’t yet, and I am still fighting. If you are battling too, please know you are not alone in this. The thoughts in your head may seem so much louder and stronger than you, but just know you are just as loud, and just as strong.
I will not sugarcoat this. There aren’t a lot of positives except, like, maybe, I’m gonna be alert when I need to be. But I am sick, and I always will be. But I have two options: 1) I can just give up, let the anxiety win, and live a life of isolation and misery, or, 2) I can fight back as best as I can, be me despite the voices in my head telling me not to, celebrate victories both big and small, and try to make the best of every day and every situation.
My goal in life is to choose 2 as much as I possibly can.
And if all else fails, in the words of Evan Hansen, “at least you’re you, and that’s enough.”
I am working on seeing myself as good enough.