Friend or special interest
Q: For autistics, is someone who is a special interest
the same as what neurotypicals call a friend?
Note: the images in this post are animated GIFS, which you
might need to manually activate to fully understand the answer.
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When someone is my special interest
(Martin, my son, and even my patients),
I feel like this about them:
And my heart goes like this
when I think of them—even when
they are a special-interest-friend
and not a romantic interest:
And I am okay when they get close to me:
I can be myself around them:
I like to study them, for my own pleasure
and so I can understand them better.
And I like to be in pretty much
constant communication with them:
And when I spend time with them,
I feel energized:
This is very different from when someone is a friend.
I do like my friends, of course!
But when I say “yes” to doing something with them,
even just a conversation on the phone, having tea, or
taking a walk, the first thing I have to consider is if I have
enough social credits (spoons) available in order not to
have a meltdown and end up at home like this:
Or I might get snappy with my friend,
which never goes well with neurotypicals,
and can result in me seeming like a lunatic
or an unkind person—which I’m not!
Recently, I was fired from my dentist due to having a meltdown. ☹️
People are more tolerant when you tell them
you are sorry you had a meltdown.
But even still, it makes me feel awkward,
and it’s not conducive to relationships.
Especially in social situations with friends,
I am still likely to feel awkward:
And I might get overstimulated:
And I often feel like I am juggling 10 balls
as I manage social interactions with friends:
And yes, I am still likely to
mess something up socially:
But I usually do have a good time.
Nonetheless, I am totally relieved when it is over!
After I am done seeing a friend,
I feel like this:
And I will need some recovery time in order to function fully.
Which means I cannot see friends the day before I work.
With a special interest, I don’t have to spend social credits.
I don’t even have to do anything, other than being my authentic self.
All animated images
by Rafael Mantesso