I have awakened to my loneliness and the despair is overwhelming. I simultaneously experience a desire and a strong disinterest in relating to others socially. I am straddling two worlds both of which cause me pain, now. Desolate despair darkens the doorstep of my emotional entity.

I have been alone most of my life. Even when in the company of others or in relationship with or to others, I have been alone. Socially alone. Emotionally alone. Void of feeling pleasure from social interaction in a world that values this above almost all else. Walking down the street “blind” to the way of the world. Walking down the street listening to the music that soothes my soul having no choice but to be oblivious to the apparently otherwise obvious as far as others are concerned.

I dare not admit how disinterested I often am or how little I often care. I get bored so easily. No matter how great the anxiety when around people, now, ever-increasingly there is a pervasively-painful loneliness that I feel, at times, when alone. It feels different from anything I’ve known before. Is this progress? Does this mean I am moving forward? It is so hard to measure and define this when I am truly the only person in the world that knows exactly how I feel or don’t feel. It can be very challenging to try to explain this at the best of times, let alone the worst of times – the gut-wrenching grief-stricken times that I experience so often now.

Awakening to despair. Awakening to an aching-longing sense of loss. A loss that represents my isolation. An isolation that has existed all my life and only been known or realized in stages, or to differing degrees as I grew older. Suddenly it is screamingly- loud. It is obvious and abundantly clear — now what? I am a 44 year old egocentric child, socially lost and too busy inside myself to appreciate the views and feelings of others. What am I supposed to do with this?

In awakening to my loneliness and my despair I have also awakened to a new and very profound understanding of what it means to be egocentric. Of what it means to know what I think and most often to not stop and think about how others may think. Though in many different ways, via rote intellectual deduction I make up for this in behaviour, the feelings are vastly different underneath it all. I detest how this feels. There is disdain for the inaccurate assumptions of others about this aspect of my experience.

It is difficult, taxing, and tiring trying to pretend to be “normal”. It is also heart-wrenching in terms of awakening to the reality of difference. I still do not understand how others feel when they socialize, for example, and try as I might to understand this, I just don’t. Knowing this is lonely. Knowing this is isolating. Knowing this is lonely.

What can be changed? Can I learn to feel in relation to others as opposed to just feeling stuff inside of myself that I’ve come to know is cut-off from others and has little or nothing to do with them? Can I learn to understand, feel and derive some pleasure out of socialization? I rather doubt it. I know though that I can continue to learn how to “pretend” more effectively to be “normal”. This allows me to “connect” with others or work with others and interact with others but in so doing, I awake even more to my loneliness because with this increased exposure to others comes a much more profound and deeper understanding of my differences. Insert hit brick wall here. For many professionals not well-versed with Asperger’s they continue to pull at me believing that my lack of feeling is due to a failure to bond with my mother, the abuse I suffered as a child, anything and everything but what it is really due to. Notwithstanding the fact that I fully realize and admit that these events in my life have served to further bolster my lack of ability to bond, to attach, to “get it”. Accepting the Asperger’s, even in the face of their trying to coax me otherwise, is difficult and painful. I wish they could be right but I know, as only I can know, that they are not correct. So as I work to change what I can in therapy they misinterpret that too. They seem to think or need to believe that changes in my behaviour mean that I am getting more social or something. What I’m really doing is learning how not to alienate others and how to “appear normal”. It is a process of rote mapping. It is me, studying what works and what doesn’t. Listening to what others say they need/want me to do and then trying to model that back so that others can be pleased instead of angered, frustrated and or distanced. There is some empty kind of satisfaction to this. I don’t understand it but it allows me to be “accepted”. Well, the “me” that is “acting normal” that is, not the “real” me. I’m not sure what the entire difference is between the rejection and the acceptance but overall acceptance seems to flow easier on the part of others. There is less resistance to my presence in this case, I think?

So… where does this “pretending to be normal” get me? Where does this “pretending to be normal” leave me? Lonely. Feeling like a fake, a fraud, a misrepresentation of myself. It leaves me as alienated as I was when I started, only in a somewhat different way. Instead of being rejected by others and alone, I just feel alone. The “social” acceptance of others has not impacted me beyond a basic intellectual understanding of my supposed standing of “belonging”. I have no idea what “belonging” really feels like though. But, it seems I am supposed to want this, right? I mean this HAS TO be part of the equation that is “interacting with others” does it not?

Awakening to my loneliness on so many different levels. There is gargantuan grief. There is a significant amount of emotion. My emotion. Largely empty emotion. Aimless emotion. A hollow-hurting, so hollow it echoes inside of the shadows of who others want me to be. Emotion that just hurts in a free-floating kind of way. The kind of emotion that is definitely “all about me”. The kind of emotion that doesn’t leave room for anyone else. This leaves me sad, somehow. Just so sad. At times like this I truly believe that awareness is not all it’s cracked up to be. The largess of loneliness that lingers leaves me lamenting loss after loss after mounting (and in consideration and anticipation of future) loss.

A well of loneliness that reminds me of a poem I wrote in grade 10 English class. We were told to write about loneliness. I wasn’t so sure I knew what that was then. So I began my poem with: “Loneliness is being alone and not liking it…” Somehow, I thought that was representative of my experience. Up until a few years ago I did not have any awareness or feeling of not liking being alone.

In this awakening to my loneliness I think I now understand on some level that, at times, I am sad that I am alone so much and/or so alone in what I experience. (In terms of those around me) I don’t see that there is a solution to this however. And all that I write about this one aspect of experience is not meant to invalidate how much positive and very pleasurable experience I have when alone.

In this awakening I am finding myself in the dictionary an awful lot looking up words like compassion, empathy, connectedness, connection, relationship, fun, play, imagination, socialization, friendship, like, love, and on and on. So, I educate myself further in terms of the intellectual meaning of words (most of which I’ve always understood intellectually) that I still (with the exception of some compassion) do not know how to feel. Knowing that I have learned ways to go through the motions of what these “feelings” would look like hurts. It leaves me feeling that much lonelier for having stepped out from behind a wall of glass that was, at least, predictable, and yes, safe.

Awakening to loneliness and half wishing I could turn back. Here is where I am trapped. Trapped, it seems, between worlds. Trapped between the “normal” world and the autistic world. Scared to death too. Which way do I turn now? It seems that I turn to their world (in therapy) for a few hours a day (when I can do it, and sustain it though I do not feel any differently) a few days a week and to my world the rest of the hours and days of the week.

I now know loneliness in both worlds. Am I getting anywhere?

© Ms. A.J. Mahari 2001