My excitement from finally saying in a public space that I’m autistic (my ‘Follow the cat.’ post here yesterday) led me to decide to tell a friend who I had not previously told. Her response, however, was not what I expected from her. She simply wanted to say to me that it’s possible to have social anxiety without being autistic.
I held my tongue pretty well, because from my knowledge of her I am willing to grant the benefit of the doubt that she just isn’t informed enough. I told her simply that was far from being all there was to my story. I left it at that because I couldn’t handle furthering the conversation.
It does hurt getting this kind of reaction from a friend, though, especially seeing as we live in the same house. It does put me a bit ill at ease, wishing I just hadn’t attempted to talk to her about it.
As I understand it social anxiety by itself would mean a person could read and understand others without difficulty and had the knowledge of how to interact successfully in the range of social settings, but anxiety would cause them to fear negative reaction and act fearful. That’s not the case for me. When I ask someone if they are mad at me when it turns out they are not, it isn’t because I’m overrun with anxiety making me think irrationally. It’s because I literally cannot tell, even in my closest friends, the difference between: mad, tired, bored, sad, pained. If I don’t ask, I won’t know. Asking isn’t a sign I’m being irrationally anxious; in fact asking prevents me from becoming anxious.
This is not to say I don’t deal with anxiety socially. I do. I have anxiety about how badly or not my stutter will present itself. I have a lot of anxiety about how to word things; whether I will be understood and interpreted correctly. I have anxiety as to whether people will be put off by my need to pace around during conversation. I’m even more anxious when I’m in a setting where I can’t pace.
I feel at some point I will want to try and clear this up with my friend, but right now I’m not prepared to do so.