It's the holidays again. A time for togetherness. For family and friends. That's what they say, right? Unfortunately, that's not the reality for many of us. Several years ago, I wrote a post about the way in which loneliness and the holidays often seem to mix for me, and many others like me. That post has gotten a bit of attention online this year, and appears to have struck a chord with many. So, I thought I'd share it here.
Feeling sad and alone around the holidays?
Loneliness has been a constant companion in my life. I laugh when I read the news articles which try to say that people with Asperger's "have no desire for human companionship." I can't speak for all — it may be true of some, but it has certainly not been true for me. It can feel like a curse — having the acute desire for human interaction, togetherness, but constantly struggling to make it happen.
The holiday season has always been especially difficult for me. There are many expectations created by the stories and depictions in the popular media of the "joyous" holiday season. For me, it's often been difficult to reconcile these expectations with my actual reality.
This is the time for the parties that you're not invited to. Or if you are invited — you feel like an outsider as everyone else mixes and mingles when you find yourself tongue tied in a corner. It's a time for family celebrations, which don't measure up to the idealized "Currier & Ives" pictures people have in their minds.
It's the time of year when you have to wrap your mind around how to maneuver your way around the social dilemmas that give even socially gifted people trouble.
Through this holiday season, I've been thinking about this a lot. How many people are out there suffering, because they feel that Christmas should be like the movies? Or because they feel even more acutely the desire to "fit in," and feel even more acutely their failure to do so? Or simply feel more alone, when everyone is feeling togetherness, and you're at home alone...
I was rooting around in some of my old papers this afternoon, and I found a journal entry I wrote in my teens, which I think echoes what many people with Asperger's feel, perhaps more intensely this time of year.
"I get so very sad, yet no one around seems to understand. I really wish I had someone. The only way I have to explain it is through my writing or through my stories, and that is hard to express. I know any one who has known me for any amount of time gets tired of my stories. I don't know. It's so lonely to spend my life jumping back and forth from here to there.
I never have had a chance to have a normal life...Why do I have to be so different?
I spend all my life trying to find someone who will understand, but because of my life, I wind up having to give them a tutorial about how I act and why. I know it sounds pompous and stupid, but what else have I to do?
I find no one else like me in my life. I have nothing in common with anyone...I feel trapped in a world that judges me at every turn and yet never bothers to try to help or understand.
My whole life has been spend trying to figure other people out. I've always felt left out. I'm a watcher because that's all I really know how to be — all I really can be. People say I'm stuck up and a snob. I don't like to think that I am.
I love people. I'd love to be with them, but my life is so different, my motivations so strange. I feel I have to compromise some of myself to get along with anyone else...So I am left with two options — to live always compromising parts of myself, never getting to be myself, or to live my life lonely and alone.
Even though I know have gifts, there are times when I'd do anything to give up those gifts just so can be a normal person...People tell me that they can't talk to me because it takes too much energy, but does that mean that I will be forced to spend the rest of my life being a hermit? Will there ever be anyone who is willing to work to be with me? Will anyone climb the mountain?"
Back when I wrote this, I had no idea why I was different. I just knew that I was. I thought I was alone in feeling this way. In the last five years, I've come to learn that I'm not. Through the miracle of the internet, I've learned that there are many more of you out there.
So, if any one of you is feeling alone tonight, remember that perception isn't always reality. When I thought I was alone in the world, I wasn't. When I thought that no one else would ever understand or feel the way I did, I was wrong. It was just a question of finding the other people like me.
The idealized depictions of Christmas aren't the reality for most, if not all, so don't think that you're the odd ball because your holiday is different. We all have our disappointments in life — but we can find our way. We can find our own crowd, and our own way of celebrating — that's fine.
And even if you have to celebrate alone — that's OK. Love yourself enough to know that a celebration alone can be just as valuable as one with others — it's all in how you handle it. If living with Asperger's teaches us anything, it teaches us how to live with ourselves. For some of us, our only friends are ourselves. You can focus on being alone, or you can make the most of what you do have — you.
You can go out and watch people. You can stay home and watch Star Trek. You can write, or listen to music that makes you happy. Or you can find a small, trusted group — that understand you and overlook your eccentricities.
In any event, the holidays don't have to be sad. Don't be lonely. There are others of us out there. There are others who understand. If you're lonely, my thoughts and prayers are with you, as are the thoughts and prayers of many others out there. You are not alone.
I'm praying that each and every one of you have a wonderful holiday season, alone or together.
Happy holidays to you all!
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