I would be the first person to admit that I’m an introvert, and strongly so. My close friends are well aware of this fact, and get that I may or may not be able to face a large gathering, depending on what else I’ve been dealing with. They’re actually really good about it, which makes it a lot easier.
But being an introvert is only the tip of the iceberg.
I’ll start with a story from my Mum, about something that happened when I was about 10 years old. I will refer to my best friend at the time as S for the purposes of this story.
I came home from school one day, and said to Mum
Me “S was crying today”
Mum “Do you know what it was about?”
Me “Not really sure, she wouldn’t tell me.”
Mum “So, what did you do?”
Me “I told her to stop”
Mum “Why did you do that?”
Me “Because it was annoying me”
This was followed by Mum explaining to me that that is NOT what you do when your best friend is crying, and then teaching me what to do instead.
Mum “The best thing you can do is sit down next to them and give them a hug”
Me “Do I have to?”
Mum “It doesn’t have to be a big one, just put your arm around their shoulders and squeeze lightly. Practice on me”
Me *puts arm around Mum robotically and sort of whacks her arm as a squeeze* – think Sheldon trying to be comforting, and you’ll get the idea
Mum “Ummmm no, not quite… you have to be more gentle, like this” *demonstrates the how to actually do it*
Me “And will this stop her crying?”
Mum “Possibly. But it might not, too”
Me “So why am I doing this?”
I don’t remember this, but it’s one of several similar stories that Mum has told me about what I was like as a kid. Social interaction is not something that has ever come naturally to me, clearly.
Mum got asked by my prep teacher whether I had been tested – because she was reasonably sure I fitted squarely into the category of Aspergers/ASD. Mum hadn’t, and the teacher said it might be a good idea, because then the school could provide me with support.
Mum decided not to get me tested. She has since told me that she didn’t want me to have to deal with the stigma associated with a diagnosis like Aspergers/ASD while I was going through school, and instead she started working really hard to help me improve my social skills. She figured that I would be able to explicitly learn the social stuff, if she took the time to teach me how. This included a lot of things, including “people watching” – I’d tell her what I saw, then she would tell/show me the stuff I missed. And over time, I got better. By the time I graduated high school, most of it came as automatically as it does for anyone else. I’d even mastered sarcasm as my main form of humour. I got 7s for our “intro to interpersonal micro skills” unit and both my counselling units at uni, and got commended by my lecturer for being a “natural” at it – if only he knew lol.
But as soon as I get overtired or stressed, I lose it ALL. I’ve got to the point now where I know when I’m in a state where I will not be able to keep up with social interactions, and I tell people.
And the social interactions are just the most obvious part of all this. I might go into all the details about my other little quirks in another post, because it would make this post way too long to do it here.