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Reflecting on Isolation at Christmas

MJDeanMJDean Posts: 40Member Courageous
edited December 2017 in Guest blogs

My name is Maxwell and I am on the autistic spectrum with Aspergers. I have a huge passion and interest in films which I explore in my own personal blog. These have become an important way for me to manage my anxiety.

Autism can be extremely isolating. With this isolation can come frustration. I have so much to say but it can hard to sometimes to express my feelings in spoken words. This not only happens when I am anxious during job interviews but if I am in a new social situation with a large group of new people. This includes Christmas parties. 

This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy my own company and interests. I appreciate that not everyone will enjoy watching grisly Italian horror films such as Zombie Flesh Eaters or the B-Movie classic Plan 9 from Outer Space on Christmas Day as much as I do! 

adult male in blue jumper and grey trousers crouching down on floor in a kitchen next to a black and white dog

It might not come as surprise that I am not a fan of nightclubs; I only went once during university and that was more than enough for me. Finding myself alone in my student flat when all my course mates went out partying, however, became extremely hard for me to cope with. It was perhaps the first time in my life when I felt truly alone. Not only were my family all the way in Northern Ireland but my feelings left me confused, severely depressed and lonely. Thankfully I was able to overcome my social anxiety a bit more in second and third year with the help of my course-mates.

By speaking to student services about my mental health I was also eventually referred to speech and language therapy. Though this also helped with my confidence, I was not yet diagnosed with autism. Indeed, I was not diagnosed until several years after graduating from university, in July 2016. 

Due to my social challenges, I not only find it hard to make new friends but in forming relationships with the opposite sex. I don’t think I will ever be the kind of person who can simply walk up to a girl in a bar and strike up a friendly conversation. In a society in which ‘lad’ culture is still so prevalent and where the image which the media and often wider society, so often sells, teaches men that to be successful you must be arrogant and even aggressive, shy guys like me tend to disappear among the crowd. 

Christmas is also a time when family comes together, and this is why it one of my favourite times of the year, yet it also makes me reflect on what a Christmas present can never give me. That is a girlfriend to talk to when things get tough and be by my side.  

I know that I can talk to my family about many things but they will never able to provide the intimacy and emotional or sexual wellbeing that comes with a romantic relationship or partner. 

Similarly, one of the main reasons why I want to get a job is the opportunity to join an inclusive team. I want to once again feel a sense of belonging, to work together to realise shared goals and feel a sense of collective achievement. This is something I have sorely missed since I left my last job in July 2016. 

It is also extra frustrating as I know that, like so many other autistic individuals, I have so much to offer in the right environment. To put it in a nutshell, being socially isolated has a wide range of effects on my feelings and mood; from difficulty managing my self-esteem to confidence and recognising my self-worth. I sometimes get frustrated with myself that I am not able to do certain things which I feel, so many others take for granted. 

At the end of the day, I just want to be like everyone else and in doing so, fulfil my potential. I firmly believe that society should be more flexible and inclusive so we all can find our place in the world. 

We all have something we can offer. It is time that society welcomes and ultimately, empowers everyone, disabled or not.

For me, a new sense of belonging is the greatest Christmas gift I could ever receive. 

Can you relate to Max’s story? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Replies

  • PatriciaPatricia Posts: 8Member Listener
    Did you watch 'Employable me?. Very inspiring it is for me to watch other disabled people being supported to find a job that works for them. Also I wonder if your poor mental health was improved when you finally got the right diagnosis? Getting my diagnosis finally after many years was the beginning of my mental health recovery. As my confidence grows with the knowledge of my disability plus practicing asking for what I need I have managed to do some voluntary work. I've had to accept that I am alone ( boyfriend didn't understand) but with work I don't have to be lonely or feel useless. Having said all that not looking forward to Xmas because everything stops.
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 689 Listener
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  • Neil2017Neil2017 Posts: 158Member Courageous
    I am not sure if I am undiagnosed on the Autisim Disorder Spectrem as I can relate to a lot of what is said by @MJDean and people keep hinting that I am autistic. 

    I have always struggled in groups in social situations, but then with a lot of males it seems like hard work trying to get a conversation going. Others don’t ask me questions and just babble on, and I don’t like the aggressiveness or rudeness of some people.

    i have only only ever been to a nightclub about twice in my life which I did not enjoy, yet I have a very wide taste in listening to music at home.  Similar with films. I can watch a wide range but sometimes find the sound effects in theatres weird.

    In work environments even before the loss of my sight I have been marked down in appraisals and told I am too quiet. But conversely I can write like talking the hind leg off a donkey. And I am very good at maths. Plus I do not enjoy the politics of the working environment and just want to get on with the job.

    i also get frustrated with myself that I know I find it extremely difficult to do some things which seem so easy to others.
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  • Barrylad1957Barrylad1957 Posts: 100Member Courageous
    @MJDean
    Hello again, Max; I thank the gods that there is, after all, another human out there who can watch Plan 9 From Outer Space whenever the feeling grabs them.
    Personally, I think that isolation for individuals - whatever the reason, be it due to actual physical or mental disability, the area where you live, bereavement, or just the need to be alone (as was the case with me until fairly recently) is one of the problems that really should not exist today. When my physical illness began, the onset was unexpected and rapid, it (and the sudden reliance on strong meds) depressed me, and I self-isolated, developing some proper sneaky techniques to avoid social interaction with my friends, siblings and significant others, spending the vast majority of my days tucked away inside my home with just my trusty Shih Tzu for company; after recent inclusion and intervention strategies from a local welfare group, I have realised that, rather than solving anything, my hiding away only exacerbated my condition. I feel fortunate, after reading your post, that I was, at least, given a solution to its cause. Autism, from what I can deduce, is a different kettle of fish altogether, I've mentioned on here before that I have a grandson who is on the spectrum, but he lives in an actively manic and happy household, and I realise that it would be near impossible for him to live independently. It must be awful for those who spend an entire lifetime doing what I did for little more than a year, their health issues leaving them with little in the way of choice, socially. I see from your photo that you share your life with a dog, and I'm not ashamed to say that my canine companion probably saved my life (although he will probably never fully understand how uplifting it was for me to witness him staring at me for hours, eating any meal or item of food I left unattended for even a few seconds, and barking at his own farts). If you enjoy post-apocalyptic movies, Max, have a look at The Rover, if you havent already. Have a great Christmas, and a better year in 2018. Thanks for sharing.
  • MJDeanMJDean Posts: 40Member Courageous
    Thank you @Barrylad1957

    Plan 9 is a great movie. Isolation can certainly be tough, thank you for sharing your own thoughts and experiences.

    Hopefully 2018 will be a better and more positive year for me and I can have the confidence to get out there more :)
  • MJDeanMJDean Posts: 40Member Courageous
    Neil2017 said:
    I am not sure if I am undiagnosed on the Autisim Disorder Spectrem as I can relate to a lot of what is said by @MJDean and people keep hinting that I am autistic. 

    I have always struggled in groups in social situations, but then with a lot of males it seems like hard work trying to get a conversation going. Others don’t ask me questions and just babble on, and I don’t like the aggressiveness or rudeness of some people.

    i have only only ever been to a nightclub about twice in my life which I did not enjoy, yet I have a very wide taste in listening to music at home.  Similar with films. I can watch a wide range but sometimes find the sound effects in theatres weird.

    In work environments even before the loss of my sight I have been marked down in appraisals and told I am too quiet. But conversely I can write like talking the hind leg off a donkey. And I am very good at maths. Plus I do not enjoy the politics of the working environment and just want to get on with the job.

    i also get frustrated with myself that I know I find it extremely difficult to do some things which seem so easy to others.

    Thank you for your thoughts Neil

    Sorry to hear you find socialising difficult too, what kind of films do you like to watch? :)
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 689 Listener
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  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 7,732Administrator Scope community team
    Hi guys, let's all make sure that we speak to one another with respect regardless of whether we agree with one another.  

    Here is a reminder of the community guidelines. It is important to remember that words read online don’t always convey tone or context and so may be misinterpreted, therefore it is important to consider language and audience.

    We want the community to be a safe and supportive place. Please make sure your messages respect other users’ views and suggestions, even if you don’t agree with them.

    Take care to present your views tactfully and remember that humour may be misinterpreted.

    @Judicat63 this community and Scope as a whole is there for all disabled people and we offer support and information to people with any impairment. This guest post was written by a person with an ASD diagnosis and so is from his personal point of view.

    I am sorry to hear that you feel so lonely and isolated, in my village there is a group who puts on a christmas dinner for anyone who is on their own, my family volunteer with them every christmas eve, I wonder if there is anything like this near you? Would you be interested in finding out more about groups local to you? If so, let me know what area you live in and we can see what we can find.



    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • Neil2017Neil2017 Posts: 158Member Courageous
    Hi @MJDean

    thanks for your reply.

    i like a variety of genres of film, but mainly like a good drama or where this is a good story line. I recently watched two of the comic book superhero type films on Thor which I am surprised I liked. Also watched Jackie a film on part of the life of the wife of assassinated president John F Kennedy. The funniest film I have seen this year is Mindhorn a kind of spoof detective of 70s and 80s tv detectives with appearances by Kenneth Branagh and Steve Coogan
  • TopkittenTopkitten Posts: 1,003Member Pioneering
    Loneliness and isolation becomes magnified at times of celebration with Xmas being the most difficult to deal with as everywhere you go, everywhere yo look and even the TV and Radio blast it at you constantly as to how things should be.

    Whether they should be or not, for us they simply aren't. Whether we are mildly or seriously disabled the community doesn't permit us to join in the way we should be allowed to do. I suspect we are an embarrassment. We have illnesses and conditions that cannot be cured despite the advances in science and the claims extolled by everyone as to how things are so good in that respect.

    There ARE things we can do to help ourselves but they are so costly to us and so difficult to achieve that it is difficult to even try.

    As for the remarks about how isolation should no longer be an issue. My opinion is that with more and more people using the technology available to supplant the face to face aspect of life this is almost certain to get worse and was guaranteed to happen.

    Hopefully we can all try to make things better for ourselves as it is clear that society isn't going to help us except in the most meaningless aspects. Oddly, religion is the one aspect of life that hasn't changed and at times and I envy those that have found faith.

    TK
    "I'm on the wrong side of heaven and the righteous side of hell" - from Wrong side of heaven by Five Finger Death Punch.
  • DasiydoDasiydo Posts: 94Member Courageous
    I sometimes feel lonely too with Dyspraxia and half deaf but first Christmas with family as half deaf but other promble got leave my cats Sydnee and Annbel on there own for Christmas Day return back in boxing Day and not happy about it so feel my Christmas is ruin
    Sometimes even with family I feel lonely and upset
    V.shaw
  • MJDeanMJDean Posts: 40Member Courageous
    edited February 2018
    Dasiydo said:
    I sometimes feel lonely too with Dyspraxia and half deaf but first Christmas with family as half deaf but other promble got leave my cats Sydnee and Annbel on there own for Christmas Day return back in boxing Day and not happy about it so feel my Christmas is ruin
    Sometimes even with family I feel lonely and upset

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts @Dasiydo

    Sorry to hear about having to leave your pets and also feel lonely. I hope you have a nice Christmas with your family though. I know that even with family, things can be tough, however, it can be the same with me. I also know that my own pets can make me feel less lonely so understand your difficulty leaving them. 

    Have you talked to your family about your feelings of loneliness? 
  • MJDeanMJDean Posts: 40Member Courageous
    Topkitten said:
    Loneliness and isolation becomes magnified at times of celebration with Xmas being the most difficult to deal with as everywhere you go, everywhere yo look and even the TV and Radio blast it at you constantly as to how things should be.

    Whether they should be or not, for us they simply aren't. Whether we are mildly or seriously disabled the community doesn't permit us to join in the way we should be allowed to do. I suspect we are an embarrassment. We have illnesses and conditions that cannot be cured despite the advances in science and the claims extolled by everyone as to how things are so good in that respect.

    There ARE things we can do to help ourselves but they are so costly to us and so difficult to achieve that it is difficult to even try.

    As for the remarks about how isolation should no longer be an issue. My opinion is that with more and more people using the technology available to supplant the face to face aspect of life this is almost certain to get worse and was guaranteed to happen.

    Hopefully we can all try to make things better for ourselves as it is clear that society isn't going to help us except in the most meaningless aspects. Oddly, religion is the one aspect of life that hasn't changed and at times and I envy those that have found faith.

    TK

    Hi @Topkitten

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you on how challenging isolation can be so hard for those within the disabled community. Hopefully, through sharing our stories on this online community we can combat loneliness. 
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