I got frustrated

Photo by Amy McTigue

This post is going to be significantly more personal than many of my posts have been.

I am not employed. This is not something I am happy with, but it is something that is challenging to change. I do not have a college degree, as my undiagnosed aspergers made college extremely challenging, and in the end the college I was going to kicked me out. Not for grades, as my grades were very good until the administration started threatening me, but because of just how difficult I found it to cope with the environment and the methods I used to handle it. I have never recovered from that.

In my early 20’s I spent a couple of years working retail. I don’t know of anyone who likes to work retail, and everyone I worked with described it as it’s own brand of hell. That’s just the way it is. But for me, it was so much worse. At the time I still did not know that I was an aspie, and only had the vaguest of inklings that I might be. I did not have a way to conceptualize or verbalize how it was challenging and what it was doing to me. In retrospect – I lived in a constant, and I mean CONSTANT, state of burnout. My nerves were always fried, my emotions always on edge, my ability to handle myself always dangerously near a breaking point. I am not willing to do that to myself again.

I have a much better handle on why things were like that at this point. In general, for every day that I spend interacting with people (beyond brief, two-minute interactions with sales clerks or something) I require two days to recover. This is not a hard and fast rule and it does vary, but it works as a generalization. If I don’t get that I burn out, and I burn out fast. Not every aspie is like me as autism is different for everyone, but it’s how I work.

So, once in a while I peruse job postings to see if there’s anything that fits me, that I can get to, that maybe I could do. This time I decided to look for jobs assembling furniture, since I am quite good at that. I was rather pleased to see that they exist. Until, that is, I looked at the requirements. Right there, in all it’s textual glory, was the phrase “good relationship building skills.” Not as a preferred thing (they had those too) but as a requirement.

I do not have good relationship building skills. I’d like to, but I don’t. Without significant help it takes me a very long time to build even the simplest of relationships with people (1.5 years before I felt friendly and comfortable with my retail co-workers, over two years to begin to achieve that with many of the people I ride with in my horseback riding lessons). So while it maybe was not entirely fair of me, when I read that all I saw was a big, glaring sign saying “Aspies Not Welcome Here.” I’m sure whoever posted the job wasn’t thinking that. There’s a good chance it was just BS they put in just to have something to put in. Nonetheless, it was hurtful to me.

Here’s where it gets personal. Reading that wound up starting a chain reaction; it was the one snowball that starts the avalanche that was just waiting to happen. It cascaded into the utter hopelessness I so often feel at living in a world that feels like it doesn’t want me. I imagine all introverts know the frustration of living in an extroverted world; I have the frustration of living in a neurotypical world. A world that thinks it’s better to get rid of me (“cure” autism) than to make room for me. A world where my strengths just don’t matter, because it’s my weaknesses that keep getting hammered at, and it seems my weaknesses are all that the world at large cares about.

So I sat in my living room and cried at just how hopeless I felt. At how hard it is to feel like I’m worth anything, to keep from internalizing the messages that I am Less Than, to feel strength in who I am.

I want to change the world. I want people to stop thinking autism needs to be fought or cured, and start thinking that people on the autism spectrum have their own special strengths. Yeah, sometimes we do need some accommodation, but I think I should get to expect accessibility, rather than viewing it as a special favor when it happens. If I were to work, I would need to be able to spend the vast majority of my time entirely alone, or at least, not interacting at all. It would be nice if, instead of viewing that as some sort of fault, it could be viewed as “self motivation” or “independent work” or something.

Instead I’m told that if I want to assemble furniture, I have to be good at building relationships too. Thanks, world. I feel really welcome now.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “I got frustrated

  1. Tricia

    Ugh and double ugh. Yeah, the whole “building relationships” is a buzz phrase.

    I’m not sure if you’re looking for advice on the job search or just a place to vent. So for now, I’ll go with *hugs* from a distance (the type that doesn’t actually touch) 🙂 and warm fuzzies for you.

    • Admittedly, this was mostly venting and wishing things were different from how they are. Thank you for the hugs and warm fuzzies, they are appreciated. ^_^

      I want to think I’m open to advice, but I’m honestly not sure just how much I am. The advice I’ve gotten so far (“oh, it doesn’t really matter” and “you can bluff your way through it”) has been, shall we say, not helpful.

      • Tricia

        I can see how those aren’t helpful. Because those are two big assumptions to make and fingers to be crossed that it doesn’t come up later in some way to bit you.

        (My first retail job was at Waldenbooks. The woman hired after me was afraid of heights. She didn’t think it would be a big deal since climbing ladders was the last item on the “require” list and therefore assumed not a frequent thing. Except it was – several times a day, up and down the ladders to stock and re-stock books.)

        I was thinking more along the lines of milking the contacts you do have for something that would fit you. Say, at the riding stable – do they need part time help repairing tack, etc, where you could work in the barn by yourself? Or mucking out a stall? Granted, neither is on my list of favorite things to do, but they were the first two that came to mind. Or if they don’t need the help at this time, do they know of a place that does? And since you’ve spent two years there, they’re going to be aware of you the person and you the disability (to jokingly borrow your phrase from an earlier post – stressing the joke part). Seriously though, it’s a train of thought. You like working with your hands and building – do you know anyone in the construction field that you can apprentice to? Many of those jobs are alone, where you’re the sub-contractor and don’t have to deal with new clients all the time.

        Anyway, just my thoughts 🙂

  2. I agree with Tricia that it is sometimes not what you know but who you know. As an adult Aspie myself I have had trouble getting work when a neighbour offered a interview where he worked. I took it up and have worked there for 3 and a half years now. It helps that I spend most of my time working with just him but I do interact with everyone else there.

    I wouldn’t think the construction industry would be so good. There is lots of noise and dust around that might “trigger” you. And you do not really work alone, there is a small group (2 to 5 people) that you would be working with, not to mention other trades that may be on site at the same time (well that’s how it usually works down here in Australia). On large construction projects there is often a lot of social contact and barter that might be difficult. While I don’t want to turn you completely away from them, these are some of my experiences.

    More virtual hugs and best wishes from Down Under

  3. “for every day that I spend interacting with people”
    does that include Nee?

  4. In the situation with he furniture building, it may be worth going for the interview (horrible as they are) and telling the interviewer that you prefer to work alone, that you can be friendly but are not looking for a social life through your job. That also stresses that you won’t be a source of or party to workplace drama.

  5. luxi18

    I just stumbled across your site. I have a 5 year old with autism who was diagnosed when he was 4. I mean no disrespect, but I find the “anti-cure” mentality to be quite common among aspies. Everyone’s autism journey is different. If we had sat back and done nothing for our son, he would still be non verbal, completely unable to make friends. No he is super talkative and loves other kids. He still struggles, but wanting him to overcome as much as he can, “cure” him, if you will, is not a negative or horrible thing to do. I could go on and on about how much brighter his future looks, but it will really hurts to see so many high functioning ASDers look down upon those of us who are trying to help our kids. He will never be “typical,” but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and give him the best shot at life. I wish you the best.

    • While it’s true that I am not in favor of a “cure” mentality, I am entirely in favor of therapies, accommodations, assistance, and generally working and finding ways to overcome our challenges. I am honestly not sure what I’ve said that has given you the impression that I am not in favor of those things.

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