Life as a neurodivergent person can be fucking lonely. Most of the time, that’s a good thing. When you have sensory issues, dealing with fewer people tends to make things easier. Not easy mind you, but easier. I mean, people are a goddamn nightmare around 70% of the time, so the less I’m around them, the better. Other times, it’s not so good. When I say it’s “not so good”, I mean that finding a social situation I can navigate is so fucking hard that it makes grocery shopping before a snowstorm look attractive. And, finding a place where I actually fit in? Fucking forget about it.
Acceptance vs Fitting In
There is a fuck ton difference between those two, you know. While there are places where I’m accepted and appreciated, I don’t actually fit. And, by “fit” I mean a space where people know me, understand me, and are like me, i.e. fucking weird. I’d love a place where I don’t have to wear some kind of goddamn mask like the fucking Hamburglar and just be me. While I have never had an issue with gender or race-specific spaces–like a black student union on a college campus, for example–I’ve never really understood why they might be considered necessary. Or even a good thing. But, as I explore the extent of my neurodiversity, I’m starting to get it.
You Can’t Code-Switch for Weirdness
There are a lot of reasons why I don’t fit in various spaces I happen to occupy. For example, I work in academia but I have a distinctly southern accent. In academic circles, having a southern accent often gets you marked as not-quite-bright. I also come from a working-class background while a lot of my friends and acquaintances grew up in much more affluent financial circumstances. And, of course, I am a socially awkward weirdo who doesn’t care for many of the things those around me do. Here’s the thing: the first two situations can be handled with some code-switching and a lot of bullshitting–aka pretending you know what’s going on. The third? Not so much. You can’t code-switch your way out of being weird. You’re just stuck with it.
It’s So Goddamn Tiring
But even when I can adjust my language/social skills/persona, there’s still a problem. That shit is fucking exhausting. Think about it: I spend most of my day pretending to be someone else. Even in those places, I mentioned earlier, the ones where I’m accepted and appreciated? I’m still constantly on guard against committing some sort of faux pas. It’s like I’m always making my way through a goddamn minefield and one wrong step means my reputation gets blown to shit. Honestly, “fucking exhausting” isn’t strong enough to describe what it’s like.
The only place where I know I can be fully and completely me, with all the weirdness that entails, is at home. And while there are times when never leaving my house sounds like heaven, I know that’s not a healthy way to live. I need some level of socialization or I’ll go completely fucking feral. I know this because when there are extended periods when I don’t go out, I tend to get pretty fucking feral. I’m like a wild animal encountering a human who’s offering food, approaching in stages before snatching whatever treat is being held out, and scampering the fuck away. Externally, that is. Internally, I’m a ball of stress and anger, consumed with hate for the world.
A Place Of My Own
What I need is a place where I fit, where I’m surrounded by people who are just as fucking weird as I am. I’ve found a few places like this over the years, but they never last. In college, I found a home with a motley collection of fellow nerds who hung out in a dark, low-ceilinged corner of the campus center known as “The Dungeon”. Our conversations swirled around comic books, gaming, sci-fi and fantasy stories, etc. All the basic nerd stuff. And, halle-fucking-lujah, there was no mention of sports at all (I hate sports). Later–still in college–there was a group of friends from my fiction writing classes who shared my love of weird, fucked up stories. But, like I said, this shit never seems to last. Saying it’s frustrating is like calling the sinking of the fucking Titanic a minor mishap.
It’s Not Easy
I’m still looking for the space, the one where my tribe hangs out. But, Jesus Fucking Christ, is it hard to find. As much as I’d like, I can’t blame this one on neurotypical folks. It’s all on us weird people. Being introverted little shits, we suck at visibility. And, it’s not like if you see someone in public acting weird, you can just walk up and start a conversation with them. At least, I can’t. I’ve got a shit ton of social anxiety which is only worsened by the fact that ND’s don’t have a corner on the weirdness market. The last thing I need is to end up at the bottom of fucking pit in some serial killer’s basement as they repeat, “It puts the lotion on its skin.”
I’m Not Giving Up
That bold heading above notwithstanding, there are days when I do feel like giving up. There are days when it feels like Too. Fucking. Much. Those days, being an 18th century ornamental hermits sounds so goddamn wonderful. If you’re not familiar with this concept, back in the day, wealthy fuckers would go out and find some poor ass schmuck desperate enough to come be their living, breathing goddamn garden gnome. That this actually sounds good should tell you where I am on those days. I’m not saying I’d go through with it or anything. But, it does sound so much fucking better than trying to navigate this shitshow called the “real world”. Unfortunately, no one’s doing that anymore. So, I guess I’ll keep plugging along, ever-fucking-vigilant for a welcoming bunch of weirdos that will take me in. Here’s hoping they exist and that I can find them. Until then, I’ll be in my room, probably having another goddamn meltdown.