Thursday, November 29, 2012

Explaining things to NTs?

Over the past several months, I've gotten extremely good at identifying my own limits (see my convention post below). It's truly wonderful to be self-aware and understand what I can and can't handle. There's just one problem with this that I'm really struggling with.

No matter how many times I try to explain this to my NT friends, they seem to forget about it.

I'm not sure how to emphasize this in a way that won't hurt their feelings, because they're extremely dear to me, but there are places that I can't go - busy malls, loud concerts, anywhere that involves being physically close to too many people that isn't a sporting event - and yet they continually invite me to go to these places no matter how many times I tell them that it's hard for me. I even had a panic attack at New York Comic Con this year and that still didn't drive the point home somehow.

How do I approach this issue without being hurtful? I want to just sit them down and yell at them sometimes because I get so frustrated that I'm not getting through to them, but I know that that's not the right way to handle this since we're all adults here and, as I've said, I don't want to make anyone upset. I just need to know what to say to make it sink in. I'm very plain and blatant about it usually - "my Asperger's makes this very hard for me" - but somehow, it just seems to be forgotten.

I know my friends aren't selfish and aren't trying to make things hard on me, but I don't want them to feel selfish after I try to explain this yet again to them, either. I'm just not sure how to go about this without making anyone upset.

Anyone have any advice? I'm genuinely stuck here.


  1. Hey Steph! It sounds like you're feeling pressured to attend events that your friends invite you to, and I'm wondering if that is because they do pressure you or if you feel obligated because they invited you? Either way, I understand that this is frustrating and it must get tiresome feeling like you have to explain yourself over and over again. No fun. It's possible that they are just forgetting in an oblivious NT way that some places are hard for you to go. The other possibility, I think, is that they invite you so you know your presence is welcome, you are included, and then you can decide whether or not it's something you want to do. Maybe they don't always expect you to go? I have a friend with agoraphobia who has a pretty narrow range of where she can and cannot go. If something fun comes up that I know is out of her range, I won't mention it. If there is something I know that's in her range or may be borderline, I do invite her so she can decide for herself if it will work. If it doesn't, I understand. However, I had another friend tell me once that she found group activities uncomfortable and preferred not to be invited to them. Since I knew her feelings wouldn't be hurt if she wasn't included and, in fact, that she preferred to not be invited at all, I was totally fine with that and stopped asking her to those things. As you noted, yelling at them probably isn't the way to go, but maybe discussing with them (once again) very specifically what works and doesn't work for you would be helpful. And, you could let them know that if they ask you to do one of the things on your "no" list, you will decline but it isn't because you don't want to spend time with them. In fact, you would love to have meaningful quality time with your friends. But, for you, that isn't going to be possible in stressful/distracting/over-stimulating environments like the mall. How's that for a positive spin on saying no? :-)

    1. Ack, it never sent my reply through? My apologies! Blogger must've been being mean that day.

      My two friends both have ADHD, so it's a valid possibility that they just forget from time to time that I can't do certain things, especially when it involves being in crowds and loud places. I should probably make a full list of things that I can't do and give it to them and explain why these things are hard for me - gently, of course, because it's just too difficult to enjoy my time with them in those places!

      Thank you so much for all the advice! <3

  2. I know how you feel. I feel like people tend to forget and that I tend to "overdo it" with reminders but they don't get through. Did you find anything that helped? I've been trying to be more direct and saying things like "This music is getting too loud, can we turn it down?" or "I need to step outside for a minute" without using the word Aspergers. But I do say that word at least 50 times a day and I need to learn to find new ways to communicate.

    1. Apparently the internet ate my reply to this comment back when I left it, augh! Stupid internet.

      I'm trying not to use the A-word as much, either, because I don't want people to think I use it as a crutch. It's definitely difficult, though, to tell my friends that I can't do certain things without bringing it up because they're good at forgetting. (Luckily, I currently have a new excuse - I'm in grad school, so I have no money to do things because it's all going towards my tuition! Haha, victory!)