Monday, April 13, 2015

I'm not annoying, but I fear I am

I find myself wondering rather frequently if I'm annoying.

I know it's a big part of the social anxiety I've developed as a result of being rejected by most of my peers growing up, but it plagues me to this day. I'm afraid to open up to my friends because I don't want to annoy them with my problems. I'm afraid to talk about my own interests with people because I'm afraid of boring them and not being a good conversationalist. People avoided me as a kid because I would do that, and I was aware of it. Now I'm worried about info-dumping, even with people I'm close to. (Writing is a great outlet for me in that regard.)

I'm realizing that it's exhausting to try to pass as neurotypical all the time. I'd love to live in a world where I don't have to and I can comfortably be myself, but I don't live there yet. I live in a world where I have to seem "normal" in order to be accepted, a world where my 2009 OCD-related mental breakdown is stigmatized and makes people think I'm "crazy." It's a world that's decidedly against people like me.

Asperger's aside, I do indeed have OCD and social anxiety as comorbid conditions, and they feed off of each other. I'm terrified of any potential social missteps, and my OCD amplifies them significantly to the point where I regularly lose sleep over the fear of upsetting my friends or irritating people I'm trying to get a point across to. And at my tour guide job, I would email my boss regularly about goings-on that were in my mind relevant, but when she didn't reply very often it reinforced the idea in me that I was annoying and had to deal with everything myself.

And that's usually what I end up doing - internalizing my problems and dealing with them myself, because I end up thinking that I annoy everybody. I know it's my brain telling me this and not necessarily me, but so many things in my life can trigger this feeling - my family being busy, my friends not sounding interested in what I'm talking about, a superior not replying to messages I send - and the OCD makes it linger for hours and hours. I'll often end up with anxiety headaches and nausea and end up feeling like I'm back in 7th grade being rejected and ignored by my peers.

In 7th grade, I didn't really have friends. My elementary school friends were more acquaintances to me by that point, and nobody else wanted to be my friend. I was being bullied horribly, too, and to this day, I fear being rejected - not just by men, even though boys were my primary bullies, but by everyone for everything social.

I know I'm not an annoying person and my friends and family love me very much, but my brain can't help but make me feel that way sometimes due to how it makes me perceive things, and it's a genuinely frustrating, awful thing to have to live with.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Asperger's Job Hunt Is Kind of Scary

The good news is the library temp agency has my resume and is actively working to find me an entry-level library position!

The bad news is that I'm in the grace period of my student loans, so I'm going to need to find something quick.

It's a scary time for a lot of people in my age group - nobody's retiring and we're all horribly in debt due to our college educations, so we're all struggling to get by and a large number of us are still living at home, myself included. My parents are totally cool with me staying at home until I can move out (and even have told me it's okay if I ever have to move back in), which is great, but at the same time I'd love to start taking over my own bills so they don't have to pay them. The problem, as usual, is getting a job.

I often worry that potential employers see this blog and decide not to hire me on account of my disability, which is actually illegal if I find out about it. I fear that misunderstandings about the autism spectrum will make people see this blog and decide that I can't operate in the real world the way they'd like me to, so they actively decide that my resume isn't worth keeping around. On the other hand, my resume states that I have a Master's degree and am fully qualified and points out that I honed my social skills as a tour guide. In an interview, I can do what's called "passing," wherein people who meet me and get to know me at face value think I'm neurotypical. I've become good at pretending I'm not disabled, and I hate living in a world where I have to pretend to not be disabled just so people will think I'm normal enough to hire.

The truth is that jobs where I have to do a lot of social interaction are stressful for me and make me really tired, whereas jobs where I can do more solitary work and interact with my co-workers on my own terms (or whenever they pop into my office for a quick chat) are much more suited to how my brain works. I'm extraordinarily productive when I'm working - every archival job I've ever taken on (volunteer or not) has commented on how quickly and efficiently I get things done (and get them done well). I've discovered that in the right workplace, I, as well as many other people on the autism spectrum, will positively flourish as long as we're given the opportunity to play to our strengths.

I just wish someone would see that and take a chance on me instead of dismissing me. I know it's likely due to lack of experience (i.e. I've been archiving as a volunteer only since 2009 or so), but there's always that nagging voice in the back of my head saying that people are aware of my disability.

Keeping my fingers crossed that something works out.

(I do take commissions, so in the interim between jobs, if you'd like me to draw something for you, check out my portfolio and prices here!)