What makes you happy?

Several different people are always in one way or another trying to help me figure out what I should do with my life. Though none of them seemed to have noticed that I really have no interest in doing anything. Because try as I might I can’t see myself as doing anything other than what I’m currently doing. Ironic as it is for someone who likes to write fiction, when it comes to real life my sense of imagination is not that good. Just like I have trouble predicting how other people may respond in any given situation so I have trouble imagining myself in a situation which isn’t actually happening right now.

They make helpful suggestions, they come up with ideas related to my current special interest and they keep doing so when my interests change. And the question that inevitably gets asked is “What makes you happy?”

I always have trouble answering this question in any meaningful way, in any kind of big picture way. Living outside of my own head and taking note of the world around me is not something that always comes easy to me. To quote Leo from The West Wing “I like the little things.” It’s true, I really do. From other people’s perspective in some sense I suppose I’m too easy to please. Which is ironic because quite a bit of the time I get accused of the exact opposite, of being impossible to make happy. Especially when it comes to getting gifts. But if only they listened to me or paid attention then maybe they wouldn’t have got it so wrong. Sometimes it makes me wonder if anyone knows me at all.  Like last week when someone was returning something of mine that they borrowed. They happened to come in when I was watching the Bundesliga highlights, at the time I was excited because I’d gotten some extra footage of Jogi at Darmstadt’s game. In their eyes I was too excited about having gotten an extra five seconds of footage. But like I said I like the little things. And given that the person in question is someone who I’ve known my entire life, I would have thought they knew that too. I don’t expect them to understand, but I’m surprised that they found it curious, that they aren’t used to such things. It makes me wonder what else they and everybody else aren’t used to. What else do they find strange or weird but not say anything about? Is it possible that the people you’ve spent your entire life with don’t know you at all?

I get that NT people don’t understand, that’s kind of a given. But I thought I wouldn’t have this problem with other autistic people, that problems like this wouldn’t happen. Making friends with someone who has a similar mixture of autism and anxiety I thought we wouldn’t have such problems. I was wrong. I wrongly thought it meant I could talk about things that I didn’t and couldn’t talk about with anyone else. After all I listened to them talk about such things, so it should have been ok for me to share too. But it didn’t work out that way. I deeply regret having done so, having told them what I was scared of. I never tell anyone such things and in having done so I feel like a real idiot, though I don’t understand exactly why. One thing I do know, ever since then I haven’t trusted them.

With their suggestions about ways in which I could branch out in relation to my current special interest they proved how little they know me anyway. It was no doubt intended as a helpful suggestion but it wasn’t one they’d given any thought to. The idea was not  bad one, to the contrary, it’s quite a good one actually. Just not for me. I know people do that online, make their own commentary for games and live stream it. But why would they think it was a good idea for me?

In a perfect world I’d love to do such a thing. But then in a perfect world I’d have no problem with talking out loud, with getting my words out and saying them in the right order. And in a perfect world I wouldn’t sound quite so strange. But of course the world is far from perfect. The suggestion hurt my feelings. Whilst it was intended to be helpful it felt like it was a reminder of just one more thing I can’t do. And I really don’t need anymore of those. Coming from anyone else I would have gotten over it eventually and decided it was thoughtless but not too hurtful. However coming from someone else who is also autistic, it hurts just that little bit more.

After this and a few other comments I felt like I couldn’t trust them anymore. Like I had to watch what I said to them the same way I did with everyone else, not just what I said but how I acted. Now it feels like there’s no-one I can talk freely with, no-one I can just be myself around. Maybe there never was, maybe it was just an illusion, I was just fooling myself. Whichever is true it’s exhausting having to put that front on all the time. But then what if I were to truly be myself around other people, what would that mean?

I once made the mistake of telling someone this, that I felt like I couldn’t be myself around anyone else. And they said it hurt their feelings that I meant them too, that I even felt that way about someone I was related to. I understand how it hurt their feelings, really I do. But what about my feelings? What about how I feel, knowing that people wouldn’t like me were I really to be myself around them.

Because truth is, if I spend more time being myself around them then it would mean interacting with them a lot less, with everyone in fact. Starting to talk with other people was one of the worst things I ever did. I wasn’t always like that, when I was a lot younger I was for the most part quiet and barely said a word. I didn’t even lecture people about my special interests. I wasn’t a little professor type Aspie when I was a small child, I was more of a live in my own head kind of person. I could talk, I just didn’t. I was a lot happier back then and a lot less confused. I didn’t have to worry about what other people were thinking, whether I’d said something wrong or not, or if I couldn’t understand and follow a conversation. I didn’t have to worry about any of that. Two of the worst things I ever did, starting to talk to other people and learning and understanding the concept that people had thoughts in their head that were different to mine. Ever since I learnt that I’ve found it difficult to stop obsessing over what other people are thinking, how what they say might not be what they are really thinking. It makes it impossible to trust anyone, and it makes other people question our friendship because I’m seemingly incapable of putting that amount of trust in them.

Which brings me to the question, what would make me happy? Right now I think nothing less than a full scale retreat would make me anything close to happy. Though I think happy is maybe not the right word for it. I think relieved would be more the right word. Relieved not to have to speak aloud, to find the right words, to make sense of what someone else is saying, or just generally to tolerate the presence of another person. More and more these days whenever I’m with someone else I can’t wait until they leave. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to listen to anyone talk about anything. That ability to listen and to make sense of the words just isn’t there.

When I dropped out of college the second time I spent the next three months doing nothing but playing video games. I slept in the day and played video games all night. I didn’t see anyone else or speak to them. I barely even saw the people who live in the same house as me. The way the times worked out I was getting up as they were going to bed. Later on the psychologist suggested I did this as a way of avoiding other people, so I didn’t have to face them and worry about hiding how I was feeling. I’ve written about this before in a post entitled “Don’t forget these days”, about how odd it is that when confronted with other people you do everything you can to put an act on, to convince them you’re fine. When really a part of you wants not to do this, you want them to see that something isn’t right.

I don’t know if it’s what I really want but it feels like it is, like that would be wonderful right now. There’s not any games I’m particularly looking forward to playing, indeed I’m not particularly enthusiastic about video games in general right now. It’s just the thought of escape that’s so appealing. Of not needing to be anywhere, of being able to sleep whenever and for however long I like. But something tells me this is not such a good idea. Partly I’m worried that were I to do this, it would be hard to break the habit. Which would be most troublesome if it turned out to be not what I wanted. Or to be a little more honest about it, I think I’m scared that if I allow myself to stay in bed that I’ll never want to get up again. It’s kind of like the Stalingrad metaphor I used in one of my stories, about the soldiers who were attempting to flee the advance of the Russian army. They had to keep moving because if they stopped they would die there, they just wouldn’t have the energy or the fight necessary in them to get back up again. They would sit there and freeze to death, not because they wanted to but because they really couldn’t move another inch. Sometimes, actually most of the time it’s a whole lot easier to give up than to carry on fighting.

I’ve felt like that every morning these past few days, asking myself if I really have to get up. I suppose that’s one reason I don’t want to part ways with my current special interest. Because if I do, what reason would I have to get up in the mornings? Or to be more precise the afternoons these days, either way the point still stands. I’m worried about running out of reasons to make myself get out of bed. When of course the real question I should be asking is, why is it so hard to get out bed to begin with?

It really is a most tempting prospect, not to concern yourself with the outside world at all. Not to talk to other people, not knowing what’s going on, not even keeping up with football, nothing real at all. Nothing but the story of whatever game you happen to be playing. I wonder if I was truly happy during those three months and if so why. Is that the key to happiness, complete detachment from reality? Because making contact with reality means plenty to worry about and lots to be stressed out about. It can’t be a coincidence that the time I was the least stressed out is when I had nothing to do with the real world.

Only problem is I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of my current interest. I’m not sure I want to start over again, not now. But then I don’t really know if that’s true. I don’t know for sure if it’s because I would miss Freiburg, the Bundesliga in general, Jogi and Hansi, and Manuel Neuer of course. Or if it’s because I just don’t like change and once I’ve gotten locked into something it’s really hard to get out of.

One thing is for sure, I’m not feeling quite as optimistic as when I wrote the post mentioned above. The title of that post came from a book called “A Life too Short.”It’s about Robert Enke, a German goalkeeper who had depression and ended up committing suicide. Those words “don’t forget these days” were what was written on the last page of his journal. This is how I ended that post:

“Don’t forget the good things, the things that make you so happy is what I tell myself. One day is just that, one day. How you feel today will not be potentially how you feel tomorrow, or even an hour or a minute from now. I list all the good things there are, all the things that are important to me.  And try to remember all those little moments, all those wonderful little moments that came about in an otherwise terrible day.”

Right now it’s not easy to convince myself that there’s any truth in that. Right now all I can think is that those little moment aren’t enough. That everything which goes wrong overshadows all of it. I’m not quite sure what makes me happy right now. It feels like nothing can. I’ve been excited about Arsenal’s trip to the Allianz Arena ever since the draw was made, and even more so since the first leg of the tie. That game is tonight in fact and I got my wish as regards to what channel it’s on, in spite of that I’m having difficulty mustering up any real enthusiasm for it. I hope it doesn’t turn out like Sunday did. Then I woke up not really looking forward to the game, but I thought it was just because I was tired, that I would be happy once I’d woken up a bit more. It didn’t work out that way.

Earlier I was reading a discussion online about whether or not life is really worth the effort. One person made a good point in saying that the worst mistake they ever made was making their happiness reliant on another person or a relationship. Happiness should come from within, it shouldn’t be dependent on someone else or something else, on factors you can’t control. I especially should not let any part of my happiness be dependent in anyway on other people. Because it’s a sure fire way to being miserable. I get things wrong so much of the time that it’s the worst idea possible to be reliant in anyway on such a thing. So what should I allow to make me happy?

It seems as if none of the things that make me happy recently are real in any way. Football related videos, my Jogi and Hansi collection, my Bundesliga and die Mannschaft collection, football stickers and other random collectibles. Do they really make me happy? Are they enough? Does it matter that I seem to have no interest in living in the real world?

I should be asleep right now, in fact I’m supposed to be getting up in about four and half hours. But I can’t sleep, I feel sick with worry at knowing what’s coming. I don’t know which aspect of the day ahead worries me the most, which part it is that I’m most worked up about. If it’s getting dressed in outside clothes, spending time with someone else or if it’s just the idea of going out at all. But if I want to see Spectre than I have no choice about that part at least.

Instead of sleeping I’ve been reading Sherlock fan fiction, to be more specific autistic Sherlock stories. The past few months I’ve been beating myself up for not reading enough books, with my latest discovery I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. A lot of it makes for very addictive reading. One of them in particular was interesting, Sherlock is talking about how he sometimes he can’t figure Watson out and people in general, that people are too unpredictable. Watson comments that people have a habit of being unpredictable when you think they’re absolutely predictable.

Very wise words, and very helpful ones to me right now. Watson’s point is at the center of my latest social errors. The problem is that people acted in a way other than what I expected them to. Because when I chose my course of action I only saw it from my point of view, I thought I was seeing it from their point of view but I didn’t. It’s all logical to me, but then they aren’t me, they don’t know what I’m thinking. If I can’t deal with that, with people acting in a way other than what I expect than obviously any kind of social contact is out of the question. I’ve read a lot of books about autism, I have two shelves worth of them, but I never understood the relationship between autism and imagination. I didn’t understand why it was part of the diagnostic criteria, and I argued vehemently against that part of the criteria applying to me.  Now I get it, both in the context of social imagination and in a larger context. This is what it’s about, being able to have an idea of what someone else may be thinking, of how they may react to your actions or comments. It never occurred to me they would react in a way differently to what I had in mind, to how I thought they would. It really threw me when that did happen. And now it’s un-fixable. It’s not the fact that I can’t talk to them that gets to me the most, it’s the fact that I can’t correct my mistake. I hate being wrong, I really hate it. I know it’s probably not right that it’s my first concern rather than the former.

2 responses to “What makes you happy?

  1. A very beautiful realistic post.

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