Growing up, I had a very limited amount of friends. I was diagnosed as autistic in 2007 at 10/11 years old. I was then transferred to another mainstream school about 20-30 miles away from where I lived and where my current school was as this mainstream school had an autism centre attached to it (which also helped children attending the school who had ADHD, dyslexia, etc).
There, I became friends with the other autistic children attending. We had more in common than we did with the children in mainstream. The children in mainstream wanted to avoid me, mostly. Because it took this long before I actually made social interactions outside of my family, it wasn’t until my late teenage years that I noticed something different in me than with other people (I mean…I found a lot of those, I am autistic)
It seems to be that it’s ‘normal’ for other children to pretend to like things that their peers were into in order to be accepted or to be seen as ‘cool’. This was one of the main reasons I didn’t notice I had no sense of self until my late teenage years, also. I didn’t notice that these two things were different.
As a child/teenager you are discovering who you are. As the “What’s Cool” changes, the child/teenager will change with it until they find out who exactly they are. Sometimes, the child/teenager doesn’t find out until their early twenties. Eventually, though, they will find it. No matter how slowly. Autistic people (and in some personality disorders), we never find it. We continue to mimic other people and hope that we’re hitting the right mark.
A way I explain is that, with friends, there’s always at least five things that make them who they are. For example, one of my friends…lets call her Sally. She loves pastel colored hair dye. She likes cats more than people. She enjoys attending comic-con in her freetime. She has a Lolita style of clothing. She’s into Japanese culture. These little personality traits are what define her.
However, with me, the only concrete thing people can define me with is that I am autistic, I am with low confidence and bad communication skills. Even my “nerdy” interests frequently change depending on the people I mimic around me in order to “fit in” – difference is not well taken in this world and those who are truly different definitely know this.
I call us Chameleon’s, as they adapt to their surroundings. They almost completely blend in. When I was with my boyfriend (now ex), I had the same sense of humor. I had the same taste in music. The same taste in games. The same style. It had nothing to do with trying to impress him and everything to do with not knowing who I am.
My sense of fashion, my taste in music, my movie/TV show preference, etc…they’re constantly fluid. If someone asked me “What’s your favorite taste in music?”, it would change depending on when you asked me. Not just my likes/dislikes, but my ideas…they bounce back and forth like a yo-yo and absolutely nothing about me seems to stay the same.
Not to say I don’t adopt other people’s likes and dislikes. I’m just constantly re-generating as a person. This creates emotional stress, makes any kind of relationship (romantic or not) hard to keep and maintain (among other reasons), as well as not finding any comfort in things and just not fitting in. There is no comfort in myself.
I know autistic people also get this a lot with “Yeah, but that’s not an autistic thing, everyone has that”…it’s difficult to explain in a way that makes neurotypical people realize it’s just not changing as you grow, it’s adapting in a completely different way. But I don’t write for neurotypical people, I write so that other autistic people feel less lonely.
Like I said on my Twitter, it’s one of the main reasons why I like being alone. It’s one of the only times I am ever know who I am. Even if it’s just a little bit.