Depression, low self-esteem, ADHD and rejection are all things I’ve dealt with in my past and in my present. They’re things I’ve coped with as long as I can remember, and I have them every day to this very day.
Add in being an adult with autism, or to be more precise, an adult with Asperger’s and the effects can be even more devastating. All these negative feelings take control over every part of my life from my family to my writing, or honestly a lack thereof, to my love life.
I can pinpoint when it all boiled over to the point of no return.
Over ten years ago I quit a job as a finance manager at a car dealership on the east coast because I was belittled, criticized and mocked daily for my autistic traits. I was flat out told that I sucked at my job and that anyone could do better at it than I could.
The thing is, that I was busting my ass doing everything I could for these people and was doing the work of what should have been two finance managers. They refused to hire a second one and continued to have their fun with me.
I was told countless times by the General Manager that they don’t fire people because they don’t pay unemployment. They simply make it so difficult for the person to work there that they eventually quit, and, in the mind of the dealership, the problem is solved.
I hung around for nearly two years before my mental health got so bad that I simply couldn’t take it anymore and I finally quit. My self-esteem and confidence have never been the same since then.
Depression is something that I’ve dealt with as long as I can remember and I’ve been on the maximum dose of anti-depressants for years, with little to no effect on me. My doctors have all said that they can’t give me anymore, but it really doesn’t matter because the majority of the time I feel so depressed that I can’t write and when I finally do feel like writing, it never seems to be as good as I want it to be.
These things don’t just affect my professional life, they also impact my personal life in big ways.
I knew from past relationships that I’ve dealt with rejection, but it wasn’t until my partner at Not Weird Just Autistic, Shannon, started talking with me about all the things I’ve been through in my life and I slowly realized that rejection has been around a lot longer than I thought and has been a much larger part of my life than I ever realized.
There haven’t been many people in my life who see how smart I really am and who see what I’m capable of, and that, in turn, has made me feel way less than adequate. Deep inside I know that I’m able to accomplish great things, but the closer I get to the surface, the less I believe in myself and the more the low self-esteem, depression, and rejection bubble up.
The rejection has been crystal clear in relationships where, because of being autistic, there are communication barriers and social factors that come into play and those have been two of the big things that have factored into the rejection of my dating relationships.
Imagine how it feels to know that you care for someone way more than they care for you and that they have no problem making fun of you for your autistic traits. It gets overwhelming and as much as you want to bury your head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist, eventually, you must face reality and end the farce of a relationship.
Right now, I’m happily dating a woman who is also on the spectrum and honestly, it’s been the best relationship of my life. It’s true that we’re two different types of Aspies (people with Asperger’s Syndrome) but we complement one another in our skill sets. Where I’m weak, she’s strong and vice-versa.
That’s not to say that the things discussed before, depression, ADHD, self-esteem, and rejection, don’t impact our relationship to some point, but as people who both understand it from having lived it for years, we understand it and can get through it much easier.
We both have our different types of trauma that we’ve dealt with, but we understand each other and, to a degree, what the other has been through, so it’s much easier for us to relate and problem solve.
In looking at why this has happened to myself and others like me, I’ve come to learn that a lot of high-functioning people with autism, such as myself, have endured trauma, such as rejection because they’re predisposed to interpret things negatively and to react both impulsively and defensively to the situations life throws at them.
I never saw myself as a trauma victim, but I’ve learned that repeated rejection is absolutely a form of trauma and I know firsthand how it impacts not only the brain but the way you think and the way you approach everyday life and the situations that it throws at you.
When you’ve had very few things that have turned out positively in your life it’s hard to look at things with an open mind and instead, you see things as you’ve always seen them.
If you’ve never truly been able to trust the people in your life, why would you think that anyone would understand you now? The truth is that you wouldn’t.
The thing is that all of this is hard-wired into your brain over time and no matter how hard you try to get back to being your normal, happy, non-depressed self who believes in themselves, it’s not an overnight process and it takes work.
It takes help from a trained professional and it takes help from your loved ones around you. If, like me, you suffer from any or all these problems, know that they can be repaired, but that it will take time, effort and patience.