I can smell the smoke from the bonfire through the small crease in my window made by my air conditioner. I keep it on year round. It helps the air circulation in my room. The smell permeates my room around six o’clock and I can smell the food that they’re cooking around seven. It smells like hot dogs. I don’t often lament my inability to connect with others, but when I do it is on these days when the wind picks up and blows smoke through my window. The wind is taunting me.
I’ve never been a very sociable person. I’ve never been able to put my finger on why. If you talk to me about the right subject I could talk to you for hours, but I wonder if I don’t put off an air of elitism or perhaps even general apathy to the social climate in general that I may be considered unapproachable by even those I have things in common with. No one knows what’s wrong with me and maybe that’s the problem right there – that everyone assumes there must be something wrong with me. Few people tend to think it’s just that my personality is more suited to a night in than a night out. Everyone assumes there must be something wrong with me.
When I was younger I sought out my fellow social outcasts. They’re easy to spot on the playground. They’re much harder to spot in the classroom. In many classrooms it seems like just a few people speak and even fewer contribute to the discussion. As shy as I am I always try and contribute something to what’s going on around me. I never really understood the purpose behind simply showing up to class and then lapsing into indifference. If you’re going to attend class it would make sense to at least pretend like you care even if you do not. It’s tough to get involved when you not only dislike your classmates but oftentimes dislike the subject you have to speak about as well. If you only do the things you want to do in life your options will be very limited and it is unlikely you’ll learn nearly as much as you could if you simply participated.
I don’t like extroverts. I have no problem saying that. Extroverts genuinely annoy me. If I see one walking on campus I take special precautions to avoid unnecessary contact. I feel like I’m at the Polar Bear exhibit at the zoo with all the signs warning you about what you can’t do. You don’t want to excite an extrovert that only encourages them. You don’t want to unnecessarily provoke an extrovert. Anything can provoke an extrovert. It’s best to simply keep your head down or pretend like something is distracting you. I use that last one quite a bit. It’s easy to seem unnecessarily distracted in the digital age. I know people who don’t put their headphones away even when they’re in class. People just slide their headphones down to their shoulders like class is just a temporary respite in the journey of life and in a way I suppose it is, but the laws of general civility have taught me to give a teacher respect if nothing else. It seems disrespectful to sit through class looking like you can’t wait to get out the door.
Things like the internet, smartphones and especially the mass proliferation of apps have done a great service to introverts and socially awkward people such as myself. When I was twenty-seven or twenty-eight I realized that I had an Autism Spectrum Disorder – most likely Asperger’s according to my doctors. It’s made me very cognizant of my faults. My biggest fault is that I simply don’t get along with people. No one outside of my immediate family has stuck with me through the years. There are a varying degree of reasons for this, but every relationship I enter into be it a simple friendship or a casual relationship I do so with the knowledge that it simply will not last. They will cast me aside just as everyone has cast me aside and I will go on living my life with whatever casual aquaintences I have yet to piss off or the rare friend that sticks it out longer than they probably should have.
Sigmund Freud had a theory that man basically looks in the mirror every day and subconsciously thinks of ways to destroy himself. I do this and I know that I do this. I don’t know of any ways to combat this. It comes from my depression. Some people ask when my depression started like it was some life event like puberty that comes and goes. I can’t describe it like that because that’s not the way that depression is. It doesn’t show up one morning when you’re looking in the mirror. I entertained thoughts of suicide when I was just a child. It didn’t help that I had teachers who thought I was being depressed to get attention.
You can tell when someone seriously has depression by how far they take things, but I reject the notion that there is some sort of spectrum of depression. Such a narrow reading of the disease suggests that one is better than the other and let me be clear: there is no good form of depression. It’s a lifetime affliction that affects everything that you do. Someone once asked me if I knew why I was depressed to which I gave the only response a depressed person can give in such a scenario: does it matter? That’s like asking a Cancer patient if they know why they got Cancer. All that matters is that they have it and that they have to deal with it.
Nights like these go on forever. These kinds of moments have been with me my whole life. The loneliness is a killer. It leads to self-doubt and puts you in a position where you feel like you can’t trust anyone. It’s the Depression and the Asperger’s coming together to deal the toughest blow they can. The lowest point you can reach in life is when you give up on hope and that’s what these diseases eat away at: hope. They create a narrative in your mind that you’ll never be good enough, that you don’t possess the skills required to complete anything correctly, and that you simply cannot achieve the goals and dreams you have set for yourself. I always wind up in the same place on nights like these, but it isn’t a choice, indeed the outcome has been pre-ordained.