Understanding Other People Is Hard


This summer, I upgraded from perennial chat room lurker to actual participant. Now, I correspond regularly  on adult Asperger/autism boards. Years of silent observation taught me that all chat rooms host trolls and other predictable characters.

Any place where you share your experiences, one person posts the “worst experience ever.” Their stories are so appalling, your credibility is stretched. In fact, when the same person posts “the worst experience ever” across multiple threads, some people openly reject them.

In the autism boards, members accept and support a person with a terrible tale; even when a person consistently posts great difficulties.  Since autists frequently grapple with work, relationships, and sensory overload, they possess empathy for those who struggle.

Like other boards, autism boards have trolls. I flip a mental bird at them and move on to the next comment. I am more troubled by mildly offensive posts.

When someone responds, “Well, everyone feels that way,” in response to a personal disclosure, my eyebrows arch. I wonder what the person’s intention is. Do they intend to invalidate another person’s feelings? Are they trying to be helpful? Are they in denial? I cannot navigate the ambiguity.

I am tempted to react in anger. I reveal details online I never shared before. It’s hard for me to divulge anything, let alone an embarrassing or tender moment. Questioning the validity of my experiences wounds me.  If I was so normal, why do I have the difficulties I do? It often seems as if it such comments are a subtle form of blame.

So, I am ready to pick up my flame thrower and blast napalm at the “everyone feels that way…” commenter. I have a lifetime of being misunderstood for fuel.  Yet, that comment needs to be addressed. And it must be addressed with empathy. I cannot assume ill will.

First I will concentrate on the comment, then the feeling.

Rudy Simone, author of Aspergirls addressed the “everyone feels that way” attitude:

It’s the same with all Aspie traits–everyone experiences some if not all of them, but not at the same level of : INTENSITY, FREQUENCY and QUANTITY.

It doesn’t matter if you are diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s, Tourette’s, ADHD, OCD, depression, or bipolar disorder*. Every “normal” person experiences some degree of your atypical neurological and emotional heritage. This is a good reason to build tolerance on both sides of the fence.

I will reject anger and look for opportunity. I plan to help the well-meaning and confused understand the difference between their normal experiences and autism spectrum experiences. I intend to share more personal stories to illustrate the intensity, frequency and quantity of my life. I will build empathy and put down my internal flamethrower.


*Yes, I deliberately left out schizophrenia.

11 thoughts on “Understanding Other People Is Hard

  1. I think some comments I have left in the past (somewhere) could be perceived that way. I didn’t mean to be invalidate anyone’s experience but was looking for the boundary between mild asperger and ‘predominantly normal, but solitaire person with some asperger-like difficulties’. That is because I feel lost in a grey zone between those two categories and want people to spell out the differences, and I want to understand the importance of a diagnosis. Anyway, I have noted the high sensitivity to any possible expression of doubt about diagnosis and am careful how I ask questions now.

    1. Mados,

      Please forgive my late reply. We live in New Hampshire and have been without power since Friday! A terrible snowstorm brought down many trees in our region, thus the power outage.

      I thank you for your comments, and would gladly like to post them. I have taken no offense and I am happy that you dropped by my blog. 🙂

      I will be back to posting sometime tomorrow. Happy Day!


      We have only now had our power turned

    2. Mados, Thank you for your comment, you raise an important point.

      Finding the difference between “normal” and “Asperger’s” can indeed be difficult. I felt confused for many months. I would have never pursued outside help if my son and father were not diagnosed.

      Mild autism and quirky normal can be so close together. Whether you are self diagnosed, actually diagnosed or exploring your own mental wiring, insight is always good.

      I wish you luck in finding your place on (or off!) the autism spectrum. Even if only a few “autistic” traits apply to you (auditory processing!), it is such a relief to find information to make life easier.

      Happy Day!

  2. Hello Lori,

    No worries;-) Thank you for your reply, I wasn’t expecting any urgent response.

    Snow storm sounds great. I like snow storms, but I live in Australia now so there is no such thing around here. But I guess it depends whether you have enough back-up heaters e.t.c. and are dependent on things that can’t start or move when it is freezing.


  3. Hi Lori.

    Thank you for your reply. That is correct… finding information is a great relief. Finding out that others have similar experiences (or, what sounds similar…) is a relief too. I am not sure why.

    I read your description of your family, it is very cute…


    1. Yes, it is absolutely a relief to know you are not alone. Until the last year of my life, I had no idea that other people felt, thought and perceived the world like I do.

      In my youth, I would comment on my perceptions only to be shut down by others. No malice was intended, they just did not get it.

      Now, my sisters are all a few clicks away. How wonderful!

      I am tickled that you like my family description. I am very proud of them!

      1. Thank you for posting interesting illustrations and for making your blog up visually pleasant & relaxing! It is a nice place to take a break online.

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