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Dear Captain Awkward:

I’ve always been a little different from most people, and it was only about a year ago that I was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. This came as a somewhat crushing blow to my already dwindling self-esteem. I’ve honestly thought about suicide numerous times because of it, It just makes me feel as if I can’t connect with people on a meaningful level, regardless of whether that’s true or not. I can’t help but notice this MASSIVE stigma against people with Asperger’s, people saying we’re shut-ins, that we’re all like “Chris-Chan” or have some other manner of extreme antisocial tendency. I find that I have none of these, in fact for the most part I’ve gotten along just fine with people, even if I have a little bit of trouble making friends in the first place.

Anyway, the problem is that I feel as if I’m lagging behind my peers in terms of emotional and social maturity. I’m off to university in September and I don’t have even the slightest idea of whether I’ll be ready for the environment there or not. High school left such a negative mark on me that I’m worried that what’s left of my attitude there will carry over into university and the real world.

Tl;dr, I’m mildly autistic, over the years people have driven me to hate myself for it, and I have no idea what to do now.

Dear Mildly Autistic:

I’m so sorry you are having so much anxiety and depression around your diagnosis.

  • Please don’t hurt yourself, and please get your parents to take you to a therapist who can help you with this.
  • Hopefully with some time you can see the diagnosis as a helpful way to describe some of the things you’ve been struggling with all along. You’re not broken! There’s a reason you’ve been feeling the way you do.
  • I don’t know if this is comforting to hear, but pretty much EVERYONE has anxiety about starting university. “Will it be worse than high school in some ungodly way I haven’t anticipated?” Some of the pluses are that university is voluntary, you get to study subjects you are passionate about as hard and as much as you want, and that there will be a whole crowd of new people who are also anxious to find their place and make friends and an environment of social events, communal living, classes, and extracurricular clubs and activities designed to facilitate this. Being non-neurotypical may make the transition a bit harder or more anxiety-producing for you, but you said yourself that you get along just fine with people, so I really believe that you’ll get along just fine with the people at school.

But don’t take my word for it. When I got your letter, I put a call out on Twitter to see if some of your fellow Aspies would be willing to talk about their own experiences making the transition from high school to college, and this is what they had to say:

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I’m waiting for a Quicktime Render from Hell to finish. Here’s a question.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m in a messy and unhappy situation, which isn’t really what I’m writing about. The awkward kind of comes in with how I’m handling it. A member of my boyfriend’s immediate family has a terminal illness and in addition, this is (unsurprisingly) leading to meltdowns among other members of the family. He lives quite a long way from them and is doing a lot of back and forth traveling and trying to keep up at work as well and generally is stretched pretty thin. I’m also in a lousy situation at work, with a demanding boss and people quitting and having to take on their stuff. The combination of this means we hardly ever get to see each other. If we manage to carve out several hours to ourselves – and we both do try really hard, but it often doesn’t work out, a lot of the time something comes up at the last minute – then everything is good and we can relax a bit and just enjoy each other’s company. But most of the time all it seems like we can do is grab an hour here or there, on the way to the airport, from the airport, late at night when we’re both tired. And then in those times we either talk logistics or – and this is kind of my problem – I pick a fight.

I try to be supportive and take a backseat and provide him with what he seems to need. But the longer we go without getting to spend some time together the more unhappy, and honestly kind of resentful, I start to feel. I try to tell myself that I’m being selfish and he’s under a lot of strain, and I also try as much as possible to ask for reasonable things that would help a bit, and he’s good at listening and trying to accommodate me. But still I eventually start saying to myself, “We haven’t had dinner together in two weeks, we haven’t had a proper conversation in three, we were supposed to have two!whole!hours! on Monday morning and the plane was delayed – ” and on and on. And then the next time we talk I’m surly or snappy or else I just burst into tears.

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Dear Captain Awkward,

So there’s this guy, let’s call him James. We have been friends for several years and in this, our last year of medical school, have slowly gone from drunken making-out, to friends with benefits, to casually dating. It has been exciting and awesome, but we were both more or less expecting this part of our relationship to be temporary since we assumed we would be moving to different cities for residency. We agreed it would have been foolish to enter the residency match as a couple, since we were just starting to explore the attraction back when that decision had to be made.

Against all odds and without any attempts to manipulate the system, we matched in the same city, my hometown. We’re not sure yet if we are going to keep dating – the removal of a definite end date means we now have to consider long-term compatibility in a way we haven’t before (God, I sound so clinical. I have emotions, I swear). I don’t want to spend time in a relationship that doesn’t have at least the potential to be forever, so we have started talking about what we both want in life. I feel good about all of this. Worst-case scenario we keep having fun until graduation then move to the new city as really good friends.

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Boromir meme, "one does not simply join the weekly d&d game."Dear Captain,

I’m writing because I’m scared to break up with my boyfriend. Not scared of him, he’s a lovely person and would never hurt me, scared of what would happen to the rest of my life if I did. You see, I’m at university, in my second year, and have been going out with him since a month or so after I got here in first year. He’s my first boyfriend – I had never even kissed anyone before him. I’m pretty nerdy and awkward, and he is too, so it was just great that I got to be with him and to meet a whole circle of mutual nerdy/awkward friends. The problem is this: if I ever decide to break up with him, what on earth happens to my friendships with them? They’ve basically never known me as a single person, always with him, and some of them are friends of his that I met through him – we have a D&D group that both he and I take part in, and I really like all of the people there, but they are more his friends than mine and he knew them first. If I broke up with him, would my social life implode too? I don’t want to make people have to choose between being friends with me or with him, and I don’t want to lose friends.

What could I possibly do? I know I’m infected with numerous geek social fallacies about this, but I think our friends are are too and would react accordingly (feel like they had to choose).

When we went through a troubled patch this thought first came to me, and it’s never really gone away even though the problem at the time got better. I don’t want to break up right now, I’m happy as I am, I think. But I’m worried what might happen in the future. It would be hard for him too, and I don’t want it to be. I’m the only person he feels like he can talk about sex with, for instance, and I’ve tried to encourage him to find someone else to confide in but he hasn’t. I’m freaked out that I’m getting more and more entangled in this relationship and it’ll just be worse further along the line if we break things off. I’m also worried that my worrying about this is going to sour what we have now, and I don’t know how to feel better about it. I don’t want to be that person, the no self esteem person who breaks off a good thing because she was sure that it wasn’t going to last. I do want this to last. But I want to have some kind of parachute for if it doesn’t, and to know that the rest of my life isn’t going to run away from me.

Help?

Social Circle is Too Small

Whoa, Social Circle, I feel you on your anxiety about what will happen in your friend group because breakups can in fact be awkward, but the way you keep using the phrase “the rest of my life” makes me want to hug you, feed you a little something, and give you a good talking to.

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wide-brimmed black hat with veil

Nature has ways of staying "don't touch." We have fancy hats and words we learned in therapy.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have some pretty intense reactions to being physically touched. Basically, I can’t stand being physically touched by most people – and I especially don’t like being hugged. It makes me feel trapped and physically sick. I’ve learnt to deal with it on occasions where it would be awkward or rude not to, so it doesn’t impact my interpersonal relationships too much, but I still don’t like it.

However, I really cannot deal with being hugged if the person hugging me is very emotional – like if they’re crying. On the few occasions where this has happened to me, I’ve been very shaky afterwards and I felt like I’d been physically violated. Now usually I just avoid situations where this might occur, I go about my life with minimal physical contact and I’m fine. However…

My grandfather’s funeral is coming up (he’s got at the most a couple of weeks left and funereal preparations are under way). I know it might seem self-involved to be concerned for myself when my grandfather is going to die, but this is a huge issue for me.  

First of all, it’s very important to my mum that I attend the funeral, so not attending isn’t really an option.

Now: My mum has never been very respectful of my desire to not be hugged, even though I’ve talked to her about it, and it’s not something any of my extended family members are aware of.

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