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Life Advice to Younger Autistics, Part 2

Following up from my previous article, here is some more advice that would have been extraordinarily helpful for me to have received as a child, and that I hope will be of some use to other younger autistics who may happen upon it.

Autistic Pride Symbol Get a cat (or another pet) - I say cat specifically because I feel know that they are the the most sublime form of life in the known universe, but just about any pet can be helpful for an autistic person, especially a child. While it's true that they are my life-long obsession, cats are also almost universally beloved by the autistic community, and I'll even go as far as to say that some of us relate to them more than we do to other humans. The many apparent similiarities between cats and autistic people are recognised enough to have spawned a famous children's book on the subject.

When you're going through life as a misunderstood outlier, it's very beneficial to your mental health to have someone in your corner who will love you unconditionally and will never judge you, or consider you to be any weirder than the other people around you, yet is still intelligent enough to develop a genuine friendship with. It's worth noting that although dogs used to be universally considered more socially intelligent than cats, this notion is now being flipped on its head after modern research has shown that cats are excellent at understanding humans but, in another hilarious similiarity to autistics, detest being told what to do and are very difficult to study as a result.

Unlike neurotypicals, who look just like you and expect you to be able to communicate and behave the same way they do, cats and humans are so obviously different in biology that both sides understand that they will need to work to meet each other in order to communicate effectively. And cats work much harder at closing that gap than most people give them credit for. For instance, meowing is a form of communication that cats typically only utilise as kittens, that they began using in adulthood after realising humans don't understand their usual ways of communicating. From my own experiences with my cat, I've observed that they are also capable of learning human words and even deducing the meanings of entire sentences and responding to them in a logical manner.

The mutually-understood communication barrier between cat and human, along with the fact that cats are very candid and don't play ridiculous social games like neurotypicals do, can make having a cat around a very useful and harmless learning experience for how to empathise and communicate with someone very different from oneself. Additionally, since autistic people often struggle to have their struggles understood or accepted by other people, a cat or another pet can prove to be an indepensible companion, who will provide much-needed comfort without any judgment.

Growing up as an undiagnosed autistic boy in a Russian household, it was understandable that despite how genuinely loving and caring my parents were, my hyper-emotionality and proclivity towards crying often were quite outside the realm of acceptable gender norms and not taken to well by my parents. I would usually be told some version of "boys don't cry" (contrary to popular belief, there is no known correlation between a person's sexual organs, and whether or not they have tear ducts) and ignored during such episodes by family members. Obviously, worse things if I happened to show these feelings around other children.

I will never forget, however, my first time crying in the vicinity of my cat after my parents got one for me. My cat was quite fearful and avoidant when she first showed up, so it was quite a shock to me when she uncharacteristically left her shell to approach me and start gently nudging my arm with her nose while purring to show me that she wanted to comfort me.

The Web is littered with other similiar heart-warming anecdotes. Here is an article that mentions a cat who helped a non-verbal autistic boy learn to speak, and here is one about a cat who essentially became an anxiety-ridden autistic boy's caretaker, constantly comforting him and even predicting his meltdowns, something his fellow humans were unable to do, and acting in advance to prevent them.

Autistic Pride Symbol Learn to love your own company - You'll likely be forced to be your own best friend (unless you have a cat!), so learning to tolerate and even love your own company is going to be essential for your psychological survival. That just comes with the territory of being a person who over 98% of the world struggles to connect and communicate with, and who suffers from maladies that they cannot empathise with. This isn't just me venting my personal angst either; schizoid personality disorder, which is characterised by a complete lack of interest in relationships and an overwhelming preference for solitude, is quite common among autistic people going by any known attempt to quantify its prevalence.

Having to rely entirely on yourself for emotional support won't always be easy, and there will be some particularly dark times when you'll be staring down all manner of seemingly insurmountable sorrows and anxieties with no refuge turn towards. Nonetheless, they will pass, you will make it through, and will emerge from it all more emotionally self-sufficient than most people can even imagine, and one day you will be able to laugh at all of it.

Many people would consider what I just said to be depressing, which I decidedly disagree with. To me, it is vastly more lamentable that there are people in the world that are so reliant on other people that they will end their own lives due to a temporary lockdown keeping them from interacting with them in-person, or subject themselves to all manner of manipulation, humiliation, and abuse (cults, abusive relationships, and so on) simply to keep someone in their corner.

This is the main reason that people with dependent personality disorder, which is marked by a crippling fear of being alone and an utterly submissive reliance on other people, so often find themselves in relationships with narcissists and other abusers. Desperation too often invites disaster, and I think it's an important survival strategy for anyone, autistic or neurotypical, to be emotionally self-sufficient for that reason.

There is a gulf of difference between being alone (being in solitude), and being lonely (suffering from being in solitude); it is fully possible to be surrounded by people and still be lonely, just as it is possible to be completely alone while suffering no loneliness. Most animals would drown if they were submerged underwater for a long enough period of time, yet most fish spend their entire lives underwater without any issue.

Sad or not, being able to love one's company is essential for autistics because of the differences between us and the majority. As iterated earlier, we live in a world where just about everyone that we encounter is wired so differently that they may as well be a different species. Most of us do not have the luxury of having a cornucopia of choices for fulfilling companionship. The sort of companionship that makes neurotypicals tick, is about as stimulating to us as listening to someone describe just how the grass on their lawn has been growing over the past night.

Thankfully, while being autistic can make it supremely difficult difficult to forge and maintain relationships, it also makes one much more adept at surviving that sort of life.

Beyond the special interests that can easily take over our lives even if we have other people in them, autistic people are predisposed to having rich and deep inner worlds, and evidence exists to show that we are more creative than neurotypicals are. The same nonconformity and tendency to think wildly outside of the box that can lead us to make incredibly embarrassing social blunders, also has the silver lining of allowing us to come up with things that no one else could've come up with.

I think it starts out with inventing imaginary friends to have someone to talk to your problems out with, and to bounce ideas off of with. Of course, if you can invent anyone you want as a friend, why not go all out? Who wants to be friends with Oswald the 2nd Grader when you can have, say, an Ancient Egyptian cat who is also an immortal wizard, around to advise you on your mathematics homework? Or an extra-universal floating eyeball wizard who critiques your CSS and adds cheesy puns and snarky jokes to spice it up?

Although you will outgrow having an imaginary friend in childhood just as neurotypicals do, this tendency to create vibrant inner worlds to pass the time tends to stick around for a lifetime, allowing many autistic people to achieve great success in creative fields. Whenever I need to develop characters for a new story or other work, I still tend to simply create all of them as bare bones caricatures (i.e., "stoic vampiric sorceress with amnesia", "ancient nihilistic philosopher/kung fu master", "1920s-esque mob-boss-turned-God-of-Destruction") and then bounce the characters off of each other in my head and see what personality traits, backstories, quirks, etc they wind up having, almost as if I am getting to know them as real people via observation.

While the sentiment that autistic people have no desire for relationships of any sort is wholly untrue in most cases, most of us can cope just fine so long as we have our inner worlds, our special interests, and some quality books related to them. As Marcus Tullius Cicero once said in a letter: "If you have a garden in your library, there will be nothing lacking!"

A side-note about special interests here. While you may struggle to connect socially in real life due to how much your passions rule your life, especially if it is obscure, there is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with having special interests. They can be incredibly fun and therapeutic to engage in, and are almost always harmless. Quite a number of autistic people have even managed to leverage their special interest into a successful career, and a number of the most impactful people in history are now believed by psychologists to have been autistics whose field(s) of work simply happened to be their special interest! More on this in a forthcoming article.

Even if it's not something that is profitable, you will almost certainly find people, at least online, who can appreciate someone who is passionate about their hobbies and able to regale people about them like a college professor. I have personally gotten a lot of enjoyment out of other (autistic and neurotypical) people infodumping on me many times in the past, even when it was about special interests that i did not share. Personally, I find it quite pitiable how many neurotypicals completely lack the sorts of deep passions that almost all autistic people have.

Autistic Pride Symbol Journal/photograph as much as possible - Many autistic people detest being photographed, so I know how this one will immediately come off. I am one of those, and my loathing was great enough that before I became a Kemetic, I had been half-seriously contemplating trying out a Native American religion so that I could claim that I believed that my soul would be stolen by the camera as an excuse to get out of having to ever be photographed.

My father was always very insistent on taking photographs and videos of the family, and having me use a camera to photograph events, such as field trips, where he wasn't there to do it himself. As much as this vexed my child self, I appreciate it greatly now.

I'm not sure when this realisation first hit, but at some point I became acutely aware of the fact that the part of my brain where my childhood memories are supposed to be, is largely a yawning black hole. Apparently, this is not uncommon, as younger autistic children tend to have difficulties making and recalling memories. This can be greatly exacerbated by trauma, including PTSD and CPTSD, which are more common in autistic people due to the many morose experiences so many go through.

On top of this, being told that your natural behaviours are "wrong", and being forced to mask as someone else from a young age, can lead to having a warped sense of self in a person. If you have no idea who you were or where you came from, and have been actively faking it since as long ago as you can remember, you eventually run the risk of genuinely not knowing who you are anymore. Moreover, time is the Great Devourer, and you will eventually watch the family members and relatives who may be the only people who ever got to know the real you pass away.

Having photographs/family videos to refer to can be an invaluable tool for trying to fill in the many holes that you will likely have in your memories, and remaining in touch with your younger self. Journaling your thoughts is also very useful for the same reason. I've had a very long-term habit of maintaining an encrypted diary on my computer, even before I was aware of my memory issues, initially as a way of venting and of talking to myself to work things out, plan, and make decisions, and later on as a way to ensure I don't forget various things.

Physical diaries are an option, of course, but going digital is likely preferable for most autistics since typing takes significantly less time and effort than writing even without the pains of dyspraxia. Not to mention an encrypted file is significantly safer from prying eyes than a physical journal. My personal method for the longest time has been storing all of my personal rants in an encrypted and password-protected Linux virtual machine.

Autistic Pride Symbol Neurotypicals communicate in a foreign language - Humans are complex (some of them, anyway), and it's impossible to get to know one without a very massive amount of time and effort. As such, our brain works to fill in the gaps with what it has to work with. Unfortunately, since much of what we have to work with is our own selves, this means we will be making major mistakes when attempting to use this to understand the vast majority of the population. As an autistic, you need to intuitively understand that you live in a world full of people that speak a bizarre foreign language that superficially resembles the one that you were taught and falsely told was the common tongue of the land.

I sometimes compare being autistic to being a cat stuck in a dog pound because everyone thinks they're also a dog. You can imagine how much confusion would be inherent there if the cat also believes herself to be just like the other dogs, and tries to understand the behaviours of the actual dogs by viewing them through that lens. The double empathy problem is the result of autistics and neurotypicals viewing each other's behaviours through this distorted lens.

It is well beyond the scope of this article for me to cover the vagaries of neurotypical communication, but I will describe some basics here. I have a number of books and other pieces of literature on the subject that I am either reading or planning to read, before I feel comfortable enough fully tackling this issue with its own article.

One of the biggest differences in autistic and neurotypical communication, is that while we communicate to exchange interesting or important information, neurotypicals often use the act of speaking to bond with each other and exchange emotions. If you are anything like me and most other autistics, you have no doubt been mystified as to why neurotypicals so often gleefully engage in prolonged exchanges about utter trivialities such as the weather, sports, or each other's daily lives, possibly wondering why they don't just start describing in detail how the paint on their shed has been drying in the process. Is the subject considered too exciting to broach?

The reason neurotypicals so often seem to jabber about nothing, is because they actually are just exchanging emotional noise for the purpose of creating and maintaining social bonds with each other. There never exists any intent in these interactions to exchange interesting information, only for the conversational partners to make each other feel good and to learn minor details about each other for use in future interactions. Small talk is the neurotypical human equivalent of two dogs smelling each other's butts, and analysing either act for profound insights is equally futile.

I can only rely on numerous neurotypical anecdotes for this as I am, to be quite frank, "too autistic" to comprehend the emotions that neurotypicals allegedly experience during this process, but to paraphrase a write-up I remember reading, two people commenting on the weather helps them bond with each other because it emphasises that they have both been affected by the same life event, and that they reside in the same general area. People asking about each other's day-to-day life and about their family members and acquaintances is done because neurotypicals enjoy being able to talk about themselves, and learning more about each other's lives and finding experiences and traits that they can relate to and bond over.

There is no way to state this without unintentionally coming off as elitist (to anyone not familiar with psychology, anyway), but, bonding in these ways is inherently alien to autistic people because we do not possess the psychological desire to conform to and be part of a larger group, which is a very powerful instinct in the vast majority of neurotypical people. Humans are largely herd animals, with autistics and other neurodivergent people being most of the outliers to this. To make a heavy generalisation, autistics are motivated and excited by ideas, while neurotypicals are motivated and excited by people and social groups.

One helpful way to think about it, is that a neurotypical's social world is essentially their "special interest". Personally speaking, this has helped me empathise with these odd behaviours quite a bit more, even if they still irritate me. Much like many of us can't stop ourselves from ranting incessantly and excitedly about our special interests (the fuel that sustains this website) to anyone who has enough of an interest to lend us an ear, neurotypicals often cannot help but infodump about their own interest at each other. This is also why they can seem so excited over sharing completely mundane social information back-and-forth with each other.

Another major difference between how we and neurotypicals communicate is that the vast majority of neurotypical communication comes from non-verbal cues such as tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions. Neurotypicals often expect people to smile, make eye contact, and maintain a certain friendly tone of voice from people to indicate friendliness, and can become concerned about what the lack of such things signifies.

There are two primary issues that stem from this. First, since a great many of us tend to use about as many of these cues as a stoic shonen character, neurotypicals will often misinterpret us as being cold, self-absorbed, or even dangerous. Additionally, because they put more emphasis on these things than they do actual words, we wound up missing out on messages they are sending or misinterpreting what they are attempting to say.

In the interests of being entirely honest, my own in-person neurotypical-style conversational skills are still quite lacking, largely because I have never had (and still don't have) any interest in developing them. I largely compensate by staying quiet unless I have something worth saying, and having an excellent sense of humour (or so I'm told). Both being traits that are well worth developing if you're autistic and/or highly introverted. That, and being around people who accept me despite my autistic eccentricities has been a big help.

Like many other autistics, I also find the dreary topics that neurotypicals usually gab about to be completely beyond me because I do not pay any attention to mainstream movies/music/"culture", have no social media accounts, never eat at restaurants, don't know or care in the least about sports, and avoid social events like the plague. As such, I have no idea how to respond in such exchanges, and it doesn't take long before my conversational partner is forced to assume that I'm trying to get them to leave and am too polite to directly tell them to sod off.

If you are absolutely deadset on becoming good at making prolonged conversation with neurotypicals, it may be worthwhile to at least have a surface-level understanding of such topics. While they are decidedly more intriguing, the sorts of more profound or obscure subjects that autistic people tend to have as our special interests are rarely topics that neurotypicals will have any interest in having a conversation on, or at least a drawn-out one.

You probably have noticed that neurotypicals are averse to going in-depth on subjects, which can be of great annoyance if you meet someone who has some level of appreciation for one of your special interests, but is only content to briefly touch upon it in conversation instead of going on hours-long tangents devoted specifically to the subject the way we tend to. Casual neurotypical conversation can be thought of as an event where people are supposed to swap tiny vegetarian (social/casual-themed) "finger foods" with each other back and forth, while in this metaphor, autistic people misinterpret the nature of the event and show up with an entire roasted turkey as an offering.

I will say that one tip that will usually work even if you're not a good talker, is to simply get a person to talk about themselves, their loved ones, their friends, and/or their affairs. Most neurotypicals love the chance to freely talk about themselves and their social circles, and as long as you're able to listen, and ask open-ended questions or make sympathetic and/or relevant remarks whenever they stop talking (this is important as it shows both that you're paying attention, and that you care about what they are saying), people will appreciate you for it, whether or not you're awkward.

It has long been believed that autistic people are naturally gifted at systemising, at the expense of empathising. This basically means that we are better at noticing and organising patterns, and then using them to understand systems, but struggle at understanding chaotic and illogical systems, such as the social world. For this reason, it can be a massive boon to at the very least educate yourself on neurotypical communication methods and norms, to learn just how and why their brains work, as you are able to approach interactions through a more lucid and logical lens.

To use the metaphor of an autistic person beingg akin to a spy infiltrating a foreign culture, this can be compared to sitting down and manually learning the cultural norms of the people you are infiltrating from a book, since you did not have the benefit of growing up around them and absorbing the knowledge naturally. Alternatively, just think of it as humouring someone else's eccentricities and preferences to be polite,

As an example, although I still personally consider things such as making smalltalk or greeting people even when you have no intention of talking to them. to be bizarre and nonsensical, having an understanding of why they make neurotypicals feel comfortable makes me vastly less hesitant to engage in them when necessary. Considering how much I advocate for autism acceptance, as well as autistics and neurotypicals meeting each other halfway instead of just us making all of the effort, it is the least I can do to avoid hypocrisy.

It's important to remember that as absurd and vexing as these sorts of behaviours and tendencies may intuitively seem to you or I, it is all a matter of perspective. Autistic behaviours such as stimming and infodumping about our special interests come off as incredibly off-putting to the vast majority of neurotypicals as well because they do not understand our reasons for engaging in them, and assume we must be mentally defective. Yet, just as we have genuine reasons for behaving the way that we do, so too do neurotypicals. Nothing is inherently wrong with either group; they just have different neurotypes and do not automatically understand each other's ways.

Nonetheless, all of this chicanery can be largely avoided aside from situations where it's necessary for career advancement, because...

Autistic Pride Symbol Online friendships are a lifesaver - My cat aside, every real, fulfilling friendship that I've ever had has been online. Most people won't agree with me about online friendships being an acceptable substitute for in-person friendships, but for an autistic person, the ability to communicate via pure text without worrying about any of the complicated social sprinkles that in-person interaction requires, can make online friendships far more fulfilling than meatspace ones.

The subject of why written/typed communication is superior to verbal/in-person communication is substantial enough that I dedicated an entire article to it on the Library of Babel. Suffice to say, communicating over text is immeasurably more comfortable for many autistic people, including myself, because it cuts out all of the extra filler that we may have trouble processing, and leaves only the actual ideas that need to be expressed. As mentioned in previous articles, one study that analysed interactions between autistic and neurotypicals showed that while neurotypicals consistently and immediately formed negative impressions of autistic people via interactions involving audio/visual, which did not form when the interaction was done through text.

Just as importantly, unlike real life, the Internet offers many fertile avenues towards helping like-minded people find each other. Personal websites are an obvious method, and my personal favourite one, as I have had the blessing of meeting quite a number of wonderful people through my Neocities website and through other Neocities websites. At one point way back in 2003 or so, I e-mailed a person whose website I really admired, which then led to not only a mutual friendship, but the establishment of a very long-standing IRC community by the two of us.

As a random example, a person who has an obsession with a very obscure or niche subject may struggle to find a kindred spirit in real life, where no one around them has any interest in them, or may even feel uncomfortable broadcasting it to other people even if they did. Yet, no such issues exist online, where there are no consequences for casually mentioning this pursuit in an anonymous chatroom or forum, or putting together a Neocities website full of information on the subject and waiting until like-minded people stumble upon it and e-mail the creator.

Making friends online in this manner essentially allows you to skip the confusing and tiresome machinations of small talk, and get right to finding their tribe among the billions of other people online. Since autistic people are generally far more interested in ideas than they are in people, bonding with other people over having shared passions is a far more logical pursuit than attempting to do so by socialising with people one-on-one or in small groups.

Even at my age, I still completely fail to understand how neurotypicals manage to bond over such vapid things as acknowledging that they are both experiencing the weather, or that they live in the same geographical area, or went to the same restaurant at some point. As if residing in the same zip code, also being caught in the rain the other day, or having a superficial interest in some mainstream movie inherently makes someone a person trustworthy, interesting, or at all worth knowing.

I'm going off on a tangent here, but I wanted to mention that I find the notion of online friendships being fundamentally inferior to meatspace ones to be increasingly humourous, considering how much interaction between so-called "real" friends now actually takes place either on social media online, or via text messages or phone calls (which can be replicated via online text or voice chat).

This notion also implies that if two people had a very close real-life friendship for decades, and one of them moves to another country, their friendship stops being "real", even if they make every effort to continue to stay in touch over e-mail or another long distance communication method. "That person you've been sharing your hopes and dreams with since you were both 8 years old and now continue to chat online with? That's not a real friend! That random co-worker who occasionally likes one of your cat videos on Facebook is your real friend!"

To quote C.S. Lewis: "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'" For autistic people, with the "excessively circumscribed or perseverative interests" that the DSM-5 so lovingly describes us as having, looking for people who share those passions in real life instead of the Internet, is akin to wandering the Earth in a desperate search for Moon rocks, when we have a rocket that can fly us up to the Moon at any time we wish to go. Speaking of which!

Autistic Pride Symbol You are not alone - I was originally going to put this close to the top of the page in part 1, but the previous point segued so well into this one that my hands were tied. With even the most liberal estimates still placing the autistic population at under 2% of the human population, it can be easy to feel that you're completely alone in your struggles. Yet even that miniscule percentage equates to enough people to fill up a fairly large nation.

As mentioned in the previous point, one of the most beautiful aspects of the Web and the Internet at large, is that people can now find their tribe no matter how geographically separated they may be. This has done wonders for helping people with niche hobbies and interests find each other, and has also been a miracle for helping autistics all around the world to find, support, and advocate for each other.

All of those quirks that you have, that you may be ashamed of and compelled to treat like an ancient sordid family secret that has led God to curse your bloodline forevermore? There's probably hundreds of posts and articles made by other autistic people, laughing about having those same quirks and squeeing over being able to share them with other kindred souls. On my own end, I have had the great fortune to meet and speak with many autistic people through just my website alone, while I still do not know a single autistic person in real life.

Along with providing much-needed support for each other, the online autistic community has already positively influenced autism research by correct many misconceptions that have existed, and bringing issues, such as autistic burnout, to the attention of researchers who were previously oblivious to them.

The autistic community is spread out all over the Internet, from personal websites (such as this one!), to chatrooms, to blogs, to social media groups and profiles. Looking up "#ActuallyAutistic" or "Actually Autistic", along with topics of your choice, in your search engine of choice is a good way to start, as is looking on the Actually Autistic Blogs List, of which this site is an affiliate of. The "Actually Autistic" label was specifically invented in order to differentiate articles and posts written by actual autistic people, from the sea of offensive disinformation being spewed on the subject of autism by ignorant neurotypicals.

The online world isn't the only possible way autistic people can find kinship of course, as real-life autistic meetups can be a massive boon as well. One of my favourite autism/neurodiversity-related anecdotes that I have had the pleasure of hearing was actually from an old autistic friend who was put into a special class in high school for autistic/neurodivergent kids, in order to teach them "social skills". According to him, he still has no idea if he or anyone else actually learned any (neurotypical) social skills, but the whole endeavour did cause the kids to form a tightly-knit group of friends that persisted long after they graduated.

This friend also later used the technical skills that he acquired in college to launch a successful career at a big-name technology company, via a program they were using to recruit autistic college graduates. In spite of the dismal employment rate of autistics and the mainstream narrative that the only option is to "cure" autistic people of their natural brain-wiring via abusive "therapies" such as ABA, this anecdote shows the power of acceptance (and kinship witho ther autistics) in allowing autistic people to live successful and fulfilled lives.

Autistic Pride Symbol Alcohol/drugs are not the answer - I can say with utmost certainty that my child self would be scoffing at this, even if he actually witnessed me majestically appearing out of a hole in the time-space continuum to authentically present this article to him as his future self, but I will say it anyway: drugs and alcohol are not the answer to the struggles of autism OR any other struggles. As a wise old saying goes, "no matter where you go, there you are". You cannot beat your anxieties and demons by simply fleeing them. Moreover, using drugs to attempt to do so, as many autistics (including yours truly) attempt to do, ultimately just adds an additional, increasingly taxing burden on top of you.

I've been told in my younger years that drugs are a crutch, and I feel the need to point out that this is a highly inaccurate metaphor that significantly sugarcoats the problem. Actual physical crutches are generally used by people out of genuine unavoidable necessity, and do not confer any ill effects to the person using them. A more fitting one can perhaps be made by relying on the "spoons metaphor" of mental health.

This metaphor basically states that people have a certain amount of spoons at their disposal each day, and everything that they do uses up a spoon. People who are autistic and/or have depression/anxiety or a mental condition then, have a far more limited amount of spoons and are forced to budget how and when they use their spoons, lest they run out completely and become unable to do anything else, possibly for days afterward if they had to "borrow" spoons from the next day.

Now, imagine instead of coping with the tiny amount of spoons you have, you decide to start borrowing some extra spoons from a "spoon loan shark" (a phrase that has almost certainly never been used before) to allow you to get through social events that you would have otherwise avoided, and so on. That works out well, until you realise that the spoon loan shark is a vampire that is taking their payment in the form of your physical and mental health, which it slowly gnaws away at, leaving you with less and less spoons to spare. And you can't easily escape them either, as by the time the problem has grown dire enough to become undeniable, you will also be facing down the prospect of a brutal shark attack in the form of crippling withdrawals if you try to flee.

As a side-note, "vampiric spoon loan shark" would make a wonderful comical creepypasta monster.

Instead of destroying yourself for an increasingly meager temporary benefit, it may be beneficial to instead realise that...

Autistic Pride Symbol Worrying about things you cannot control is self-flagellation - Anxiety can be a very useful tool since it can provide you with a much-needed sense of urgency towards solving important problems. Unfortunately, it can also burn right through valuable mental energy and destroy your emotional and physical health, while accomplishing absolutely nothing. Sadly, the Intense World theory has proven that we have a far lower threshold than neurotypicals for developing fear associations, along with having vastly diminished fear extinction processes.

Difficult as it may be, you will need to learn, sooner or later, how to deactivate the anxiety mechanism in your brain at a snap, as a survival mechanism. To essentially be able to sternly tell yourself "we're not going to care about, we're not going to think about it, it doesn't matter", and immediately follow through on shutting down the problematic thought process. Odd and perhaps impossible as that may sound to some, this is indeed possible to do in many situations with sufficient practice.

If you're autistic, it is close to a completely inevitable fact of life that you will lack an intuitive understanding of social cues and social norms, that you will consistently be quite naive compared to your similiarly-aged peers, and can be prone to undertaking some very regrettable endeavours because you simply did not know better. The pitfalls that your peers seem to magically absorb the need to avoid, you will only learn about after painfully and clumsily bonking your head on them while everyone laughs at your misfortune.

Take it from me, painful social blunders are almost as inevitable in the life of an autistic person as breathing. I say "almost", because I can reliably hold my breath for close to 2 consecutive minutes even when I am around other people. In most cases, these sorts of things won't matter for very long, if they mattered in the first place, but our monkey brain does not understand that on its own.

Human lifestyles have changed far too rapidly for evolution to keep pace, and it was not that long ago, evolutionarily speaking, that humankind lived in tribes where losing the favour of the rest of the tribe could lead to ostracisation, which in turn led to almost certain death from either starvation or mauling at the hands of a wild animal. Despite the fact that we now live in a world so radically different, that a significant amount of people are even able to work from home and completely avoid any sort of interactions with the rest of their species, the instincts that we evolved to protect us from death-by-exile have not abated, instead sticking around as an irritating vestigal organ.

One strategy that works for me personally, is asking myself if something I did will matter in 100 years, then whether it will matter in 10 years, 1 year, or even a month or a day. Chances are, the answer to each of those questions will be "no". Learning about the projected far future of the universe has done wonders for showing me just how meaningless and fleeting our lives and even the entire existence of our species really is in the grand scheme of things. That, and realising that history is littered with millions and millions of people who have done far more embarrassing things than any of us, who have been utterly forgotten long ago.

Chances are, unless your oddities are in the realm of being an impossibly voracious glutton who can eat 30 pounds of animal organs in one sitting, they are something far less consequential than your brain wants you to believe it is.

It's also worth knowing that most neurotypicals are highly reliant on how a person "carries themselves" in order to inform their own opinion of them, and being able to laugh off your own missteps can go a long way towards making you more likeable. Think of yourself as being a salesperson selling your image as a product (I know how dirty and tiresome that sounds); making a joke and presenting something about yourself as a charming eccentricity will work much better than presenting it as a shameful inadequacy.

In summary, as Mark Twain allegedly said: "Worrying is like paying a debt you don't owe."

Hopefully, some of this was at least somewhat helpful. Every autistic person is completely unique, so almost nothing that I or any other autistic can write will apply to everyone across the spectrum. Nonetheless, regardless of where you may be on the spectrum, please keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with you just because you are autistic, and that you are not alone in your struggles, even if your experiences in "real life" may make you feel like a misunderstood alien. You are simply a neurological minority following a lesson plan that was never intended for your life experience.