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The unreliable aspie



You'd better not ask me to do anything, I'll let you down!

Well, we don't often put it that way, do we? No. Instead we wriggle, and struggle and slip away if possible. Or we have an amazing, or totally lame, excuse for not doing it - most likely accompanied by the light-bulb expression of just having thought of the excuse.

Okay, so perhaps I'm misjudging you aspies out there? Maybe you're always reliable and can get the job done? Or maybe you intend to be reliable and absolutely know you can do it? Then, just possibly, something comes up or you have an off day, or you forget and it still doesn't get done.

So, apologies up-front to any aspies who are reliable and can follow through on their promises. Now, for the rest of us...

How many times have you wanted to help someone and know what you can do to help them, then not done it? This includes either avoiding helping them, or saying you will and then not doing it. For me, I wouldn't know anymore. Time and time again, in every area of life.

I'm not proud of it, it's one of the major flaws I see in myself - compared to some of the major flaws I can't see! I mean to do it, have every intention of doing it and then flake out.

It's part of the self-sabotage effect, I think. You don't want to fail, so you avoid the issue. Or the thought of being the important part of something is just too unnerving and you back out. Better to let someone else do it than get in the middle, where everyone can see you when you get it wrong.

The agreement to help, the part of you that really does want to come forward and make things better for people, that is genuine. And they will want to accept your help because they'll see the offer is sincere. Your face will tell them that, your tone of voice will show them you're there when they need you.

Then when you back out, either a little while before if you're being honest with yourself and know you can't do it, or right at the last second if you're still trying to kid yourself; then they see that you weren't reliable and couldn't be trusted to come through for them. Mistrust sets in and, no matter how much they like you or care about you, they don't expect you to be there in times of need.

From this, the seeds of doubt are set in over whether you really care too. If you cared, then you'd be reliable and do what you could to help. This takes a little time to build up, a few failed attempts to gain help from you, a few reasons or excuses given by you that could be true, but always seem to come just before you're needed to do something.

It's not surprising if people begin to think you don't care, actions speaking louder than words and all that. If you cared, you'd be there.

This is made worse by what often happens over time: rather than step forward and offer to help, the adult aspie has learned that they're unreliable and are more likely to avoid offering the help in the first place. This is where the avoidance comes in, leaving the one who needs the help feeling abandoned. Whatever we aspies do, we still come across as not being there when needed.

It doesn't matter how subtle you think you were being, it's obvious. Don't forget, you're usually dealing with people who can read body language. They don't just listen to what your voice is saying, or what you think your face is doing - they see the whole you and they know you're avoiding the issue.

Oh, reader, how often I've stood there at that pivotal point in the conversation, my brain running the conveyor belt at top speed, all the options shooting past of how I could do this, and that and then I'd be helping someone. All these things rocket past and I watch them go, knowing if I say anything that we'll all regret it.

I slide off, hoping I got away with it and that no one saw me processing the fact that I could be useful but deciding against it. They don't know I'm avoiding it for their own good. They don't understand that it's better to have this moment of seeming uncaring and selfish, than to have the hope bubble float along until I burst it, letting them down far more significantly later.

Am I kidding myself? Do I really just want to be left alone and not help anyone at all? Am I just this selfish woman who cares about you only if you don't need anything from me? Sometimes, yes, I think I am that person. The one who lives in her own world and doesn't mind turning her back on the 'real' one.

Mostly, though, these thoughts that come are sent by me, to punish myself for not being the complete person I imagined I'd be. You're not reliable, so you decide you're selfish. You buckle under pressure so you call yourself weak. You back out at the last second, unable to face it all, so you must be a horrible person.

One decision leads to another, so one thought process also travels along and finds another. This doesn't mean it's all true, though. It means, as always, that you're searching for an answer, an explanation that makes sense so that you can look at it, file it away and know what it means for the next time.

It's at odds with the concept of wanting to do something, so you do it. With aspies there is a small crack, just where you step and you often trip on it. You intended to go straight from wanting to doing, then flap! your arms are in the air and you're trying to save yourself from falling again.

What to do? Shall I suggest that you be honest and say to someone, 'I don't think I can do that. I'd like to help you, but I don't think I'm able.' This leaves it open, as if you want them to think of a reason why you can do it after all. It sounds like a request.

What about the blunt, honest approach? 'I'm sorry, I can't help you.' Or even just, 'No, I can't help.' Feelings, anyone? They'd be lying on the carpet, gasping for breath by the time you'd finished. But hurt feelings aside, everyone would know exactly where you stood.

Is it better to be brutally honest and get it out of the way than to go along, hoping you can come through this time, only to let it slip out of your grasp again and let them all down?

On this one, I'm the wrong person to ask. If you'd be able to cope with the reaction you get from complete honesty, then go for it, but perhaps soften it a little around the edges. If you like, explain somewhat that you often find it difficult to help and are tired of letting people down.

I have to admit, if you're like me, you'd still prefer shimmying out of the situation, hoping to avoid  unnecessary feelings of any kind. Let's just leave those feelings alone, shall we? Let's sneak off or pretend we don't know what's happening. Or let's agree and then deal with the consequences later.

Hmm, the more I think about it, the more I see how much simpler it is to be a feelings-thrashing aspie. Honesty first and comfort later. And yet, I'm still not able to do that. Perhaps, when I can be totally honest with myself and admit that I can't face being the one people can depend on, then maybe I can start being as honest with other people.

Until then, I'll just do what I can, continuing in the hope of being able to help when I say I will, because sometimes I do manage it. And then, readers, what a relief to have it out of the way!

Mostly, though, I stand there, face a-twitching, distracted by the noise from that conveyor belt, wondering if I should reach out and pluck something off it or move gently sideways while no one is looking.

Amanda

My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
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