I’ve had a lot of crushes in my life. I have always been quiet and introverted, lonely at times, I’ve spent a good chunk of my childhood daydreaming. I’m also on the autistic spectrum, so connecting with people in real life can be a bit of a challenge for me.
What challenge does this story focus on?
Like many other autistic people, I have a bit of an obsessive streak. I used to get very fixated on a particular hobby – or even a particular person. But I was only diagnosed a few years ago. When I was growing up and during my twenties I knew that I was different to other people, but I didn’t know why. When I was 14, I wanted to marry Axl Rose, the singer of Guns N’ Roses. It wasn’t just a vague fantasy, I had come up with a failsafe plan.
How has this challenge affected you?
When I was a teenager, I was quiet and introverted so people didn't get to know me. I had never had a boyfriend and I knew nothing about relationships, but I believed all the romance stories, the happy endings on TV, the song lyrics. I fell in love with a few guys who I obsessed about. It came out that I liked one of these guys and I started to post negative messages and got called a stalker. I felt depressed and contemplated suicide because I felt guilty about my behaviour.
What has or is helping you to move forward with this challenge?
I felt I had no-one to turn to for support, but the following summer I met a friend who became my boyfriend. Unfortunately this didn't last and this was really hard for me, break-up was a totally alien concept as my parents were still together. I struggled again and felt bad about my obsessive behaviour, but I truly believed that this guy was the one I should be with. Eventually we lost touch, I'll never know how my behaviour affected him. But with my current boyfriend I have peace that if we did break-up I would need that physical distance to make sure that I don’t start obsessing again, that I don’t become that stalker ex-girlfriend again.
What have you learnt as a result of this challenge?
I have had counselling and I have taken antidepressants with limited success. The general advice has always been that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, that I should have a wide circle of friends so that I wouldn’t become too fixated on one person, that I should work on my interpersonal skills and learn to love myself. Because therapy is all about you, you’re not supposed to wait for a knight in shining armour, you shouldn’t expect a boyfriend to come along and fix all your problems.
How do you use this learning in your life now?
I now have a boyfriend who is also my best friend. And while I do have some truly wonderful friends, I’m not that close to them, because that’s not how I roll. I’m introverted, I get easily overwhelmed, I’m happy to have this one close bond, this one attachment. But I know this isn’t ideal because if the relationship ended I would really struggle. But I’ve made my peace with that. I’ve already decided that if we do break up, I will move far away. So I’m not perfect. Therapy hasn’t cured me. I’m more self-aware and mellow, but I probably still have that obsessive streak. I have fewer friends than most people but I’m okay with that. The autism diagnosis helped me brush off the last few remnants of guilt.