I feel harassed and desperate. How can I find happiness? | Autism
The dilemma i am a woman in my thirties. On paper I’m brilliant – an Oxford graduate with a multitude of prestigious qualifications, extracurricular accomplishments and a fairly successful career. The reality is that I just feel pathetic, ignorant and without gormless. I got to where I am because I am adept at analyzing and memorizing information, while clearly lacking other types of intelligence. I was bullied in school and continue to be bullied in adult life, which for me reinforces how pathetic I am.
I am very awkward physically and socially, I don’t understand body language, I have a hard time understanding what people are saying and I take it literally. This has led people to say that I have autism. I have never looked for a formal diagnosis because I don’t want to use it as an excuse or even a weapon, which I have seen other autistic women do.
I was ignored for a promotion because I was a ‘pusher’ who ‘couldn’t handle the ambiguity’. I changed jobs because of the bullying and I am good, but that’s because I found a niche. All my life I have shunned bullies and I constantly blame myself for my cowardice. I just give people a free rein make fun of me and tear me apart. I have been in therapy and it works while I am in it, but I start to believe again that I am weak and stupid and that I deserve to die. I know I am fortunate to have a great job and friends and family who love me, but how can I be happy in myself?
Mariella answers This is the hardest question… In my opinion, being happy in itself is one of the hardest skills to master and an underrated attribute. How seldom do we elevate or celebrate those who are happy in their own skin. Instead, we treat them with caution as if having the measure of yourself is an indication of being delusional, and using the courage of your convictions to influence your world is something others should be wary of – or even beware of. mock.
Think about how much energy we put into our lives – whether academically, in our careers, or socially – but all of these efforts are naught in the face of our innate ability to sabotage our own happiness by undermining our accomplishments and comparing ourselves unfavorably to others. You are clearly an old master.
What worries me the most is your comment that you think you don’t deserve to live – if so then you should not ask me for help, but an organization such as Samaritans (call 116 123) which will help you understand how many other people are struggling with similar debilitating mental health issues.
The first place to start in a satisfied life is to develop an indomitable sense of our own self-worth and yet this is so often the first stumbling block. Self-acceptance is elusive and something we spend too little time fostering in ourselves or honoring in others. What you are going through is as debilitating as any disease we could take much more seriously.
You say others have suggested you might be on the autism spectrum which you need to investigate. Not doing it because – as you suggest – it will be an excuse or a crutch, it’s like refusing to know if you are allergic to cat hair as that will become a reason to avoid cats! Knowledge is power and self-knowledge is nothing less than a superpower.
Bullies are drawn to the vulnerabilities in our defenses, and the only way to lessen their insidious impact is to shore up the castle. Of course, you need to check if you are on the autism spectrum. If you don’t, how will you ever know which parts of your personality are related to nature and which parts are nourished? To suggest that you might be autistic, like you did in your email, while disparaging those who are is a confusing message and no path to enlightenment. You say you want to find happiness within yourself, but that will only happen if you commit to understanding yourself better.
Understanding yourself comes from a determined inquiry into your own psyche. If the therapy is working, why did you stop? There is no magic wand that will sweep away your tendency to hate yourself. It takes determination, hard work, and clarity, whatever you seem to be displaying, but only when you’re pointing it at yourself in a destructive way.
Return to therapy as soon as possible, but this time pair it with a determined effort to use all of the skills I just mentioned in the positive pursuit of a better quality of life. Most of us struggle with our reflections from time to time, but continually looking for flaws instead of just taking stock and moving on becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As for being goofy, it’s a staple of comedy and quite common. My advice is to stay away from fragile items!