Susan's Blog

Monday, February 20, 2006

To Need or Not to Need

Excuse the teenage-style angst, but I have been wondering lately about what to do with feeling needy. What do others do? It seems to be true that nobody loves you when you’re down and out. I find this to be incredibly sad. But then I think about those whom I like best to hang with, and most often I describe those people as “fun.” I don’t look for people who are really needy; and yet if one of my dearest friends were in deep need, I would leap to their side.

But if it happened too frequently? Would I still be there for them? Hmmm…

So why should I expect others to find it appealing in me when I am vulnerable?

Because that is when I need people the most!

I am quite willing to be needed by my children; in fact, I relish it when they come to me for something. It is pretty unusual because my kids are all very self-sufficient in their own ways. Nat will not/cannot(?) tell me what he needs, for the most part. I have to guess and guess. Max keeps it to himself also, and only tells me when he is already pretty upset. The same goes for Ben: he goes from content to angry in two seconds flat. He chooses anger (well, it probably does not feel like a choice to him but a reflex) because he is threatened by other, more vulnerable feelings.

When Ned needs me, he also does not tell me. I am supposed to hear it, or feel it, in a particular type of silence and his quiet words. I am supposed to put my needs aside and pull out of him whatever it is that is dragging him down. Often he does not know; he merely needs to talk about it, slowly, and quietly, until he has figured it out. And that takes a lot of patience for me — and I am not so good at patience.

My neediness is messy and ugly. It just kind of spills out of me, usually onto Ned, unless he is not here. Then I have to try to find an appropriate outlet. But there are few people whom I can trust with my roiling neediness when it is there. Why would I want people to see me in that state? But it is then that I really need someone, so I take the risk and look for someone who can handle it, who will cradle my fragile moment in just the right way. But who really can perform such a task for someone else? There are few I can trust and there are fewer interested, because maybe it scares them, or is a turn-off. There is nothing worse than offering your most real self to someone and then having it misunderstood — or rejected.

When I find a way to let flow the stuff that’s welling up, and maybe smear it onto some paper or a computer screen, I can eventually float back into a normal, comfortable place. Lately I have been learning how to do that for myself. I am surprised and delighted when I can, when I find that writing or thinking or exercising has smoothed me out again. Then I don’t need anyone to do it for me. Then, I can turn outwards once more, to friends and family, show the beautiful, shining side, and lo and behold, everyone flocks back, because I am strong and whole again — or so they think.

But I’ve just shown you: can you handle it?


From reading your description in this entry, I’d venture to guess that he’s introverted (inwardly thinking). I’d venture to guess that you may be extroverted too but maybe middle of the road. You need to spill out your thoughts in order to work through the issues.

Sounds sorta like my wife and I! We’re both introverts but she needs to dump and be heard. Sometimes those of us on the receiving end find these dumpings to be overwhelming even if the feelings and emotions and issues are not ours. We were counseled to put on our ‘raincoats’ during these kinds of times and talks. The raincoats are supposed to help us hear the other without getting wet in the process. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.

Throw a lack of other sources to dump to, a challenging child and you’re in for some hard times. Thankfully there are blogs, journals and therapists!

Keep the faith. You and Ned (and Nat) keep my hope alive that our family will make it despite our own challenging child and situations.

— added by Paul on Monday, February 20, 2006 at 10:30 pm

I can relate to this so strongly.
Honestly… I never know which of my issues are Aspie issues and which are shared by NTs so it’s really refreshing to hear you say this.
When I’m upset I want someone to listen to what I’m saying, understand where I’m coming from, and tell me they understand and they’re sorry without judging or telling me what to do.
Honestly, doing that is second nature for me because it’s something I’ve always wanted so much that I just figured others did too.
It’s second nature for me to say “Oh, that must have been so hard” to someone.
I so seldom get that response back when I express something upsetting that I have been thru.
It is one of life’s biggest mysteries to me right now why not.
Why when it would take mere seconds to make such a reply, when it can’t be much more complicated than learning what 2+2 is, to just remember that one simple response.
That’s all I want. Someone to validate my feelings and tell me, I agree, it is hard.
But I almost never find that person.
And I struggle with my own need too and I hate needing people and most of the time I don’t. Most of the time I soothe myself.
But I also agree that it is the time when you most need someone that you are the most undesirable to be with and it so hard to make that kind of need go away.

So. Other people are alone when they need someone too. I thought most people had friends they could go to who would support them at any time.

But what sense does that make? What sense does it make to structure the world this way?
Why can’t we support each other at our times of deepest need? If we need it ourselves, then others surely need it, so it only makes sense to make it a priority.

I’ll never understand why people put on such fake faces and will be friends with you during the good times but not the bad. I don’t see the point. We are victms of this fake, meaningless world that we have created for ourselves.

Ha, I think I might have the opposite problem. I’m a good friend for someone with a problem; I enjoy listening to them; I just have trouble figuring out something to do with them that could be classified as “fun!” (I don’t go many places due to sensory issues. Fun for me is a smoothie and a bookstore.)

By the way I have really enjoyed reading your blog. I’ve been reading old entries and meant to comment somewhere but this entry really took my attention.
I’m a 21 year old college senior with AS in Baltimore.
I just finished your book. What a wonderful experience to be able to read the book and then come on here and continue to read about your life – it’s like the book never ended! I’ve read probably well over 30 books on autism/AS now (by parents and people on the spectrum) and this is the first book that there’s actually been a current, active blog listed at the end of the book so that we can keep reading and even see pictures of what you talked about in the book so I think that is pretty darn cool and it actually quite made my night when I found it.
Keep up the good work, I think you make a wonderful mother for Nat and advocate for all of those with special needs!


— added by Kate on Wednesday, March 8, 2006 at 6:27 pm

Oh one other thing. Recently someone brought it to my attention that I actually am getting the support that I need but don’t know it. Always possible, lol. He told me that most people can read support in people’s faces and body language and that most people use body language to communicate their support for one another. Since I pick up absolutely nothing in this way in people’s body language and faces are blank scary things for me, I miss out on all this support. So it once again comes down to this: Aspies and NTs speaking two different languages. My language and need are verbal: I need to have someone verbally say “I support you, that was hard” for me to get it. I also say it because I dont know how to communicate it nonverbally. Im guessing the reason nts dont respond back to me with this is they communicate it nonverbally. But even when I bring this issue up with those I trust they still dont seem to get it, because just as I cant imagine understanding their nonverbal messages, they cant seem to imagine the extent to which I dont get them and appreciate how much I need explicit verbal reassurance.
They are trying and I guess it’s a work of progress but it’s so frustrating.
Twenty years of being convinved I spoke a different language than everyone else and it’s finally validated with a diagnosis at age 21; but all it’s doing, after the initial period of enormous relief, now is making me incredibly aware of and extremely frustrated of, these differences, and wishing that I could find a middle ground where I could find it not so difficult to relate to people.
There is, after all, a reason why I avoided taking foreign languages in school for as long as humanly possible 🙂


— added by Kate on Wednesday, March 8, 2006 at 6:34 pm