The Life Autistic: It’s Not Just Introversion

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It can’t be possible that everyone is an introvert.

But it sure seems that way, based on the amount of folks I meet (who are genuinely otherwise genial and social) who confess that, despite their apparent gregariousness and yen for social activities, they are introverts at their core.

So there are times I have to reckon with The Life Autistic: am I not just a different variety of introvert? Or conversely, aren’t introverts in some way “a little bit autistic?”

No.

Autism encompasses a range of characteristics. Even though it may make sense that a “bookish, awkward, comic-book loving math savant introvert” would be your typical autistic example, it’s just as likely that it’s actually going to be your “focused, clumsy, exuberant, trouble-with-eye-contact-and-boundaries camera-parts-loving extrovert.”

Really? Really.

Introversion and extroversion are basically just matters of “social energy,” as I’ll call it. Extroverts gain it, introverts drain it.

And it has nothing to do with whether you like people or not. You could be an antisocial extrovert, or a sociable introvert — it happens.

That’s where people can get confused about autism.

I’ll admit that I’ve worked to a place where I can turn on the jets, flip a few switches, and almost be fun at gatherings, events, parties, you name it.

Would I rather be back at my house reading a book? Or out doing my own thing alone? Uh, not always.

Sometimes I enjoy the thrill of company, where it changes the pace in my day, and I know I’m going to have a good time — who wouldn’t?

The introverted side of me has to recharge after a load of people and events.

The autistic side of me needs to recharge before I melt down and lose my emotional bearings.

And no matter how much socializing I do or don’t do, I’m still an overly literal thinker, have trouble summoning the right empathetic responses, dig into fixations and enthusiasms, and stim oddly in my own house.

I have autism, and I just happen to be an introvert.

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