Before we get to today’s post, an announcement: As part of the avalanche of advocacy this week, there will be a flashblog on Monday, Nov 18th. You can find the info at “This is Autism” Flashblog. It’s open to autistic individuals, parents and allies and is accepting writing, video, graphic and comics submissions.
On to the post . . .
Sometimes [often?] I feel invisible.
I thought this feeling would go away when I grew up. Feeling invisible as a kid is normal, right? Everyone is bigger than you. Smarter, more experienced. And the ones who weren’t bigger or smarter or more experienced, were funnier or prettier or . . . something.
I never quite understood what that something was, just that I didn’t have it. When teachers forgot my name, I shrugged and mumbled it for them. Then mumbled it again when they mistook my mumbling for Sandy or Sydney.
And really, to be honest, I never wanted to be one of those kids who everyone knew. The popular kids. Too much pressure. Too much attention. I like blending in. Getting a “well done” sticker next to the “100%!” on my spelling test was about all the positive attention I needed to keep me satisfied.
Still, I assumed being an adult would mean an end to feeling invisible.
Invisible is like this: I’m at a neighborhood holiday party. I’m sitting on the couch, talking with someone I know and enjoying it. A stranger sits beside me, inserts herself in our conversation as strangers do at neighborhood parties. She asks typical stranger questions. Do you live in the neighborhood? Where are you from? What do you do? We both turn to her and answer, suspending our conversation in favor of this getting-to-know-you talk.
Do I sound resentful of this intrusion? A little, but more in retrospect, because I know what’s coming.
Slowly, gradually, nearly imperceptibly, I feel the three-way conversation is becoming a two-way conversation between the stranger and the person I was talking to. Eventually, I settle back into the couch so they don’t have to keep leaning forward to talk around me. I listen to their words volley back and forth, unable to find a way back into the conversation, which has now turned to a subject they’re both passionate about.
I wait it out some more, picking at the plate of food on my lap, stuck in a rut of smile and nod as they glide from one subject to another. As much as I want to regain a footing in the conversation, I feel like I’ve disappeared from their radar. Bored and uncomfortable, I finally excuse myself, pointing to my empty plate, saying cheerfully that I want to go check out the dessert table. They look surprised and maybe a little chagrined, as if they only just realized that I’d fallen silent ten minutes ago.
It’s easy to assume they had something in common–something I didn’t share–so it was natural for them to become intensely involved in a 2-way conversation. Except that this story repeats itself too often to be “them and not me.”
This is probably fixable. If I was more assertive, made more effort, worked harder at learning conversation skills.
But the invisible feeling comes up at other times too. It’s there when I watch other people take credit for something I’ve done. It’s there when I post something to a group and no one responds. It’s there when someone seems to contact only if they need me to play tech support for their ailing computer. It’s there when someone promises to do something and then forgets, leaving me waiting like an overexcited kid who hasn’t yet realized that there will be no trip to the amusement park today.
That’s it–right there–the powerlessness that creeps up inside me and makes me feel small.
The problem, I see, as I’m writing this, is not so much the practical side of learning to be assertive in social situations. As a child, I was clueless about how to make myself seen and heard. As an adult, I have the potential to do something about feeling invisible, but the feeling itself is now the problem.
To write this, I had to force myself to be with it. Invite it to sit here beside me so I can examine it. And I don’t like it. I don’t want to do the hard work that I know is necessary to befriend the feeling and defang it. But I don’t want to let it haunt me anymore either.
96 thoughts on “Invisible”
You realy have a knack of hitting the nail on the head, don’t you? Left out at parties, thats me!
Thank you 🙂
You know what? I found out some people, my family especially, listen to me when I write. Weird, that. None of them are writers…
That’s an interesting observation. I’ve found that since my husband has been reading my blog he understands me a lot better. That has everything to do with me not talking rather than him not listening, though. 🙂
Thank you for this blog I came across
Really powerful Cynthia. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for sitting with those painful feelings so that others could feel a bit less alone.
Thank you, Ariane. I’m hellbent on bringing all of this hard stuff out into the light because it makes me feel less alone too.
I have this happen all the time. It’s very frustrating. The sad part is that I feel like I’m throwing bread crumbs all around me (facebook posts, comments, emails, phone messages) but I might get 1 response out of 10 if I’m really lucky. I directly email or message someone, asking a question I want an answer to, and I get no reply. The only time I can really make any headway is to catch them on the phone and ask point blank but that is not happening very often. I feel like wallpaper, just blending into the background. I know how to make myself heard but I think our ego centric culture is making it so much harder for aspies to communicate. We’re challenged enough in this area.
It’s very confusing. This must be true of everyone, to some degree, so I can’t decide if I’m overly sensitive to feeling unseen or if I experience that feeling more than is average.
I can totally relate. I sometimes get disappointed when I don’t get responses online or in person, but I liked blending into the wallpaper. I also have the whole 3-way conversation turning into a 2-way happening to me. It gets so awkward for me and I always feel like people are wondering, “Why isn’t she contributing anything meaningful to our fun conversation?” Not sure how to work around that, because I know that if the pace of the conversation gets too fast, I can’t keep up (heated debates were AWFUL for me to sit in on) but I like that you “force yourself to be with” those feelings.
There’s definitely a tension between wanting to hide out and wanting to be seen/heard. That’s weird, isn’t it?
I’m prone to wandering away from conversations once I fall out of them, which might be rude but I think it makes it less awkward than that “wondering if they’re wondering why I’m not talking” feeling, which I know well.
Being with hard feelings is kind of new to me, but I’m working on it. Thank you for the support. 🙂
This happens all the time to me, too. Now that I have an Aspie diagnosis and am aware of the problem, I try harder to contribute to conversations. However, it seems that my comments often are completely ignored, while others respond to each other. It’s complicated by the fact that most conversations go too fast for me to be able to contribute before the topic changes. Also, people rarely stop to give others a chance to contribute — instead people just interrupt each other to say something. I hate interrupting, but when I wait for a pause in the conversation to make a comment, the pause never comes.
I’m nodding like a bobblehead doll at your comment. A lot of this is probably related to our difficulties with language pragmatics, which is all the little practical aspects of communication like turn taking and interrupting and knowing when someone is done talking or wants to change the subject. Apparently most people can read those things from tone of voice, intonation, body language, etc. My brain is especially useless in that area. 🙂
I find it incredible that people can do all that. I’m only starting to learn how much I can’t do and it is fascinating in a way.
Thank you for this post. It is beautifully written and so evocative that I felt that horrid pinched, squashed, shrinking feeling that goes with being out of my depth socially. I remember feeling like that way back at school although I couldn’t verbalise what was happening or why. Your description helps me identify my own experiences, and to be ok with how I am.
Thank you. It’s so great to hear that you found the post helpful and that you’re feeling good about yourself. 🙂
You just described every social event I’ve ever been involved in, including my own wedding. The only time I am able to overcome being a wallflower is when it’s a topic I’m passionate about and then I tend to interrupt and not know when to stop talking. Conversation is hard.
I was going to offer sympathy that you felt this way at your wedding, but then I realized I did too. 🙂 Conversation really is hard. I’m always so thankful when I bump into someone who has a common interest at a social event.
Have you been reading my thoughts? The 3 to 2 way conversation setting, the “no one responds to the comment I made online” & people only contacting when they need tech support… That’s me!!! Couldn’t be anyone else!lol when you mentioned people taking credit for what you’ve done before your eyes , I drew the final parallel between your life and mine! Excellent article! Very encouraging… You have a way of verbalising what some of us feel but are unable to express..
Thank you. It’s great to hear that you were able to relate to this. Well, not great that you feel left out and ignored by people, but you know what I mean.
It’s so scary how much I totally relate to this. Seems like you cut and pasted it straight from my world…
This is so well articulated, as always. “As an adult, I have the potential to do something about feeling invisible, but the feeling itself is now the problem.” I think because I’m still pretty young (and I seem much younger than I really am) and just now really transitioning into adulthood, I’m recognizing this phenomenon more and more. Where as a child and even a teenager I didn’t have the ability to change my situation – whether it’s being invisible at a party, acting inappropriately in school, getting needs met from my parents, or so many things – but now that I’m growing up and I do know how to change my situation or get needs met or effectively communicate, I see that so often it’s not the situation, but the emotions – usually guilt, shame, sadness, and lonesomeness – that are too deep in who I am now to be proactive about.
Thanks for this post. It’s really got me thinking now!
Yay! It’s cool that you’re realizing this relatively early. You’ve got like a 20 year head start on me. 🙂
The feelings around changing are so complex, especially when there are elements of shame or embarrassment or other hard emotions involved.
I feel this way so often. Thanks for sharing this.
I hear what you’re saying — I’ll find myself on the peripheries of conversations as the groups get larger. I’m fine one on one — we’ll have these really intense dialogues concerning subjects about which I’m passionate, but beyond that the back-and-forth stuff is hard. If feels like conversational tether-ball at times, waiting for the conversation to come back around. I’ll fear I’m interrupting as I’m self-conscious of the space I’m trying to create for my own words.
It’s interesting that so many of us are concerned about interrupting as part of a multi-person conversation. I have this problem too and it feels like a combination of lack of confidence (in conversational skills) and difficulty reading how other people signal an opening in the conversation, which I’ve been told they do. 😉
Apparently so. I’m still working considerable anxiety, so the hard part for me is figuring out if I’m merely afraid of interrupting or if the possibility is actually likely (and does that even matter — thankfully less so around small groups and understanding friends). I’ve been told typically developing people interrupt a lot too in conversations, but maybe they’re just less worried they’ll be judged for doing so.
A note to Lisa: I read your comment and didn’t think it was antagonistic but I deleted it because you asked me to. For what it’s worth, I related to the story you shared and was going to reply with an “I know how you felt” kind of response.
I was about to say, “I like being invisible” (probably my inner contrarian wanting attention), then I got to the part where you said, “It’s there when someone seems to contact only if they need me to…” and “It’s there when someone promises to do something and then forgets, leaving me [hanging].”
Then I got it… and I hate that.
If I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. You don’t need to call and remind me, it’ll be on my mind until I do it. More times than I care to remember I’ve shown up someplace, just to be stood up (twice driving an hour to my grandparents house and they’d gone out of town without telling me). It was my mistake for assuming that the plans made a week ago weren’t written in stone… they were for me.
Same goes for when people call/email only when they want something. The holidays have become a bit difficult in recent years, as the distance between the family members, throughout the year, has become pronounced. We (my brothers and all the cousins —now grown) seem to never see each other or communicate, yet there is some push to have an [awkward] dinner near Christmas every year. The same people that are too busy to communicate on FaceBook (though they are all on FB) want to hang out in person? I don’t get it.
I find it easier to stay ‘invisible’ all year long if I’m going to be treated as such the other 364 days. Though I miss the times in the past where the family would get together, the angst of going through the motions of a family dinner (with about 30 people) and the odd/complicated feelings afterward are far worse than pining for things that are no more.
I’m very much one of those “if I say I’m going to do it, I will” people. I remember remarking to a neighbor that I was annoyed that my daughter had unexpectedly cancelled on a movie date on afternoon. The neighbor said something related to the emotional context of the situation and my reflex reply was that I was just bothered that i’d rearranged my afternoon to make time and it upset my planned schedule when she cancelled. Looking back, now I know why the woman reacted so oddly to that reply. 🙂 But yeah, I assume plans are engraved in stone.
Holidays are so awkward, especially as we get older and everyone has their own families and lives. I saw my extended family for the first time in nearly 10 years at a recent funeral and it was great seeing everyone but it also reminded me of how much everything has changed.
It’s funny, as although I hate/d being invisible I _really_ hate/d being visible when I didn’t want to be. If I had to walk down the main street of our town when I was a teenager I’d be breaking branches off hedges and stripping the leaves from hem violently, usually with a scowl on my face.
Then as an adult I decided that actually most people have poor manners and/or social skills if you watch carefully. As an introvert I realised that one thing many people appreciated about me is that I listened, and I decided that if I had to attend social events where I didn’t really know people, then that’s what I’d practise – listening. Many of those people in conversations aren’t really listening to each other, they’re sharing similar stories for a variety of social reasons (some pleasant, others not so), but if you watch you can see that many of them aren’t about really connecting.
Also, I really much prefer one-on-one conversations and usually choose to drop out when a third party turns up, first to the smiling-listener role before moving quietly away. Sometimes I’ll ‘use’ them to look occupied until I want to leave. And sure I get left looking out the window or at the bookcase at times, but I prefer that to trying to play social games I get little pleasure from because the rules don’t mean enough.
I think we need to try and learn the skills to make ourselves visible and to be heard when we need it, and that can be quite hard for us. I did heaps of personal skills courses when I was younger (assertiveness, anger management, counselling, psychology etc) and found that helped a lot over time.
And being invisible is okay, in fact it can be quite empowering. As a middle-aged woman you either have to go all out to make yourself noticeable or get used to not being seen most of the time. I actually find that quite freeing. Think of all the things we could get away with, right in front of people and no-one would notice – Harry Potter without having to bother with a cloak!
a p.s. to the above. I wasn’t trying to ignore the hard side of being invisible or feeling used by people, but just felt like sharing how much I enjoy being invisible at times (must be feeling good today!), Also, I have found there are very few people in life you can rely on to do what they promise, and the rest you can only hope they might… I try not to to take it personally, as it’s usually not meant that way.
I got what you meant but thank you for clarifying. 🙂
It’s hard to remember that people don’t always do what they say they will. I mean, I know it, but I also forget that I know it.
I’ve noticed that too, that a lot of socializing is very surface, passing-the-time type conversation that seems to have a purpose other than connecting. Often it seems to be about elevating the status of the speaker in the eyes of the listener(s) which I guess if a valid social goal.
Listening is a good option. I have a feeling I’m not very good at hiding when I’m uninterested in a topic but I really enjoy listening to someone when they get onto a topic that they’re very knowledgeable about and it even slightly interesting. I guess I’m fascinated by people’s expertise (i.e. neurotypical special interests 🙂 ).
Being invisible by choice isn’t a bad feeling for me. Often I’d rather be invisible. I think it’s the involuntary feeling of some circumstances that hurts.
If I can chime in here about ‘being invisible by choice’ vs being ignored. One thing that always bugged me, well through my thirties, is when the Family would get together and ‘ping pong’ was being played (this applies to other activities too). I’d happily watch as others played —it was part of the whole experience, but when it was my turn, it was so typical for my brothers to disappear into another room… waiting for it to be their turn before returning. It could be that my brothers are just rude, but I really hate that kind of inequality/disrespect. Like at an open mic night, where guitar players will try and sing a song… wanting there to be an audience, but once they’re done they either leave, or rudely talk over the next people that are up there.
Thanks for letting me jump in.
Yes, exactly, that’s what I meant about a lack of manners. But I think that’s because as a minority we watch and try to work out the rules so we can follow them to be included, whereas NTs don’t necessarily see it that way – they take what they want and ignore the rest. However, polite NTs also follow many of the social rules so I prefer to associate with them and ignore the rudeness of the impolite ones. Being ignored really only hurts if you want their attention, but I think you have to learn to decide whose attention you really value and why – then just smile at the rest.
Lots of NTs have little time for the rude people too, and really I guess we should realise that we only need the attention of people who really matter to us – and this isn’t necessarily family or colleagues. If we are lucky enough to have one or two people that’s really fortunate. One of the things NTs complain about in counselling is having no-one who listens to them or values who they are. The pain of the human condition I suppose, surrounded by people but alone
Bless you. It’s bloody hard work.
Thank you 🙂
People taking credit for what I have done is a big one. I have to constantly tell myself to let it go. I also have had these exact scenarios at parties. I find it funny how we are labelled socially awkward yet if we learn the rules we are the most polite, kind and considerate social partners. I often have people remark on how thoughtful I am in conversation or as hostess but yet I am not the one who is liked as much as the others.I honestly think most of us have had social rules pounded in, so though we may be awkward with random jokes or topic selections we are excellent at social rules ( despite sometimes being bored out of our minds.):) Thank you for writing this
I also checked out that flash mob link. Its excellent. Have you read this about Autism Speaks too?
SUch a horrid group really. I wrote a post for the flashmob because it was so autrocious what Autism Speaks was promoting.
ps. the invisibility factor is why I also like your blog. Even on other autistic sites I tend to get overlooked. My private blog I built a forum so I have 9 regular commentators there but not on my public (which is fine because I rarely go on it) but in general I am often invisible.
I attract the deep thinkers at parties which is great…We can skip the small talk and dive right in and I always appreciate that but to the general population at parties, I can be ignored or placated…
I try to respond to everyone’s comments for exactly this reason. 🙂
It is appreciated.
Situations where no reply is given make me worry about if its because I did something wrong or inappropriate. It’s most likely that no respond was needed, but my lack of expertise makes it hard to tell.
So thank you for taking the time.
You’re welcome! I enjoy talking to people here and learn a lot from the comments and replies.
I get people often trying to take credit for my work on group projects. So very annoying.
I wonder if we learn to be too kind, thoughtful and polite, maybe by following the rules too rigidly or something. My husband and I had an interesting conversation yesterday – he asked me about a grammar rule, which I’d never heard of. When I told him that I would word the phrase a different way, he asked me why. My only response was,”it feels right that way.” Because he learned English as a second language, he’s a lot more dependent on rules and even after nearly 30 years has difficulty with knowing when a rule can be broken because it feels right. I realized I have the same issue with social skills.
And yes, I’ve seen all the awfulness of A$. Gah. I’m so glad you’ll be participating on Monday. We already have a ton of entries so my weekend is going to be busy. 🙂
Re: flash blog, I might not have time, sadly – swamped w/ a term project worth half of my grad in a course due Monday. If I can squeeze it in, I’ll be a last minute submission, sorry. 😦
No worries! If nothing else you’ll be with us in spirit. 🙂 Good luck getting the project done. Sounds like you have a busy weekend ahead.
And now I seriously need to write my own entry while I’m caught up on scheduling for a bit.
Yeah, by the time I was done the assignment, my brain was too exhausted to do writing on other stuff (long story – my word processor decided to delete my references and bibliography, so I had to go through and figure out what needed to go where and reinput all the bibliography info. Protip: OpenOffice will delete your references and bibliography if you save something in .doc format so you can print it on a school computer, so that took an extra three hours and because I was up on a deadline, a lot of bringing myself back on task because I needed to get it done, and inputting references is so tedious. I might shell out a windfall I’m expecting next month for Word just so I can use RefWorks and not have to do that again b/c RefWorks really is a wonderfully powerful tool for that stuff). Anyway, I did get it done a day late. Too late for flash blog, but it’s up.
I tweeted it out on the flashblog account this morning and enjoyed reading it.
References. Ugh. I get really obsessive over formatting and . . . just thinking about it is making my eye twitch. That sounds like a horrible experience you had. I remember once my husband had a paper with dozens of references and his Word doc got corrupted and it was a nightmare to fix. It’s good that you resolved it successfully at least.
Thank you for sharing this. I have had some similar experiences.
I have mentioned to family members that I would often find a quiet corner at family parties to stay out of the fray. They never noticed. I was virtually invisible right in the middle of the family gathering. I felt like a fish out of water. Most of these events were before my diagnosis. When I was diagnosed, I brought these experiences up to say, “See, I was having these social issues and now I know why because I have always had Aspergers/Autism.” They would say something about never having noticed me doing that, and that they thought that I was joining in. They never noticed when I went off and sat by myself! I was so invisable to them that they never noticed whether I was having any fun or not. I knew that I didn’t feel comfortable. I felt awkward and out of place. I truly felt like I was invisible at most of these events. I tried to stay out of the way much of the time.
Thanks again for sharing your story of invisibility. It helps me to see similar stories shared by others who were diagnosed later in life.
It would be funny that they didn’t notice you not joining in if I couldn’t relate to it so well. It must have been hard to have your experience misunderstood/dismissed like that. I’ve always been a disappearer at family events, sneaking off to read in someone’s bedroom or hang out in a quiet room. And like you, I had no idea why until after I was diagnosed.
I hate it most when people just blatantly ignore me when I’ve asked them something. As in:
Person: *words I don’t catch*
Me: Can you repeat? I didn’t catch it.
Person: *continues with words without even acknowledging my confusion*
Me: … Or ignore me. That works, too.
The last is a script from a show I saw as a kid, and I don’t even remember what show, but it seems to work to get people to know that I noticed they ignored me and I’m annoyed by it. I only use it when I’m fairly sure the other person literally ignored me rather than simply missing what I said – like when I’m the next person in line and the cashier takes the person behind me, or when someone is talking with me and they’re the only one in the room with me, and they stop to hear me ask for a thing and then continue as if I said nothing. Times when it’s so blatant a snub that I can’t miss it.
Your script is appropriately prickly for the situation. Being ignored really hurts. I get so triggered if I’m in a store or some other public place and someone acts like I’m invisible like that. Just thinking about it makes my heart rate go up.
Yeah, that’s why I use it. Being able to choose rudeness is an important part of standing up for yourself, which is why I was upset when I learned that some AAC manufacturers make it so parents can censor the words their kids have access to for use. Not ok.
Completely off topic: Why the crap is it that when I need to get work done on stuff, I end up getting stuck on other stuff, and have to spend time writing post(s) about that to get it out of my system before I can get work done? My executive function is annoying sometimes.
Perseveration R Us. 🙂 I’ve learned to just give in and get the distracting thing done because my brain doesn’t quit when it gets like that. See also: “let’s have a flashblog!”
Same. Still annoying when I have to spend two hours writing two blog posts when I really should be working on something else, but I know from experience that if I don’t, two hours will pass with maybe two sentences written, and I still won’t be able to concentrate.
I like being a fly on the wall but maybe that is because I hate the awkwardness of small talk that happens when there are more than 3 or 4 people in a setting. I have never liked social gatherings and group outings – I would much rather be with one or two friends who will have deeper discussions than small talk.
Many comments to this post talked about the lack of online responses. Do you think it’s because someone doesn’t know how to respond? Many times I have started to comment on a blog and just couldn’t get the words to say what I meant so I deleted the comment rather than risk being misunderstood.
My health has forced me to be somewhat of a hermit and I don’t think it is a bad thing most of the time – I can socialize on the phone (1 on 1 conversation).
I wish I was more comfortable with the fly on the wall concept at social events. I always feel so conspicuous if I’m not mixing in with people.
Starting and deleting comments is something I do too. At least a few times a day if you count blogs, facebook, and Tumblr. So that could definitely be part of it.
I love reading posts like this that so eloquently describe my own experiences.
You help me to both understand myself and feel less alone, and those are big things.
Your blog not only helped me recognize my own Aspie-ness, but has inspired me to start writing myself. Maybe someone will resonate with my words as I have done with yours 🙂
Thank you. It means a lot to me when people say that I’m helping them understand or describe something they experience. 🙂
And yay for writing! I’m off to take a look at your blog now.
Being invisible – that is so me. And what’s really frustrating is when I say something and no one responds and then two minutes later someone else says the same exact thing and everyone reacts/responds to that.
I think part of it may be that because I don’t like it when people speak loudly to me, I tend to speak softly and quietly, and I never really like to intrude on conversation. If someone doesn’t hear me the first time I’ll wait until the conversation lulls for a second, but most times the conversation has switched topics already so what I have to say doesn’t fit into the conversation.
I have trouble tracking conversation when they move to fast also – or when two people are talking and they keep talking over each other, or one of them says something and the other one says the same exact thing and it feels like their echoing each other, and talking over each other. That’s when I tend to leave the room, even if I like the conversation. I like slow paced conversations, where one person says something and then the other person responds after the first one is finished. That’s probably why theaters bother me so much when people sit and whisper to each other during the movie.
My mind likes focusing on one thing at a time, so trying to track two things makes it want to scream and shut down. Maybe that’s just me though.
It’s not just you! I was at a presentation/interview with Ruby Wax a couple of weeks ago, and two people next to me kept whispering and talking to each other. I couldn’t filter them out and pay attention only to what Ruby Wax and the interviewer were saying. The same thing applies when I’m in a group of people and they all talk at the same time. I just can’t filter. So I either go really quiet or I become really loud and then everyone gets annoyed with me. Better to stay invisible.
Haaate that! When people are talking in a lecture, this is what I hear: “So if we take the second derivative of the it was sooo funny! we can see that I know, right?! and from there you get *laughter*”. Can’t separate one from the other, and so I hear bits and pieces of both. Annoying.
One of my undergrad profs became my hero when he told a group that was giggling and whispering in class, and I quote, “This isn’t the f***ing third grade! If you can’t show respect for your classmates who want to be here and pay attention, you can leave.”
And then, when they started up with it again, he kicked them out. And called security on them when they refused to leave.
It was glorious.
Fast moving conversations get frustrating really quickly, especially when people are talking over each other and angling to get their say in at the first sign of an opening. It feels almost like a sport, doesn’t it?
I like conversations that unfold over time, with silences in between the bursts of talking. Both my husband and my daughter are prone to these types of conversations, maybe because they sense that it works better for me.
Wow, this is a powerful one. I’ve spoken with another Aspie adult who shared the feeling that others took credit for his ideas. Can you give me some examples of how this has happened in your experience. I admire you bringing these difficult thoughts and feelings out into the open. You are certainly very visible on this blog, by the looks of the many responses. Thanks for also letting me be part of this community 🙂
That seems kind of self-evident but here goes – last week I found someone’s dog running around in traffic so I grabbed it and flagged down a stranger to call animal control (which took 5 minutes of convincing because he mostly didn’t want to get involved and only called reluctantly after it was obvious I wasn’t going anywhere with the dog). When the owner showed up to collect the dog I said I’d found him and I handed him over to the owner and said a lot of stuff about how the dog got away. Then the other guy said he’d called animal control and for some reason the owner went and shook the other guys hand and thanked him profusely saying that he never would have found the dog if it wasn’t for the call to animal control (which I had to work hard to talk the guy into, but he never mentioned any of that ). The owner was still talking to him as I walked away. So yeah. stuff like that.
This blog definitely helps me feel visible and heard and I’m so grateful to all of the people who take time to read and especially to all of you who comment. 🙂
I’ve had moments that are incredibly similar, but I’ve always attributed that to sexism more so than being autistic/socially awkward. (Me asking a technical question of an employee at the hardware store, and him addressing the answer to my boyfriend, that sort of thing). The dynamic feels different in a situation where two other women talk over and across me.
There could definitely be an element of sexism in that interaction. I hadn’t thought of it that way but I can see it contributing. And the party story was two women, so it was more of a social invisibility thing that maybe the dog situation was. Still, feeling invisible regardless of the reason sucks. And writing that story out got me all wound up again. Bah.
I know. It makes me want to scream “I’m right here you know!” Not having a very expressive body language doesn’t help either. It’s almost like because my body language and facial expressions are mostly blank, it’s like I don’t take up the amount of room that someone else takes up. A sort of spatial non-verbality. People don’t register me because my body language doesn’t express awareness of them, maybe.
Oh, that’s a good point. I have wonky body language too and I know it sometimes gives people mixed or unintended messages.
Still sucks to get treated that way though, no matter what the cause is. I’m glad that the doggie got reunited with his owner but I’m fuming for both of them treating you like you weren’t even there, let alone instrumental in rescuing the dog.
I know! I was the one who went out in a busy street and grabbed a mastiff/ridgeback mix (who the owner admitted most people are afraid of when they see him) out of traffic!
The dog was a sweetheart and if he’d gotten hit by a car or a bus while I was walking by and could have done something about it, I would have been devastated. And at least the dog was super appreciative and spent the 45 minutes I sat with him giving me big slobbery kisses and looking at me like I was his new best friend.
Awww! So glad to hear the dog was appropriately loving and nice and didn’t think you were invisible at all! 😀
Reblogged this on humanitysdarkerside.
Thank you for the reblog 🙂
You inspire me…
Yep. I could have said pretty much everything Elaine Waters said.
And I actually used to have a bad habit of interrupting people. I think the only time anyone’s come out and been angry about it is with this one person I know who invokes it as his pet peeve only when we are arguing. People might have remarked on it here and there but not in an angry sort of way–so I came around to realizing it was an issue and did my best to stop. And that was the end of my participating in conversations. People ALWAYS talk over me.
My ex-MIL, aware that I spent a lot of time discussing things with people online, accused me of liking to be online because it made me feel powerful. No, not really–but it’s a chance for people to hear me. Is there something wrong with that? (Rhetorical question.)
That comment about feeling powerful when communicating online is one I haven’t heard before. It’s kind of ironic that the internet is basically a giant impersonal space and yet it can be easier to be heard online than in person.
I have to admit sometimes I love being invisible, preferring that a friend or family member is asked those personal questions instead of me while I just look at their conversation. I’ve always been like that. If you ask my friends and family I’m sure most of them are clueless about what I do, like or think. And most of the time I like it that way.
There are times when I like being invisible too. Just not, you know, when I’m trying to be seen or heard. 🙂
I guess I’m pretty unknown by people who know me too. As a kid, most of my teachers didn’t know my name in until some time in November.
You’ve just described a situation that keeps happening to me all the time. I already know what’s coming when a third person interfere in a two way conversation i’m having with someone. because they’re both nts, they have something in common. but i dont care, and i like it this way. people dont even notice when i’m around, they dont even see me. i go to the counter in the restaurant and there’s no one there, but when someone else arrives, the cashier rushes to the counter. this i do mine, because i want my food and dont like to have to wait till someone else arrives.
It’s very strange to feel invisible, isn’t it? I almost wonder if in those situations like the clerk skipping over you to help someone else, if there’s some kind of body language that we’re not giving off but the other person is.
I am absolutely convinced of that happening. The only thing I’m not sure yet is whether my body language unconsciously says “please don’t notice me”, which is a fairly normal response if you’ve been the target of a lot of unwanted attention like most autistic people have been, or whether my body language is a “blank”, a lack of expression that translates to a sort of meaningless space for people who are used to seeing body language first.
I suspect mine is of the “please don’t notice me” sort, but the blankness is a definite possibility too. Man, this is a depressing topic to think about.
Wow! I wish I had your ability to sum up situations and the feelings that go with them as well as you do. As I’m reading it, I’m thinking “I know this all to well”
I’m not sure though If this is purely an Aspie thing or some neurotypicals get it as well. .
I would dread taking to the first person anyway and although sinking back and letting the other two go for it might be uncomfortable for a while, I’d be happy because I could see the end was near. I hate small talk.
I think in part, it’s a self-esteem thing too. Having the confidence to insert ourselves into a conversation or to maintain our place in a conversation when two other people really hit it off can be hard. I can’t stand small talk either and I struggle to stay in a conversation when it shifts to something that I have no first hand experience of.
Another wow moment. So many things that I could check off if they were on a list: Feeling invisible/overlooked, hating to interrupt, feeling more comfortable online than in person, someone else taking credit for what I’ve done, communicating better via writing than speaking, etc. Many times I’ve attributed it to being an introvert. The only thing I’d add that probably others said but not quite the same way is that I get upset when someone else says the same thing I just said in conversation and everyone else is responsive to their comment. I want to say, “Um, hello? I just said that exact thing x number of minutes ago!” Argh.
Yes! It’s so irritating when someone else gets a glowing response for saying essentially the same thing you’ve said. I’ve even see it happen online, where it’s not like their winning delivery or sparkling personality is part of the reason for the different response. Ack.
Happens to me ALL the time as well. And I’m not even introverted! I don’t know why this keeps happening. On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t notice if I got kudos for saying something after someone else had already mentioned it without them getting any recognition, so there is a fair amount of confirmation bias in that.
This happans to me really often. It even happened during 2 of my birthday parties (2 and 3 years ago). I become invisble, and when I talk, people just don’t hear, or react. And sometimes I am just too visible. People hear things they shouldn’t or I just say the wrong thing and everybody looks at me like at a freak.
In a way, I belive it is because I never know what I should say.
Thank you for putting this words on the internet. Reading about you helps me to know my self better and to know tha I am not alone(and, as I’ve seen, others too).
This is really familiar too D:
I hate being involved in conversations with several people since I tend to get ignored at some point.
I feel somewhat intense shame and discomfort when I have to repeat myself because nobody responded to what I said (it’s ok if someone says “what’s that?” or something, it’s an aknowledgement)
I tend to withdraw or leave entirely if I fail to get attention when I speak. :c
I’ve tried even talking over someone but people tend to listen to the other person than me. Usually doctors or other such people know to interrupt the others in the room to let me speak.
(I guess my current method is saying “erm so” to probe whether people will hear what I’m saying or not.)
Thanks for this topic and for your entire blog. WOW. You really have a way of articulating the subtle things that I do not even really notice because they have always happened. THANK YOU!
I hate it when that sort of thing happens to me… Like I can’t insert a word edgewise. It is supremly aggravating, and in some situations can end up escalating into the beginning of a meltdown, or the uncontrollable urge to up and leave.
On top of that I experience some serious social anxiety…. Parties and places full of lots of people who I hardly know (including family members) make me want to disappear off with a heaping plate of food and keep to myself. (I am from the south, so many social events I go to involve delicious home made meals) I often end up in a corner or holed up in a quiet place with my plate.
I tend to rather be alone with the food, than be asked all kinds of personal questions by other people.
This is so me. It’s the thing about socializing that most fear: being ignored or left out. The typical scenario is this: I try to join a group circle at a gathering; but then the circle will close, with me being edged out, facing someone’s back. I don’t even try anymore.
Great blog, by the way.
I am greatly encouraged by your honest sharing and the many others who commented as well. I would like to know how to find the support I desperately need and somehow to learn how to connect with others who feel so alone and awkward.