To Be Left Alone: Living With Autism – 11

Emma in one of her hand-made jumpers


Something that I find extremely difficult to explain is how I choose what to do in my spare time. People try to persuade me to do things or go to things because they think I will enjoy them and won’t accept it when I say I would not like to do them or going to them would cause me distress.

I understand that there are a lot of people who can’t bear to be alone even for short periods of time, and would rather be with absolutely anybody, anybody at all, than be alone. I am the exact polar opposite; I would much rather be alone than spend time with anyone whose company I did not actively enjoy.

I enjoy being alone so much that there are very few people whom I like spending time with. People seem to think this is a bit sad and that I must be lonely and ask me: “But what do you do on your own all day?” like they can’t imagine somebody existing without someone being with them.

My personal opinion is that I think it is a bit sad that people have to be with someone whose company they don’t much enjoy because it’s better than being alone with their self. 

I did ask a few people why they thought I was living in a tent and I had responses such as “To be rebellious”, “To be close to nature”, “To be eco-friendly”, “Because you don’t like being indoors”, “Because you like camping”. Sometimes I tried to explain that I felt I had been driven to it as the last possible option of staying alive, but people really couldn’t grasp this concept. Interestingly nobody who knew me ever asked me why I was living like that – they all assumed they knew – “Oh it’s just Emma on her latest crazy thing!” But one time someone who didn’t know me asked – which made me think about what to say.

Actually he asked me if I had chosen to live that way and I said: “Well. Say there’s a box of chocolates. Someone says you can choose any chocolate you want. Ah, oh, not that one. Not that one either. Oh no, you can’t have that one. And in fact, the only one that’s left that you are allowed to choose is the marzipan one and you really want a chocolate, so you choose it. Have you really chosen it?

“The alternative is not to have a chocolate at all.”

Needless to say, we did not become friends but I was proud of the analogy.

To be continued…

Emma Wishart

Emma lived a traumatic and tumultuous life for 30 years before moving to Wales for a bit of peace and quiet and ended up spending 12 years living in a tent in the middle of a forest. 

She was diagnosed as autistic at the age of 45 when everything suddenly started to make sense, or at least the reasons why nothing made sense started to become clearer. She now lives in Pembrokeshire, working hard to raise awareness, understanding and acceptance of autism. 

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. lari says:

    Thank you for an interesting and engaging read. Although at heart a social person, my recovery from a massive breakdown in 2005 has gifted me the ability, and often preference, for solitude. Entirely different reasons from your innate need for solitude, but reasons that have given me a deeper appreciation of living free from the webs of unspoken expectations and unspoken “beholdments” that seems such a part of a highly connected social life.