Autism And Best Friends

Best friends.

I had a best friend at school who was really my only friend.

Sure, I knew many people and was sociable and invited to all the parties and I’ve never been bullied but I just had the one proper friend. This isn’t uncommon with girls or autistic girls.

My friend had a big house and we would spend most of our time there because my house wasn’t so welcoming and I didn’t have the snacks she did or stables, or a mum who would fuss around being lovely and kind and, all things ‘mum.’

I remember we would share a small can of Coke and I’d marvel at how it tasted. We had packets of crisps ( never had crisps at home) and fruit (didn’t have fruit either) and I was especially in awe of the structure of their family: the predictability and stability of it. It was all I wanted yet something I never got.

Her family dinner would always be at 6 and I’d leave them in their warm kitchen all sat around the table to walk home in the dark along an unlit country lane. I’d get home to my unlit house with no parents, no warmth and no meal waiting for me on the table.

We were friends for 5 years and did everything to together. She’d send postcards from her holidays (I didn’t go on holiday) and we’d walk to school and home again, always together.

Then one day things changed. I knocked on her door and her grandma answered. ‘We’re busy making something at the moment, can you come back later?’

I did and she was still busy and things were never quite the same again.

We were going to different schools to study A Levels. Me to a college to study a specialist music course and her to the ex grammar school in the local, larger town. I thought we’d be friends forever because I had no idea that people fell in and out of friendships.

We met up a couple of times once September came and went, but things had changed. I had no idea what and desperately wanted my easy and comfortable friendship back but it was never to be. I’d knock on the door and she’d be busy so I knocked less until I no longer even thought to walk the short distance between her house and mine.

This has happened a couple of times over the years. Long friendships that I thought were forever suddenly change and then ebb away. Another ‘best friend’ relationship lasted 12 years and the person even became God mother to my boys and we were each others bridesmaids. I thought of her mum and a mum like figure as she saved me when I had my first son when things were tough and I wasn’t coping.

Again, I thought we’d be friends forever. She even said that I was like a sister to her so it wasn’t just something in my head.

But things changed and she became increasingly distant. She made plans but would then break them and I asked her if she still even wanted to be friends and she often cried and said of course yes.

This friendship ended and I’ve vowed never to have only one close friend again and I don’t use the term ‘best friend’ and will never.

The autistic comedian Fern Brady, in her book, ‘Strong Female Character’, talks about friendships and how she could never understand how people she went to school with, stayed friends for ever afterwards. I feel this too. I understand I’m too blunt, too honest and often insist I’m right but I didn’t think this would be enough to literally chase friendships away. Apparently it is but why after so many years? It’s not like I can’t make friends or keep them; people seem to just have enough of me.

Friendships are funny old things.

I do look back on my school friend and wonder what she’s doing now. I’d love her to know that her friendship meant a lot to me at a time when things were very unstable and chaotic at home. Her family structure showed me what family life could be and it was this example that I believe has helped in shaping much of my own family structure.

I’d also like to thank the university friend for her years of friendship. I’d love to thank her mum for saving me at a time when I most definitely needed saving. I didn’t carry on with her ideas with babies 2, 3 and 4 because by that time I’d found my own groove as a mum but she was there to take the baby and let me work things out when I had no clue. I miss her as much as I used to miss the lost friend.

Now it’s all within context.

Friendships come and go and while I still find that hard I am more able to work through things and accept what I don’t understand. I coach my daughter to not have one special friend but a range of friends for different situations and she’s very good at this.

She should never put all her friendship eggs in one basket as I did because you never really know what’s around the friendship corner. One day your best friend is calling and texting and laughing at the silly memes that you send every day and the next, they’ve gone, with no explanation. And that hurts.

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