Travis Breeding wrote this very insightful, touching, inspirational post that I would like to share with his permission. You can find the original at http://www.facebook.com/travis.breeding/posts/693554041596?notif_t=feed_comment_reply.
I hope that not only ASD folks read it along with their families but also neurotypical (“normal”) people will as well for the insight and understanding.
Thank you Travis for sharing this piece of your life with us.
What does having a best friend mean to me?
I’m now 27 years old. All my life I have just wanted a friend to be close with and do fun activities with. I always wondered why I didn’t or couldn’t have that. Then the “Autism Bomb” struck me when I was 22. Okay, so it hit way before that but I found out about it when I was 22. That’s when my life became
“Autism stops me from having this.”
“Autism prevents me from doing this”
“Autism ruins everything.”
“Autism is why I can’t have a friend.”
Many of you are all too familiar with the traits of autism and asperger’s syndrome that make building friendships harder. I went down a lot of really bad roads and crossed some bad intersections along the way because I so desperately wanted to feel like someone in my peer group cared and understood.
For the past couple of years of my life I would try to put on a brave face when talking to parents who had children with autism but on the inside I was hurting. I never wanted to kill myself intentionally but thought about suicide a lot.
Many days I prayed that God could end my life as soon as possible because I couldn’t handle being so alone and misunderstood anymore. It was really hard.
People would keep saying you’ll be okay. You’ll make a friend. People will like you for who you are. But yet each time I wanted a friend or tried to make a friend it was those asperger characteristics (being clingy, obsessive, and not understanding the social stuff” that would hurt me and make people not like me.
As each day went on any hope I had of ever having a real friend slipped away. Oh how I wished I could just have a friend to hangout with, or a friend to talk to, and a friend to do things for and show them how special they are too.
I was lost and wanting to be found. Then Heather came. My best friend now! Having a best friend is the best gift that anyone could ask for in life. A lot of older adults kept telling me that it was possible, it could and would happen. I could make a friend. I wanted to believe them so badly but because it’d never happened I couldn’t believe them and I thought that it was autism’s fault.
Today, I have a best friend and I still have autism. It didn’t go away. I just made a friend:)
Each time someone told me. “Just be who you are.” People will like you.” I would get so frustrated cause I felt like I was being who I was and yet no one wanted to be my good friend or best friend. That’s when I started trying to change who I was. I somehow found out that people liked people who could give them things or money. So not only did I give away a lot of money I also told people I had a lot of money when I didn’t because I really wanted them to like me:( Then if they liked me I was somehow going to convince Medicaid or the Autism Society or Autism Speaks that they needed to give me hundreds of thousands of dollars so that I could make a friend.
I really believed that and I honestly spent a lot of time in dismay as to why they wouldn’t give me the money so I could make a friend. But now I’m finally understanding why they didn’t and am glad they didn’t.
Because money doesn’t mean anything. Real and true friendship is what means everything.
I don’t know how it happened but somehow Heather became my best friend. Like I can’t sit here and give anyone a step by step diagram on how to make a best friend. (That’s what I was looking for for a long time.) And I used to get so frustrated when people would tell me “It just happens naturally.”
But the truth is it does just happen naturally. And these older adults who are much much wiser than me were right. And now it feels so good to have a best friend who understands the way I think. It also feels good to not feel like autism is ruining my life or destroying me anymore.
The best part for me is that I don’t have to pay my friend to text me, talk to me, spend time with me. It’s free:)
To me a best friend is something that I am grateful for. I show gratitude and appreciation in different ways than a lot of people.
For example, I find myself writing to awards programs and hero of the year contest because I really feel like my best friend is a hero for taking the time to be my friend. I want her to be Time Magazine’s next person of the year.
I know this isn’t necessary at all but when you’ve had past experiences like I have it makes you really cherish and value someone and their time for wanting to be your friend.
Here are some things I really like about having a best friend and how she treats me.
Being understood: It’s nice to be able to be me. Like people have told me was possible. My best friend doesn’t get mad at me when my asperger’s or childlike social behaviors come out. I do try very hard to control them but it is hard. She also appreciates when I try hard to control it:) My best friend doesn’t get mad if I need to text her 2 to 3 or 4 times in a row without her responding because I really need to tell her something.
Being Excited: For me having a best friend that is real is a lot of excitement. I tend to show the excitement towards my best friend. I want to tell her that she’s awesome every day. I want her to know that I appreciate her. This bothers some people but my best friend allows me to get excited and not get mad at me.
Great communication: She completely understands how I think and knows that she needs to be blunt and help explain things to me. She’s very good at this and this helps me feel at ease. Less nervous.
I think best friends add a lot to our lives.
I know that having a real best friend has helped change my life in a lot of ways.
I don’t wake up sad and alone anymore.
I feel like someone understands me and why I am the way I am.
I feel like I can be myself and stop trying to read books or buy dvd’s to tell me how to be like everyone else.
Most importantly I know that I have a best friend who I can talk to and share my feelings about life with. Something I’ve never had before.
In closing, I just want other people on the autism spectrum and parents of children on the spectrum to realize that it’s not about curing the autism. It’s not about changing you or your child. (Like I for so many years thought it was.) It is about helping them find a friend or friends who understand them and more importantly a friend who wants to understand them.
Something that is different with my best friend Heather than anyone in my peer group I’ve known before is that I can tell that she genuinely puts time and effort into understanding me and puts time and effort into our friendship.
Having a best friend is a gift. A real and true gift. Your best friend is not someone you can or should take for granted. You should go out of your way everyday to remind your best friend of how special they are and how much they mean to you as well as how much you appreciate them.
I have to say that until I understood and experienced having a best friend I thought autism was this horrible thing that was going to kill me. But tonight I am thinking of autism as a minor head cold and it isn’t going to do anything to me at all.
Best friends are awesome! Thank you Heather for being my friend. You are appreciated.
Feel free to look Travis up at – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Travis-Breeding-Author/153055111412929