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To Sam

Do you have to have friends?

Hello Sam.

Having friends has always been hard for me as has most thinks. I like reading the letters other people send in to you and your replies. When I saw that you are asking about friends I decided it is the right time for me to write to you.

I have never had a friend, or anyone I have been close to before. (Other than a Online Counsellor I had for 2 years before they left-they were amazing) People at school say online does not count though.

The next obvious question is 'why not'? The answer is that I do not want friends. I have enough issues with my family who I can not get on with. If getting on with family is so hard then how can it be easy to get on with someone who starts as a complete stranger? It can't. I know, that is very logical but that is who I am, everyone hates me for it I know. I have recently been diagnosed with Autism. Which helps me to understand lots of things that have happened in the past now and why I do not want friends.

I hate it when someone takes the register, or goes to the toilet and makes a friend come too. What does that friend do when they are on the toilet? Stand and watch? I know no-one would ever choose me but it is just silly when people do that.

I know and accept that I do not and will never want a friend.  But no-one else understands. I know I am not the best at explaining things or understanding them but I try.  I have had all sorts of issues of 'isolating myself' and 'not joining in with activities' in the past. I have also been forced to do activities with 1 other young person for the adult to then make us friends. I always hated those sessions because it breaks one of my Golden Rules of never having 3 people.

Adults just can not accept that I enjoy being by myself and need time alone to calm down after almost everything. I am always made to join in with everything and I hate it and it is all because no-one understands.

Their is no law or rule that says that you must have friends so why do I have to? Yes none-Autistic people naturally make friends but that does not mean I have to. I have no desire to 'fit in' and be 'normal' I like being different. What can I do to make people know and understand I like to be alone and therefore make them leave me alone?
I hope you can help.

Ask Sam

Sam

Hi there,

Thank you for writing to me and for being so honest about how you feel about friendships. It sounds like you feel very strongly that you don’t want friends and never will do. I can hear how hard it is that other people won’t accept your need to be on your own.

In your letter you mentioned that things at home have been difficult for you. It sounds like you haven’t always had the support you would like at home and I can imagine that dealing with problems at home uses up a lot of your time and energy. It’s understandable that when things at home are difficult, you want school to be more relaxing and trouble-free. It does make me wonder though if things were easier at home whether you would feel differently about letting other people into your life? Eventually you may move away from home and it might be then that you realise you want others around who are there just for you.

From what you’ve said, being forced to “join in” with other people in your class causes you a lot of anxiety and frustration. I hear from a lot of young people who are finding it hard to make friends, for lots of different reasons. You mentioned that you’ve recently been diagnosed with autism and it sounds like you’ve recognised that your autism is one of the reasons why you find it easier to be on your own. It seems like getting this diagnosis has helped you accept this part of your personality, which is good to hear.

I do wonder if you might change your mind about friendship in the future? You said you’ve never had a friend before, so it may be difficult for you to imagine what it could be like to have a good friend or if it would make your life better in any way. As you probably know, having autism can make it harder to get on easily with people who maybe don’t understand what it’s like to have autism. But that doesn’t mean you will never meet anyone who you can relax and have fun with. It might be that you find you can communicate more naturally with other young people with a diagnosis of autism. Or it might be that you meet someone who is really interested in the same things as you, and find that that makes it enjoyable to spend time with them.

Obviously you’re right when you say that there’s no law about having friends. Not everyone wants to be with other people all the time, and that’s absolutely fine. However, as an adult, there will be times when you have to spend time with other people, even if you don’t want to. For example, your job might involve chatting to customers, or working in a team. I wonder if that is why people are keen for you to get experience of building relationships with other people now. It does sound like people might not appreciate how hard it is for you to feel comfortable working with others. It sounds like there are times at school when you will have to be part of a group. Is there anything that people at school could do to make it any easier for you?

There are some great websites out there that are aimed at young people with autism. Looking at them might be a good way for you to find out how others manage when they have to spend time working with other people and if they feel the same about friendships. You could start by having reading through our Life issues messageboard - there are discussions about autism on a few of the boards. The Den is another good site, with videos and articles written by young people with autism. Finally, The National Autistic Society has some useful hints and tips on coping with social interaction on its website.

Thanks again for writing to me. Remember that if you would like to talk about this more, ChildLine counsellors are always here to listen. You can call for free on 0800 1111 or log in for a 1-2-1 chat.

Take care,

Sam

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