Why I Am Terrified of People as a Teen With Autism


I am (or was) terrified of people because of how easily a faux pas can diminish the chances of a good first impression or even one afterwards, and this is the result of my frustration, being on the autistic spectrum and susceptible to social maladaptation.

In the following poem, I am a force to be reckoned with, as my effervescing anxiety manifests in loud turns of phrase and swift dervishes of verse that recall back to the poem it was inspired by, “Alone” by Edgar Allan Poe, and in it I am larger than my own reserved self when I am off the stage. The message itself is more important than the construction of the piece as based on its reception, this poem strikes a chord in many people’s hearts. As an Asperger’s syndrome awareness advocate, bringing people together through mutually recognizing our own timidity in social situations is the most beautiful spoil of my work.

One of my closest friends once told me that he does not experience social anxiety because he has no recognition or fear of awkwardness that may result from a social blunder. While this is a way to easily dismiss this anxiety, sometimes it may magnify it because learning how to forget to recognize your own awkwardness increases your chances of committing it anyway. This is why I continue, even to a minuscule extent, to fear the judgments of others, even when they do not matter in the grand scheme of things. Of course, I was feeling the pressure to be more conforming to what is socially acceptable when this was written (which I instead invalidate in the poem by mentioning the transience of acting cool), so this makes this piece I believe one of the better ones in my repertoire.

I hope you enjoy it just as much as I did writing it.

“Terrified of People,” by Iain Kohn

And yet, in spite of all my differences from the common person,

there is no more significant affliction to me than how I like to isolate myself

from common people too.

Loneliness is my specialty like trembling is that

of an earthquake, or how a closet is designed

to hide all the right parts of me, or waves wash away the completed work.

The few friends I have I never get to see as often

as my peers at, say, school, who constantly talk

with gaggles of teens stampeding aimlessly. But

as they sound their staccato foot stomps and

strange shouts of shameless incantations, my right to enter

a conversation with other friends shatters with the shyness of Asperger’s syndrome.

I am terrified of people.

Now, a common person would say that my disorder is mere shyness and implore

me to get back on my feet, saying, “Hey, maybe there’s someone who shares

your common interests.” And I respond:

Surely, you know someone with as much of a passion for language as I do?

How about people who would rather do nothing than

watch a football game? Someone who would rather choke on Legos than take a selfie?

And then you think, “Well, he’s not trying.”

But you must understand that I am terrified of people.

There is a treasure chest of good qualities I can display to the world,

but day by day I choose laptop screen,

video game by video game letting social awkwardness infiltrate enemy territory.

I have no escape. When you look at me, already I am thinking of what you are thinking of me,

and my awkwardness will diminish my chances of making a friend

as quickly as dust settles on long-forgotten opportunities,

I am terrified of people.

I am terrified of people.

And yet, I secretly enjoy having a swing set all to myself,

a conversation just to me, the air blowing into my face from a mile away. I have resigned to how I will never be normal and started searching for an identity.

After, not many people have the willingness to stand up

for their weaknesses, but me, I make them willpower.

Happiness is obliged to trample over insecurity.

Thus,

a loud cry for help:

“I AM TERRIFIED OF PEOPLE!”

becomes a soft, proud declaration:

“I am terrified of you.”

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