Tears streamed from my eyes as I clutched my phone in my hand, searching for my friend’s Facebook profile. “Not Found,” it said for the millionth time. What happened? It was just here a minute ago. I JUST liked one of her photos…wait…did she…block me?! Oh my gosh, she did. She blocked me. What did I say? What did I do?!! I just wanted to save our friendship…
I started working with Anne about seven years ago. (I am withholding her real name because, even though I’ve been through a lot, I strongly believe in respecting people’s privacy.) I didn’t know her that well, because she and I worked in different areas of the store, but she seemed like a nice, quiet older lady. In 2015, she took on a full-time position and I saw and interacted with her more. I really admired her strong work ethic, her kindness, and her positive attitude. I decided that I wanted to become friends with her. As someone on the autism spectrum, making friends has always seemed daunting to me, especially since this was someone I looked up to as a role model. However, I wanted to conquer my fear.
I decided to start small. Since Anne and I barely knew each other, I wanted to show her that I was open and interested in getting to know her. I challenged myself to say at least one thing to her every shift to break the ice, even if it was just “Hi!” It worked. Anne started saying hello to me first and we’d have little conversations. I made her a Christmas card, which she loved. I even brought my mom into the store and introduced her to Anne,, and Anne liked her right away! 🙂 I was still extremely nervous around her, though, and wanted to take the next step. Since we didn’t have a lot of time to talk at work, I wanted to ask her to have lunch with me on a day off. I psyched myself up for months, and shortly after my 24th birthday in April 2016, I did it. I approached Anne and said, “Hey, I’d really like to get to know you more. I was wondering if you’d like to have lunch with me sometime.” She said YES!! I was so happy and proud of myself. About two weeks later, we met at Panera. At first I felt like I was going to faint, but my anxiety calmed down as we started chatting. Anne was a really easy person to talk to. I told her a lot about my family, and she responded by talking about her husband and her grown son. We ended up hanging out for two and a half hours!!! I was so overjoyed because I could feel a real connection forming. I cried myself to sleep that night because I was so happy. I remember listening to Céline Dion’s song “A World to Believe In” and whispering, “Thank you, Anne. Thank you so much.”
Anne and I went to lunch three more times over the course of that year. I could feel us getting closer. I started confiding in her more about my personal life because she seemed to really listen. I decided to make her another Christmas card and include a present this time. I bought a wooden initial at Michaels and painted it her favorite color, then added a bunch of little flowers. The whole process – gift, card, and buying materials – took about three hours total. Anne was very happy with it and even showed it off to her husband! One day, I was having a panic attack and was feeling awful, and she told me, “I love you, Katie. You’re like a daughter to me.” I felt completely shocked and elated. My role model thought of me as a daughter?! I was over the moon.
Unfortunately, that’s the last truly good memory I have of Anne and me. Just before Christmas last year, I fell into a deep depression. I’m not sure what caused it, but it was the worst bout I’ve ever suffered in my life. I even had to be admitted to the hospital in early January. I think all of that freaked Anne out, but I wasn’t sure what to do. I tried to reassure her I was okay. After her beloved pet died, I colored her a picture from one of my adult coloring books to cheer her up. Things seemed normal again, but it didn’t last. Anne became more and more distant, and work became more and more stressful. I decided the healthiest thing for me would be to take a leave of absence for three months. I had never revealed to Anne that I have Asperger’s, and I wanted to let her know. I thought if she knew there was a logical reason for my upset at work, and that I wasn’t just being dramatic, she might understand. I tried to talk to her on my last day of work, but she had to leave quickly. She told me to send her a Facebook message later that day, so I did.
After two months, I had gotten no response. I went shopping with a friend one day and casually asked Anne what she thought of my message. She got very defensive and told me she couldn’t talk about it at work. I said, “I just want to know if you accept me.” Her only response was, “I can’t talk about this.” I went home and cried. Where was the Anne who said I could talk to her? Who told me she loved me?
In a last-ditch attempt to mend things, I wrote her an apology letter. I said I was sorry for talking too much about personal things and I wouldn’t do that anymore. After that, she blocked me on Facebook. I was so hurt and confused, and my mental health was already in bad shape. I broke down completely and spent the Fourth of July in the hospital…the second time in six months.
I returned to work in August, and things with Anne have not improved at all. She doesn’t even talk to me, unless I say “hello” to her. She looks through me, like I’m not even there. I tried to tell her how much her actions were hurting me, and she wouldn’t even let me finish. She just walked away.
Anne, I know you probably won’t ever read this, but I don’t know what went wrong between us. I don’t know if you find me too overwhelming. I don’t know, and I never will. All I can say is, I’m sorry. I would never intentionally hurt, upset, or frighten you in any way. I cared so much for you. I’m sorry our friendship didn’t work out. I wish you well.