Growing up I didn’t have many friends, well not what I’d call best friends or really for that matter any real friends. I would class these people as acquaintances. People I would say hello to but that would be the extend of the conversation.

I never had that one person who I would hang out with on the weekends, and go for bike rides with, or to the cinema or wherever kids went growing up in the 80’s.

I hope at this point you haven’t all reached for your violins and are now playing a haunting emotional tune on them.

The reason that I didn’t have many friends was because I didn’t have the skill set (I still don’t really even at 44) to know how to make friends.

So, imagine my surprise when on the 24th July this year my best friend who I’ve been friends with since 2004 messaged me and told that we’d been friends for 16 years!

That is the longest relationship friends wise that I’ve ever had.

It was a big moment for me, I did have a cry (a happy one) but it showed me that I could do this friendship thing.

It’s not been an easy ride, I moved to Australia at one point, but being in another country (she’s in the UK) and I’m here wasn’t going to stop us.

I remember not long after moving to the Gold Coast (QLD), and I was stood outside on my patio at the house we were renting at the time and I was talking to her on the phone.

Ordinally I wouldn’t have done that for anyone else, made such a bold commitment but it felt right, and it meant that we could keep in touch with each other.

As any long-term friend will tell you it’s not going to be an easy ride, it doesn’t work like that, but we’ve come this far, and I don’t ever want to end this relationship that I have with her.

I can’t ever remember a time when we didn’t talk to each other, either via a text, or sending a short video to each other. I don’t even think that we’ve ever had a major falling out!

I know that’s gotta be a first. Or something that could be entered into the Guinness book of world records?

If I was to examine why I had issues with making and keeping friend’s then I would say it’s because of the following reasons;

I would have trouble starting and keeping conversations going

It would be difficult for me to work out what other people are thinking and feeling

I had difficulty in understanding facial expressions and body language

I didn’t adjust well to new social situations

And I wouldn’t know how to solve social problems, like for instance how to sort out disagreements.

But given all of that I never had any of those issues when we first met working together at a supermarket in the small coastal town where I used to live in the UK.

I’ve always felt at ease with her, she made it really easy for me to be her friend, have a conversation with her and I was able to be myself.

She’s been there for me when I came out as a gay man, and more recently when I was given my Autism diagnosis.

We chat to each other every single day, maybe it’s not a long chat but it still means a lot that she is able to take time and I know that she’s ok.

Being here living in Australia hasn’t hindered our relationship, in fact I would say that it’s strengthened it.

I’m very thankful to have Helen in my life, I’m apart of her life and she’s apart of mine.

There’s no secrets between us and we tell each other everything.

Maybe that’s why we’ve been friends for such a long time?

Anyway, to Helen I say

Thank you for being a friend, travelling down the road and back again, your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confident and I hope it always will stay this way.

Ok, yes! I stole that last part from the theme song to the Golden Girls.

But it was just the perfect way to say how much I appreciate my friendship with Helen and the last part is what I wish for the most.

Carry on the Conversation

Did you have issues growing up making and keeping friends?

Do you have a special friend in your life that has always been there for you?

Let me know in the comments below.

As always, I can also be found on Twitter:@AutisticNickAU and on the Autistic Nick Facebook Page

Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.


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