Help, I’m in a Friendship Deficit (Again)!

An autobiography of my failed friendships as an autistic person.

Annika Hotta
Human Parts
Published in
8 min readOct 30, 2023

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A group of seven people toasting at a picnic table outdoors. There is a whole spread of fruit, crackers, and cheese on the table, along with flowers for decoration. The photo has a golden hue, like it was taken during sunset.
Photo by Nicole Herrero on Unsplash

I’m currently going through a friendship breakup. This is a process I’ve been prolonging since May of this year. Coming to terms with it means accepting that I am now down to just two friends, and facing the embarrassingly long string of unreciprocated friendships in my past.

Loneliness seems to be the inherent destiny of autistic people. There are perks, don’t get me wrong. Solitude demands intimacy with yourself, a kind of self-preservation that is necessary to survive in this neurotypical world. But not being able to make friends easily, particularly ones who give as much as they take, eats away at the soul who longs for togetherness.

Making friends and keeping them get infinitely harder the older you get. As we withdraw into our domestic spheres and the milestones pass us by, the autistic person is playing a losing game. How did we get here? Is there any hope for us? Let’s reckon with our collective fates together.

The decline of my current on-the-rocks friendship began after I took a trip to visit her hometown. I stayed in a hotel, but was a guest of her family’s throughout the day. Her mother kindly took us on various excursions, and every night, would make a giant feast after a long day at work. In theory, this was supposed to be a great trip. In practice, between speaking in Japanese all day and being unable to mask for that long, stress prevented me from being able to properly express my gratitude for all that they did for me.

I love traveling, which is something we had in common. My friend and I have always lived in different parts of Japan, so it was our annual tradition to take a trip together somewhere. Our first trip was Sapporo, Hokkaido. This time it was her hometown: Koriyama, Fukushima. Not to speak ill of certain zodiac signs, but my friend happens to be a Gemini. Nailing down travel plans with her is next to impossible unless I bulldoze them. This is fine by me. Constructing an itinerary helps me build up anticipation when I am dreading the logistics of travel as a neurodivergent person.

I was weary about spending so much time with her mother. She was a sunflower personified, but I never knew how to…

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Annika Hotta
Human Parts

Professional Alexander Graham Bell hater who writes about accessibility, education, disabled stories, & life in Japan.