Autism and Existential Loneliness

Autism and Existential Loneliness

I recently finished reading The Book of Not Knowing by Peter Ralston and honestly, I have no words. Never in my life have so many of my thoughts been depicted so clearly – thoughts ranging from questioning my existence to thoughts about human suffering. While there’s definitely too much to unravel in one post (the audiobook is over 18 hours, you can listen to it for free on audible with my affiliate link), I wanted to discuss one concept in particular: existential loneliness.

I am often asked whether I get lonely being an autistic entrepreneur that lives by myself and works from home. The truth is: yes. But it’s a different kind of loneliness, one that isn’t lessened by being around others. I’ve found that this cavernous disconnection is a common autistic experience, and is often rooted in existential loneliness.

What is existential loneliness?

Existential loneliness refers to a deep sense of isolation that arises from existential contemplation. This contemplation encompasses individual choice, the meaning of life, and other philosophical questions.

Whether I am (physically) with people or by myself, I feel very far removed. Even though I know I am loved and can reach out to friends when I want to, a deep part of me knows that at the end of the day, it’s just me. It’s like I’m a conscious observer of the world without actually being in the world.

More recently, I’ve been catching myself in some kind of trance; for just a moment, I am zapped into what can best be described as an illusion. I become an observer of my thoughts, temporarily detaching from any sense of self. It’s in these instances that my existential loneliness reaches its peak. That is, until I am zapped out again, only to be confronted by how trapped I feel in my own body.

Feeling trapped is another phenomenon that’s quite universal among the autistic population. When your body and mind never seem to agree, you want to escape into an alternate reality…which in and of itself, may be a factor of autistic people developing eating disorders.

My eating disorder was a way in which I was able to (temporarily) escape my dreaded reality. It provided all the answers, acting as a key that unlocked an alternate universe. By engaging with the ED, I sensed I was doing the “right” thing – which “protected” me from the existential angst of following the “wrong” path.

If you want to learn more about my personal journey and how I found my path, grab your copy of my book Rainbow Girl!

Want to learn how to navigate ED recovery as an autistic person?

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