Among those who know me, my personal space boundary is kind of legendary. I don’t like being touched, but I also don’t like people even getting too close to me. It’s like there’s an invisible bubble around me (sort of like the giant hamster ball depicted here) that I hate having breached. I work to maintain that space – often completely unconsciously – and will edge away as a reflex as someone moves closer.
Not to get too ‘woo-woo’ about it, but I really do believe there’s sort of an energy field around us and that the ‘bubble’ is an actual thing; having someone in my space when I don’t want them there is like an uncomfortable creeping or buzzing sensation, if that makes sense, and I can sometimes sense someone entering my space even before I see or hear them.
It’s not just my own personal space, I have trouble being in others’ space as well, even when they invite me into it. I work in IT, and sometimes have to come to someone’s desk to fix an issue; I prefer to squat or kneel beside the desk (bending over the desk if they are sitting there feels like ‘looming’ to me, I hate when someone does that to me so I try to avoid doing it myself) which usually results in an exchange like the following:
“Here, sit in my chair.”
“No, that’s alright, I’m fine, thanks.”
“Really I don’t mind! I’m just glad you’re here to fix my problem. Please, sit!”
“Uh…really, I’m good – I’ve been sitting all day. This actually helps me, uh, stretch my legs to, um, prevent leg cramps… ”
The funny thing is, I tend to do this even when the person is out of the office; their space exists for me even if they aren’t in it.
Another interesting thing is that several of the friends and family members that I’ve shared my diagnosis with have apologized for forcing hugs on me or teasing me about my ‘space bubble’ in the past, and now even ask for permission to greet me with a hug. I really do appreciate that consideration, and I usually don’t mind close friends and family expressing their affection that way if I’m prepared for it, it’s just odd that it was somehow acceptable to make me uncomfortable before they knew I was autistic, but now it’s not?