Isolation in Trying Times
Richard Nakai is a chapter member at the University of California, Los Angeles chapter and a current Global Ambassador representing Best Buddies International around the world. Many in Best Buddies would say that Richard is one of the kindest individuals you will ever meet and his message is an important one during the COVID-19 time.
“I want to be alone!” This was once spoken by the famous silent film actress Greta Garbo. This applies to people with IDD as we feel that we want people to leave us alone but, at the same time, we want to be a part of the larger social world. In these trying times with COVID 19, people without IDD are learning what it is like to be socially isolated. People without IDD are learning how frustrating it is for people like me who want to be social but can’t.
My name is Tsukasa Richard Nakai, or simply Richard, and I am a Global Ambassador for Best Buddies, a member of the friendship chapter at UCLA, and a Jobs Program Participant. How do I know the frustrations felt by people with IDD are dealing with daily? I have Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism and, for me, I have always wanted to be a part of the social world in which people without IDD have and have been utterly frustrated in my attempts in trying to connect with people because of the difficulties I have with social skills with my Asperger’s Syndrome.
People like me who are neurodivergent want to be friends with people and be a part of the different activities. People are learning how frustrating it is for them to not be able to go to gatherings and mingle and have fun. This is something that people like me go through daily. Prior to my involvement with Best Buddies, I was largely isolated even though I have friends who I see infrequently due to their schedules. I was lonely and wanted to be a part of a group.
When I joined three years ago, I saw that I had a lifeline in Best Buddies at UCLA and then becoming an Ambassador allowed me to grow and take pride in myself and my abilities.
An organization such as Best Buddies may be individual’s only lifeline socially because they may not have any friends or anyone other than their family. People without IDD are fortunate that they have networks of friends to reach out to and people like me struggle to connect socially. When our lifeline is cut or disrupted, we tend to lose hope and any social skills we have gained during this time.
As leaders in your chapters and Peer Buddies for your Buddies you can know see how we deal with this isolation daily and it may be difficult to schedule because you do have a social life. Please remember that this too shall pass, and you can go moving forward as leaders a bit wiser and understanding what we, your Buddies, go through every day and during times like these.
If you have a Buddy, please be kind and call them to check on them as they may be suffering silently because they may not understand or comprehend what is going on and they may mistakenly think this is something that was created to inconvenience them. Please continue to help them and be there to provide support for them. If we, your Buddy, responds with the following phrase “I am fine, don’t worry about me!” please don’t take it literally. Just remember, FINE also stands for Feeling Inside Not Expressed. That is our way of saying “Please leave me alone, no one understands how scared and confused I am.” Please reassure your buddy, “Are you sure you are ok? I do worry about you, my friend! And know this, no one knows what is going to happen. But there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.”
By saying the last part, you are showing us that we matter, and you understand where we are coming from and thus you can empathize with us rather than sympathize with us. My dream and long-term goal are to get people like you to understand we don’t want to be alone but a part of the larger world. Thank you for your support and GO BEST BUDDIES!