It's no secret that large gatherings of any level can be incredibly overwhelming for those on the autism spectrum. There's so much happening on both social and sensory levels that it gets stressful just thinking about it. There's the sheer amount of people in the immediate vicinity, the high expectation to talk to all of them in the right way, the preparation of the event in question, how to present yourself...it's all kinda much for anyone to handle. And if you're autistic, it's downright terrifying.
On top of being autistic, I have a ton of social anxiety. While it looks like I can increasingly handle myself well enough in group settings, I'm riddled with fear that I have no idea what I'm doing. Am I connecting with enough people? Am I engaged enough in the conversation? Am I hogging conversation too much? Am I maintaining the appropriate amount of eye contact? Nodding in the right places? Truly listening to people? All these things people take for granted requires a tremendous amount of thinking and planning, and it's so overwhelming just writing it gives me the shivers.
And what's a hallmark of the winter holiday season? Social gatherings, particularly holiday parties and family time. The two most stressful situations for almost anyone, let alone for someone who innately has trouble socializing to begin with.