Don’t we all?

I’m hoping that typing this out will help me figure out what I’m feeling.

I suppose I’m feeling something of an assault to my own right to existing as a person; not a physical person, mind you, but more like my own person.

Before I even get started with the story, let me make my usual disclaimer.  I do not in any way seek to speak for autistics, as a group.  I speak for me and only me.  Secondly, in no way whatsoever do I blame or even have ill will toward the people involved.  I am certain they meant me no discomfort.  I can’t even say that I’m uncomfortable… I’m just thinking out-type (you know, as opposed to out loud?).

As per usual Wednesday mornings, staff and I went to church for the huge women’s bible study.  Think a hundred women (which means lots and lots of chatter, which when combined with the fluorscent lights makes Lydia want to disappear, you know?).  But really, I haven’t found a woman in the group who isn’t nice.  I only really know maybe a dozen, but today when my staff locked her keys in her car, one of the ladies I kind of know offered to drive us downtown (45 minutes away, easily) to pick up keys from her husband.  Luckily, the music director at church, who is a man and stronger than staff and I, figured out a way to open the door, and all was well.  But yes, people are much, including these women, are really, really nice.  Not fake, not at all.  Genuine as can be.

When we’d first realized the keys were in the car, which was locked, we went into the office.  A lady in the office (I know who she is but don’t want to identify her) said that she heard I’d given a fantastic presentation Monday and wondered if she could just see my new book.  I handed it to her, and she said that she knew nothing about autism and what were the symptoms?

I explained the triad of impairments (social, communication, behaviors/interests).

“Then you must do really well because you seem fine to me.”

With that, I launched into my usual explanation of how trust me, that anyone who knows autism can tell, and that people who don’t know autism can tell after some time with me, and that really, I’m great at “faking it” for short periods of time, like I was right then.

“Don’t we all fake it?  Sometimes if I’m sad I come to work pretending to be happy.”

That’s what sat wrong with me.  I couldn’t figure out why.  I thought, and thought, and thought.

And then I realized… it’s one thing to say, “I feel sad but I will act happy.” But to say, “I”m autistic but I try to act typical” is completely, totally different.  It’s denying what you feel (I feel ugly, I feel like having three gallons of ice cream, I feel angry at you)… versus denying who you are, often to avoid discrimination.

I’m partially black, but I’ll act white.

I’m gay, but I’ll act straight.

I’m Jewish, but I’ll act like I’m a Christian.

It makes me ache for people who, throughout history, had to deny their identities.  I don’t at all mean that we’re past all that kind of discrimination now.  People are turnd upon for their skin color, sexual orientation, and faith everyday in this world.

And that’s what I do everyday, also to avoid stereotypes and discrimination.  I’m autistic, but I act typical.  You might say that it’s a choice… but I know how I’m treated when I act like “me,” so if I want to fit in, I have to act.

The question remains: Is it worth it?


5 thoughts on “Don’t we all?

  1. actually, motivation (or the lack of it) is i suspect the cause of social problems on the autism spectrum. i think the lack of motivation causes missing a developmental milestone or two so you miss learning the other stuff and it cascades down into a total mess.

    this book explains empathy really well:

    its been the most interesting read of all the books i’ve read on this topic to date.

    the problem is, its pretty hard to stay motivated to “be normal” once you’ve passed the developmental milestone and don’t know how to rest of the stuff works.

    but the good news is, once you have passed the milestone and learned the pieces, its relatively easy. so i hope we can end up teaching it all in a way that makes sense to everyone.

  2. Bless you for another touching post. I get the “you seem fine to me” comment all the time. It is a spectrum of “fine” actually…

    For years I’ve struggled to fit in and pretend to be normal when I’d rather, flap, complain, sing or sleep. At last I have an identity or sorts–an understanding of why I never fit in.

    Despite this liberty and occasional moments of autistic pride, I still conform. It is here on the computer that I feel my most free. I am grateful that we both can be free, even if it involves a keyboard.

  3. Thank you for your insights. I really enjoy learning about what makes different people tick.

    I don’t have autism in any form and I find it fascinating when I find similarities with what you’re going through, like how I’m always worrying about fitting in, and even more so when what you are going through is alien to me. Keep on writing 🙂

  4. To some degree this woman is right. Most people do have to pretend at some time or other in their lives. Some more frequently than others. I frequently pretend that I find certain people’s conversation interesting when what I’d rather do is stab myself in the eye. Some level of pretending is part of being human.

    What’s hard for me to wrap my mind around since I’m not autistic is I don’t know what it’s like to feel like I can’t ever be myself. At least I don’t think I do. If you weren’t pretending – what would you be doing?

  5. goodfountain, the point I was making was that pretending about what you feel is different than pretending what you ARE.

    I can only be myself around my mom and… my cat? But seriously. Everyone else gets some degree of faking it.

    Being me… truly me… I appear quite affected by autism. I would never speak if I had a choice. I HATE verbal communication. I pretend so hard to like it that sometimes I even trick myself into believing I do… I do a darn good job, but no, I can’t stand it. I spin and flap and pick and pull and hit and punch and bite when no one’s here. I try not to stim at all when I’m around people, which is REALLY hard. Then there’s the eye contact and appropriate conversation. Again, I don’t like conversation (unless it’s via typing). When I’m with my mom, just about every other statement is followed by some cat-chatter, then back to “expected” topics, then back to cats… I take breaks. When I can’t do that, I trip over my words far more, shut down, and say things I don’t mean to say.

    I can fake it roughly 20 hours a week. I can appear somewhat mildly autistic. My staff is here 23 hours, so they see a little faltering, but generally they get the good side.

    Evenings are also bad for me and I generally lose my ability to fake it then. If I try when I’m “done,” I melt down. Big time. Scream, cry, yell, throw things at people (usually just papers or whatever I’m holding, nothing dangerous).

    Every night I pray for the strength to “just be me” tomorrow… and every morning, when it comes time, I chicken out. What if, by being real, everyone runs away? What if they get mad? I don’t know. It’s too much.

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