I have told a few people about my diagnosis now, I haven’t broken it to the world (besides my Twitter community), just family and a few of close friends.
My family’s response? “We love you” – awesome, I still have the same genes as you guys, I didn’t think Aspergers would equate to a loss of love!
My friend’s responses? “What can you do about it?” – sorry, didn’t you just hear me say I’m neurologically wired differently to you?
Only one person has asked how I felt about my diagnosis; a fellow Aspie. ONE out of at least thirty I’ve told. One.
I’m not sure if it’s an Aspie, NT or general human thing, but I judge peoples’ reactions/responses to me based upon what I would do if I were them in the same situation. This has always led to disappointment – maybe I idealise myself a bit? Plus, I do have insider information on the reaction/response from others I want/need.
In the past, if others needed something from me they’d tell me, or I’d ask what they needed so I could support etc them in the way they needed – I realise I have never actually instinctively known, matter of fact I’ve usually researched my heart out and observed behaviour over the years in an attempt to compensate for this lack of instinctivity (what a revelation).
I’ve leant to do things for myself, I’ve learnt people are disappointing and don’t get it “right” (to my satisfaction), I’ve learnt that to ask is to be vulnerable to the dreaded “no” – or worse, “I don’t know”. These lessons have become ingrained to the point I feel an unpleasant physical sensation (probably anxiety) when I ask for anything – so I mostly don’t. If I ask, you can bet it’s my absolute last resort.
I guess I am disappointed by the lack of reaction/response from the ones who claim to care about me, and I have really been feeling it negatively. It’s got me thinking (of course!); have I always had “no life” hence I had a bigger capacity to support others than they have to support me? Is it my drive to find solutions to problems that, once told to me, my brain has no choice but to care about and figure out? Is my form of caring for others even caring at all? Or just my brain needing to rid itself of a problem, which once solved I can let go of it? (And by let go of, well, no that doesn’t actually really happen – nice thought though!)
Autistics have no empathy? I call bullshit. I care a lot. I care too much most of the time! Yes, sure, solving others’ problems relieves me of the burden of the problems. But it also makes THEM feel better. It is STRESSFUL for me to know someone I care about is upset or being mistreated or has a problem. It might seem selfish that others’ pain I equate to myself as a stressor, but that is what it is. I don’t think NTs can possibly understand exactly what it’s like for me – the mental processing, the emotional stirring, etc, they invoke. The thing is though – I don’t want them to know. Because I care about them. Because I do want to help. And because – connection..
I can understand why Autistics shut themselves away from the world – absolutely! We are constantly bombarded with negativity (I don’t watch the news anymore) and pain that we cannot alleviate but we internalise anyway. We metaphorically have the weight of the world on our shoulders most days. Our senses are assaulted daily. And we’re bound by rules that not everyone follows – we live in constant state of stress. (Anyone lacking Cortisol? I have plenty of excess to give away!) So locking ourselves away from the world is a solution but it doesn’t satisfy the basic human need of connection.
I’m Autistic and the hardest thing I have to do is turn my back on people. Even the ones who hurt me. Because there’s a reason THEY hurt ME, right? It’s so very hard to accept that people do bad things to others “just because”. Turning my back means a loss of connection. It means I can’t solve them and save the connection. I find it even harder to have someone turn their back on me because of my mistakes – now that is painful. And why? Generally due to misunderstanding of my words/actions/intentions. How many chances do I give people? I like to think two! Realistically though – as many as it takes them to get it “right”. Boundaries? Ha! They’re the equivalent to me of putting an electric fence up around myself, feeling bad when the other person gets zapped, then turning the fence off so THEY don’t get hurt again. Hopeless.
If there are any neurotypicals reading this then PLEASE – if a friend or loved one of yours trusts you enough to inform you of their diagnosis PLEASE support them. Learn about Autism, let them talk, ask questions, ask them how they feel, offer to help if they don’t understand something (don’t be offended if they say no), don’t smother them, but do SHOW you care. Adults diagnosed as Autistic have been living in your world for years and have survived, we continue to live in your world – so please, do yourself a favour – have an open mind and you just might find the best friend you could ever have!
Image credit: My 4 year old son.
NB: If you haven’t noticed by now, I use Aspergers/Autism Autistic/Aspie interchangeably – to me they’re synonymous and this is my blog