Autistic People Should Not Have to Pretend Not to Be Autistic
There is something known among adults in online autism communities: society expects autistic people to blend in. We live in a world where being different is not always welcomed.
People don’t understand autism and naturally fear what they do not understand. I cannot blame or hold a grudge against these people. They are acting on instinct by excluding what is not the same.
Many introverts can relate to this struggle, as society tends to dote on extroverted and social people.
If you read definitions of “introvert,” you will find the qualities described in a negative and often pathological way most of the time. “Reclusive, self-centered, loner.”
The definitions of the word “extrovert” are almost always more positive. “Social butterfly, energetic, group-minded.”
What is an introverted, socially awkward Aspie to do?
Passing – an autistic person who is trying to blend in and pass off as neurotypical.
Many autistic adults, especially those who are not diagnosed until later in life, have grown up with a sense of shame for their “autistic-ness.” Early on we learn that kids will be mean and tease us if we flap our hands or act too strange.
Fear of bullies is often the first thing that causes us to turn inward. Autistic children are often bullied; mental and physical abuse from our peers is common, and due to our language and communication difficulties we often do not tell adults.
We may not really understand what is being done to us and feel as if our peers are unpredictable, irrational, and dangerous.
We learn to blend in – blend in or be beat down. Our vicious peers teach us that our quirks will not be tolerated. Teachers tell us, “quiet hands, sit still, you cannot wear sunglasses, or hats in the classroom.”
As children many of us are sick or uncomfortable but learn to struggle in silence. It is hard for us to explain the unpleasant sensations in our bodies. My eyes burned from light so I told my mother I had a headache. I took a lot of baby aspirin for no reason when I was little.
Once I remember telling a school nurse I felt like I would throw up in the next hour if I didn’t go home. She told me it was impossible for me to know that. She made me go back to class where I later threw up. She did not understand I was trying to tell her I was getting close to the point of sensory overload, and when I get to that overload I start throwing up. I was undiagnosed. To her I was a child trying to get out of class. This happened to me several times a week, and the school nurse insisted to my mother that I was somehow making myself sick to miss school.
People told me and my family I was lying or making things up. Nobody understood, believed, or wanted to help me. I was dismissed.
Speaking up was not helpful, and sometimes when I did people looked at me like I was making it up, so eventually I stopped.
With no other options I began to pretend to be normal, but blending in has it’s dangers. If people spend enough time with me, they figure out that I am “unique.” In professional settings it takes all of my concentration to hold my “autistic-ness” in.
The offensive “compliment” – “You hide your autism well” — has been given to me in the past, and ever since I have been greatly disturbed.
Why should I have to hide my autism? Is it something I should be ashamed of? I love who I am and would never want to change that even if I could. Hiding… as if there is something wrong with the way I was born.
Passing is not good for your mental health. It teaches us to have shame in who we are. It gives a message that we are not good enough.
Passing takes up so much of an autistic person’s limited social energy that we go home and have sensory meltdowns the minute we can be alone. When I was a child – and even now with work – I could hold things together through the school day but would come home and fall apart.
If an autistic person is focusing on passing, they are tense, working brain muscles that are not very strong, and are not relaxed. Imagine if you were tense and wound up for 8 to 10 hours straight. How would you feel when you got home?
Eventually this can lead to a total implosion, breakdown, or possibly – when we are having extreme difficulties keeping up with everyone’s expectations of us – a diagnosis.
I have to write everything down because my working memory is not great – but my longterm memory is forever.
I need to be alone. I need to stim. I need to wear hats and sunglasses indoors. I need to avoid bright lights like Gizmo from Gremlins (and sometimes may exclaim “Bright lights!” in a Gizmo voice the instant a bright light stings my eyes and brain).
Even my humor is not understood or appreciated by most people. Not wanting to be thought of as a “childish,” I often keep my fun comments to myself so people never get to know the real fun and silly me.
The modern social world is not built for us – but we are expected to fit into it like a puzzle piece.
I am not a puzzle. I am a human, an Aspie. I’m not like you and shouldn’t have to be.
Trying to fake it is detrimental to my health, and I can’t do it anymore.
#anonymouslyautistic #shecantbeautistic #actuallyautistic
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