The below post was originally a status update I posted on Facebook on 12 February 2017 as a stream of consciousness post. But I realised later that it also warranted its own blog post. So feel free to read on…
For all the positive things that have happened in my life since I was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum (and believe me, there are many things), there’s also the stuff that I have become a lot more aware of in terms of treatment from other people:
- Being aware of the distance in social situations that people automatically put between themselves and me that they don’t do with other people, because I seem “weird” or “different” from everybody else…
- The feeling of being talked down to by other people (including some friends and loved ones) when I try to comment on a topic of discussion and being made to feel like my opinion doesn’t matter or it is not sophisticated enough for their liking…
- Frequently establishing great relationships with new people, only for them to mysteriously go cold for apparently no reason whatsoever…
I did not ask to be on the spectrum. Much like I did not choose to be gay. This is the way that I am. And having learnt so much in recent times about the concept of privilege, I am now more consciously experiencing firsthand what it is like to be treated differently because of something that you cannot control.
A lot of things made so much sense to me after I was diagnosed, and now I do not feel so forced to conform to neurotypical expectations. In saying that though, the more that I embrace myself and my personality, the more alone I seem to feel.
I am grateful every day for the people in my life who keep in touch and make sure that I am ok. As much as I cherish my independence, the last thing I want is to die one day and not have anybody discover my body until weeks go by.
And as outgoing and outspoken as I might be on Facebook, I am not really a social butterfly in the outside world. If you see me out at a social gathering, I’ll more than likely either be playing on my phone or just sitting back and observing everyone else.
And I’ll have people say to me “why don’t you go and talk to people and socialise?”. The honest answer is, it takes a lot of mental and emotional energy for me to socialise with someone. So it has to be worth it.
And there’s also the whole “you gotta put yourself out there!”. Firstly, I teach group fitness for a living. I’m putting myself out there almost every day of the week. And it is exhausting to do that for at least 12 classes a week.
Secondly, the fact that I have a blog where I write stuff similar to this is more than a lot of people in the world do. I didn’t have to tell people that I have Asperger’s, but I made that choice to do so in the hope that people out there would understand me better, if only just a little bit.
Something I realised recently is that you do not have to be extroverted to be confident. Confidence is knowing who you are, what you stand for as a person, and trusting yourself so much that others can see it too.
And because I have gained so much confidence, I get the impression (rightly or wrongly) that people are or have become afraid of me. They are afraid of what I believe in, what my values are, who I actually am as a person.
It saddens me to think that rather than bringing me closer to people, my confidence has in fact created a bigger divide. And that’s one of the many dilemmas that I’ve been finding myself in at the moment.
Do I try to conform and be more accepted by people in the neurotypical world? Or do I stay true to myself as someone who is neurodiverse and acknowledge that true acceptance comes from within?
I think I just answered my own question.