This is going to be a sort of introspective, slightly melancholy post, for which I apologize ahead of time — and yet, it’s a topic that my mind keeps coming back to, and I truly feel it’s something that needs to come into the light.
Usually, I don’t write about the more negative impacts of having autism; I try to encourage the positives (and there are a lot of advantages to being different — yes, there are — to being able to see the world in a less conventional way). But unfortunately there are also far too many people who don’t agree with this. They view anything different than what they see as “normal” as “wrong,” and they fight to force us to conform to their way of thinking and living.
The reason this bothers me so much is the fact that I feel I can’t be myself — in the community, around other parents, in church, in public in general, and sometimes even at home. This same thing has happened to my son, not to the same degree that I’ve faced, but it’s still an issue. Our “problem” is not that “average” people don’t understand us — it’s when they refuse to understand.
There’s a massive difference — and the crux of the biscuit — between simply not knowing about something, and not wanting to learn about something. This is where I consider willful ignorance unacceptable. I don’t think refusing to broaden your horizons shows the signs of civilization or intelligence that some seem to feel it does.
Throughout so much of my life, I’ve been told that I needed to learn to be like everyone else. That’s simply impossible. I was born on the spectrum, and if I repressed all of those traits, then I wouldn’t be me, period.
If I’m truly to believe that God doesn’t make mistakes, that God knows the end from the beginning and that nothing surprises Him, then I think it makes sense to believe that God not only knew I was going to have autism, He may even have counted on it. Maybe I am the way I am to teach others a lesson, to bring something to the world that it’s currently lacking.
But some days, it’s really, really hard to go on feeling that way. To look for the bright spots. To find the strength to stay on my current path.
When you’re on the spectrum, you’re marginalized, ostracized, put in a corner, labeled (negatively), and often forced to conform. You’re encouraged to keep your “quirky habits” to yourself (like stimming, or the minor obsession with dragons). Most of the people in your life will even say they wish you weren’t autistic. They’ll remind you of all the things you’re missing out on by not wanting to have tons of friends or go to new places or try new foods. All they’ll see is how your life won’t be everything it could be.
Here’s why that hurts so much — we can’t help the need to stim, the social anxiety, or the overstimulation. We don’t feel we’re missing out on anything, because we don’t see the need for crowded sports arenas or owning a lizard or wearing perfume every day to be in our lives. We don’t want the same things that other people do. Why does that have to be a burden, a loss?
And yet, more than once (twice, a dozen times), I’ve felt like I was missing out on something. Maybe it was just because people told me I was, and I couldn’t understand that sentiment, and so I strove to understand it. That’s what really logical brains do. (“It is not logical, Captain.”) There’s a lot to be said for approaching life in the most practical manner. Emotionally-driven decisions have the potential to backfire every time.
So we keep our emotions on a tight leash. And sometimes that makes us behave in ways that mean people don’t “get” us. They think we’re being cold, or insensitive, or too controlling.
And, sometimes I don’t know, maybe we are? I swear, I’m not trying to hurt you. I just don’t want to be hurt. And let’s face it, the chances of that are much more likely.
So, what’s the answer? I’m honestly not sure. I wish other people understood autism better. I wish I didn’t have autism. I wish I’d known sooner. Paradoxes are not logical. Paradoxes are very real.
If I’m going to be totally honest, I do wish I’d known sooner, or that most of my life was a dream that I eventually woke up from, and that was why so much of it didn’t make sense. And yet, since realizing that this fact explains everything, I feel a great sense of relief, of peace.
There’s a theoretical rule about time travel — that to undo certain events would alter the course of the entire future, perhaps of a whole universe, and not for the better. So there are particular facts you don’t attempt to undo, much as you might want to. I’m not a Time Lord, but I’ve been accused of being an alien, and if we’re talking Vulcan, I’ll proudly claim that lineage. So, here’s to the rule of drawing the line at not wrecking the whole world by altering one individual’s destiny.
It’s all for good, right?