One of the hardest parts of reaching the point of no longer being ashamed of your “disability,” in actually taking pride in being how you naturally are, is working through the guilt and dishonor that comes from a lifetime of the world telling you you were wrong, messing up, not in tune.
Admittedly, this can be a rather daunting task, when all of your society — in some instances, those closest to you — keep reinforcing that your condition is not something that you should be “stuck” with. After all, it’s why there are these treatments to get you more “included” in civilization.
The unfortunate, brutal truth of that approach is this: The majority of these treatments are to make other people feel more comfortable around us. To get us to blend in, to stop stimming in public, to get a handle on our emotions, and fade into the background, rather than stand out for being different.
Counseling to make us work through emotional obstacles that we don’t understand probably won’t raise our self-esteem. Training us to mask our autistic traits only results in creating more, deeper anxiety, and that often leads to actual physical illness. Trying to force us to be “normal” is about as sensible as forcing a lion to become a vegetarian.
For a while, I fell prey to this feeling that everything I am was wrong, and should be changed. I encouraged a younger White Fang to participate in therapies that would teach him to think and process things like “regular” people. Not to build understanding and empathy in him, necessarily; more to eventually convince him that he could one day act like that, too.
I didn’t want my baby boy to be bullied, repressed, discriminated against like I had been. Like I still am. But recently I’ve realized that the best way to fix this is NOT to make him change. It’s to change the perspective of those who come across him.
Are we perfect as is? No! Do we sometimes hurt feelings by speaking in a tone or with body language that takes others aback? Yell out phrases or thoughts that humanity finds impolite? Yes — and who doesn’t, at some point in their lives? Do we react suddenly to strange circumstances or unexpected events, do we accidentally cause distress to random passerby? Yes — and again, who hasn’t done or said something they wish they could do over?
Are autistic children harder to parent? Sometimes. But how many neurotypical children throw tantrums, break toys, refuse to eat their dinner? Plenty. And does the world view them as problems that will never be solved without government or medical intervention? Hardly.
The biggest difference between us and the NTs (and honestly, I hate having to divide the world into camps like that, but it wasn’t my decision) is that we have concrete neurological and physiological reasons behind everything we do. Either it’s our external environment or something internal that causes overstimulation or brings us to a shutdown or meltdown. We truly aren’t doing it just to make other people mad or upset.
Motives like greed or envy rarely influence us. We know what we need and what we like, so we generally are content if we get it. We aren’t spoiled for knowing there are certain requirements to maintain our calm and well-being.
So, while we sadly do still have to fight the uphill battle to convince others of these facts, in the meantime, we can apply them to our own hearts.
Would it benefit us to tamp down our anxiety? Absolutely. Does it mean we’re horrible, vile, screwed-up people beyond redemption if we suffer a setback (or many)? Not one bit.
Do we need to keep beating ourselves up for being different? No. What’s the fricking point of that?
Will our lives not be what parents, neighbors, teachers, authorities envision for us? Most likely not. Do we have to follow their plans to feel successful, accomplished, happy? No way.
Will we feel more accepted by the “average” folks if we conform? Sadly, yeah. But will that actually make us feel better? Experience is proving no.
I don’t have it all figured out yet myself, but the best advice I can come up with at this moment is: let go.
Let go of a sense of worthlessness. Of loss. Of missing out. Of having made mistakes.
You are okay. You have made it. You are further today than you were last month, last year. You can keep moving forward.
Let go of striving to reach someone else’s ideal. Let go of not being “enough” for people who don’t really want you.
It’s all right to be different. To be yourself. To want to feel whole.
Do it. Go.