In the spirit of being an #AutisticNinja… here are just a few thoughts I had about working with clinicians on my “stuff”.
I have very good reasons for not telling people why and how I mask and blend with them – and do not give free reign to my autistic tendencies. On bad days, I feel like a fraud, like I’m betraying my community, ashamed of myself. On other days, I realize I’m doing the best I can, and I have my reasons for blending and passing.
I think that a lot of people equate passing with being ashamed of being autistic or wanting to hide from the rest of the world, and for many people that is entirely the case. Sure, with me, that is sometimes true. But more often, it is simply a matter of expediency.
If I tell people I encounter that I am autistic and or I don’t work at passing as NT, it creates social situations that are very confusing for me, as well as them. It creates a scenario of social interaction that does not match any of the social patterns that I am accustomed to and comfortable with.
I simply want to interact with other people as usual, in familar ways, falling back on all the little niceties and formalities that accompany standard-issue social interaction. A lot of people do not have much knowledge or awareness about autism or Aspergers, so if I mention it to them or I’m really obviously autistic, they flounder, get confused, and behave in ways that I am not expecting.
If I pass, I don’t have to worry about any of that.
Of course,, There are plenty of times when I do feel more vulnerable, and I’m concerned that my differences are going to make me a target for other people’s ridicule and teasing, even bullying, so that is definitely a factor. But the fear-of-others factor is not the overriding one with me.
If there is any fear that comes up, it is more around me not being able to successfully navigate the social situation with people who are expecting me to respond in certain ways. It’s the fear of failure in a social context that drives me more then fear of actual people.
I have written about this about this before, and I have talked about how my social anxiety is really a sort of “execution anxiety” – much as I hate using the word “execution” in a context like this, although that’s sometimes how it feels to me – it’s more about not having a predictable pattern to successfully complete that’s the problem.
Now, there are a number of people who I know, some of whom I have worked with in a therapeutic context, whom I would love to tell about my day-to-day experiences. However, I am reluctant to do so, because of feeling like I have been faking it with them, witholding important information, failing to disclose, deceiving them, and not being completely honest with them. I am deeply uncomfortable with dishonesty, to begin with, and it is very disquieting to think I’ve been guilty of that.
I am also very leery of having to explain myself, because I don’t want to be “found out” to have been misrepresenting things, or having outright lied about something. To be perfectly honest, in many cases, whether willingly or unwillingly by unthinking reflex, I have actually misrepresented my personal experience to people in a therapeutic or rehab contexts. I did it because I was nervous about them misinterpreting what I was saying, and putting me on medication that, for a number of reasons, is ill-advised for me.
I’ve also been deeply concerned about not being able to fully explain myself verbally, and being under some pretty intense pressure from those therapeutic individuals to put into words what it was then I was thinking or feeling at the time. There are many times when I literally do not know when I am feeling, where I am feeling so much and so many things that don’t really have good words to describe describe. So it seems pointless to try to put them into spoken words.
I have had the mixed blessing of working with people who are very strong in some respects, but are extraordinarily week in others. I don’t believe that they are intentionally remiss in what they’re doing, but I think that there is a lot that they are simply not aware of, and they and they don’t have either the experience or the belief system to remedy that. Rather than threw it all away – the proverbial baby being thrown out with the bathwater – I have worked with them for their strengths (which have nothing to do with autism), and I have overlooked their weaknesses (which have everything to do with autism). It’s fine, until their weaknesses are smack that in domain where I really need some help. And that happens, now and then.
The fact that I have needed support and help and a sounding board, but have been unable to get anything even remotely near that kind of help, adds to the kind of stress that prompts me to say and do “untrue” or simply inaccurate or misleading things designed to divert their attention from me, and so alleviate that performance pressure… or at least not compounded with more confusion and more static and more pressure. I wish that there were some way I could reliably and safely discuss all of this with these therapeutic individuals – clinicians – but so far, I’m not there yet.
It’s not the end of the world, but it is pretty inconvenient at times.
In a way, this adds more pressure to these clinical relationships, because there’s this huge sort of elephant in the room that they sort of kind of know is there, but don’t fully understand, and aren’t aware of how to approach it. I suppose I could say something, but it really feels risky to me, and I don’t want to take any chances. I feel like I am in a place right now where I can get a good number of my needs met, so I don’t want to mess up those pieces. I don’t want to lose the broad base of support that I have for things that pop up — Surprise! — over something that is… just there.
I suppose in terms of supports, I’m a rare specimen on the autism spectrum. I don’t want to get services. I also don’t want to be labelled by a diagnostic manual. I prefer to handle things myself, and I prefer to keep my own counsel. That works for me. What I really need is support in talking things through, and understanding my life in the context of autism, as a woman of a certain age, and the sole provider for my household. I am a unique constellation of mixed attributes, traits, characteristics, and needs. And I have yet to meet anyone on the planet who is very much like me, or who understands what it is like to be very much like me.
I have mixed feelings about getting help, in general. On the one hand, I think that some people could provide some compassion and support for me in as much as they are capable. I just am not sure how capable they really are. Not nearly enough is known about autism and how it affects “high” (ahem) functioning adult women on the spectrum. Too much FUDD is out there, too much drama, too much freak-out-ish-ness. And they just don’t know “what to do” with my info about my autistic life. Even the ones who are supposedly trained to handle it, come up short.
This is not a judgment of others. It is simply a recognition of human limitations that we all have.
Ultimately, everybody has their stuff, and we all need to figure out how to make things work as best we can.