Tag Archives: coming out

Passing – Blending in For Survival – The Masks We Wear

I grew up undiagnosed so I learned to sit still and when to be quiet. I keep all speech and movements carefully planned like I am in a play. It’s an act I put on – hiding my Autism as a survival mechanism that I developed due to not knowing why I was different. It wasn’t that I was ashamed – although as I grew older bullies forced be to hide for my own safety.

At home with my parents and family all of my differences seemed normal and I was so “smart” that nothing could possible be said about anything else.

I’ve said before that Autism runs in families, even if some families never notice it. My family is pretty quirky, despite my Autism being obvious, at home blending in was easy.

When I was very little I had a very had time regulating and maintaining and indoor voice, my balance was not great, and as a toddler I preferred spinning objects over people.

In old videos of me adults are unable to get me to look away from my things when they call my name. I can hear – because in one clip a phone rings and the bell startles me to look about but I tune out all the humans begging for my attention.

As I grew older I had to go to school and my differences became more obvious to those outside of the home. In preschool I often asked for teachers to hug me – because I was anxious and craved the release of the squeezing pressure. Teachers thought it was strange that I ask people who were not family for hugs.

Everyone was nice to me up until about the first grade. It was then that I met my first bully – a strict old fashioned southern school teacher. I remember that she wanted me to sit still and tried to make me speak in front of the class. She didn’t give hugs and she wanted me, the disruption, out of her classroom.

I remember sitting on the floor in the hallway as my mother spoke to the adults inside the office. The conversation is not in my mind but I remember my mother being very angry when we left. Afterwords I remember her telling people “that child is not stupid”.

It was agreed that I would spend part of my day in a special education classroom.

Being labeled a special-ed kid brought about a whole new type of bully – other children. People who had always ignored me in the past now made efforts to scream names at me in the hallways. The children were mean and the adults had an attitude as if being picked on was just a part of life.

In my mind all of my troubles were linked to being in the special education class-room so I worked hard to get out of there. Unfortunately by the time I escaped the SPED room the damage was done. Names like “Retard” and “Short Buss” followed me until I moved to a new city years later.

All because I was shy and had a hard time sitting still. One teacher who didn’t want to deal with me caused so much trouble and pain.

I thought things would be better in my new school. Finally I was invisible again. Unfortunately I still ended up having several altercations with bullies over misunderstandings. Despite proving my intellect, my social skills were still very limited and they often got me into trouble.

We moved one more time before high school, this time after being in a play. I remember thinking – acting is so easy it’s what I do every day when I am around other people. I made a conscious effort to pick and create a character of myself for my new school – one who does not get bullied.

I studied and watched movies and real people. I taught myself to “wear a mask” in school and eventually at work. The character. She comes out whenever I need her but takes up a lot of my mental energy.

Passing is a survival mechanism. As an adult you are asked to do more and more things that require a “social mask”. If you don’t learn do adapt one life on your own can be difficult – unless you find people who are understanding of your differences.

Wearing the mask too often can lead to Autistic Burnout.

Unfortunately we live in a society that can be unkind to what it doesn’t understand. Social skills are valued and necessary but many Aspies, myself included, have a hard time with even the basics (such as timing in conversation).

We have misunderstandings and miscommunications. People think we are rude because they do not understand that these things are not natural to us. Even worse they are often upset when we get things wrong.

It is difficult for us to hold a job or make advancements in the workplace because we do not value social acceptance or do well with office politics. I personally understand them in a very mechanical way but try to keep my head down and let my work speak for itself.

As an adult blending in means happy hours and group outings to the new trendy spot in town – things that I can’t even pretend to enjoy. I am learning that blending in is no longer enjoyable, turning down all invitations to hang out with co-workers and sometimes friends.

Work socials are the worst for me. Any group larger than three people is not enjoyable, although I can push it to a group of four without losing my mind. Too many conversations at one time or in a loud space can lead to sensory overload and will send me home feeling like a zombie desperate for a hot bath and feeling empty.

The pressure to be “professional” is intense even in a relaxed setting. How do you do professional and relaxed at the same time? I don’t have that character in my Rolodex. This does not compute.

I’ve dreamed of a day when I will drop all of the masks completely however I realize most people, especially those in sales, have some sort of character they play. I don’t want to play a role, I want to be myself.

#ActuallyAutistic #SheCantBeAutistic #InvisibleAutism #AnonymouslyAutistic

All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players
They have their exits and their entrances
And one man in his time plays many parts

- William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616

I Want to Encourage Everyone to Write

Writing is therapy and can be a key to better self understanding. We all have stories to tell and lessons learned. When we share we give others the opportunity to learn.

Write – even if you never share your world with anyone.

Pour your soul out onto the pages (digital or hand written). Let your thoughts come to life. Often I am surprised at what comes out when I am behind a keyboard. There is a flow when I am comfortable and relaxed.

In face to face interactions I am not nearly as eloquent. Sometimes I am just struggling to keep pace with a conversation – my brain tends to save information to process later. This is inefficient when speaking to people. By the time I am ready to contribute often the topic has already been changed.

My social differences are often misunderstood by my peers. I don’t need to look at people when they are talking to me – and listen best if I don’t try to. People often think I am rude, daydreaming, or not paying attention. They don’t understand that my brain works differently.

I started this blog out of frustration. When everywhere I go everyone misunderstands or underestimates me. If I tell people I am Autistic they say things like “you seem to have grown out of it” or “you don’t seem autistic”.

The picture they have of Autism is one that was sold in movies and on the internet.

It is a boy who cannot speak, an adult who may never live on their own, or someone who bangs their head against walls (I do this but not hard enough to hurt much).

An attractive woman who appears to have it all together is NOT what they imagine when you say “Autism” and they can’t easily adjust the pictures in their minds.

Neurotypicals tend to have more of a “hive mind” than Aspies do. They tend to follow popular opinions and are often hesitant to stray from what is considered “common knowledge”.

I can only see one fix for this problem – change what is “common knowledge”.

Aspies are wired to be individuals we don’t care about what others think – unless we are taught to care what others think (then we can become overly eager to please). We tend to be very analytical – sometime to the point of over analyzing.

Many of us thrive in solitude and are often accused of being “antisocial” and other negative terms.

People have a hard time accepting what they don’t understand. That is why it is so important that we all share our stories. Everyone has a story to tell.

Do something with yours – even if it is all you’ve got. Maybe you will change the world.

 

#SheCantBeAutistic #ActuallyAutistic #AnonymouslyAutistic #InvisibleAutism

Tired of Passing – Washing Away The Alter Ego

For most of my life I’ve always been two people.

As we get ready for 2017 here is my new years resolution / goal. I want to be more authentic. I want to be more true and compassionate for myself.

I feel like it started in elementary school as some sort of survival mechanism – there was the “home me” and the “school me”. My mother would often remark how other people’s parents (and other adults) often said I was perfectly behaved while under their care. My mother complained that should be able to act polite at home too.

This character was all an act, working hard to behave in a way that others would expect. Often bullied, I was desperately trying to be like everyone else.

As I grew older, hitting puberty, I got to be that age where I thought I knew everything. Still undiagnosed, I assumed everyone around me put up the same chameleon act that I did.

Living my life more and more in the shoes of the chameleon and spending less time being authentic was damaging to my mental health. Eventually I began to loose track of who I really was. I was longing for authenticity but which person was the real me?

“School Me” became “Work Me” and now there is the “Me” who writes blogs and the me who takes care of her family. So many versions of myself – and I want to be the best one.

Chameleon Woman – blending in where ever she goes. Laity blending in has been difficult, as I push myself towards my mental limits. Certain Aspie traits have become more obvious.

I don’t want to live my life in shame.

Slowly I’m letting my alter ego go, learning her lessons as I wash her away. I want to lead an authentic life, no more fallacies, and pretending to enjoy things I hate.

It’s time to be real. It’s time for honesty. Moving forward with authenticity – embracing all my strengths and weaknesses.

 

10 Things NOT to Say When Someone Comes Out as Autistic

I mentioned in a previous blog post that coming out as Autistic can be just as hard or harder than coming out as gay or bisexual.

Coming out as Autistic is hard. So hard that most of the time I just stay anonymous. Below are 10 REAL comments that I have heard first hand when trying to “come out” as Autistic.

Maybe if Autistic people stop getting comments like the ones below more Autistic people would come out of the closet.

  1. You don’t look Autistic.
  2. Autism is just a result of bad parenting.
  3. You just need to learn to grow up.
  4. There is nothing wrong with you.
  5. If you tried harder you could over come your struggles.
  6. You just want attention.
  7. You are just delayed.
  8. Everyone has a little Autism.
  9. You must be high functioning.
  10. Autism is just a different way of thinking. Its not really a disability.

Ask an Autistic: Living Atypically – “Coming Out”

Just made a comment today on Wrong Planet talking about how, in many ways, coming out as Autistic can be just as hard if not harder than coming out as gay or bisexual.

People have so many preconceived ideas about what Autism is and how I – as a woman who blends in well – does NOT fit that idea. Often I feel like I am “in the closet” because people don’t really understand Autism. They don’t understand me.

#sadbuttrue

Because I also suffer from Alexithymia it is especially hard for me to talk about my Autism with certain people.

I can take NO credit for Amythest Schaber‘s video. Please check her out and subscribe to her channel.

See video HERE!