Tag Archives: Passing

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

Mental Health & Chronic Illness – Things People Don’t Understand

Toughen up – that phrase makes my arm hairs stand on end… my family members said it a lot, so did my teachers. Stop calling me weak – on one hand I hate being told that.  Regardless, coming from my mother it did me good and helped me become the person I am today.

The other one that REALLY gets me is “you’re not trying hard enough”. This is the worst thing you could ever say to someone who is doing there honest best. It’s soul crushing. It doesn’t matter your intentions – I hear “your best is not good enough“.

Certain simple things like timing in conversation trip me up. My brain is working overdrive but still I make simple mistakes. Because I can be extremely skilled at complex tasks people say things like – “you are too smart for this” & “you are not trying hard enough”.

On the inside I am dying because my best is perceived as laziness. I’m working so hard –Not trying? They can not comprehend how difficult this is for me.

People assume I am being rude and I rub them the wrong way. I’ve been told I can be perceived as standoffish and distant – not really what I’m going for. It keeps people away.

I am very isolated because of my limited social skills. My awareness of my social impairments has helped me to develope severe Social Anxiety.

I don’t go out, I don’t socialize – I get more than enough human interaction (the wrong, over stimulating, kind) at work. Other than going to the office, I never go anywhere without my husband.  He is my rock and is wonderful to me. He seems to pick up on the things that I miss. We compliment each other nicely.

I don’t bond with many people, but the people who I do bond with have my loyalty till the end. When you can’t read people and tend to be gullible you have to guard your inner circle. I don’t want to let a snake in the hen house.

My co-workers are all wonderful but unfortunately we are never on the same page. They go out, they dance, they drink (a LOT), they get loud and crazy. None of that appeals to me one bit. They care about brands and dinners at expensive restaurants – I feel like these things are a waste of money. I don’t know how to talk to them because we have nothing in common.

My thoughts are on my mortgage, family, my current obsession, and saving for days when I may no longer be able to work. I can’t throw money away like they do – I don’t have money to waste.

The risk of loosing work is high when you have a chronic illness. If you use too many sick days your boss will fire you. I am healthy enough to work right now but I don’t know if this will always be the case.

There was a time years ago when I was sick 3 days a week – the beast. I fear it’s return more than anything.

I am “disabled” but not on any disability. I don’t have supports other than my husband’s care. I’ve been disabled to the point where I really could not live a good life before – it was horrible and I never want to do it again.

If I get sick I will lose my job and my home. More than anything my home is my safe place. Living in apartments was hell with my sensory sensitivities. Maintenance men insisting they have to fix something are not something I can deal with on high sensory days – neither are loud neighbors.

Having my own place is essential to my mental health and having a job is essential to having a home.

I also spend more out of my own pocket for medical expenses than most people. Almost every doctor I need to see is always a specialist who is “out of network”. I don’t get all the recommended medical things done because the costs have gotten ridiculous.

I have to eat organic and gluten free because the chemicals and gluten make my stomach violently ill. I am chemically sensitive – something that is common in people with AS that I speak to.

Money is always tight but we are getting by. I am trying my hardest to keep everything in balance.

All I can do is take care of myself and hope for the best.

Remrov’s World of Autism – Talks about Being a Real Person

Be yourself. Why would you want to blend in when you were born to stand out?

I’ve never been more miserable and insecure than I was when I was trying to fit in with the rest of the world.

Accepting myself and not letting my light be hidden or moved by those who don’t understand me has changed my world.

Have self compassion and get to know and love the real you. Don’t let others ever make you feel bad about being real.

It doesn’t matter what other people think of you.

Always do your best with honest intentions and nothing else matters.

I am a fan of the Remrov’s World of Autism channel on YouTube. It is exciting to see someone so expressive and honest speaking out about the issues that we Aspies face. Please check out Remrov’s World of Autism for more great content and subscribe to the YouTube channel so you don’t miss a video.

Stop Being Autistic – Stop Being You

Don’t ask me to stop acting Autistic.

I would never ask you to stop being you.

Why can’t you be you and I be me?

You and I are not the same.

I march to my own beat but so do you.

We all do.

Everybody’s different.

No two people are the same.

Misunderstandings and mistakes.

Misspoken words and broken hearts.

Stop being so Autistic!

You are not good enough the way you are.

Why can’t you just be normal?

If only you would try a little harder.

Is that really the best you can do?

You’re too smart for this.

I don’t understand why you keep making the same mistakes.

Slow down.

Be more careful.

Watch what you are doing.

You are so careless.

Stop being so Autistic.

Stop being you.

 

A poem about passing.

 

#SheCantBeAutistic

#ActuallyAutistic

#InvisibleAutism

#InvisibleDisability

Why Being Labeled ‘High-Functioning’ Hurts Me as a Person With Autism – The Mighty

Every morning I read new stories on The Mighty. I like to start my day out with my peers, a group that I do not often find in “the real world”. Other invisible Autistics, like Karen Harper, contributor to The  Mighty.

This morning’s post talks about a difficulty that many Autistic people and people with Asperger’s face.

Functioning labels cause problems for everyone.

“Low functioning” Autistics may be extremely intelligent but have difficulty verbalizing their needs. People often underestimate this group.The word “low” seems to suggest something lesser. Nobody should be told that they are broken. People should not be made to feel devalued.

Carly Fleischmann is an amazing example of a woman who everyone under estimated. She learned to type and was finally able to communicate with the world. She explains in VERY clear detail what it is like to be a non-verbal Autistic. Carly is extremely intelligent, brilliant, and funny. She even interviewed Chaining Tatum on YouTube. It was a huge success.

In her book, Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism, Carly talks about the frustration she had when people thought she was not smart.

“High functioning” Autistics have a different problem. People often dismiss them as being too smart to need help. When we fowl up social engagements people often chastise us for our lack of abilities, telling us we are not trying hard enough. They don’t understand that we really are doing our best – with GREAT effort and energy.

It hurts to be told over and over again that your best is not good enough.

I relate very strongly to what Karen has to say because I have often been told very similar things.

Autism is an invisible disability. Some behaviors I have may give clues but unless you watch closely and know Autism well, most people have no idea.

Nobody ever wants to hear about the bad days. You can’t talk about all the things that bother you throughout the day or people will say you complain too much.

People don’t believe you when you DO explain yourself either. They accuse you of being weird, negative, making excuses, or being lazy.

Eventually you learn to keep things to yourself. Suffering silently, not wanting to make waves.

Passing – you become an expert at pretending to be normal, but this activity is costly to your health and self esteem. It drains your energy and makes you want to hide from the world.

If you are good at passing you are labeled “high functioning” because you can hide all of your suffering. You are able to make “normal people” feel comfortable by appearing “less Autistic”.

Congratulations – you are a huge fake – YOU are “high functioning”!

Does anybody else feel like this is the wrong expectation for the world to have?

I don’t want to fake it any more. I just want to be me, out in the world, fabulous, and breaking stigmas.

“Normal people” gave us these high and low functioning labels. They explain how we fall on their scale of “normal”. We need to speak up against these labels that do more harm than good.

Some day I dream to live in a world with true understanding and Autism acceptance. Unless we all start to write, start to speak for ourselves, I fear this will never happen.

People naturally push off what they do not understand – it is our job to help “normal people” understand us.

I can take NO credit for Karen’s words below. Please read the full article by Karen Harper on The Mighty here.

Yes, I am “high-functioning” enough to call agencies and my insurance company. Yes, I can hold down a job and a relationship. That doesn’t mean I don’t need help with certain things.

I don’t wear my “high-functioning” label as a badge of honor or take it as a compliment. Being “high-functioning” means I’ve learned to cope with my challenges on my own when help should have been available. Being a “high-functioning” autistic person has contributed to my “high-functioning” depression because I can  easily pass as “normal” in society. My challenges are, for the most part, hidden.

And ironically, being able to “pass” is just what society wants us to do.

Please read the full article by Karen Harper on The Mighty here.